21 December 2017

When you can't stop trash-talking your ex, or "How to Really Fuck Up Your Kids"

A month or so ago, Tycho accused me of stealing pants from his dad's house. "You're taking all the pants and Daddy doesn't have any of my pants at his house!"

Now, the weather had been all over the place that month (yay "fall" in Maryland), but considering how few pairs of pants I had in his drawer, I knew what he was telling me wasn't necessarily the truth. But how do you explain that to a four-year-old?

Fortunately, Matt and I have a good enough relationship that we can talk about these kinds of things and sort them out. I told Tycho I was sorry he felt that way and that must have been confusing to hear, I'm sure he has enough pants, but let me text Daddy just in case. And that was that.

After a quick back-and-forth, including me telling him to "cut the shit" (yes, verbatim -- have I mentioned we have a good enough relationship?) with saying things like that, even by accident, the problem was solved.

And yes, he had enough pants.

I give this example not because I want to get that story off my chest (well, okay, a little... thanks for vindicating me, Internet!), but because it shows the importance of not trash-talking your ex. I could have just as easily retorted, "Daddy's lying, I didn't steal any pants!" or otherwise accused Matt of myriad things. In fact, in some ways, it would have been easier to give into the "fuck him!" mentality in front of my son than empathizing with him and saying we'd take care of it.

I know it's not that easy for others to just keep their lips zipped, even if opening their mouth is ultimately at the expense of their children's well being. It's sometimes difficult to stop the word vomit, especially if your ex pushes a particular button or, despite the passage of time, you're still not over the fact that the relationship is, well... over. You want to screw him over just one last time, get that final word in, to the nearest audience available... and that happens to be your kids.

Of course, the best advice would be "just be an adult." In case you needed reasons to do that, though, here are some ways trash-talking your ex can really fuck up your kids -- and your relationship with them -- in the long run:

  • Sure, you'd probably love if your ex was never born (or suffered from cancer or a fatal car crash or something equally disgusting and disturbing what is wrong with you) so you wouldn't have to deal with their crap anymore. But the long and short of it is, and as much as you may not want to say it: Your children are half you and half your ex. Trash-talking the other parent ultimately means talking down about half of who your children are... and if you don't think they're internalizing that message, you're wrong.

  • You're setting a really bad example for them. If you're constantly calling your ex names or regularly insulting them, your children will likely take after you. And would you want to be known as the parent with the foul-mouthed or condescending kid? Hating or fearing another parent doesn't come naturally; it's a learned behavior, and if your child is learning that from you, that makes you a pretty shit parent.

  • You're legit abusing your child. You may think you're getting them on "your side" (whatever the hell that means), but ultimately, so long as there's no sufficient justification for it, denying visitation, trash-talking, and other forms of manipulation are all forms of child abuse. You're playing with their heads and, ultimately, their lives. Don't fucking do it.

  • You could lose your child.* I can't stress this enough... if you're trash-talking your ex so frequently that you start to alienate your child from their other parent, or if you're doing anything else to accomplish the same goal, you could lose your child. Be smart, motherfucker. Perpetual shit-talk may be grounds for reducing your custody, and in extreme cases, may leave you with no custody. Do you really want to give up your child because you can't stop being petty?

* I am not a lawyer, BTW.

Okay, so you've resolved to do better, to be better. Still feeling that vomit rising in your throat? Here are some alternatives that won't have you hugging a toilet:

  • Just don't talk about your ex in front of the kids! You have friends or family, I assume, right? Fellow adults in your life? Bitch to them about your ex. Sure, they may get tired of it after a while, but at least they won't go through the emotional turmoil your children undoubtedly would.

  • Related: Don't talk to others about your ex when your children are home. Ever say a cuss word when you thought you were out of your kids' earshot, only to have them repeat it days (or seconds...) later? While they may have a hard time hearing when you ask them to pick up their toys, children tune in when you least expect (and want) it. Tell others not to talk about your ex when your kids are with you, too.

  • Related x2: Talk to a neutral third party. Divorce sucks, even if you really want it and you're happier in the end. When you have kids with your ex, divorce sucks that much more because you can't just ignore them into nonexistence. Consider getting yourself (and maybe your children, too) a therapist to vent to and help you come to terms with the trials of divorce and its effect on children.

