I think it is appropriate,
starting this post with a quote from Shakespeare. We are, after all, moving to
a town dedicated in part, to his honor. I’ll take a moment to confess that one
of my aims in moving home is to attend more theatre productions. I want to be
able to reference his works, and the works of others here, as comfortably as I
do other things. At this time, I appreciate his comedies, and always have; the
romances took a while, only because their slow pace… Well, it seemed like everybody
spent three scenes questioning the air; what, oh what in the world should they
do, while the object of their affection is… literally sitting right behind
As I’m heading for forty, I’d
like to get to know his tragedies, since I know I will probably never take in
the histories. I think I could probably gain perspective if I sat through
Coriolanus, or Titus. Hamlet probably deserves a revisit as well as Macbeth. I did
not take the opportunity to get to know Shakespeare during my younger years,
having needed time to live in fiction, fairytales, and fantasy. My mind was
just too… something, for Shakespeare.
Moving on, I would like to say
I am in complete agreement with him on the above statement. As you well know, I
like considering situations from every angle I can find; I often get into a
rant and then completely deflate myself with a solid opposing argument for the
other side. I have just found that this prepares me in ways I can’t even
It goes beyond boundary
establishment and maintenance. A longer quote I like to help highlight what I
“Another way to be prepared is to think negatively. Yes, I’m a great optimist. but, when trying to make a decision, I often think of the worst-case scenario. I call it ‘the eaten by wolves’ factor.’ If I do something, what’s the most terrible thing that could happen? Would I be eaten by wolves? One thing that makes it possible to be an optimist, is if you have a contingency plan for when all hell breaks loose. There are a lot of things I don’t worry about, because I have a plan in place if they do.” Randy Pausch
I like that Pausch states this
is his pattern, even though he is a great optimist. I just think that we
can be optimists living this way, because there’s a plan for what worries me. Even
if I don’t have a complete plan, acknowledging the potential removes the option
to be caught unaware.
There are minor and
unbelievably major motivations for this post. The minor ones are what I will
touch on today, as a way of organizing my brain.
I recently had the good fortune of line editing a novel,
soon to (hopefully!) be published in Canada called, The Minimalist: Who is Not
in Favor of Minimalism, and I was amazed to find out that I, too, am a
minimalist. I think my minimalistic creed came from three factors: a) I have
moved a lot, thus divesting myself naturally of things that would increase the
moving effort b) I have never really been financially secure and c) there is
less disappointment when ‘things’ don’t mean anything.
Touching on the third point for a moment, things do have
value to me. There are some material items that I would be truly upset over
loosing, but outside of my own ‘loses’ I have known two people to lose
everything to a fire, and far too many more who have nothing they want to begin
with. On those two extremes, the work I’ve watched the people do on the affect,
has left me with almost no choice but to get there before it happens to me.
My sis and I were robbed when we lived in Toronto. It was
within the first year of us living together on the main floor apartment of an
8-plex on a busy Toronto corner. They entered through our bathroom window (well
hidden in a very accessible, also well hidden, old school fire escape) creepily
organizing all our bathroom things outside on my smoking table in precise,
organized lines. Being on the poorer end of life, we literally had nothing to
give them except my sister’s tip-money she hoarded in her bedside table. They
found that, and nothing else, when they completely tossed our rooms. At the
time, I had material things I liked, and a lot of them were ruined, further
devaluing their worth (on top of not being stolen lol). The feeling that
incident left us with was… hollow. The violation so cerebral, and not… I don’t
know, like they came in and ransacked our place, but we were safe, and my
sister lost maybe $250. But opening the door for months afterwards involved
loudly banging before loudly working the key in the lock and shoving the door
open as I jumped back as far as possible (an astounding half-foot, I’m sure).
Anyway, taking life lessons to the extreme, if I were now
broken into (knocking on wood), I would be confident in knowing they received
no satisfaction. If they ruined my stuff, well, I have insurance! The violation
would still be felt, I am sure. But, having felt it before, I wouldn’t be
shocked and shock is the thing I hate most, I think.
Do you feel this? How old are you, and if you do feel this
way, how did you come by it? I recognize that my experiences have resulted in
me being a minimalist, and that makes organizing my life easier, for me. Moving,
(not to belabor the example) is another area where I am prepared. We move in a
month and a half and I’ve booked the movers, our place (I think) is rented, I
will be calling services next week which means… when moving day arrives, all I
will have to manage is my people and
the people moving us. Pretty cool, no?
The value of giving yourself the room to go deep, and like
Pausch says, explore the ‘eaten by wolves’ factor’ would probably surprise you
at how comfortable you ultimately, end up being.
Wanting to stay light-hearted and quick, I want to end this
on a linguistic note. Another means of being prepared is using language that
accurately relays what you want to say. Working through ‘zones’ lately, I have
reacquainted myself with the myriad of potential emotions a person could be
feeling in combination. Knowing the vast lexicon available to you can also help
pave your path of preparedness. I was once humiliated by a professor, but my
fault entirely. During my cocky, early-twenties I was in a philosophy class.
The prof asked, “what do you need to make fire?” Immediately I shouted out… “Wood!” Feeling pretty
fucking smug at my speed, my camping days rushing back and inflating me with
confidence. I can’t remember their exact response, but it was essentially,
preparing to go out in the rain with an umbrella is like just needing wood,”
turning away, thinking I would have learned my lesson at this point. I… a true
stubborn bull continued, “IRREGARDLESS, you said ‘what do you need to make
fire, and wood is needed.’” In sum, they turned around and asked me a series of
scenario-based questions in which a fire took place, without wood anywhere to
be seen; an oil spill catching fire on
water, a brick house burning to the ground, tar pits, plastic. It was one
of the most educational moments of my life folks.
Be prepared. Consider a few different things before charging
ahead. It will help you be more confident and believable in the end.
DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO, UNTIL YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO. unknown.
again. Today I am reflecting on age, and how it is showing itself in new ways –
dare I say, giving me a moderately refined quality? Unfortunately, there is a
disjunct occurring; the situations I’ve grasped the changes in are ones that
are almost as old as me. Thus, what I have come to expect myself to do, is no
longer a guarantee. Which is interesting when your successful interactions are
based on knowing how to navigate ‘you’ in relation to others.
Side note: I would like to say again; my interactions are so overwhelming sometimes. I try to be my prepared normal for acquaintances, or friends and people who aren’t… all in. Because when I am balls to the walls, I can be a lot to handle. Teams, for instances, are hard. When planning to join one, I literally allocate the day we play, and a few hours on either side of the game for that event. I’ve experienced two instances in my life where that allocation grew, other things became included in the relationships, and overall it was OK. But if I don’t prepare for that potential, I don’t know what to do. Then, things change (season, schedule, location) and I adapt to those changes. But then sometimes, I find myself face-to-face with a misinterpretation so grand, and literally incomprehensible to me until hours later, that I inevitably mess up. I used to try and recover these moments; now I put them down.
Side note: I just had a realization talking with Aisha – I have described what
I am willing to do to move forward with people (friends, family, duder,
etc.), but I can finally, succinctly say what is required from ‘you’ for the success to be guaranteed; don’t
argue with me about a point, when I don’t argue with you. Do you know what I
mean? For instance, Aisha lived in a naturally cluttered environment when we
met. I had learned by now not to come at her, force her to change, berate her,
or ignore the fact that this is an absolute need. So, I explained my needs,
what would work as a ‘messy’ zone (there were several, actually) and that I
would appreciate her considering it. Being the amazing brain, she is, she didn’t
resist these requests, in her space no less. She thought about it. She considered,
essentially, if her messy habit overruling my need to be clean and organized, especially
when I was willing to take it upon myself to maintain it, was fair. Eventually,
by continuing to consider whether certain habits were beneficial to her
(because, ultimately, she could see why I needed things clean and organized: it
functions better) or not, her habits have changed, a lot.
Her, and my
changes are good. For my part, ones I have honestly worked towards. Signs I’ve
divested myself of my anger seem to be splaying all over the place. The anger that
consumed me for so long is almost non-existent. Situations that would have had
me bubblin’ and brewing, now inspire a tiger-like yawn; moderate interest, but the
‘it’s not my problem’ has become engrained in my very muscles. I will
acknowledge that this does not mean the feeling of disruption, of confusion, or
of indignation are not still present. I am not a monk – I still have work to
do. But that anger was dirty, vile and cruel.
My need to
be heard still surges and settles, in an invisible, tsunami-like way. This has
been a fun one to watch; raising and eight-year-old, with someone ten years
younger than me, who sometimes seems fifty years older than my friends’ (a year
younger than me) partner/co-parent (a year older than me), and hearing the
differences and similarities in the advice handed down by all our parents. These
voices are all at such different stages, asking for different things, though
all technically focused on the same subject. My voice feels like it has
patience now, like a wind that has changed its course. I used to feel it
billowing in my lungs, my throat to small, constricting the words and feelings,
causing an inward suffocation. Now, it stirs in my brain, having moved its
location so that it’s release is possible. When I can and do speak, I feel like
it carries more weight, like a strong west wind.
