If the number seven is considered lucky, then does it follow that fourteen is doubly lucky?
It’s interesting to me that I reach for the positive outcome rather than the curse.
It had been fourteen years since I last interacted with him. The anticipation in my system felt calmer than I had expected. I stood on the sidewalk waiting, having already provided the hostess with my name. Not surprisingly, I was early and waiting for him. I felt myself fidget a bit, moving my weight from one leg to the other. But mostly, I was fairly even keeled. What would it be like? What would he be wearing? Would it be awkward?
As the time shifted to thirty five after the hour, he appeared at the bottom of the street, walking purposefully towards me. For him, this is early. The same swagger but with a different container. His hair now a bright auburn red and mid length. His receding hairline had been fixed and he sported wispy bangs that fell in a short wave across the pane of his forehead. The large bangle earrings and heavy crystal necklace was not a surprise, he always liked bolder accessories. The black tank top tightly hugged his womanly figure and was paired with black Bermuda shorts with a shiny black belt. Black flip flops and black lacquered toenails completed the ensemble.
On his final approach, he beamed widely at me as if he had been reunited with a long lost friend. And, perhaps he had. I smiled back. He reached for me to offer a full warm embrace, and I found myself navigating the situation quickly, as I attempted to figure out where my boobs would match up with his. An odd moment. My ex-husband now a woman; he had been for over ten years now. It was only my first introduction to the full regalia. And, as I looked upon her now, I saw peace. His eyes had lost that dark and wild look that had been there for a few years before I had parted ways with him and in its place she wore a smiling sparkle in those hazel orbs.
And, the pronouns. Yes. I have trouble with those pronouns.
In this world of acceptance and political correctness, I am meant to adopt the pronoun that befits him/her and what makes her/him comfortable.
There is no room in this world for my comfort.
There never has been.
So, why the negative when I started out so positive?
I don’t consider it negative.
I consider it reality; my truth.
The man I married. The one that I fell in love with. The one that I hungered for- that I sought for refuge, the one that I clung to some nights in the beginning. That man disappeared for me within a few short years of our nuptials. In its place, there appeared a person who was angry most days. Distant the rest.
I was made to feel inconsequential. Unsubstantial. Undesirable.
And so, I left.
And during this breakfast, he thanks me for releasing him all those years ago. He says I was so good to him and he apologizes for not being nice to me. For being difficult. He says he recognizes what he put me through. He is making amends. Fourteen years later.
So how does luck play a part in all of this.
Well, luck enters in because now, for the first time in years, I truly feel closure. I feel a new horizon has appeared before me and the possibilities are good. I feel stable and hopeful and at peace. So, beyond that seven year itch- fourteen years on we have a renewal, a new energy and an appreciation for independence and self-reliance. And, there was the conclusion of that visit with my ex-spouse … it was being able to say farewell, all the best and so long. And then, walking towards my car and getting into my car and going on my merry way.
The closing of this particular chapter, nay- novel, reads that I am fortunate and free to be me, while he is free to be her. And there no longer resides regret or anger. In its place are found peace and rest in knowing it is as it should be.
And, that feels extraordinarily good.
The Lapse podcast is one of my go to listens in the morning. It occurs to me that this is a weird use of the word listen. It takes me to the frequently used expression by news casters: take a listen. Anyhow, for some reason the use of that expression by media has me now morphing the word into a different use of the word listen. So, the podcast is one of my frequent listens in the morning; that is, something to which I turn in order to pass the time as I drive to work… and I listen. There is a wide range of podcasts from which to choose. The range of topics swings from true crime to inward reflections and self help to hobbies. The Lapse bills itself as stories gussied up. There are sound effects involved which seek to heighten the listeners awareness of what the story line is all about. At times, there are other voices and music.
This morning, the episode I am tuned into is a "best of" the past year of stories. Short stories. The episode truncated four episodes that ended up being personal favorites for the host: Kyle Gest. This is Kyle's second year as a solo podcaster; his stories are for the most part amazing. I find myself often wondering how he came across the people he features on the show. In many cases there is such an resonance with circumstances and events that, while they may seem unusual, it feels to me as if the story deeply mirrors the human experience. It's the depth he reaches in such a short time.
In this particular episode of "bests" he opens with the notion that he hates "best of anything", because he doesn't want to pick one, or two, or three best. It short changes the possibility that another might be 'the best'. My words not his, but in a nutshell- his feelings on the subject. He launches into his best of with four episodes anyway, and indeed – for the first two, he has picked really good ones. I remember listening to those two in their full version, months ago.
The first one is about a man who had a terrible cramp that got worse and worse. To the point where he ended up in the hospital. The next thing he knows, his limbs- all four, are amputated. My synopsis here does not do the episode justice, you must listen to it. Kyle's episodes are told by the persons involved in the stories. And Kyle filters in appropriate and non disruptive sound effects so that the story comes to life just a bit more.
The voice of the person experiencing this medical emergency that catapulted him into a completely different life, is soothing, reassuring and so gentle as he explains his journey. And his perspective of what happened and why it happened is incredibly touching. He does not seem to have any anger. His goal in the hospital, as all this was happening, was to be kind to the staff, to get to know them personally: to be a really good patient. All the while, this overwhelming scenario is playing out for him with necrosis through bacteria spreading to all four limbs.
I admit that when the episode was repeating itself in this "best of" version this morning, I was momentarily tempted to switch to something else. The pain of hearing this kind soul's horrific journey caught in my chest. I stuck with it because it was the reminder of his way of getting through it, of pressing on and of finding hope in certain moments during the ordeal, that kept me riveted. This time around, Kyle didn't include the part about this soul's urgent need to listen to a specific classical piece of music which he had trouble communicating to the nurses. Instead of a soft and gentle piece, they misunderstood his request and placed earbuds in his ears with a piece streaming into his head that sounded more like a full brass band. Something like that.