  • Validate your child's feelings. This goes for when they challenge you by bringing shit from your ex into your home, too. Be positive about the time they spend with their other parent. You don't need to put them on a pedestal or even say anything nice about them. Too difficult? Focus on the activities they did ("Oh, it sounds like the park was fun!").

  • Support their contact with their other parent. Just because they want to talk to Daddy on the phone doesn't mean they love you less. Chances are, they miss YOU when they're with Daddy, too. Don't punish them for wanting contact with their other parent; instead, encourage it by dialing their number and giving your kid the phone. Then go to another room, across the house, and punch a pillow or something, idk.

  • Remind your children that the divorce was NOT their fault. I'm not a child of divorce, but my son is, and I often reassure him that Mommy and Daddy love and care for him very much and that we are better parents for him when we're apart. If you're trash-talking your ex, they're going to believe they were part of the problem and even carry that shit into their adult lives. Imagine telling your kids that their other parent is a "liar," only for those kids to grow up believing they may be liars, too, or that the other parent never told them a truthful thing in their entire lives? Or if you slip and call your child a "liar"...

  • If you ever find it in your heart to do this -- or, simply, if you want to exercise some empathy -- do the exact opposite of trash talk. Not only will you kill your ex with kindness (and that would drive them crazy!), but it's a message your kids CAN internalize. After all, you purportedly loved your ex at some point, or you wouldn't have made such a beautiful child together. Tell them the positive qualities they inherited from your ex: Their creative eye, their compassion, their soccer skills, even their left-handedness. Even if it's simple, it humanizes your ex, and your kids hear the compliments just as, if not more, readily than the positive message that their other half is important, too.

This April, both Matt and I will be celebrating our son's fifth birthday together, in the same room, with no fighting or anything. Can you even imagine?! Not only is there no drama, but our son sees two parents who, despite any reason why they divorced, love him unconditionally and are willing to put aside their own shit for his best interest.

Yes, this may take time to accomplish, but while you're waiting for the magical day when you can be within a few feet of your ex without stabbing their eyeballs out of their skull, you can at least quit the shit. For your kids' sake.

Mommy, Tycho, and Daddy on Tycho's Third Birthday
<3 Divorced parents coming together for their son <3

07 December 2017

Me, Too: Breaking the silence

This post is full of triggers. Please read at your own discretion.

TIME Magazine just came out with its Person of the Year 2017, and I have to say, y'all... I'm speechless.

The Silence Breakers

But now, I'm speechless for the right reasons. Finally, after all this time, we are finding our voices and speaking out against boundaries crossed, opportunities lost, lives shattered. We're telling our stories, not meekly behind computer screens or stealthily to our dearest friends, but with gigantic fucking megaphones.

And finally, there are repercussions.

Sure, we still have a long way to go; after all, Bill Cosby still admitted to his crimes and walked away, Brock Allen Turner still only served a paltry sentence for rape (and is now fighting that ruling because of course he is), and we have a shameless sexual predator occupying the highest office in the land.

Still, there's a palpable shift going on, and TIME recognized it. Sought it. And if #MeToo brought these truths to the world stage, TIME just flicked on the floodlights.

And begrudgingly, it's my turn to step into the spotlight. This is the first time I've ever told my entire story, and while it's one of many I could tell, it's the one that stands out most clearly, was the most egregious of them all.

I was eighteen when I was raped.

He has a name, but he's not famous. He could be anyone; in fact, he's been everyone since.

I barely knew him. He worked stock, I was in the photo lab, so we didn't interact very often. He was twice my age, too, so when there was opportunity to talk, there weren't a lot of common interests. But it's not like he was a stranger.

It started at a Fort Lauderdale nightclub. I was invited by a friend of his, another coworker who had about seven years on me and who thought it was a great idea to doll me up to go out (she told me later, because this guy had a thing for me). Not only was I grossly uncomfortable in the short skirt and the makeup, but the attention at the club was disconcerting, too: Men of all shapes and sizes and colors and ages grinding up against you, touching you wherever your skin was exposed, and in some places where it was not. I left the dance floor a number of times, only to be dragged out again and again, finally by him.