When I feel
overwhelmed in a space that is not mine, I have found a new, quiet spot, where
I can cross my legs and invite the ‘angst’ to sit so we can find a way to keep
the ignition from occurring. That poise feels like the ghost of a ‘jo’ past, having
come to inhabit my subconscious and get us the rest of the way through this life.
these changes, I have arrived at a spot where I woke up and my mind was back in
that twenty-one-year-old headspace, a scary place, without my knowing. I hadn’t
earmarked the changes my maturation would cause in my guidebook. I felt so out
of sorts. I didn’t know me, and my guidebook seemed to have a water mark blurring
feel so distant from people, like I am floating away without this safety; like
if I don’t tether, I will disappear. Sometimes I can’t even feel my heart beat I
get so quiet. What’s happened is something changed, that is hard to describe
but a ‘for instance’ includes not realizing how really honest thoughts would come slamming into place with a
finality I am not ready for, no more pleadin’ the fifth.
people complain about x, I had already divested that thought and owned the
concept of y, but now… I feel like I am at z. Y was already a lonely place. I
do welcome the honesty, the solid understanding of where the players stand,
and… the benefits I can see coming. But sometimes realizing things about your
tribe, or community, or culture is hard, especially when you’ve committed to your
change is that regardless of what I am battling, whether I have had time to
process in my normal way or not, I am somehow, unassisted, already coming up.
call-to-human-connection has about two speed dials now, discluding my family. This
is a momentary pause I think, because of what is possible when we move – frankly,
the magnitude gloriously overwhelming. Not that the list ever really consisted
of more than eight or so, but the number’s decline has been such a natural
With this change
though, I no longer have the ability (or want?) to hyper-focus on friends, but
now I take in what feels like millions of strangers who are dealing with their
balance to understand a growing-duder, Abomb, and me and whoever else is all-in with us. I watch these strangers strive
for time, relationships, self-care, quiet time, ability to express themselves.
When my brain pans-out, my view can not help but consider how having to learn
to move away from what oppresses you is so counterintuitive to us, because our
oppressor wears the sneakiest mask yet. Not a sheep, or a granny; but people
who are ‘making this province great again’ by literally destroying it with such
speed, such thoroughness and planning that my paranoia is cranked to ten.
that means to you, seems so tenuous to me. What has helped me feel confident balance
exists, albeit in flux, even while my world is changing, is watching A-bomb
with duderonomy in the evenings. From the moment I joined their nightly routine.
While he and I have a thing, a connection with communication, what I watched
tonight was awesome. A mother’s ability to restore balance, to help lay the
groundwork for understanding our own balance is an incredible gift, and, an
comes from knowing you are good, just
as you are. But, knowing something innately hard. If you are neurotypical you may often feel like you are ‘a lot’ to
handle. If you are expressing a personhood others contest, you probably feel
like ‘a lot’ to handle. If you have emotions, you may honestly, feel like you
are ‘a lot’ to handle. If you just feel lonely, you too, probably feel like too
much. But we aren’t.
This is from an Instagram account I follow, ftm pride, and was a share
account. It has been a long time since these feelings have come up, but… I am
moving back home. I am interacting with family in significant ways.
Reconnecting with old friends. There is change, big change, looming. Things are
going to be different, new boundaries agreed upon, old boundaries reviewed.
For instance, my BSLF has been amazing during our ridiculously
non-stressful week of house hunting. Providing coffee, hosting us for dinner,
providing a space the child to run free for a minute. We can balance the old and
new realities, and I trust her to accept my baggage, as I do hers. She and I
had a conversation today where she really did an amazing job at using neutral
pronouns, or my name, in reference to me. I love her because she made sure to
pause the conversation in order to receive praise on her (one day) of amazing
effort. The struggle, the balance, is trying to reconcile having to deal with
the shared moment of joy being unable to withstand the weight of hearing my mum
and realtors call me she (x20 in a forty minute conversation), of getting in
the headspace of being a MOH (Maid of Honor to my butches who – like me – did
not know wtf that meant) who doesn’t wear a dress, of getting my period, or,
knowing that when I sat with her, at their table in the two hours we were there
on the weekend, she and her fiancé explicitly referred to me as she/her
sixty.seven.times. Essentially every 1.79 minutes.
Because of who I am, I put that back on the shelf, because I
am so proud of the effort made. And, I remember that this my choice, and has
been a quiet, private development. So, I celebrate that phone conversation, and
These things, while important, aren’t necessarily things I
understand. So, I find myself missing the conversations I used to have with someone. My ghost-of-past-me is
whispering patience, whispering they’re coming, but I feel like I went
through the wardrobe and lost the door to their side. I need the connection
with this someone, I don’t know how to get it.
I have a
calm relationship with responsibility, because I had to learn to like it. I
don’t love being a law or rule abiding, good Samaritan all the time. In fact,
there are days where I wish I could be a curmudgeon, walking around and just
being whatever I need to be, and excessively so. But that’s not me. I’d rather cover
my ass then get in trouble, but the lengths I seem to have gone to assure that
– for the most part – seem overprepared, even for me.
instance, since the last post, what, a week ago? We not only got over the loss
of ‘losing’ the house we wanted, but found the best, most amazing house
possible one week later. I accepted the responsibility for how this would flow,
when the idea was conceived. I prepared and now, signed, sealed, deposit down –
it’s ours. Very few bumps; emotional, mental, generational, or otherwise.
Literally, so smooth, and now all those celebrating, are doing so with quiet, confidence,
and gentle joy. It’s lovely.
simultaneously been dealing with serious dysphoria in the last three weeks. I
thought I could walk a line – people who ‘don’t need to know’ and people who
do. That sadly, does not seem possible. So, I have done something I never do –
I pushed the thought away. I am not in a place where I can take that time, to
prepare, coach, open, and be vulnerable to someone who is so… unaware of the
burgeoning situation that the anger, sadness and confusion I’d have to filter
for them, seems like too much, right now.
allowed that. It hurts a bit, being so good at calmly putting my needs aside.
And please know I am not saying this to sound like a martyr. I can be very needed. Many, many needs are still
being met, but I can rant, and need a trillion reassurances; I have been in
scary places because of my anger, need to be heard, need to be recognized. I am
thirty-six years old. I am trying to say; I am learning to appropriately
prioritize everyone’s issues as well as mine.
Age has smoothed
my edges, the process leaving me a bit weary. I heard this weariness in someone
else’s voice. On the CBC the other day, the reporter was speaking with someone
about the new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. I can’t find the link,
although, I now know I can go through and read
everything that happened on the CBC in a day!! Which is besides the point –
the point is the guest was asked how they felt about seeing a burkini on the cover of S.I.
Their indignation was minimal, but the sentiment was, this is my fucking normal, how mind-blowing can it be. I should
tell you that this person was Muslim, highly educated, a part of the fashion
world, and Canadian. I completely understood why that was her reaction.
asked, ‘is your normal being portrayed in an appropriately mind-blowing way to
someone else’ is so immediately othering, it takes your breath away. I said to Aisha,
it would have been refreshing to hear what her thoughts on the socio-religious
and socio-political impacts of the issue could be.
to reconcile that your normal is mind-blowing to others is why phone calls to ancient
friends can be hard.
how insulting it is when you, in whatever space you take up, are being judged
by someone who… is just… I don’t know, notgood. I feel so insulted when I
realize I am worried when I am out with my family, that my son will have to see
the hate I receive because our life is mind-blowing
enough to cause someone to spout hate, or point, or stare. I used to feel
suffocated by the number of people, who for whatever reason, wouldn’t or couldn’t
accept me; my age, my weight, sexuality, gender, hair, clothing, job or friend
choice, everything has always felt… unbalanced and judged.
days where this is still a necessity. Less so, now that I have the body I
always saw in the mirror.
realized that the disjunct between my self-perceived confidence and intellectual
value, or, general social value and how others take me in is what I now need
age to soften. When these perceptions are off, it vibrates into my very
is like a net. Sturdy enough to hold me together, but well, when full some fish
escape. When I say this, I mean: defending my decision to move, my ability to chose
a house, know the important details (I am
a property manager…), figure out a mortgage estimate,
remember the routes and appointments, or groceries for that matter and continue
to be confident in summa, I can not also manage my gender, or other insecurities
that are routed in my normal being so different.
part of this reality is, when we stay ignorant, and allow others to also, the
level of insult people endure quietly because they are forced to see themselves
as ‘lesser,’ their normal obscene, results in abject worthlessness. From one
end, I suppose we could say that “what I do affects so few people, and they are
close friends.” That is true. But, on the other side, you really don’t know. You
don’t know the depths people are swimming in.
I want to share something with you, my favorite IG account @creating_thomas. He posted this beautiful piece the other day, and it captures the heart of someone who’s normal to some may be mind-blowing, who most of the world may hate, if they new his ‘secrets.’ I love his words, and pictures – he is a daily source of beauty in my world. I hope you enjoy.
“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgement of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgement now.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Oh, holiday Monday. I remember your yester-years, those
casual carefree days, hitting the snooze button and drinking an extra pot of
coffee. I remember you from our childhood days, those teens years, early
twenties – all the way up to last year, really. Fond memories for sure and, you
know, to be fair, I turned the table a bit and stopped working for someone
else, so you may be confused. An ordinary Monday sometimes feels like you’ve
made a drop-in visit, and then… work knocks on Easter. It’s strange, I know.