The original podcast had specifics about this music and I can't recall it completely but remember searching for the music he had intended on my Spotify app and then being so sad for Will Lautzenheiser (the gentle soul losing his limbs) because instead he was listening to something completely different, for hours. I recall on that initial listen feeling such horror for Will because he had been forced to listen to this clanging and banging fanfare orchestra, rather than an elegant lilt and shimmer of a nocturne that might help put one to sleep. It might be like asking for a lullaby only to be presented with a heavy metal jam session. Without arms and for the moment no voice because of the tubes inserted everywhere, he was not able to communicate his need for them to correct their mistake. So, he endured. As I write this, I realize that I must go back and listen to the full episode again (not just the condensed version), for I must know the music he craved to hear.
In the car this morning, the episode also reminded me of the beauty of sensations we have which we take for granted. Touch. Fingers and hands touching something, and feeling the different textures. Will has the opportunity down the line to receive arm transplants for both arms. Real arms. Initially, the arms when surgically added to his body- are not completely connected to his own nerve centers. But as time passes, he begins to feel things. He turns on the shower (not with his hands yet) and places an arm under the water stream. He then turns off the water and brings his arm out of the shower; was that cold he just felt? He talks about other amputee patients with transplanted arms which he had read about – who after a time could feel the difference between a hard backed book and the paper sensation between the covers. How most people don't think about the intricacies of sensation and nerves – those very delicate nerves we have in our fingers that can experience such different sensations.
As I drive, my mind moves to my own hands resting on the hard plastic (pleathered) wheel. It's a little bumpy. I move my right hand to the passenger seat which has a lambs wool cover. I feel the texture beneath my fingers. I caress the lambs wool and feel it's scratchy and bumpy nuances. I begin to think about my morning with Sofie, as I get ready for work. She sits on my bed and each time I pass her I talk to her: "hey sweet girl" and occasionally I stop and bring my arms around her neck and back and caress her silky fur and then I bring my face down to her forehead and kiss her eyebrows. She lets me, her body goes limp under my arms and hands and she rolls to show me her belly. "Pet me, please" she seems to say through her eyes. I pet her soft belly. The sensation of her silky fur is so lovely and her trust growing more and more is so beautiful. Sensations. Fur. Leather. Plastic. Books. Taken for granted. We don't know what we have really, until we don't have it anymore. I supposed we can't go around on constant high alert of what we have all the time. But this gal appreciates the reminder of what I have, the gifts I have in this life because of how I am made.
Free As A Bird
It could be said that the idea of trading places with an animal holds appeal. In this daily rat race that is required in order to keep up with the economic demands of staying alive, it would be nice to figure out a way to not have to work for someone else. To not have to rely on capitalist labor in order to ensure food in the belly or a roof overhead. This thought revisits me over and over again. The insanity of it. The runnng joke. We work our lives away.
Later in life, much later, as I lay dying at the St Joan of Arc Hospital, the view from my window only reinforced this belief. My room looked out on a marvelous interior courtyard that had been planted with a beautiful maple and a couple of birch trees. The staff had outfitted the space with bird feeders and a bird bath. There was a small pond that had a lovely little bridge that patients and guests could enjoy as they watched ducks paddle around below.
Over the course of my treatment, I would gaze out my window at the comings and goings of the birds and on good days, the staff would roll me out to the courtyard where I could sit in my chair and feel the breeze waft through the few strands of hair that I had left, and I would sit quietly and smile at the birds. Oh how I wished I had been born a bird. Wouldn’t that have been something.
The innocence of that thought was silly really, but in that moment… when my life was passing me by and moving towards an end, the idea of a bird’s life in place of the difficult one that I had just led, gave me the slightest glimmer of joy. Yes, joy.
In my younger days, I can remember sitting in another park on an early spring day. It was that moment when the trees were just beginning to ‘spring’ new leaves, tiny buds really. On that particular day, I sat there and watched as the world seemed to come to life after a stark and dismal winter. Squirrels were prancing from the underbrush of one fir tree to another. Birds were chirping and I could see a hawk soaring overhead. The idea of being able to fly from branch to branch, or to feel the air tickle my feathers- you know, being “free as a bird”; well, the notion stuck with me. It took hold. And every time I saw a bird or heard a lyrical song play between two feathered souls, a call and response dialogue, it would refresh me. It seemed to me that these souls had a unique freedom from worry, a freedom from fear. But that is where the ignorance lies, the obliviousness of the silly thought. Yes, it’s all wrong. I was wrong.
If I had known this before making my dying wish to Mr. Otto, I might have saved myself a lot of anxiety and avoided some of my near miss encounters. But then, I would have also missed the glory of it all too. With the good comes the bad, and vice versa.
Even in a bird’s life, there are the peaks and valleys of existence. For birds must be vigilant day and night as they manage the balance between meeting their basic needs and staying safe from harm. This is not a life of leisure, not by any stretch. Forever on the look-out for that predator lurking overhead or under the brush. From the red fox to the hawk, it’s amazing the birds have anything to sing about at all! But sing they must. And while to humans it seems they are singing, in truth, they are just communicating as they know how.
It would have been nice if someone had bothered to point all of this out to me before that fateful day a year ago when I morphed. I had not thought of all the dangers while I was propped up by pillows in bed at night or stuffed into the chair and pushed into the courtyard by day.
All I saw back then were the advantages of the transition. I never thought about the life threatening daily events that follow a bird’s life.
For me, it had been all about the those vast meadows where I observed dainty yellow breasted meadowlarks hanging onto the tippy tops of tall grasses, swaying in the wind and opening their mouths wide in order to let out the most melodious strings of notes. What a delight.