I guess he thought I was "his." One hand on my lower back, pulling me closer, the other steadily pushing other men away. I didn't know you could feel simultaneously thankful (only one guy was grabbing my ass now) and disgusted (someone still has my ass in his hand). He forced a few kisses, too, on my neck and my face and my lips, even as I turned away and tried leaving the floor again.

Blissfully, 2am came and the club closed for the night. Since my female colleague had already left -- no doubt because she was hoping something would happen for his friend, if you know what I mean -- he offered to drive me home. I was already past my curfew, so calling my parents was a no-go... so I accepted.

I don't remember the drive home, only when he dropped me off and how his hand felt on my thigh and the alcohol on his breath as he tried to kiss me again. I got in quite a bit of trouble last night, but I should have known my parents were the least of my concerns.

I avoided him pretty well after that night, only going to the stock room, where the printer paper and ink and all other supplies I needed to do my job were stored, when absolutely necessary and always when I saw him on the floor. Of course, him being occupied by something else didn't stop him from dropping whatever he was doing and pressing me between his body and boxes of merchandise. Cardboard still give me anxiety for the way it feels against my bare hands.

I couldn't say anything, though. He had been working there for several years and I was only a teenager -- an adult in the eyes of the law, yes, but a child in every other aspect. I was terrified that saying anything would cast doubt, get me fired, or worse. So I kept quiet and away as much as possible.

Where it went from "what a gross guy" to "what have I done" was summer of 2003. My workplace was less than a mile from my parents' house, so I often walked to work. One hot July afternoon, as I made my way to work, a car pulled up beside me and he called out, "Do you need a ride?"

It was hot. I had on layers (regular clothes plus my work smock). Things had been relatively calm for the preceding month, so maybe he had changed. Whatever excuse I had, I took him up on the offer and climbed in.

"Oh, I just need to grab something from my apartment." Sure... oh, your apartment is a ways away...

"This might take a second, do you want to come up?" Um... yeah, you have a balcony, I'll just stand there and out of the hot sun.

"Do you want some water?" No, thanks... hey, why are you grabbing my hand...

I remember the layout of his apartment. Not really much inside it, just that a tiny kitchen was immediately to my left, a dining area as you step inside, a living room just beyond that, and a bedroom and attached bath the next left, just past the kitchen.

I remember thinking it weird that he had such a huge mirror over his bed. I still can't look at myself naked in a full-length mirror.

I remember his eyes looking around my entire body as he took away the fun of undressing. Looking up as he took away the fun of oral sex. Looking down to my chest as he took away the fun of penetrative sex. Looking away, not with shame but a grin, after he came and pointed me to the bathroom.

I remember the shower stall was like a black hole. There was a pattern on the tile, but I couldn't make it out past the blurriness welling up in my eyes. I hated that I had to use his soap, had to smell like him the rest of the day. Bar soap. Like he was rubbing himself against me again.

I don't remember much else, a small blessing. I did go to work that day, a hazy, lazy Sunday. The walk home after closing up felt like an eternity as he followed me slowly in his car, his voice echoing my name. I don't remember responding. Or sleeping, or any of the days that followed.

I eventually left that job and that city to attend college almost 500 miles away. I had new friends, went to class, started dating. It was a warm fall evening and I was walking with my boyfriend to the cafeteria for dinner when I heard it: A wolf whistle.

And there he was, down the street, walking towards me with purpose. I guess he thought I was "his."

He had followed me across the length of the state of Florida to find me. There was no social media at the time, no digital means of tracking my movement, but on a campus of almost 25,000 students, he managed to find me.

I don't remember what I said then, either, but my words were harsh, biting. He asked for privacy; I told him no. He asked for another kiss; I told him no. He asked me to take a ride with him; I told him no. He asked me to keep this between us;

I told him no.

Within an hour, campus police knew of his whereabouts and had him escorted off the premises. Still, I locked myself in my dorm for the rest of the evening, told the front desk not to let anyone in without their student ID, and stayed inside, almost cowering, for the rest of the week.

I sought no legal recourse; after all, though they did their job and found him, their reaction when I told them I was being stalked and harassed was far from encouraging. Why would city police believe me.

It's been 15 years since, and while writing this out still spikes my anxiety, I feel these stories need to be told. #MeToo isn't just a social movement, it's personal empowerment, and not only for those who share their personal experiences.