So, I am very grateful for the normalcy of boy-yo running
home on this beautiful, warm, sun-filled evening. He’s now ensconced in the
arms of his ma, who is perfectly portraying five or so characters from The World of Norm. I love watching them in
these moments. The good and tough evenings, the laughing, cuddling, even the frustrated
cries. I love watching the light move over their faces from the kitchen window.
Dude’s eyes are drooping, but he’s obviously reading along silently, word-for-word
but his resistance to sleep is not as strong today.
As you know from Aisha’s post, This
Morning’s Sunrise, we had an eventful weekend. My mum’s four-day foray
was a whirlwind. We had duderonomy all week AND weekend, which was amazing, and
in my mind, why I had 50% less stress than if he had been away. We may have found
a house while hunting. But I’m far too superstitious to share those details.
What I want to work through here pings close to what Aisha is
starting to poke at when she says,
“I’m constantly learning
about the many ways we, as people, function and relate to each other and how
quickly that unity can turn to disconnect, even if only caused by something as
subjective as our perception of the situation or the people involved.”
This concept of unity and disconnect, especially regarding family, is one I have grappled with for as long as I can remember. To save you the details, just know that this visit had a mature (I thought) and unique set of parameters I was curious to explore, after years of trying other style combinations. One of them being my more upfront approach to my daily life, as you may know. Specifically, my intention towards being a better and more honest person, ability to express needs, allowances, boundaries, and all that. But that means things have shifted in my relationships with people I don’t connect with daily, which in my exaggerated brain have now become something that I am convinced seems like a clandestine undertaking on my part.
A specific example of a shift is that I am on the autobahn of raising a tiny, intelligent human – so things move fast. In general, it means my ‘needs’ in interacting have massively shifted. Broadly, my life had always been about adults, in whatever stage they were at. Independent, usually intelligent, autonomous adults. Now my life is about both adults and kids who are all thinking, learning, growing, shifting, and expanding together until our time evolves to look like what our grandparents and parents are (maybe) now enjoying with each other. Translated, I mean that until duder is thirty or so, we three are strapped into this ride together until he decides to take the “I’m autonomous now” exit.
So, we (thankfully) now have adult-friends, kid-friends, friend-friends slowly stacking onto side a. On side b… well, let’s just say that my biannual family adventures are resulting in tectonic-like shifts because all our needs are now at completely different stages. My needs, while I don’t understand the breadth, have changed. I don’t know how to explain what they look like or where they begin and end. I don’t know if they are about me, outwards; or about outwards into me. I don’t know if they are permanent, or maybe, the ground will swell, and they will shift back. All I know is that for the most part things feel different.
Reflecting on this, and consequently the stress I experience when hosting visitors, these shifts seem fated, and in many instances potentially anticipated by others. Parents acknowledge when their children become parents, and roles shift, making space for the new people. Similarly, as friends age and begin to date ‘outsiders,’ the original group expands, bringing in a transient demographic. This is natural.
I would say, it’s not so natural for me. I don’t think it has occurred to my ma yet, either. So, I become a stress-bag. No, joke. In fact, in moments of insecurity I genuinely believe my mum will give up on visiting for a while. My discomfort during her visits used to be explosive (talk about mental health cues). I would cry the whole visit, looking for assurances and stability there was no way she could provide. I would hate leaving or have a meltdown if we started discussing something I wasn’t prepared for. What used to make it work though, was that we could sit and work through the conversation, she was patient about my ‘growth.’ We saw eye to eye enough that we could commiserate over how similar we perceived an issue and come up with grand plans for fixing it. We have amazing plans for educational reform, social services, medical, political overhauls – you name it, we got it. We just never looked at ourselves.
Then, my maturation and experience of divergent realities from most of my kin, piled on top of the pile and things got fuzzy. The generational, and time, gap finally made a mark on us. She said it enough this weekend, so I’ll say it here. My mum got old; my stress became ingrained and apparent.
I want to go back to the concept of responsibility versus predetermined outcomes or unity versus disconnect. My mother showing up, in grandma mode was awesome, but every other moment she excused something because she is now old, instigated a shift. Last night, we heard running around upstairs. I was exhausted, had to be up early again, for a drive, again, and smiled wearily at what I thought I may find on the last night my mum was here. Well, my eight-year-old was responsibly re-tucking himself in (night-light, sound-maker, stuffies in formation), while my mother was laying in bed confused about the alarm on her mobile phone and uncertain about waking up on time. I tucked two people in. Then went to bed.
I am solid with this transition. I have known my whole life mum would come to me in her geriatric years. I am grateful I can give back, a small token for the layers of (perceived or otherwise) failure and success on my part. One of the things I have had time to do in preparation, is learn how to make compromises, how to people manage – on my good days. I maybe don’t do it well, because honestly, I only ever have one or two other people close to me at any given time. But also, boundaries and compromises aren’t necessarily comfortable, and when I attempt to create them for everyone, so we all get some of what we need, it can get frazzled.
Compromise can be broadly defined so I’ll give some examples. One. Dude-magoog has trouble sleeping some nights. The reasons are between us but suffice to say we’ve had to do a lot of compromising on check-ins, time he goes to bed, pre-bed routine, and after weeks of trying to be firm, a lightbulb went off. I want to preface this by saying I am not a great bedtime parent. I am ready for him to go to bed, and don’t really get the multiple-check-in-after-the-first-one requests. But, because of where he’s at, he thinks they’re great. The problem is he stays up waiting and waiting and waiting and then is up all night. Me being the final-face before sleep was a situation that sprang up and surprised us all. So, his needs versus my, ‘just go to bed’ mentality, had to be quickly reconciled so the scale didn’t tip over. We finally stumbled on a great compromise – he gets a second check, before I go to sleep, on Sundays (or, Easter Monday). Sometimes, you just have to go to bed. But, sometimes, it really sucks when things are over and you feel overwhelmed or happy and excited, or whatever, and you just need an extra check.
I want to draw your attention to, is our willingness to compromise and continue
to find the best solution with our kids because they are learning to be their best self. We are instilling lessons
about self-respect, boundaries, and good decision-making practices. More than
that, self-care, and self-monitoring. We inherently understand what we need to
give up to successfully raise kids; time, sleep, privacy. We choose to have
kids because we are ready (for the most part) to do this, in one way or another
– no matter what that looks like to someone else.
does that stop? The willingness to continue seeing things from the others perspective
so you can stay on track. Does it stop for everyone? I know a mother who, to
this day, calls all four of her kids daily, visits monthly (so, is not home
often!), babysits, goes on vacations, and invests themselves in helping her kids
raise her seven (or eight) grandkids. Lovely, no? Don’t think that my mum is
not invested in family. She is very committed to her mother, being present in her
aged years, transitioning from home to nursing home. This is firmly where she
wants to be, and I am in no way judging that decision. It is what she needs,
and I had to come to terms with that eleven years ago. She is available to me via
phone, text, letter, and travel. This was a lesson that was carved into my brain
with a corner chisel. Deep, slow, and measured… a distancing that was forced to
be accepted; like breaking up with someone you still love, because they want to
be with your best friend. My mum will (in the kindest meaning possible) ‘get around
to us’ when she is ready to spend more time in Ontario.
Being subject to enforced separation is not new to me. My mother is notorious for her 1-3 pm nap schedule (worthy of its own blog post), my sister left home without a way to contact her when I was ten, ma moved to Nova Scotia, blah-blah-blah, the list will be on paper eventually, I’m sure. In hindsight, I suppose I took exceptionally well to the, “you wait here until I get back” conditioning. In the “non-absence-absence” I feel with my family I think I tried to stay 23-year-old me: agreeable, quiet, unassuming (also banshee wailing with confused emotional needs). I did this so that they’d… I don’t know, recognize me?
can see now that that was, well… uh… bad and am thankful for being on this side
of that lesson now. But, as I said to my Madre, I don’t think she realized that
this whole time she was encouraging me to change, the change wouldn’t be
controllable, or reversible. So, I was stuck trying to figure out how to
explain our speed bumps (too many to list, but consider every geographical,
generational, genre-based, interest based difference and you’ll have begun to
cover it) to her, but had to pin that to tackle the interrupting that was
taking place during the conversation. We literally had to institute an “is it
my turn?” policy before speaking our point. But, I’m willing to do that,
instead of just ignoring things.
is hard and when, like a parent bird, you push your babies out of the nest, you
need to be ready for them to come back looking different. In time, they may
come back stronger than you – or still dependent. They may not come back for days;
they may build a nest next to yours. Who knows? I haven’t pushed yet. I am not
getting this from actual experience. I am getting it from thinking about what
people need and what they want, and whether those things can coexist. What mine
looked like, and obviously, what duder’s will look like when it comes.
others when you are trying to take time for yourself (grief, growth, whatever) is
not easy. Considering others when you have had to forge a lonely path, is not
easy. Working through the things that tie us up, is not easy. Making boundaries
and expressing real needs, is not easy.