When I was asked for my dying wish, it was the image of those beautiful birds dotting long and tangled branches of the maple tree outside the room, as they chatted noisily with one another, that made me want to be part of such a charming community. Instead of the lonely existence that I now led, withering away in this ward with no visitors stopping by to see me; instead of all of that- I wanted to fly away. The isolation was overwhelming. As I watched those birds, the idea occurred to me that being part of a vast network of birds – might be nice.
It never occurred to me that my request to Mr. Otto would be fulfilled. If it had, I would have thought it through much more carefully. I would have considered what type of bird I wanted to be, and what kind of song I might have wanted to sing. I would have been much more practical too; I may have asked to be a predator rather than a typical prey. I wish he had asked me for more of an opinion on the specifics of my final incarnation. If it had been up to me, I would perhaps have chosen to be a Osprey, for all the reasons that an Osprey is so amazing. If it could have mattered, I would have crafted my existence to include closeness to the sea, to the waters and to the cliffs. I would have asked to be an Osprey living in the Midwest in summer and I would choose to migrate to South America in winter. Oh the decisions I would have liked to have made. Rather than the vulnerable Chickadee I became, I would have wanted to be stronger and more bold, courageous and majestic.
But that is the trouble in life. We can’t choose. We must accept and make the best of things. And, this is the rub. All of us must take what we are given and carry on.
I spy the bird bath at Mrs. Green’s back deck is vacant now, those dominant Bluebirds have moved on. I check the sky and the tops of trees. It seems safe, so I venture out for a splash in her clean waters. As I jump into the waters from the perch of the bath’s rim, I bounce around a few times, jumping up and down until my wings feel properly expelled of the twigs and seeds from various encounters in the bush. Refreshed, I move onto the wire mesh feeder nearby for a few seeds of nourishment. And, within my being I thank Mrs. Green for her loveliness in providing a few basic essentials for us feathered souls to enjoy as spring warms into summer.
Am I just waiting for my train?
I am alive.
Am I living?
Am I merely surviving?
Or, am I just waiting for my train?
Sometimes, life feels more like a waiting game. I am waiting for a train and while I wait, I am fitting in all of these daily tasks and obligations. Eventually, the train will come and I will have to get onboard. My train does not permit checked nor carry-on luggage. This train doesn’t take clothing or jewelry or companion animals. It will have to be just me. Everything and everyone I know will have to be left behind. The schedule for this train is tentative. There is a general idea of when the departure will take place based on certain factors, but those factors can change as time marches on and so- the departure time could change. Unlike airlines, I am not privy to these changes in schedule; I am not routinely receiving any updates. In the back of my mind, I have a sense of the shifts in departure time based on how the elements of my world are impacting my body.
Sometimes, it feels like my time will be short. Like it’s just a matter of a few years. And in some ways, I am hopeful that this will be the case since I am not sure I want to wait too much longer than that for my departure. Other times, I have this dread that the time will actually be long and in those moments, I am scared. Scared of being alone and having to manage all of the details on my own. Other people have people to help hold certain heavy burdens- distribute the tension over several muscled bodies. In my case, everything weighs down on me. Every single thing. And, in this specific moment, I carry it and attempt to have an air of lightness about it. It’s not a big deal. See, I can carry it, I am strong enough now. I just don’t know if I will be this strong later on. In fact, I can speak only for this morning- I can carry it myself this morning.
When I think about the train, I wonder if there really is a concrete destination. Or, will it be that once the doors close, it will be black and I will not have a conscious thought. Will it simply be – no more. Like before it was. Nothing until I arrived and entered consciousness as a wee babe. Will the end be the same?
So much of life’s activity for many people is all about what will happen when the doors close. A multitude of thoughts on what happens afterwards. So many bets are hedged on competing concepts of the eternal. My own upbringing and bent is towards a savior who love me. And, yet?
And, in the meantime, there is this burden of waiting and filling time. Trying not to watch the clock. And, trying not to waste nor to take for granted- my time. Not to mention the burden of ensuring I have not wasted God’s time in putting me here isn’t he first place- if that proves to be true, I will have wrath to face later. That is if once the doors close – it’s not just blackness.
In the present moment, I do have people. But their trains are likely to leave long before my train. And, when their train leaves, they will not be back. I must also make sure that I cherish each moment with these people now before their departure.
When they leave, I will have their belongings to look after and to organize and distribute. Some people have made me promise to place great care in the overseeing of their treasures, of not throwing them away; of not rendering them impertinent. That task of caring for others’ stuff will occupy my time for a period- it will fill time for a spell. Quite a long spell actually because they have a lot of earthly belongings which they have acquired from many exotic locations on their various journeys through time.
It’s a lot to take in. I shift. I adjust. I move my thoughts to the immediate task at hand. I must make my way to my station where I spend most of my days creating journeys for others. Helping others acquire memory and memorabilia while they wait for their own trains. And then later tonight, I will try to rest and rejuvenate for yet another day’s required tasks tomorrow. And the waiting time continues- for my train.
A 3D Imaging Event
“And, I show you selected 3D imaging for your mammogram, correct?”- says the tech in a monotone voice that is all detail and data and no emotion. She hovers over her keyboard just to the right of me as I sit in my waffle white rob with the opening to the front. She is busy completing the requisite profile of me before she is to guide me over to the massive machine in the center of the room.
“Yes” I reply quietly, then “do you have any idea how much extra that would cost?” I ask knowing full well they have nothing to do with these details. It’s just that everyone that I have asked, from the appointment taker, pre-registration worker, front desk check-in clerk- has no idea. None. “Do you think it’s under $100” I say lamely. She shakes her head as she walks over to the machine to prepare it for my breast images “nope, we have nothing to do with those accounting details”. Of course she doesn’t. I knew that.