I've shared aspects of my story several times in the last 10 years, after I bucked up the courage to say, "Yes, I've been sexually assaulted." Of course, the story just gets new layers year after year, since some men never learn and insist women are objects and treat them accordingly. My story isn't the only one adding layers, either. But by sharing my experience, I've had several friends and family share theirs with me, too, either publicly or privately.

TIME recently revealed that their photo features an elbow. At first glance, it appears surreptitiously cropped from the rest of the photo, like someone just didn't make the cut, or perhaps a result of sloppy editing. Instead, they reveal it was "an anonymous woman who is a hospital worker who was experiencing harassment and didn't feel that she could come forward."

These are the women helped when we reveal our stories. Who truly benefit from the #MeToo campaign. If those in power (or who, like me, feel confident enough to) share their experiences, we may see the true "trickle down" effect and dole out consequences to other men and justice to those who have suffered at their hands.

Including my rapist. He with a name, he who could be anyone... and he who always has been everyone.

10 November 2017

My son's gender-nonconformance does challenge me.

I'm going to start this post off with a paragraph I read on another blog:

Before anyone asks, no, I’m not some sort of new age, millennial, hipster chic parent living in a commune, attempting to raise genderless, nameless offspring who will one day grow up and decide these things independent of their father and me.

(Okay, so maybe I am that parent, perhaps even worse. But I think this should be prefaced with, "I never intended to raise my child as my son... it's just, he had other plans for me.)

My son was just shy of two when he started wearing nail polish. I have a ton of colors, and he picked a shiny blue to decorate his tiny nails, little jellybeans dancing on the ends of his fingertips. I thought very little of it at the time, thinking it was cute and, shoot, blue. He babied those nails and showed them off to everyone he could.

He's about four and a half now, and today, he wanted to wear sparkly press-on nails to go with his pink button-down shirt. For picture day.

And ya damn right, that's what he's wearing.

I always believed myself a progressive mom who refused to let gender norms dictate what her son did or wanted. To this point, it's been relatively simple, even adorable: The female-centered Paw Patrol shirts from the girls' section, the rainbow tutu and pink galoshes (two sizes too big but worn every day for over a week), and the manicures -- we've upgraded from simple nail polish to the full-on at-home salon experience.

But recently, I've been tested. My little gender-creative child recently asked me for a dress. And not just any dress, but one with sequins and glitter and entirely white.

It may have something to do with recently marrying my soulmate, an experience and a subject that deserves a post all of its own. I bought two dresses off Amazon, one lace and form-fitting, the other adorned with silver details and tulle. A few weeks ago, Tycho wanted me to try both of them on, and though his preference was for the latter, in each instance, he gasped and said, "Mommy, you look like a princess."

It took me a while for the stars in my eyes to dissipate, I won't lie!

A couple days later, he asked me for a dress. "A princess dress, like what you have for when you get married!" I paused for a second... did he want a dress because he wanted to be more like Mommy, or did he sincerely want a dress? I told him sure, I'll look around for one, and that was pretty much that.

I've already had to go through the painstaking effort to get both his classmates and his preschool teachers on board with his penchant for polish and glitter and all things whimsical. Kids have come up to me asking why Tycho is wearing nail polish, and most of the time, it was averted by saying, "He likes to wear it." And I've had to correct a teacher for saying pink is a "girl color" by noting every color is for every kid, and please don't make my son feel ashamed or wrong for liking pink. 

Now that they've known him for a few years, literally no one bats an eye at the polish or the pink or anything else wild he comes up with.

But a dress? I admit, this one is even difficult for me to wrangle. Guess there's more gender normative behavior engrained in me than I like to admit, especially since it's now personal. But maybe he dropped the matter entirely, right...?

As Tycho examined and admired his glittering pastel fingertips on the way to preschool, I asked if he still wanted a dress for maybe Christmas or Thanksgiving. He misunderstood me at first, thinking I was asking if he wanted to wear one: "For both!" I clarified it'd be for a present, and he was still insistent on wanting one. "Umm... white, and sparkles, and poofy."