I distance myself most often from people based on one principle. I get confused why my perceived list of expectations is seemingly much more exhaustive than others. Knowing it is partially self-created, I am not looking to point fingers. I am trying to figure out what the heck I’ve been doing. Remembering a longer list of details than the nuances that are recalled about my life, being one example, and further, being forced to hear their details repeated. I don’t forget, and even if I were to forget, they would upset – tables turned, if you knew as much about me and forgot a tidbit, I’d get over it. Genuinely. The grey zone of gatherings and commitments is a different expectation I haven’t quite grasped. Having important plans cancelled is confusing, and forces you to wonder if the repairs you’ve attempted to make to the disappointments you’ve caused, haven’t worked. But then again, you know it isn’t about you, per se, so the cancellation request is granted, and you put your hope on the shelf. Because how could you ask, when it costs them more?
So, unity and disconnect, perceived expectations. This is starting to take shape. Let’s add a final detail. I don’t know when an appropriate time frame is for getting over it or having to get on board. When to modify or raise the expectation to get on track. I am only learning to ask for things, or refuse requests, in a calm, logical, considerate way. One that is respectful of the recipient’s time and space, and includes what I honestly (bare minimum) need to make the compromise worthwhile.
requests or admissions may seem out of the blue, I supposed. But I keep
considering ‘you’ after you’re gone. I allow myself time to consider and
process, which means I had to get comfortable revisiting something in a conclusive
way and am now here to approach you with it.
instance, I finally asked my mum to stop being “HELPFUL” when negatively
commenting about my hair, weight, look, clothing, because well, she is not a
potential partner so her input isn’t helpful
if it’s counter to what feels good and attracts my partner to me. It is
contradictory and negative. I have had to move out a notch on my ‘belt’ with my
sis, hoping its enough space for her, finally.
do I mean? Ok, here are random statements and my internalized response:
worry you are overwhelmed, that you aren’t ok, and I don’t know how to help you I either overly defend, get angry, cry,
lie, fall apart, or… manage a good conversation about how I am doing, and we
can look at my new reality
are always saying you’re unhappy, you don’t get enough, you can’t do x, y, z I get confused hearing this, feeling like
I don’t talk about my stresses unless we are together, which is usually for
eleven to fourteen days a year. And the odd phone conversation where I can mask
the heart palpitations.
just don’t feel like I belong here But I have waited for my family to piece
back together in an archipelago of sorts, made up of grandkids and partners,
evolved from the small islands that drifted.
guys, unity and disconnect; in or out of the cart.
I am now an adult with a big brain who is working hard on integrating my care-taker personality with my hard-line-boundary marking, compromise making, parent-self, who had to build and scrap a few (many, who am I kidding) models of what a ‘unit’ was to me. So, I inevitably changed, didn’t stay the way I was thirteen years ago, so now she worries I am experiencing foundation issues, that I am not ok. I am ok, though. I just don’t look or sound like I did. Because there are important things we aren’t addressing, things that changed.
Speed is a theme here, but I mean the speed that is determined by what stage your relationship is at – in time. This abstract relationship has a serious impact on physical relationships. It can take over connections between people. We don’t have patience, because we are moving fast and don’t have time to fill ‘you’ in. Ma comes in for four nights (I go to bed at 9:30…) and three days, so I am JACKED on trying to come across as ok. Why? Probably because my major concern is convincing everyone I am ok, now that I am honestly ok because I want to make room for that elusive quality time.
am seriously contemplating writing a manual for how to navigate my family
depending on your proximity to the players (obviously for secret, internal
consumption only). Namely, because in my own head I get ridiculously caught up
in the nuances of the private, important secrets that I try and navigate with
and for people I have a long history with. To answer part of the original question,
it isn’t only subjective factors that affect unity and discord. Having too much
information can be detrimental.
made a few big decisions this weekend and set hard lines down. I’ve shared some,
other’s I just can’t (here, or otherwise). Some of them make me sad, seeing the
immediate ripple cascading down the corresponding timeline, shaking the foundation
just a bit. Others are freeing, and empowering, and may lead to some cool honesty.
I don’t know who in the world is not vulnerable when sensitive to, aware of, and trying to facilitate the needs of any other, without also being sensitive to subjective mistakes. Unless there is an ‘is it my turn’ policy, interpretation can be difficult. That, friends, is when we need the storm. We need things to tumble and shake loose so that fresh buds can sprout.
My ending question then, is this: what, if any, relationships have you stopped working at being tied to that surprised you. Was it gradual; did you resist? Is it final? I am working through a lot, obviously, but mostly because I like to feel resolve. My present state is not affected, majorly, by the ruminations so why not clear the ol’conscience, right? As Aisha said, why not challenge ourselves to reflect more?
Since starting this piece, we found out the hopeful-home is now off the market, the owner feeling everything was going to quickly.
are on a fast train baby, so if you’re on it, buckle up.
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. Steve Jobs
he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”
One of my favorite songs to sing to Duder in moments of ‘ok-frustration’ is the “Uh oh! Grass! Long wavy grass!! We can’t go over it-” remember that one? I think these two probably only ever hear the ‘can’t go over it’ sung in that weird, deeper-monotonous voice, reserved for that awkward key ‘catch-all’ community songs are written in (Happy Birthday, He’s A Jolly Good Fellow, any children’s song).
Anyway, I sing that song a lot
to myself – making me realize I am still a farmer, needing a song to keep pace
to. The ‘Can’t go over it’ song was the first lesson I learned of pushing past
something to just, get through it. Believe
me, I appreciate the motivation in this song far more than the “I’m being eaten by a boa-constrictor…”
(in swimming class…)
What is this about? Well, with
a Georgia-font flourish, I can unveil the grand plan; what all the secret,
heart-blossoming hype we’ve alluded to has been about. Moving. We, our lil’ family of three, are moving again.
When we moved from the apartment to this lovely home, I was
silent about what number this tallied for me. Because I am tired of feeling
like I jinx it by saying ‘Well, this is number X, so it has to be the last
time!’ but in this case, it is the last of something.
This will be my twenty-first
move, in my (soon to be) eighteen years of living ‘independently’ and I am moving
back home. Yup, we’re moving West (well… 166km and 2hrs West).
This decision is not new, it had
been thrown around in that weird, super uncommitted way you do early on in a
relationship. That sense of invincibility, the excitement and passion of our
blossoming relationship found kinship in the food, wine, arts, and general
cultural scene of Stratford. But, after our own set of challenges, a couple of
years, the whisper didn’t fade.
There is a very large queer
population, an especially prominent transient population in the summer, as it
is a theatre town. So realistically, there has always been that safety-appeal.
With everything else that has piled up, it seems like a natural choice to make
when we realized, we have to move.
I aspire to be a normal,
awesome citizen instead of cloistering myself away. I could comfortably see
myself volunteering at duderonomy’s school. We have friends, obviously
originally ‘mine’ but they have wholly welcomed Aisha, as an individual, who
just happens to also have captured my
heart. And duderonomy has friends, already.
My fabled sister lives there,
and while that is going to be a short-lived reality, it will be cool to run
into her, or call her up for a walk. My niece and her boyfriend will be there
for a while, which I am so excited for, also realizing it will probably be more
of a ‘run-into-ya’ thing. Maybe not!
We are purchasing a house with
Talk about setting roots. Family,
friends, a house, work is taken care of, we have support – so maybe Aisha will
begin to heal. Moving, once upon a time, was something I obsessed over. My mum
and I would troll open-houses, talk about moving, look at the paper and… dream. I don’t know why; we had an
amazing house. We were able to travel; we spent time in other homes.
But then I started my own
personal apartment-carousel. The obsession soon made way for exhausted
resignation. It all started when I turned eighteen, and my parent’s
conservativism (prudish and maybe semi-homophobic-in-the-parental-way mindset
*god I hate qualifiers*) and my requests were not harmonious. So, I, in a much-needed
break from what was going on, moved out with a friend from high school, and my
How do you decide if you are
ready to live independently? Looking back, though I recognize it would have
been detrimental to stay, I wish I had waited! I didn’t have it that bad – I
would have had more time with my dad. We could have compromised about my
request (no secret, I wanted my girlfriend to sleep over because she lived out
of town, they thought we would have crazy lesbian sex all over the house…). But
that’s not what happened. So, with my multiple jobs and being almost finished
high school, I moved out.
I needed to not be at home
helping with my dad (as terrible as that sounds), but I ended up feeling over
worked anyway. I finally graduated, the romance ended, my second and third
apartments were quickly experienced, and jobs started to ‘pile up.’ As did my bad
choices, mapped across cities and decades.
But the thing is,
I was not ready to live with my significant other. I was not ready for sharing
spaces with… strangers (not my family members). But I really kind of had no
choice. I learned a lot from this first space: boundaries, fragile lies for
gullible people (me), how to be cheated on and deal with it, and a host of
other things I don’t think I would have necessarily ever been prepared for. But
what followed… Well, I don’t know if you would have been either:
Here we go. From
home to Apartment 1 (move 1) and then two other apartments (move 2 & 3) in
two years. Then, new city: Toronto (apartment 4/move 4) – home (move 5) – Toronto
(apartment 5/move 6)– home (move 7) – Toronto (apartment 6 & 7/move 8 &
9). Then, my small trip to Nova Scotia (apartment 8/move 10) where changing drivers
licenses and addresses, getting insurance, etc., was not worth the hassle when
we moved back eighteen months later. Apartment 9 and move 11, I’m in St.