My days are so bogged down with tasks that it was a miracle I even made the time to make this appointment in the first place. I snuck out for a five minute cell phone conversation earlier this week on my way to a bathroom break, got through the appointment desk and thought I would make an appointment for about two months down the road. Usually, that’s about how long it takes to get in for an appointment. “Do you want the Minneapolis location again?” -she asks. “Oh, is there another option?” I reply. “Yes, there is St. Paul and then also Plymouth” she offers. “St. Paul works better for me” I say. “Ok- good, we can get you in to St. Paul. We have an opening this Friday at 7:45am, would that work?” Oh. Geez. “Well, ya- I suppose, yes.. I will take it.” This Friday! That was sudden. Shakes up my week a bit.
Two years ago (as I recalled earlier this week during that appointment phone call), I had a lump of some kind that warranted an immediate biopsy which turned into an aspiration of a water bubble thingy. At least that is my full memory of the sequence of events that day. That shook me up a lot. It didn’t help that the doctor wanted to invite three med students in to watch the event. There I was, arm overhead, boob exposed while these four men hovered over all my glory. I remember being so scared. Feeling so vulnerable and these men curiously watched as the doctor inserted that needle and watched the images on the computer screen. The sounds they emitted back then were like they were watching some sort of video game and were chasing an offender. Then, they gasped and breathed out- oh, yes- done – bubble zapped. Doctor explained that it was a false alarm and that all was fine in the end. I ended up taking the rest of that day off… and knew that the little metal marker they inserted into the left side of my left breast still sits there marking the place where all that activity happened.
I was meant to have a mammogram a year ago and received two reminders, and just have not gotten around to it. Partly, I suppose, denial. I listened to a podcast on denial earlier this week – it was a story on This American Life about the mind – and how it can work against you. And in that story, a man with Parkinson’s purposefully handled the earlier stages of his disease in denial. He didn’t want to focus on the illness, didn’t want his world to be all about the details of what was looking ahead for him. So he ended up acting as if he didn’t have Parkinson’s disease – at least until he couldn’t act as if anymore.
That’s kind of how it is with my little metal marker. I pretend it’s not there. I pretend that I am not afraid of the dreaded C word even though it lingers in the background of my daily life- just about every day. I am a bit of a coward that way.
I hear about all sorts of people dealing with illness in a very brave sort of way. Chin up always. No complaints. Selfless. Honorable. Exemplary.
I am afraid I would likely not be any of these things if the dreaded C word were to enter my world in a more personal and meaningful way.
Too many people in my life have died of cancer. And, I know that a lot of the risk factors are layered around my body as an invitation. I should eat more vegetables- leafy green ones, all the time- piles of them each and every day. I should have breakfast, lunch and dinner on greens- Kale, Spinach, Broccoli. I should lose weight- lots of it. It’s making me vulnerable to the C word each and every minute that I breathe.
So all of this is essentially dangling around me like a chain necklace. A really heavy one that swings back and forth with this heavy padlock fixed to the links – making it impossible to remove the bindings and enslavement that I experience when it comes to fear and dread and more fear and in the background, under the surface- tears.
So, snapping back to that moment in the imaging room with the tech. She has me move my body with feet forward under the machine. She steps on a big foot pedal under the metal shelf like table that is to hold my breast- bringing it to a more manageable height. She replaces a clear plastic rectangular tray with another – and snaps it in firmly. This one perhaps bigger than the last- to hold my more generous glands. The paddles that are pushed into place to serve as mashers. “We will start with your left breast” she says. She moves in with her right hand to help me grab and place the gland on top of the shelf and then proceeds to direct my right arm to hold this part of the machine and then asks me to turn my head to the right, then asks me to hold my right breast out of the way (because, yes, they are big enough to be in the way) – there is more tucking, pushing and prodding and then she presses the foot pedal again which brings the machine downward – squishing and squishing and then more squishing. “Breath she says, until I tell you not to” she moves swiftly to the side of the room where her station is to push necessary buttons that will create the images. “Breathe” she says— and again “breathe” … and a pause and then “stop breathing” I hear clicks and whirls and other sounds – then ” breathe” she says… I breathe in and out all in an effort to ease the pain from the crushing paddle that has not only pressure on my breast but my collar bone and my shoulder as well- it’s a full deal .. and then again “stop breathing” I hold my breath, and finally “breathe” and the machine releases its pressure on me and the system shifts away giving way to my front left side and she says “step back” and I pull back and need to lift my breast so that the sweat does not result in a skin tear. And I am done with the first image. This process is repeating three more times- giving two distinctive angles to each breast.
Then, we are done. She states that if we need more images, they will call me. Otherwise, I will simply receive results in the mail and my doctor will receive copies. That was it. I ask her “two years ago, I had this lump that had to be aspirated- nothing like that showed up right away this time?” She looks perplexed. “Two years ago, hmm” she looks at my chart. Then she says “I see you had an aspiration done in 2013.”
2013? How did that end up being four years ago! I can’t believe it! I have been so irresponsible with my health- four years. Fear grips me… but then momentary relief- nothing came up in initially- so – that’s positive, right? Think Positive!! Not so much drama- chill out. I respond “oh, ok… I will wait to hear then”- she points to the door “make a left out the door- lockers are straight ahead”. And, I exit the room.
The Minneapolis location is much more spa like than the St. Paul location. Here, it’s all quick and business and done. In Minneapolis for the last 3 mammograms, I have had a cup of tea, there is this lovely harp music, they smile and they guide gently. If one didn’t know better, one would think one was in a women’s retreat spa center. Here, a bit cold and impersonal. Faster though- in and out. Done. Not sure which I prefer.
So, it’s done.
I had taken the morning off in case of disaster. Instead, I am out of there by 8:30am. I decide to retain my morning off to go have a coffee on Grand Avenue near the Cathedral. To breathe in and out and do some writing. To pamper myself. Work will come soon enough when I sign in from my home office after lunch. No- for now, I need this time to gather myself. Might even pop into the yarn shop down the street when they open at 10am.