I simply can't deny this is who my son is. Shoot, at Target yesterday, he quickly and almost recklessly abandoned a set of Thomas the Tank Engine pajamas for a two-set of footie jammies, one gray background with colorful birds and one pink and white polka dot with a large pink fox face. The disappointment in his eyes when I told him they were 5T and he still fits in 3T was palpable, and we hunted that damn clearance rack until we found his size. The moment we got home, he had those jammies on.

Before he was born, Matt and I had a few discussions about what we would do if Tycho was gay. Obviously, we'll love him no matter what; that's not at all predicated on who or what he is. At this point, I don't think Tycho is gay, or trans, or potentially anything else on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum (though it wouldn't surprise me if he was!), but it's very clear that he's gender-nonconforming (or, as another beautiful article put it and how I'll always consider it, gender creative).

And I never thought I'd be challenged by it, but here we are. His happiness, though, far outweighs my desire to be comfortable, so this Christmas, he'll be getting a white dress. I'll be a bit anxious about it, I totally admit that; this is more pushing my boundaries than it is his, since he's clearly comfortable with his decision.

We owe it to our children to let them make their own decisions and, so long as it doesn't harm others (and I don't mean their delicate sensibilities!), to not force them to conform to whatever society deems "appropriate." Tycho knows himself, far more than I ever will, even with the privilege of being his mom. I owe my trust to him, and he deserves every ounce of unconditional love I have.

So he'll have that. And his little white dress. And all the love and support he could ever want.

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06 June 2017

I want the world to know...

You would think that, at 32, I'd have my shit together and at least a few things about myself figured out. You would also think that I'd be more confident with that shit and those things. After all, I'm a grown-ass woman with supportive friends and family, so there's no reason to be anything but confident. It's not like they're going to up and leave (and if they do, were they really worth it?).

Here I am, getting ready for this year's Capital Pride Alliance Parade and wondering if I should be going as an ally or as an official "coming out." I didn't think this would cause so much consternation, but the more I vacillate between the two, the more I come to terms with... yeah, it should probably be the latter.

But I still find myself nervous, almost anxious, about it. Will people believe me? Hell, do I believe me? Is this me trying to be different or unique, to fall in a certain category because it'll ruffle feathers? Or is this just an attempt to fit into a group when, really, I have no experience, so what the hell do I know?

I've put this "confessional" off so long for fear of these questions and more, but I'm doing it anyway, fears be damned. So let me start here. Put it black and white. For, you know, the whole world to see. Because that's not nerve-wracking at all.

*huge, deep breaths*

I'm bisexual.

(That wasn't so hard, now, was it?!)

(Nah man I admit I'm shaking a little. Chickenshit!)

Okay, I'll admit. I've said this aloud to a small handful of people before. I've even posted about it on Facebook, I think. It's always felt flippant, though, almost defensive, like I should deny it because I'm in my 30s and shouldn't I have known this ages ago? Or... basically, regurgitate those previous questions until my brain is literally spinning in my skull.

Thing is, I'm pretty sure I've known for a while, potentially as early as puberty. This, I've never told anyone before, so buckle up, bitches, we're taking a trip down an oft-forgotten destiny path on Memory Lane.

(And now the nerves are really kicking in!)

When I was around 12 or 13, I hung out with this girl friend. Our parents were music colleagues, she was in chorus, and I was starting out on violin. I honestly don't remember other details of how we met or how we got to hanging out -- were our parents meeting regularly and we came along for the ride? -- but suffice it to say, we were around each other frequently.

At that point, I had maybe had a crush on one boy, a classmate in elementary school, who made my hands sweat and my heart race, like all school-age (and, let's be real, adult) crushes do. I remember asking my fourth grade teacher to pass a note torn from my notebook to him (why did I think I could trust her with that??), in which I basically poured my heart out. I'm not sure if he got it, but he did invite me to our Fifth Grade Dance, for which I was sick and unable to make it. Cue abject disappointment!

Other than him, I hadn't had any other crushes up to this point (and, learning much later in life that I'm also demisexual, how few crushes I had growing up no longer surprises me). I don't even know if I had a crush on this girl, but it was obvious she had one on me, and I was both attracted and more than complicit in experimenting.