Catharines. Suffice to say the next few years were a fast-forward of homes 10-18
and moves 12-20.
The move to this
house, as I’ve said, felt like a break. Like we could get our bearings, be
on-top of parenting and get better in general. We did it too, which is the
funny part, and maybe why I feel less stress now. Aisha was successful with her
businesses. I was doing well and getting to where I am now. We were learning
great lessons, getting into a groove, and then… dun, dun, dun – the back thing.
What does your
derailment look like? Because, to be honest, all my moves, all of my changes have
made mine quite… elegant if I must say.
I’m kidding. ‘Twenty moves’ starts as a
frazzled-pull-out-the-boxes-you-didn’t-bother-unpacking, and eventually evolves
into just not having that much to pack anymore, because you’re tired of packing
so you ‘declutter’ every time you go. But the support and joy at our recent decision
(on the ending end) has affirmed what we knew: we’ve gotta go. Even duder, in a very mature
conversation, admitted he recognizes that he needs a little more schedule
consistency, which can best be obtained by removing the…
(what is proving a… thing… is not a thing but the tension of sleepovers elsewhere weekly, when the
child wants to, but does terribly when allowed to, is… well…).
My love, my ever-surprising gov’love, chomped it and slid the
last, hard, and oddly shaped piece into place this week and asked/told duder’s
dad about the move. Which meant it was/is official, everyone (for the most
part) knows. The meeting went well. Until there was a moment the next day, that
also, realistically, went well. But God, that heart pang. Not even just for me
– yes. I want and need to move home.
But also, for duderroo. For that brief moment where I forgot how reasonable
this is, and that we can go- I honestly thought we may have to stay.
What am I getting at? All of it. My magnetic
shift, the time-alignment and auspicious
reason/timing of it all, and well, y’know,
the stuff I deal with. And now, we get to go. All of this good and bad is pressing
at the lip of the volcano and our world is about to be washed anew again. This
time, I am feeling that feeling
I don’t like but in this scenario it is more like a comfortable sweater. The
hood falling perfectly, the arms just long enough.
I am excited to move home. To give duder and my girl what I
had, hoping I can find it for them; that we can make it together. I am sad to
leave certain things and what had felt like chances and optimistic opportunities,
but what is meant to continue, will.
Am I excited to pack up again? Book the truck, get boxes,
tape, and then undo it again? No. Not at all. Am I excited for my mum to arrive
tonight and show her the listings? Did I love showing Joey, and every moment
Aisha and I debated and hand-picked each one? Absolutely.
I love that, even though I feel overwhelmed, a part of a lot more than I am used to, and
inundated by things I wouldn’t have been otherwise, I am feeling ok with it.
Like it is manageable. Something will blip, without a doubt, but I genuinely believe
this is why home became two people, until we needed more.
“It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Zahir
We’re tired for the usual, multitude of (parental, adult, millennial, equinoctial shifts) reasons, but with spring in the air, defeat never possible and sleep not an option (kidding, I got like 6 hours) I went on a bit of a rant today. It was one of those rants where I kept looking at Aisha – to be fair, it’s been 24-hrs of excited ranting – and telling myself, “Dude, she gets it.”
know when you follow through on something, and the breadth and immediacy of the
results are so amazing you just can’t handle it? That is what happened. During
my “AH HOW DO I CONVEY THIS” Google search today to help direct what I am
trying to say, I found a LOT on Feng Shui. I have never really studied the art,
but the philosophy appeals to me, though it doesn’t wholly capture what I mean.
It feels more like a… magnet realigns in me, making me so frigging solid, and
things just start crashing down in beautiful, perfect order. The effect of this
is something I have referred to as my ‘bubble.’
is something I am grateful for, because it is like an emotional, plastic
hamster ball for me to roll around in. Sometimes, there are a few tough weeks,
and then suddenly there are five untypical and unbelievably gorgeous days in a
row; the cardinal, or hawk or some amazing bird will come to catch my eye. I
will feel… listless and then BAM! Songs that lift me from cloud to cloud to
cloud come floating into my world until I break through them into the clear,
blue sky, basking in the sunshine of happiness. I have always hoped to figure
out how to maintain this bubble. If we were to sit and intimately talk about
it, you would see how superstitious, or spiritualistic, I can be. Which is why
I suppose, it took this weird moment of moving my bed, exactly when I did, with
all the other factors lined up, to see that it’s me (I totally just knocked on wood, by the way).
originally put the bed together, I had placed it where it is now. I don’t know
if it was the destabilizing bigness of a stress vs. relief vortex of our
October move, or just the multitude of differences from 7th floor
stink hole to this amazing home, but it didn’t seem right then. I ended up putting
our room together in what seemed like the most logical/functional layout.
few weeks though, I have dreamt about it, low level obsessed over it, talked
about it and honestly have organized so many other places, instead of just
trying it out, that I feel kind of basic not having just done it.
the excitement I felt all day yesterday (a day literally full of so much stress
and worry that I alluded to in the last post, The Bamboo that bends) had me worried I had somehow
managed to like, forget that the stress was imminent. Like, completely,
forget. If I were the person to do this, this is where I would say, “I feel
soooooo ADD,” except I’m not ADD.
I obviously hadn’t forgotten but the positivity and confidence I was able to wrap myself in was dreamlike. Thankfully, I had a mental adjustment in a hyper-clear moment, and realized, no. I had practiced self care in two way: Aisha is learning and becoming a very talented Reiki student practitioner (I know… are there no ends to the levels we keep revealing about our spiritual side) who gave me the “super-pamper-special” on Saturday, and our bed is now in the “Right Place”.
of what I am talking about – Which
way should your bed face – to touch on the idea of considering how a room
layout effects things. I looked over the Queen
of Sleep’s thoughts on Feng
Shui and, while surprised at her interpretation of directional meanings (my
miracle occurred because of a 18°N orientation with our heads and feet away
from the door and window), she did make me chuckle.
And then I found this, the Feng Shui
Tips.Org page that really does what I need it to do. Why? It is malleable
in my brain. Everything I bring into my
thought cycles has to be flexible in its use as an interpretation guide (side
note: always wondered if I had been a monk in a past life). I need this because
I like to have a complete lens to see through; different ideologies influence
me based on the situation, and having more than one viewpoint makes the
decision… More complete.
Anyway, kua numbers… what the… and tell me more. What is my
Kua number? (It’s 7 – I used biological sex because, well, that’s the fact. If
you look into this though, the only time gender matters in the application is
in Group 5).
I am a West Group which provides me with the following
information on the significance of direction:
NW: money and success
SW: health and vitality
NE: Love and Marriage
W: Personal Growth
Our new bed
(Additional side note: Aisha is an 8, also West group)
your head is supposed to be in a lucky direction, balance the sides of your
bed, don’t face a mirror, remove sharp edges (my favorite tip), etc. Do these
factors matter to most people? I am not social enough to say. Do they matter to
me? Well, if you could see my vigor and the shit that’s slid in to place in a 24-hour
time space, you may allow me the mysticism.
When I say,
all is grist that comes to the mill,
I mean that I do not shy away from anything that helps me keep my head clear
and helps me work on myself. Reiki feels good. Bad energy effects me, whether
of my own or others influence. When I allow myself to be open to it, I feel ‘higher’,
or clearer. Yet, I can be so practical and analytical I laugh at my attempt to be
both. At the end of the day, trying can only make me more aware, no? So, it is
all processed, ground down, sifted into my mixin’ bowl and baked into what is
turning out to be quite a competent, sensitive and thoughtful person.
I feel like
I have always been like this, I just wasn’t big enough at the time to hold it
all together, so it came out looking weird. Now it’s like I’ve reached a calm
or, a perspective? Or… steadiness? I just haven’t managed to fuse all three
together, so they alternate, like a pendulum swing. Thankfully, it is slowing,
which means more often they line up and I am afforded (what I assume) really
cool adult moments of knowing.
The point, peeps, is that when I trust me, life is something else. Not easy, but, fun. For instance: I got two new jobs today with one more contract getting close to closing. One of the jobs feels like it is what I have been waiting forever for, what every other messed up employment had been leading towards (gah, no pressure). I have written two blog posts in two days. I gardened. Duder is communicating and our connection was one of those things that came back, crashing down in beautiful, perfect order. All I did was (literally) open the door. Aisha is ploughing through the tough stuff. I don’t want to go into it, but suffice to say, she dealt with about ten piles of stinking _ _ _ _ yesterday without having a major panic attack, without a painful pattern emerging at all. She was so present, and amazing, Duder was so grounded by her. She was also subjected to receiving inappropriately delivered bad news today, that was just dropped like a stool stack on our doorstep, yet she sits over there now, somewhat calmly, plugging away. She is literally ski-dooing through those ‘hills’ but this shift seems to have changed the mud and stones to water-spray and sun beams (she maybe doesn’t feel this way, but she’ll have to write a reply 😉).
something. I needed forward, a break, a breath. I need Spring and to harness my
strength because this is my moment. This is my season and I am bursting with
will harness this feeling. I will figure out how to loop it around my waist and
keep it with me always. Sometimes I have high hopes for forty, other times I
see an eighty-year-old staring back at me, confident finally.