I am grateful this 3D imaging is over. It was truly painful- but only lasted in total about fifteen minutes. Manageable and good that it’s done. I should have my results within 7-10 days she had said. And I will find out eventually how much the 3D imaging cost extra… I could call their accounting department I guess – but perhaps I will employ denial here too- until I get the bill.
For now, I just need to wait and not hold my breathe… breathe … in and out… in and out.
Dare I Share My Honest Point of View? Disenfranchised … who?
Through the rants comes even more chaos.
Freedom of speech. It’s a very good thing. Until that freedom is split and becomes: freedom of speech provided you hold only one specific point of view.
There is so much talk of disenfranchisement, I wonder if people even know what it really means. Are not most of us disenfranchised one way or another? And ultimately, as the tide sways, don’t most of us encounter it at some point.
The original order of things is becoming less and less accepted. The traditional is thrown out. The long honored now reviled. That which was originally accepted as the norm is becoming threatened and eventually, those with traditional views are now the disenfranchised. It’s true.
I have generally been one that likes to give the benefit of the doubt. The person that tries to consider all angles. The one who likes to provide mercy and grace to the whole picture.
Lately, I have felt silenced on social media.
I find that many of those in my web of acquaintances and friends on the information super highway, hold startlingly opposing view points from my own. And these folks are vocal, my how they are vocal.
I tend to hang back. I try not to comment or don’t enter my perspective into the on-line conversation to be read in front of hundreds if not thousands of souls (aside from this forum) because truthfully, I feel that my opinion places me precariously into that category of people that just might lose friendships because of all the divisions lately.
Still, I honestly believe that there are certain basic life principles we are born to and should attempt to uphold. While change can be a good thing, and while I recognize that fighting for what’s is right is important, I also feel that certain concepts and ideas should be upheld and cherished while not every subversive angle should be endorsed just for the sake of being open minded and supportive of every and all ideas.
See, right away I sound closed minded.
But I do have concerns about, for example, two little black girls being raised by gay parents. Even though one of the parents was a close high school friend with whom I shared a stage in Hello Dolly (I was Dolly, he was Horace Vandergelder- and a mighty good Horace was he). I see these little girls whom I have watched grow up on social media, from the time they were brought home as tiny little baby girls. Now, they are about eight and eleven years of age. Two sisters with adorable eyes, beautiful smiles and these two men who are head over heels with them and I am sure taking such good care of their basic needs. But what of their need for role models that show a traditional view, a mother with her feminine instincts and their need for her guidance. Is their love and support and complete and utter attention, enough? Probably- yea, it probably is enough… as I write that I think back to my own father and his lack of attention. I get the argument that gay parents can make better parents than heterosexual male/female parents. On the surface, I totally see that the nurturing and the genuine desire to make their lives better and important and vital, is likely right there- stronger than most.
But there is this other element that concerns me; the element of being valued for being female.
Granted, I have just my narrow circle of immediate experience to lean on for this insight. Yet, as I think of my own young adult years with my pack of gay men friends that I hung with most days (they felt the safest in my world). They were part of my posse throughout my college years. I loved those guys – they were my brothers. But I also remember the not infrequent side talk that made me feel that as a woman, I was very unattractive and that my gender grossed them out. Again, these were college aged gay men. But some of their comments over those years did impact me- they made me feel less valued. It was other men that had them gushing and I felt redundant and unnecessary in their world.
So my general experience with men included: 1) abuse from men who were attracted to me and 2) disgust by men who were friends but swung the other way and 3) boredom from men who supposedly loved me and were meant to nurture me (Dad).
So back to the question: when young girls are raised by gay men, do they get a dose of how precious they are to men or rather, and more important to the world? Then my question- is any girl given that sense of value? Is this a ridiculous train of thought? Pointless? Still, do they get a sense of their value and input on heterosexual relationships – do they get any value on their own lifestyle in contrast to the one of their parents?
Then I have this other association with alternative lifestyles which offers up a family dynamic comprised of a teenager daughter with emotional and mental challenges, for which she is going through her own inner turmoil. This processing is challenging enough for her, but add to this challenging life drama that her father makes a life decision to honor himself first and he proceeds change his genitals to match his inner lust and bent towards the workings and machinations of a woman body. He goes from Kevin to Kathleen. And that this same father will marry another man who has become a woman as well and that these two adults will now raise this teenage daughter together while she is figuring out her own hormonal temperament and needs and future goals. Well, that alone is enough to throw me on the couch! The notion that his needs go before his daughter’s needs feels completely wrong to me. And, the idea that the daughter must understand the father first- that’s not my idea of a good parenting skill. See, he has this teenage daughter, and just because society is pushing towards a wholehearted acceptance of all people regardless of what is filling one’s head and emotions, (well now- even that sounded bad as I typed it out), it still feels wrong to me. It feels wrong to me because this is all in the name of accepting ever diverse expression, and as we do so, we side swipe our children and push them to take it all on. To accept all of this as normal.
I come to this from a different angle myself. One of those men I describe above is my ex-husband. My ex is now a woman, married to a woman who used to be a man and both raising the new love’s daughter who has special needs to top it all off. And now she must move in the circles of the extended community of primarily all transgender people – she has few heterosexual adult acquaintances other than those she encounters in school. Is this what we are going for in our society of acceptance? This is OK?
When I have shared my story with others, how my marriage fell apart, I am amazed at how few see the deep scar in my soul from the experience and instead go straight to praising and honoring my ex-husband who rejected his male self and pushed to reinvent himself as a woman. The elbow in my side as I am pushed aside makes me marvel at where we have come on this planet. And I still don’t feel what these folks are feeling. I feel marginalized for being me.