But I had so few experiences -- okay, I had no experience! -- that I didn't know what this feeling was or any idea what to do with it. I honestly let her, in her relative infinite wisdom, take the reins and lead us to wherever the path was going to lead us. She appeared much more confident than I did, more willing to show me the ropes, but she also realized it was probably taboo, even in a pretty liberal, "out" musical community.

So perhaps it was blissful irony that my first kiss, my first time touching another person and being touched in a way that made me quiver from head to toe, was with a girl... in her bedroom closet.

... I feel like this needs to be a longer piece at some point, maybe as a project for my master's program or something (because I need something to write about!). But for right now, just digging up that memory is enough, especially considering the residual feelings of conflict, feelings I haven't processed yet and therefore can't vocalize.

Unfortunately, this lovely woman passed away a few years ago, and I feel terrible that I had never reached out after our parents parted ways in our mid-teens. I don't know what I'd say, how I'd feel, or what (if anything) would come of it... but she was, for all intents and purposes, my first foray into sexuality and in truly experiencing feelings for another person. I really hope, if she hadn't by then, she found herself before leaving this world.

This year, in addition to honoring this newfound (or new-expressed) part of myself, I honor her memory. Not as someone who was LGBTQIA+, because I honestly don't know how, if anything, she identified, but as someone who was confident enough in herself to reach out in every sense of the world, and who ultimately reached out to me and opened my world, too.

I'm not quite sure how to end this. I don't think there is an end, really, so maybe absentmindedly trailing off is apropos. I'm excited to attend this year's Pride Parade, nervous to do so as someone officially "coming out," and still taken aback by how this memory bubbled to the surface literally as I was writing this post... but I know this is just the beginning.

Thanks for all your support. <3

21 December 2016



If there's anything I learned recently, it's that withholding sharing your partner's positive qualities (the "say") or affection (the "do") with your partner themselves can make or break a relationship.

Having Matt hold them back from me broke ours, in a way that led not to an explosive end, but a quiet fizzle and a whimper of defeat.

It wasn't just that the "say" or the "do" were withheld; they were replaced with sarcasm, tear-downs, and critical eyes, done because he was "uncomfortable" with sharing any sort of praise or affection. While sex itself was never an issue, there was no warmth, there were no hugs, there was no hand-holding or kisses. There was little appreciation for accomplishments big and small, just wondering what more I could have done.

There was no trusting environment, no place to find solace within the four walls of our townhouse, and after a while, the walls inside my head started to become a less safe place, too.

For the longest time, I thought I had failed. I felt rejected, unworthy, dismissed. After a while, I had little integrity and self-respect. The life was sucked from me despite a faΓ§ade showing a happy face to the world; I didn't mean anything to my partner, so how could I mean anything to anyone else.

After a while, I started withholding, too. Not to the same extent, but whether because I didn't feel like sharing his positive qualities when none of mine were acknowledged or because I was actually starting to feel less like he even had any positive qualities, I had already started building my fortress, walled myself against the painful lack of affection and sealing my own away.

Talking didn't help. Fighting didn't help. We're three weeks away from being able to file for divorce (thanks, Maryland), and while that's been good for us in many ways, for this, it still hasn't helped.

Worse, I started to wonder if every relationship would have the same foundation: Lacking clear and kind communication, denying romance or sweetness or affection, feeling complacency instead of love, refusing to share good and bad because you certainly could and should have done more, squelching that part of yourself because why bother when your partner will never return it.

A month or two ago, Tycho was throwing a tantrum in the kitchen over wanting cookies and milk despite not finishing his dinner. While I didn't give in to his demand, I did sit on the floor, at his level, and wait for him to compose himself. After a few minutes, through hiccups and tears, he asked again if he could have cookies, and again I said no; the next question he asked:

"Can I have a hug?"

When Tycho is upset, one of the first things I'll offer him is just that: a hug. It's his reset button, and it assures him I'm there for him no matter what. In my arms, he feels safe, calm, and open, and he's more willing to give me his all. My hugs are his judgment-free zone.

I'm much older than he is, obviously, but I still sometimes feel like I need the same: A safe, calm, and open environment where I can truly be myself and know I'll be readily accepted, no matter what. I didn't have that in my marriage; if anything, I had the opposite, and it affected how I cared for myself or what I thought I was worthy of.

I held back so many emotions because I felt unsafe.