Regardless, I know that my learning is so good. And I am proud to be able to say that. My adjustments are like over-coats now; I can feel and welcome situations, because I trust the time, efficiency and accuracy I have cultivated in my responses. The things I allow in, have allowed me to trust myself. And I am just feelin’ grateful.
I wish I could paint, so this was easier to express. Alas,
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
Jo has written about boundaries before, and I think it’s so cool that since there are two of us writing posts for this blog, you often get two different perspectives (though not necessarily different opinions) on a variety of subjects. We share similar moral values and our opinions are generally the same, but aside from the obvious differences (age, upbringing, hometown, etc) we also have each had our own myriad of life experiences that have given us our views on things now. Boundaries are something we’ve spoken about at lengths, even before we started this blog because, well, frankly — I didn’t have any. Boundaries are generally described as brick walls or barbed wire fences, almost impenetrable save for a certain special someone / something, if they have the will, curiosity and charm behind them to climb the wall, or cut a hole in the fence. My boundaries fall more into the “badly made sandcastle moat” category; you dig for a while and try to carve out a line (or body of water) to separate you from the rest of the world, with the aim of allowing a very select few into your castle, only when you feel like lowering the bridge.
But then something happens; the tide rolls in. You get excited because your moat is full of water! Nobody can get through to you unless you let them in! You’ve created this boundary and the idea seems solid and it feels so good; you’re determined to share yourself and your castle (think of your castle however you please — your body, your time, your heart) only with the people you selectively pick, the people who are worthy.
Your boundary holds for a while. You have to fill up the moat occasionally as the water sinks into the sand, but a bucket at a time isn’t a big deal. You can refill that bucket every 15 minutes or so, no problem.
But the sand underneath starts to soften. The water seeps in so deep that it turns that solid sand moat wall into a wet, soft, muddy pile. You don’t notice at first, you can’t see it happening, but eventually, the sides of your moat start to droop, and chunks of sand begin to fall off the walls and into the water and before you know it your moat is dry, and you see there’s a path leading straight to your castle’s front door. Do you start digging and refill your moat? Do you come up with a different plan? Do you give up?
My moat was never full. It didn’t matter how often I went and refilled my bucket, the minute I came back, the water was already soaking into the sand. This is how my boundaries worked. I would (shakily) develop one and tell myself that no one was going to cross it unless they were worthy of my time, effort, space, heart. The problem was, few of the people I had to instate these boundaries with, were worth it, and, regardless, my determination to following through on those boundaries was non-existent. These boundaries were flexible, unsupported and, worst of all, up for discussion. I have been trying to change that.
I had a lot of my boundaries challenged this weekend, my buttons pushed. It was Broseidon’s 8th birthday party on Sunday and I’d been anxious about it for about a week. His party was priced a little high, but it was exactly what he wanted to do and had been trying to plan it on his own (to the best of his ability) for about a month. We invited his group of 10 friends (have I mentioned I have a really hard time being around children?), my mother and his grandparents from my ex’s side. His dad was away this week, so wasn’t around, and we thought it would be nice to have J-dog’s grandparents there, even if only to represent that side. I have had my fair share of quarrels with this family (as have most separated parents, I imagine) but for the most part, we get along pretty well. Things are amicable as long as I don’t rock the boat, which I don’t like to do anyway, and they are relatively decent towards Jo.
Where do you draw the line on boundaries with your ex-family (if you have one)? My mother and step-father often had my dad over for dinner when I was younger — an unusual occurrence, I know — so I had a bit of a unique view of what blended families could look like. It was baffling to me that people had separated parents who didn’t get along. I found out as I got older that it turns out my mom and dad were just much better friends than partners, but being able to have the three of them under one roof was both awesome and confusing.
I don’t necessarily want this for Duder. His father and I made an effort for a little while to try and take him out, the three of us, to do something fun on occasion after his dad and I split up. I wanted to teach him that adults could be amicable regardless of the situation, and that his dad and I both loved him endlessly and even if we weren’t in love with each other any more, we could still be civil enough to do things with him that he enjoyed. Granted, I think his dad and I were both also incredibly lonely and bored at the time, but our intentions in the end were nothing but good. These were organized, civilized outings that were planned in advance; and if I got the slightest impression things may go south, I cancelled.
So how do you feel when people insist on taking more than you’re offering? Duder’s birthday party was our day to celebrate him and give him a couple of hours outside of school to really hang out with his pals; he also had a birthday dinner planned on the day with some family (and friends that had been like family) that kind of decided, very quickly, that they had no interest in me — so, for his sake, we gave up keeping him home for his birthday Monday night, sent him off to a “family” dinner that didn’t include his mother or step parent; so the Sunday party was all we got. He ended up having a lot of fun, but the day and the decisions made by the adults in his life turned it into a very stressful endeavour, for him especially.
I am generally the “stop by any time!” type of friend. If I have a space in my heart for you (which I almost always do), my door is open to you 24/7. Need a couch to sleep on? We’ve got two pull outs. Need to vent about something? Call or come over, I’ll be here. If it’s something as simple as you not having had a home-cooked meal in two weeks — I’ve got you covered. I love taking care of the people I care about, but there is a very fine line you have to cross to get into the “stop by any time” group of folks.
When people invade my space, I don’t know what to do. Don’t get me wrong — anybody who aggressively and violently invades my space gets a few choice words and a swift smackaroo, if that doesn’t work, but with people I have to deal with regularly, people I love, people I respect; I’m an absolute disaster when it comes to standing up for myself and saying no. Physical boundaries (people helping themselves into my house when I haven’t asked them to come in, for example) are the worst for me to enforce. Emotional and mental ones (dropping news on me, or asking me to have major conversations without any time to plan), are a close second. I’m getting better at saying “no, I can’t talk about this right now”, while “no, you can’t be here, you need to leave” still feels alien to me. When I invite you somewhere, I expect you to show up — unless you’ve asked, like a considerate human being, if I would be comfortable with extra guests. Especially on special days.
So, when my son spends his birthday party worrying about his infant family member getting hurt by his growth-spurting friends, there’s a problem. Especially when it happens. When it didn’t have to. Because this young child (that I have absolutely 0 problem with, believe me, he’s an adorable little guy and Duder adores him) was brought to an event by parents who invited themselves (this is an exaggeration — they were told they were invited and didn’t question it, or confirm) there was no preparation, and it put a lot of people in super uncomfortable positions. Including the little guy! He got (mildly) hurt!
I have had to consider my boundaries a lot more now. When it was just Broski and I, things were different — people still didn’t respect me or my decisions as his mother, but didn’t exactly question things either. I almost felt like I didn’t need to have them because the second anything or anyone threatened to do harm to him, I knew I could turn into a mama bear in a heartbeat. Little did I know, the boundaries weren’t so much for him as they were for me, and I accepted a shit ton of bad behaviour as a result of not having them. As I’m discovering how to create them for myself, I am trying, with tons of help and guidance from Jo, to encourage him to create his own, while he’s young and has the bold attitude to do so with conviction — he has had great conversations with his school-age friends about being uncomfortable with them touching his bum, for example, and now they don’t. It’s incredible to watch.
So for me, being someone in a pretty openly queer relationship (I don’t mean we have an open relationship, but we are both openly gay / queer) as well as the only one in our partnership that conforms to society’s standards of what female-bodied people “should” look like, I have to throw a lot of dark glances at people who sometimes aren’t kind in the way they look at / mumble about Jo. I sometimes play bodyguard in the women’s washroom (see The Bathroom Mirror). I corrected 7 and 8 year old kids on their pronouns. I was also willing to witness the start of WW3, and battle to the death (not really) if anything even slightly derogatory or offensive was directed at them, and I can say that with confidence now.
Do you have a harder time maintaining your boundaries or holding your ground with those close to you, or total strangers? I have been conditioned and trained to be overly assertive in my boundaries with strangers, especially, unfortunately, cisgender, heterosexual men. You know the ones —
I did a self-defence course in high school specifically geared towards young women. We did a variety of exercises, from mixed martial arts to simple holds, and got a lot of really awesome knowledge and experience from a man whose only goal was to teach us to protect ourselves. At the beginning of the course, he stood at the front of the room and told us the main reason most women who get hurt, get abducted, get mugged, etc. don’t make it — we’re scared as HELL to hurt people!! It’s literally wired into us. We have to specifically train our brains to use force and do damage when we’re in danger (specifically at the hands of another person) because if we don’t, our natural instinct is to nurture and prevent pain. I remember thinking to myself, “If this guy thinks I’m gonna sit there like a dead fish when somebody’s trying to haul me off into the back of their van, he’s got a whole other thing coming.” But when we did our final exercise — they staged an “abduction” where you would get pulled into a cube van and had 3 minutes (I believe, this was a long time ago) to do whatever it took to get out; biting, scratching, kicking, punching, you name it — only 3 of us made it out “alive”, because we were the only ones willing to actually hurt our “attacker” (instructor) in order to survive.