Sure I understand that these souls have struggled with their own demons, perhaps most of their lives. That they have felt less than. But what I don’t understand is the pushed aside feeling I have of being from the old world, dare I say, a traditional soul- a female, a heterosexual, conservative, spiritually connected to my maker, deeply feeling love for my fellow man kind of a person. But because I am not onboard with killing fetuses, embracing every kind of erotic love story, supporting immediate gender re-assignment even at a very young age- I feel silenced. I can’t express what I feel as I will be labeled closed minded, racist, misogynistic, hateful.
In my youth, I witnessed the feeling others had of being less than others because of their gender and sexual orientation. Of not being recognized by the world as a whole. Of not being able to present oneself in an every day setting with one’s true love- back then, at least where I lived, there was not a lot of single gender couple hand holding going on- at least not out in the open.
Still, now that the door has been opened, I am not sure it’s really a good thing. At least not completely.
Back in the day, in my early twenties, I marched at my share of gay pride festivals- holding that sign that said: “I Love My Gay Friends” and I was proud of being there, proud of them. But later on, as I saw yearly gay pride festivals go on- as I walked into gay bars with my supposedly not gay husband who wanted to see the drag shows, it became a norm I was uncomfortable with. I was feeling less and less relevant in the world. Being a woman was no longer a celebrated thing. And I wondered, was I ever really celebrated in the first place? My father certainly never showed me any attention, never made me feel precious, worthy of spending time with. Looking back now, I realize that was just his personality. But it had an effect on me.
The abuse too- that’s a story of its own.. not with my father. But, regardless- the abuse, it also impacted me. I began to want to be invisible – to not be seen. To be hidden. To be safe.
That’s when the weight began to pile on. And, the weight served as a veil. No one was all that interested. And later on, as I wanted to pull off the veil, I got scared. And to this day, I waver on whether the veil is serving me or not. I am on a new program of health. The goal is health and weight loss is the bonus. But, am I ready for the weight loss? Do I really want it? Will I be able to handle it? I think this is a question many women who carry around an extra 50+ pounds have dangling around their shoulders; only, they may not even know it. I know it. I know it because I remember what it felt like about 20 years ago when I lost all the weight. I remember the rubber necked men at bars as I walked in. Evidently, once the weight is off I am not that hard to look at. Men noticed me. And then, the weight came back on. Hmmm.
But I digress.
A few nights ago, I was watching TV, surfing through the channels. I came across a show that offered up a 5 year old little boy sitting in a pedicure chair in a salon next to a woman who may have been an aunt or a nanny- not sure. There he was, in a cute little rob wearing his hair back in a headband and talking in a voice that emphasized him trying to be a little girl. He was going on about something girlish he wanted to do that day. I missed some of the dialogue because all the while I was thinking to myself: what about guiding this little boy towards his male self (not pushing, guiding), help him to connect with his male side? Did the parent (I realize this is a TV show) provide the son with any kind of encouragement to develop his masculine side or was it that the minute the son showed any sign of liking dolls, did the parent subsequently push him towards having more girl toys and working towards make-up and Barbie high heels and a dress to complete the equation? I do realize parenting children with different propensities can be challenging and that parents want to do everything for their child and want to show the child acceptance… in most cases. But still, are there strategies for parents to assess the child’s curiosities without pushing them over the cliff in that direction for all time?
It’s a tough question. Gender identity. It’s only one aspect of my own struggle for understanding of the world and how it is today. This topic shows up in our personal lives, it shows up at work, it shows up on TV and it shows up in politics and government. Our world is changing. And yes, we have to move with the times. I also feel that all sides of the conversation should be honored- not just those experiencing the change on a more personal level.
So much more to say on this, and perhaps I have said too much.
I am, like most souls, trying to figure out life. Ever evaluating my own moral compass and values vis-a-vis the world… and wondering whether the magnet is a lie.
A Globe-Trekker’s Offering
It’s been over two months since my last entry on WordPress. Two months. A strange void lingers behind me. I consider looking back over my shoulder to ponder the “why” of the silence. I got nothing. It does not really feel like its been avoidance. More like exhaustion.
It’s winter season. And during this time, in my line of work, the influx of inquiries would primarily seem to be beach bound sun seekers. And, yes. I have had my share of those. But for me, the exhaustion comes in doing what I do best: Europe with a little Asia thrown in for good measure. Just now wrapping up a family trip to Southeast Asia for parents and their sixteen year old child; their spring break will be filled with the Temples of Angkor Wat, the tunnels of Ho Chi Minh and a breathtaking overnight cruise in Halong Bay. An amazing trip in 8 short days. Lifetime moments and family memories will be hatched.
I love creating these adventures for people to enjoy and revel in as they explore the Globe. I really do. It’s the break neck speed within which I have to research, design and develop the flow and pace and services within budgets that has me catching my breath at every turn. In one day, yesterday is a good example, I brought people to the Fairy Pools in the Highlands of Scotland, to a resort in Austria where an avid equestrian client will have a chance to ride Lippizaner Horses in Austria, a solo-journey to Antarctica, South Georgia Island & The Falkland Islands- a cruise expedition for a widowed lady with a healthy bank account who is running through her bucket list at a fast pace and then rounded that out with discussions with prospective clients on how they can manage to fit in a kayaking excursion through narrow inlets of the Sognefjord in Norway while also checking out Check Point Charlie in Berlin … before heading home. Whew.
It’s no wonder that my mind can’t stay quiet and that I awake typically around 3am. No more shut eye, I surrender.