But now... now I share myself with someone emotionally intelligent, open, empathetic, caring, and yes... safe. It goes both ways, too; despite still occasionally feeling inadequate or fake (because, after so long denying you feel this way at all, actually expressing it is akin to acting), my emotions and sentiments toward him are entirely real, and I am so goddamn thankful to have that space to share my entire self with someone I love with every fiber of my being, and for him to feel the same.

I sometimes wish I had this in my marriage. It would have made for a freeing and rewarding experience, being able to share yourself fully with someone, for that someone to celebrate you fully, and to return the favor with zeal.

But... while I never it there, I'm lucky to have had the opportunity to experience it at all, share my all, and celebrate him, too.  And damn right, I'll be sure to point out every last amazing thing about him. ♥

09 November 2016

Why I will not abandon the United States... and why you shouldn't, either. (Even if you really fucking want to!)

via (and a great related article)

I am fortunate to have so many wonderful friends around the world, some of whom I've never met in real life. They are in places like Australia, Germany, Sweden, Canada, South Africa... literally scattered across different continents, each as beautiful as the next.

At one point or another during the presidential primaries, they have all offered me and my son safe haven where they are, with no time limit and with every intention to make us staying there a permanent thing.

On Tuesday, the United States made history by electing a man entirely unfit to run for any political (or other) office, much less the presidency. We did a complete about-face from President Obama by electing someone so heinous, so unbelievably crass, so lacking moral fiber... but white. And male, I may add, considering his running mate was white, too. The racism and misogyny from this election is almost impossible to comprehend... how could we do this.

My friends have reached out again to offer the same safe haven, this time with a sense of urgency for what America had done to itself. I've joked about (and... erm, researched) seeking asylum in another country several times during this election season, especially when Trump won the Republican primary. I knew he would get it, and knowing how zealously marginalized white men (and some other individuals!) have felt with a black president in office, I knew Trump would be our president-elect.

That same night, Canada's immigration site crashed as like-minded Americans sought to get the fuck out of what they never signed up for in the first place. I've done the same, and when my friends have reached out saying they have space for me and Tycho, no doubt... I considered it. I'm still considering it.

You know what, though? I can't leave.

Not because I physically or logistically or even eligibly can't. I can, and I have ample opportunity, as well as some fantastic people willing to help me and my son create a new homeland and start a new life.

But this election is now so much bigger than me and what I want to do. It's turned instead into what I, and others on the same side, need to do to protect our women, our LGBTQ+, our Muslims, our disabled, our blacks, our immigrants, our people. Our Americans who, because of their minority status, will be treated like second-class citizens by at least half the country and, equally horrifying, their leadership.

Even if their policies never materialize, both the rhetoric from the primaries and how Trump emboldened a group of people to outwardly express their hatred for minority groups have already done their damage. In fact, that is probably the more dangerous part than any policy Trump could ever dream up or attempt to implement: outright bigotry is now normalized.

But it's not too late. Now is our time to work towards reversing that damage.

Republicans (or conservatives) against Trump, I know this will be reminiscent of watching your best friend completely blow it on the dance floor (that is, awkwarrrrd)... but you're in a particularly excellent place to change the establishment from the inside out. I implore you to become active in and even employed by your local, state, and federal government to directly change rule of law that will come from your own party or wing.

Democrats (or liberals, or progressives -- holla!) need to hold Trump accountable to the law, to the Constitution, and to the truth. The real truth, not Trump's warped, narcissistic, self-serving version of that truth. Write in to and call your government officials at all levels, assemble grassroots efforts to protect those who need it most, and make your voices LOUD and CLEAR. You make up half this country, and your voice will help those who cannot speak for themselves.

And everyone: We have the power of dissent, we have the power to be advocates. A group of Americans are already using that power to protest the election in several major metropolitan areas across the United States, and even if this inevitable inauguration happens, the fire needs to keep burning.

It will be a long, busy, exhausting four years, and they will almost absolutely bring some awful policies, broken families, personal struggle... but if we all work together, we will do our part to ensure we don't free-fall into the worst situation fathomable.

America: I love you. I truly do. I love every last one of your citizens, for all their flaws and convictions. And despite wanting so badly to leave as the writing on the wall surrounds us... I stand with you, and I will stand for all your citizens.