Note: This program was obviously all carried out with our consent / the consent of our parents, and really an AMAZING experience that I learned a lot from. It’s designed to teach us to be more assertive in our self defence as women in order to protect us in any potentially dangerous situations — and something that way more teen girls need to see.
I wasn’t friends with my instructor. We spent some time together, he taught our little group of 8 things that I will carry for a long time and that may save my life someday if I ever need it (hopefully not!). But I wasn’t worried about my boundaries with him. Yes, he helped develop some specific ones: don’t ever let somebody you don’t know get close enough to grab you, don’t let someone keep you quiet if you’re in danger, don’t ever be afraid to hurt someone if their sole intention is to hurt you, if someone tries to grab your purse, throw it to them and run as fast and as far as you can in the opposite direction. Well — I’d like to let me partner touch me, or grab me, so when is too much… is there too much? What about if I’m not in danger, but somebody is trying to keep me quiet, even if that just means not allowing me to speak my truth when I’m with them? What if someone’s sole intention is to hurt me, but it won’t damage me physically? What if what they’re taking from me isn’t in my purse — what if it’s my love, patience, generosity, time? I’m not going to bite and kick and scream at my ex’s family when they cross the line, or when Jo maybe says something that hits me in a sensitive spot; so what do you do when it’s your friend, sibling, parent, partner?
Like I said, I, admittedly, am terrible at standing up for myself to the people I hold close to my heart. I attribute this to low self-worth (emotional view of self), which is something that’s slowly improving now that I don’t struggle as much with low self-esteem (physical view of self). I’ve let a lot of people, who were not ever supposed to, treat me badly. I’ve been in abusive friendships, relationships, partnerships and have let those continue for far longer than they should have. People who said they loved me. People who let me continue loving them in the way that I do; wholly, endlessly and without expectations, while having expectations of how that should feel, how I should express it, or how deeply I should immerse myself into it — with no consideration of how it feels to simply be tossed aside when someone has gotten all the benefit they can from you. I’m still trying to figure out how to do it, day-by-day; how to heal from the people who have hurt me, how to stand my ground so it doesn’t happen again — and I’ve been practicing by taking a stronger position for the people that I love, regardless of whether or not they return the favour. Jo and I are each others’ biggest and loudest cheerleaders, and even we have had moments where each of us felt like they could have been more present for the other.
So I’ll end this with a vulnerable story, because sharing my mistakes may help someone else avoid a similar situation and this particular occurrence had a huge effect on Jo and I as a couple, as well as on my views of who my “friends” were and whether or not they were people I wanted to be calling my friends to begin with.
I had a super close friend, we’ll call them K. K and I had a pretty complex history — I was kind of crazy about them for 2 years — but for the most part we were beer drinking, cigarette smoking, stayin’ up late kind of buddies; we got together a few times each week, even after I left the job we both worked at, and I thought the world of them for a long time. They are an incredibly, incredibly intelligent person with a world of experience, wisdom and a shit ton to offer, but it would be like speaking with the Dalai Lama and finding out that, even with all of his wisdom, knowledge and experience, he’s a member of the KKK, or supports a Nazi agenda. How? How can you be an intelligent and thoughtful individual, but still have such close-minded, misogynistic, racist, supremacist views? This was a thought that came to mind more and more often with K as we neared the end of our friendship and, one evening, they finally showed their true colours. This is going to be extremely hard for me to write about, so please be gentle with me.
I invited K over to the apartment soon after we moved in. They and Jo had met once already, I had been super excited for them to get to know each other because, of course, I loved them both dearly and would have loved to have had another pal we both enjoyed spending time with (K being an alcoholic and Jo being pretty much sober by then, seriously I don’t know what I was thinking). K brought a few cans of beer to share, forgetting that both Jo and I are sensitive to wheat, so then proceeded to polish them off of their own. Not a big deal, maybe a little inconsiderate, but fine, right?
Now, remember the boundaries we’ve been chatting about. Because K and I were very close, spent a lot of time together, and discussed some pretty heavy shit, we would inevitably disagree. Usually, we’d cheers to our difference of opinion, and move on. The only thing we could not talk about, though, no matter how many times it came up in discussion, was politics. K is a Rob Ford boosting, Stephen Harper worshipping, Conservative. Where I generally vote for the candidate I think will do the most effective job over the party they lead, based on principle alone I lean more towards the ideals of the Liberal party. I boast an all-for-one, one-for-all attitude most of the time, and believe things should be equal and that we just need to be decent f-ing human beings. I support the forward thinkers in their legalization of cannabis, our attempts to end the stigma around mental illness and our acceptance of LGBTQ+ communities, gender neutral washrooms and the like (for obvious reasons).
K sat up and wanted to tell us all about the “great” things Rob Ford was going to do for Ontario when I got the feeling that things were about to go downhill, really fast. Reversing the plan of allowing “do not wish to disclose” and “unknown” options for Trans and GNC people on medical and official documents was one of said great things. Eliminating any possibility of public gender neutral washrooms was another. We didn’t even touch on his plan for schools, healthcare, sex-ed — K wanted to get right to the stuff that would hit a nerve, because that’s just who they are. Before I even really had a minute to figure out what was going on, K had moved into pronouns and how pointless and idiotic they thought picking your pronouns was, and…
I said nothing.
This is where I feel vulnerable, though. I just told you that I would’ve gone to war for Jo this past weekend, but that wasn’t always the case. I didn’t always feel like I could, like I was strong / brave / big / bold enough. So I let them down, hard — and they let me know, in front of K. Embarrassing, sure, but nothing compared to the dissociation that comes with being an agender person, being constantly misgendered, or having their gender choices / preferences / identifications ridiculed by someone that I had spoken so highly of. They trusted me and my judgement of K and thus, welcomed them into our home without much question — and was, essentially, shit on. I asked K to leave, noting that things had started to feel a little tense and awkward (still such a pushover, eh?) and let them leave without really saying what I thought I should have, but couldn’t find words for until later on.
Jo and I had a long, very difficult discussion about where I fell flat and what I could have said, and I obsessed about my mistakes and what I should have done differently for days. In the spirit of being vulnerable, I will be honest and tell you that I kept in touch with K for a while after that. I think we went for coffee once and I tried to explain to them what had happened, that they’d obviously hit a soft spot and probably shouldn’t speak about gender or sexual identification / orientation if they were going to continue to be in my life, and even then, my dear readers; I look back on it now and see that even that hadn’t been enough. It wasn’t about soft spots, or opinions, or language — their morals and perspectives are so. completely. different. from mine and I was discovering that that difference, unfortunately, wasn’t something I could ignore. I could dive deeper into it and talk about the fundamentals of human rights and how that includes people of all races, denominations, genders, identities, ages, abilities etc etc etc, but I trust that you, dear readers, are good people, and we agree on these things — I still think K is a good person, but their good is exclusive and I needed friends that were inclusive; not only of my partner but of my child, my lifestyle and the fact that we are a queer as f*ck family.
I deleted K’s number the last time we were in Stratford. Actually, I went through a deleted a lot of people’s numbers. If I hadn’t talked to them in 3 months, they were gone (with a few exceptions). It didn’t feel “good”, perse, because they were a reliable friend and I’d hoped we’d be able to stay that way, but boundaries are something I’m trying to work on, and one of them is treating my family and I with respect. If you can’t manage that — you don’t get to see my castle.
“Perhaps, the problem is not the intensity of your love, but the quality of the people you are loving.”
– Warsan Shire
This was a long one, guys — thanks for sticking through it with me.
My chest feels like the cosmos today. Wide, unknown in its
This isn’t the first time my chest cavity has felt like this.
It is just especially interesting, because this week featured
my typical ‘springtime intense’ dreamscapes. In one particular dream, Aisha’s
doctor motioned me over to the table. He wanted me to see how the surgery was
going. In the dream I was as hesitant as I’d expect myself to be in real life
but I moved towards the surgery light, past the mint green sheets that created
a barrier around the surgical staff, closer still to the metal table, her form
laying there. Finally, bending over to peer at the incision and seeing… the
What the heck right?
I have serious issues when considering ‘things under my skin’,
for instance: a fear that bugs or germs are subdermal but waiting to come out
(like spider egg under skin that burst a million babies, *barf). Aisha’s entire
back experience has tiptoed along this fear agilely. Sometimes the fact that
she had hands or instruments in the middle of her back, where nothing ever
goes, is so overwhelming. Because she’s still here, normal, in pain but not an alien.
I make myself look at her scar (it is cute actually) because the scar is fine,
her skin is fine – it is the fact that she is still not ok, but they were in
there, is what is not fine. How do you put that down folks? Fixing her is still
How does this weird dream, my subdermal issues and my
chest-feeling have any connection? Their connection lies in how I feel or process
fears that are not present.
I have a heightened, though subconscious, state of fear. It
brings to mind Trevor Noah’s standup bit about being in Bali and why he chose
not to sit in the front row. Survivalist mentality? I don’t know, because I can
recognize that I am for the most part, safe. But there have been lesson-worthy
moments that have taught me that unless it is just me, in my space, anything
could happen. It is self-preserving, I suppose, an over balancing of safe
The problem with feeling this way is that it means my fears
have shuffled me into a vulnerable corner, it is many (situations) against one
(me) at this point, and I can’t rage my way out because there is no ‘enemy.’