This morning, I woke up at about 3:25am and instead of fighting it, I turned on the light and started my day. Pulled out some writing journals and then made the mistake of turning on the TV. Some surfing brought me to an On Demand title I had been considering for awhile and had meant to watch long ago: Money Monster with Julia Roberts & George Clooney. So, I closed the writing journal, sat back on bunched up pillows against my headboard, swished my dog’s furry belly with my nails – she loves that lingering gentle scratch, and watched. What a movie. I was not expecting most of it; in fact, I had predicted the typical hostage type of movie and found myself wronged. It was pretty good. That took care of about two hours and then made my way to the shower to officially start my day.
I thought of going in early. I have a client appointment at 10:30am for a couple heading to Germany to visit their son who is based there; on their way they are stopping in Amsterdam- planning to visit Anne Frank’s House and the Van Gogh Museum, then after their time with their son which includes a trip to Greece, I pick up their schedule again in Frankfurt and bring them to Paris & London where they have so many highlights scheduled to enjoy together- first timers to: the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum with Mona Lisa’s gentle and wry smile, Versailles Palace and then over to London via Eurostar to experience Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and then off to Bath & Stonehenge before heading home. I need to go in early because I want to provide those little tips I so enjoy sharing- like the best hot chocolate and pastry shop in Paris! And there is that incredible restaurant on the Left Bank- the one that has been in business for about two centuries and which served people like Napoleon, Robespierre and even Ben Franklin! Conversations that changed history took place there- in that restaurant that still serves the most amazing hearty stew and roasts. I have to tell them about that place- maybe make a reservation for them too! Or how about that Afternoon Tea in London I need to share with them… a few things to prepare for their visit, for sure. And I have to get that done quick, in time for their visit while still making time to invoice bookings for other clients and create final documents for others – some heading to Mexico’s Mayan Riviera, others to Hawaii and still others- to Ireland & London. Still, whew.
No time for lunch. No time for sleep. It’s busy season.
It’s what I do best.
So, does the writing stay on hold? Do I have time to dabble in this craft that draws me, pulls me and twists me into a wretched woman who often feels dissatisfied because she can’t do what she loves best. Not necessarily what she does best.
It’s a quandary. And I keep bobbing and swaying to and fro, twisting and reaching and tumbling along. And not really accomplishing anything except to know that I am still enchanted by the written word… and hope one day to come to a stop, to a place where I can breath- perhaps some fresh air, while I stand on a cliff and watch the birds sore overhead.
Maybe, one day- in my Globe-Trek adventures, I will find myself paused in such a way to offer respite from the daily work and perhaps then, I can unfold what’s inside and offer it to myself and others in a more intentional way. One. Day
Out of the rubble, there are words…
It’s November, and it occurs to me that last year at about this time I was half way through my first draft novel. I was on top of the world with excitement over the joy I was experiencing in finding my voice. I had this amazing rush over the 1800+ daily word count production that was flowing out of me uninhibited. This ease followed me through Spring and it was not until I placed myself in an actual writing class this Summer that I began to second guess myself.
The harsh reality was, I was a complete novice.
And, those 58,000 words I accomplished through the NANOWRIMO contest were just words. It was a hodge podge of characters and actions and plot that was more mishmash than anywhere near being bonafide story.
As the weeks went on in the writing class, I began to feel as if those words I had previously cherished and for which I had felt such refreshment had become the ruins of a bombed out shelter within which I had sought refuge and had placed my hope for a bright future. After my writing class, it felt as if I had used all the wrong tools in the arsenal and I was ill prepared for the battle.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all lost and it was not a waste of time. On the contrary, the contest last November was successful in that it pulled me out of an unproductive writing life of claiming I wanted to write but not writing and threw me into the world of daily pursuit of the big story. Combined with the writing class, I came to realize that I do have what it takes but that I can’t skip over the learning part, the technique exercises, the proper development of point of view and the full understanding of the scope of what makes a good story. What I have now is a bucket full of ideas with some interesting people, some who have passion. What I need is a way to figure out how to deliver this up in a format that is enjoyable to read, flows logically and satisfies my inner critic. Ok, well that last part is darn near impossible- for I do not believe that my inner critic will ever really shut up- but I can try to lower the volume a bit and then seek to drown it out with a boat load of hard work layered with some hope. I am not giving up!
When I first started this novel writing project, I proclaimed that this was a five year project to anyone to whom I revealed my dirty little secret (you, know …. pssst… that I write). So, the fact that it has now been one year and I have under my belt 58,000 words and a six week summer writing class to claim as done- well, I guess I am right on track. This is year two of the adventure and I am re-energized on where I am headed with the journey.
During the contest, I was somewhat careful with the disclosure of my novel writing project because the minute you tell anyone that you write, the immediate follow up is “what do you write?”. Up until November 2015, I didn’t really have a good answer. For the past thirty plus years, and yes it’s been that long, I just wrote in journals, nothing substantial. Now that I was tackling the notion of novel writing, saying it out loud was scary. It was almost embarrassing because saying it suggested that I was actually claiming to be a writer and well, I wasn’t really a writer. I just didn’t really believe I could claim or own that moniker. I wasn’t sure that if I shared my product, that anyone would recognize it for what it was.
So this November 16th, I pull out the words but this time, I take time within my writing days to study theory and the basic structure of story. As I head into 2017, I focus my attention on the craft and commit to progress not perfection. I retrieve some of my writing resource books including one titled: DIY MFA. Each of then offers excellent insights, exercises to build the writing muscles and excitement once again that I can do this!
One of the first concepts that I have encountered in this renewal of my writing passion includes the notion that if I resist writing on a particular topic, if it is hard to pursue… then very likely, it’s exactly this idea or project that I must nurture further.
I think about my “in progress” historical WW II occupation story of Norway, and the fear I have of getting the facts wrong or of trivializing this incredibly serious topic… the prospect of it all had me in knots. Doubting my ability to properly capture how the war affected people had me flailing in late summer. And in that self-doubt, I faltered and I simply stopped writing.