Plan. Mobilize. Listen. Empathize. Stand up. Be heard. Work fast. Care for yourself.

And don't leave... FIGHT.




28 October 2016

Telling myself the truth.


I've often been accused of being able to "get over" something quickly like it's a bad thing, or act as if the feeling associated with a bad situation doesn't exist, or move on and "discard" things I see as negative influences in my life with seemingly no consequence. Most recently (and frequently), I've been accused of compartmentalizing.

Samhain is when I typically reflect on the past year, what all has transpired, and what I may learn for the coming turn of the wheel. This one brings with it some interesting challenges: Moving out, custody agreements (and disagreements), making a life on my own, graduate school, breakups and makeups and breakups again... this year really ran the gamut of life-changing, sometimes sucky experiences.

And yes, for the most part, I've been able to separate the feeling from the fact, accomplish what I needed without a lot of fuss or muss. I initially found that ability not at all detrimental; in fact, I found it beneficial, as I could disentangle myself from the emotional bullshit that comes from the situation.

I explored this more when prompted this week to write a poem using Dorianne Laux's Heart as the example. Choose a word, reflect on it, then write a poem of metaphors.

I originally had "compartment" at the top of my assignment, thinking that would be its direction. The more I researched the word's meaning, though, the less I thought it applied:
Compartmentalization (in psychology) is an unconscious psychological defense mechanism used to avoid cognitive dissonance, or the mental discomfort and anxiety caused by a person's having conflicting values, cognitions, emotions, beliefs, etc. within themselves.
So it did end up being inappropriate; while I do have my coping mechanisms, there's no cognitive dissonance experienced by removing the feeling. It's just... removing the feeling in the first place.

Freudian psychoanalysis provides more appropriate ego defense mechanisms:
Isolation occurs when an individual separates ideas or feelings from thoughts or situations, notably those producing anxiety or stress, and often replaces them with purposeful happiness.
Intellectualization, a form of isolation, concentrates on the intellectual components of a situation in particular so as to distance oneself from the associated anxiety-provoking emotions (that is, thinking to avoid feeling).
Third perceptual position is a way to "achieve" intellectualization, where the individual adopts an independent observer role to gain new perspective and simultaneously removes their own emotion from the situation.
They're not great coping mechanisms by any means; in fact, after finding these, I readily see why someone would say I'm stoic or avoiding or, more positively, able to "see the silver lining" in everything.

This especially comes to light when I think about the last year and the biggest change therein: Deciding to divorce. Even here, I waxed poetic about getting my best friend back when, all defense mechanisms aside, I was destroyed and thought myself a failure. I hated asking for a divorce, I hated feeling like I didn't do enough, and honestly... I hated Matt, too, for his part in why I asked.

I refused to deal with the emotions as they came up, instead trying to find some reason for being and a glimmer of hope when all I wanted to do was collapse in my new kitchen, alone and dejected, and sob. It does eventually rear its ugly head, resulting in a depression lasting for days or even weeks at a time, but in an effort to get the shit over with, I emotionally isolate.

... I don't really know what I'm doing with this post. Maybe, by virtue of finding and internalizing my findings, I can do a better job feeling emotions as they come up rather than subconsciously positioning myself as a third party. Maybe this is just a way of recognizing and there's no real need to change.

Maybe... maybe this is a big fat fuck you to anyone who thinks I'm without emotion because frankly, how many people are open about hearing others' struggles? Who really wants to hear that my divorce is killing me? Who asks "how are you" with true intentions of wanting to know, rather than doing it out of social convention?

And after almost 32 years, who wants to believe I'm anything but happy?

I suppose this is me telling myself, it's okay to feel shitty sometimes, even in the moment. It's okay to acknowledge it, to feel it, to express it. It's okay for others to think you have no emotions, but it's reasonable to expect them to take those emotions seriously when you do feel them and express them to others, as they do exist and are felt and are often experienced deeply.

If they're not okay with that? Well. There's their big fat fuck you.

If they are? Then thank you... thanks for helping me acknowledge and feel and express, even if it's difficult for both or all of us. Especially if I struggle.

... I really don't have much more to say on this. But it feels good to finally tell myself the truth.

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