These situations are things I am looking forward to but haven’t ‘prepared
enough’ for, in the event they pan out the way they have previously. Ultimately,
this means that big ticket deals are on the horizon that in history haven’t
played out so well. What’s on the list? Well…
My mum is coming up in two weeks for a visit. That visit is
going to be busy, with a lot of things that are out of the norm. My sister is
meeting duderroo for (technically the second, but) first time over a quick lunch
in the midst of a packed day. Budmuffin’s birthday party is this weekend, and
while I am loathed to admit it, I am generally having problems step-parenting
right now, so a celebration event feels weird.
I will not affect tomorrow, but I miss the easy flow we used to have. Aisha has
been magnificent at bonding duder and I. She folded me into the two of them
like the gifted baker she is, yet we are a complicated unit of five, sometimes
six adults, plus duderonomy. So, our true ‘us-three-moments’ seem brief but I
cling to them andselfishly recognize,
that I now need that easiness in order to be on point. (Obviously this is my
next self-undertaking) Otherwise, I falter and while Aisha is gracious about
it, it’s not pretty folks.
Work-wise, I have hopefully secured two more contracts,
which means I will be even busier, but we’ll be more secure, and finally, well…
there’s a big announcement (Big A) I can’t make at this time (not pregnant, and
overall positive) except to those who know, but there’s a lot of road work yet to
I am so excited to see my mother. We have a unique and
special relationship; she is an amazing memory, a constant source of
reassurance. She’s always just there, as she is. Problemo is, well, we do not
talk about my gender. Trans issues are huge for her, because my being her daughter is what has made our connection,
not that I’m an awesome person. When my cousins asked that Aiden’s earlier name
not be used or referred to, my mother was in shock – “How are we all supposed to
forget how cute and pretty [dead name] was, of course they are Aiden now, but
also [dead name] then.” I understand this with cis people, especially mothers.
I hate when people change who they are, but trans issues aren’t like turning
out to be a backstabbing wahoo. Observing the community more, following more
non binary Instagram accounts, etc. has really emphasized what I already knew,
which is: it is the most important thing
to value someone because they are a person, a human. But we attach meanings
to the details; parents raise their kids biologically, friends used to be made
based on biological gender. It is crazy to break away from someone’s pattern if
you didn’t realize you relied on it. Example. If your mum was soft, kind,
gentle, patient, plush … was that picturesque
figure of motherhood who never betrays us, well, how would you feel if they
were secretly in a fight club or killed puppies on Tuesdays. It is a shock to
find out a side of someone you hadn’t considered, but you not acknowledging or
considering it isn’t necessarily *their* problem.
Acknowledging the shock of ‘the other side’ is what people
do in the apologizing part of coming out as anything. I haven’t heard one story
where, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier” wasn’t uttered, but rarely can the
conversation immediately include the, “imagine my shock too, ten years ago when
this came to me,” because well, “I knew ten
years ago,” is what hurts. The battle is always hard. Expressing a sentiment
like “I’m trans” or “I’m gay/bi/poly” too early into your discovery can drum up
harsh criticism. So, we learn to wait until we are sure enough, but total
confidence and certainty seems to be the last brick in the pathway, so years
slip past and the ‘secret’ grows.
This conversation requires a lot from my mum. I don’t feel
shame in not forcing it on her. It means the pings will be pinging around over
the long weekend. But those pings hold nothing to the look in her eye when she
feels… shocked. Spending her sexagenarian years in a super small town made her comfortable
with small town things. I’ve always been a shock, a bit of a burden, so why
push her septuagenarian boundaries? She is kind, an ally to the LGBT+ community
and ultimately, she is so proud and accepting of me. The moments are when she
tries to not comment on my hairstyle. She has always been an advocate of me in
male clothing, but my hair is always too edgy, provocative, and pointedly
making a statement. Finally, I have lost a lot of weight, and that will be a
thing (potentially). A thing because I’ve probably lost 25lbs (11kg) since she
saw me last, and it doesn’t look all that healthy, and my hair went gray. Weight
is her personal demon, and… my general stress and lack of success are probably
her greatest fears. A lot to wade through, no? Well, let’s end it with the fact
that, through all of this duo-shit, we as a foursome have to team up and
undertake a BIG DAY. Aisha and duder aren’t my concern, and explaining what my concern is, is a whole other
All of that makes me feel vulnerable and can’t see a way
over, under, or around it.
My sister – as you all know – is my [insert proper level of idolatry
with independence and respect] but my brain is going all kinds of places,
preemptively checking, on how this Big A is going to affect her. The funny part
is, I know this is just a gathering of my neurosis because it’s like this: if
the Big A were that we were going vegan, my ‘concern’ is how our veganism may
impact the social shit she has to deal with as a butcher (she isn’t, btw). I
can feel her justified stress and considerations of what her life is going to
look like in three to six months with SO MANY OTHER FACTORS involved, that this
Big A, well – it is SO. NOT. IMPORTANT. But she is to me, so my brain just goes
Birthday party. Ideally, I think we would all hope that split
families can celebrate together. I think if everyone is on board and cool with
it, it is incredible and worth aspiring to. I am grateful for learning about
how this could look by joining this family (Aisha navigates a lot of people). I
just also believe that if two years have gone by, then maybe the fusion needs
to start smaller and on and mutual terms. Budmuff’s (how do you like the new
name?) grandma is nice to me and has been from the beginning in a distant, but
cool way; we commiserate, she and my
mum like each other. Aisha’s multiple parents are all welcoming to me,
authentically. But I do not know any other member of duder’s bio-D’s family and
yet, they’ve decided to join our party. As a queer, nonbinary person, meeting
new people is never an easy thing. Especially when I recognize I am in an area
where most people just aren’t comfortable with my type of spice.
We are already going to be in a big, noisy, child-filled space
(overwhelming, no?) with other adults to navigate, public washrooms, misgendering
by duderonomy’s friends (not wanting it to affect him at ALL because he corrects
people the most) and general socializing. Every fiber of me wants to break a
bone instead of going. But I will go, with a smile, confidence, and a rocking
ballcap. I just need my chest cavity to empty out, so I don’t have a panic
attack and turn into raging-giganto-bullitch. I want to trust that D-fam will
be welcoming and above board – but the problem is, I can’t trust that. Am I
going to assume they won’t? No – fuck no. But I can’t implicitly trust them. Even
if they do show up, try to get to know me, or whatever, they are still coming
to the one event we had ‘alone’ with him. Thursday last week, he was out,
Friday-Saturday-Sunday morning at grandma’s, Sunday is party day (we invited
both grand-sets) but he’s gone Monday, Tuesday, Thursday-Sunday morning next
week too. So, there are just a lot of emotions I need to be super adult about,
but my brain is getting in the way.
And work. Things are turning out slowly but surely in this
department. These new contracts may be exactly what we need to be secure, they
are engaging and interesting and add diversity. I guess the question is, how
much ability do I have? Yesterday was the first day I’ve had off in weeks. Can
one balance 3-5 remote positions and still, be human? Aisha has meal-planned
the sh*t out of this house. She is in charge of figuring out duder’s stuff,
healthy meals, allergy news, growth needs and his schedule. But ultimately, it
has to be on healing, on figure out what to be next. Her focus and drive are amazing to watch grow and evolve; she
is carving hill after hill down so we can move forward but is beating herself
up over them not being mountains.
Sometimes perspective is hard to gain. I feel like all I do
is work (on my computer) and she feels like all she does is cook (alone in the
kitchen). This back surgery and ensuing decisions have me feeling like while we
are as solid as ever, there is less time to check in. Or trust that what we are
supplying is sufficient. This is a vulnerable space.
Finally, its springtime. Are you affected by the seasons?
There is no time I feel more Taurean than in spring. I feel
restless, and huffy, my seasonal drive-to-hibernate shuts off and well, I feel
From spring cleaning and seasonal transitions (car, house,
clothing, chores) to more day light to take advantage of there is just more once winter fades. Yet, constant
allergies, tiredness (those springtime dreams I was telling you about) and general
hiccoughs of change are like speed bumps to the ‘more.’ And Hope. Spring brings
I am not really comfortable with hope as a feeling or
concept. It seems baseless. It seems like such a passive, directionless, dependent
emotion. Cruel, I know. Sometimes I feel like I sound like a monster when I
write this stuff down. But here are the feelings, related to hope, I always
embrace: Anticipation, curiosity, forward motion. Hope makes me feel like a
child, waiting for something innocent and lovely to happen, but then its crushed
without an explanation of why. Hope is fragile, especially for me, in April.
I recognized my relationship with spring is strange, a long
time ago. This month holds a lot of memories, sadness, new and old dates. There
is the excitement of wearing a vest or sneakers, only to realize a coat and
possibly a scarf, were still necessary. Going to bed with the windows open, a
gentle breeze brushing your face, only to wake up to snow on your windowsill. In
many ways, I love the giant F-YOU April brings.
I don’t have any grand summary for any of this. I believe I have reached the cosmos space required for this weekend. I feel calm, vast, and aware. So here goes.
“Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear; The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all.”