Now I regroup and I re-frame. I am not defeated. I will prevail and the story will be told.
An Independent Voter
Who do you plan to vote for?
In many instances, this is such a deeply personal question that one generally does not ask it. We leave this question alone when it comes to the work place. We maybe ask it of friends or relatives that are very close to us but generally understand when the response might be that they want to keep this a private matter. In many cases, we don’t need to ask, we know where people stand since they are so vocal.
Early arrival to work allows me to eavesdrop on conversations for those other early arrivals that like to enjoy political banter over coffee. In my case, that banter has leaned toward the democratic side.
This morning, I am working off-site waiting for a client to show up for a Final Document appointment. Two ladies in their sixties heading to Vienna on November 30th in order to catch the David Garret concert; it’s been planned for over a year! This was a concert with this beef cake violinist that has these sexy eyes and straight long blond hair that whips around his head as he embraces his instrument and funnels all of his passionate energy from his shoulders into the violin’s strings. These women just had to see him; call it a bucket list experience. Sad that in the end, they learned recently he has a bit of a raunchy side where love is concerned- a fairly recent summer lawsuit against him tells the tale. They are still going but a little less enthused… poor girls.
Anyhow, I digress.
I am here at this coffee house for my client appointment and thus, miss the fall out conversations at work resulting from the end game victory of Donald J. Trump. I am sure there are a lot of exasperated sights emanating from offices and expressions of disdain for their fellow Americans. I guess in a way I am glad I am not in the office, just yet.
Last night, I just couldn’t stay up for the final results. Even at 9:30pm it seemed he was braced for the win. I woke at just before 1:00am and pushed my iPhone’s home button to see the news feed on the screen- and there was still no victory. I turned on the TV briefly to see where they were at… too close to call on about four or five states. But he was in the lead. After a brief break and hitting the loo, I retired once again to wake at 6:30am. This time the phone showed me that The Donald was now my president.
Outrage, sadness, confusion and hope all mixed into one for me. The truth is that I lean more conservative. But, I was one of those swing voters that candidates work so hard to win over. And, neither of them won my vote. I voted independent because I just couldn’t stomach supporting candidates with whom I had a vitriolic dislike because of their record… on both sides. Both of them lacked a depth of human understanding or care- in my view. Both sought power. Both had engaged in a romance with the underbelly of our world, and in the case of Trump- he hid behind the laws created to allow him to be an ugly person- affecting people’s lives negatively … and this being OK as long as he was a successful entrepreneur. In her case, accepting millions of dollars from countries that have records for inhuman treatment of women and people in general. Corruption. Then back to him, vulgarity, a blatant disregard for women unless they look like super models, a coldness and a crass approach that I could not support. And, because of these issues and so many more, I simply did not feel that I could trust either one. And I knew that in the end, it would be one of them. With or without me.
So, I went with Evan McMullin. I knew this meant my candidate would not win. And that was ok. I was casting my vote based on my conscience, whatever end result that would garner. I knew I was not backing the winning team. That perhaps my vote was meant more for communication and my hope is that McMullin or someone like him will come out in 2018 and try again. And further to that, my hope is that our country will open itself up to the possibility of moving away from a two party system. Because in my view, none of us can suggest that our options for candidates these last few elections – have been good ones. This is not the first election when I have heard: well, we have to pick the lesser of two evils. That should not be the case! Not here. Not in the USA. It has to change. At least, that is my hope. And, I put my money where my mouth was- voting for a candidate whose platform I believed in. Every single one of his talking points as noted on his website had me nodding and bobbing my head. Sure, he was young. But he was not inexperienced. He had so many vitally important first hand experiences within the context of finance (for our country), security (for our country) and our present enemies. He had values for family. He had decency. I just wish he had not shown up so late in the game- not much you can do by introducing yourself in August for a November election. Still, I am glad at least there was a name on the ballot that I felt good about backing. Whether the vote was wasted or not.
So here we are. Putin has already declared that he wants to be friends again. Other nation leaders are expressing their strong positions to ensure their country’s voice is factored into the global issues we face – whether security or prosperity based. What is going to happen in the first few months of his presidency? Will things tilt and change dramatically? Will there really be a wall? Is that a good or a bad thing? Will he really break families apart by shipping people back to their countries if they came in illegally? Will his temperament affect how he handles the nuclear codes? Are we in a state now of total devastation or is this a move in the right direction? It’s hard to tell.
I do know that when countries are soft on the enemy, or turn away and pretend things are not really going on- trouble happens. We need only to look to the two world wars in Europe. “No, he won’t come here, that’s can’t possibly happen? We are OK” …then, one country after the other was captured by a maniac. Trying to be loved by other countries so much does not necessarily ensure our security… being popular is not always the best choice. Our military is in deep trouble, we need to ramp up defenses not reduce them. We need to honor our veterans not disregard them. And I do believe vetting immigrants is an important issue- making sure they have the proper references and sources to tell us whether they have been involved in anything that needs to remain outside our borders. And I don’t feel that the current president has done a good job. Not when it comes to national security. Smiling and shaking hands and being buddies with people, that he did well. People generally liked his demeanor. Many will miss his smile and his ability to make good speeches. But there were just smiles and words in my view. The bottom line is that I just don’t think he has done enough to protect us from the crazies. It’s all a bit big and overwhelming for me. I confess I don’t know the full picture. I do get my news from many different sources and outlets …always listening, to all view points. And international news – Le Monde, BBC, Reuter’s, CNN and FOX, as well as various podcasts with pundits and pollsters. Liberal and conservative radio. I am interested. I am listening.
And, I voted.
And, in a few minutes, I will discuss the details of a fun trip to Vienna and Prague for two women who want to enjoy a sex symbol violinist and the magical Christmas Markets in early December. Life goes on.