Earlier today, while searching for a different article I noticed the title of the blog and had to revisit to recall my stance on this particular topic. I do not recall my reasoning for the piece, but my stance was quite clear; I did not find the appeal to tattoos and body piercings. Times have definitely changed, if you are interested in my opinion from eight years ago then here is the link. https://abstractedvues.weebly.com/abstracted-vues/category/tattoos%20and%20piercings
The practice of body piercing has shown up in history across the globe in different cultures. It’s been speculated that ear piercing is the oldest known form of body modification and dates back at least five thousand years. Depending on the culture, piercing one’s ears could repel demons and spirits, while in others it was a sign of puberty. By today’s standards, one will pierce their ears as a show of independence and is most common in females but has transcended genders. Everyone from your gynecologists to your local faith leader may have several piercings in their ears. I pierced mine back in high school. It was the height of the 80’s and I just wanted to be like everyone else. It did not go over well with my parental units.
Nostril piercings were common in primitive tribes in Africa and North America and considered a rite of passage for the young and indicated warriors in the tribe who bore the piercing through the septum. Meanwhile, in the Middle East men would gift a nose ring of gold to their future wives as a sign of financial security. Depending on the region and the size of the adornment would determine wealth and status.
Just like earrings, nose rings have made quite the impact here in the states and Europe the last several years. From a simple stud or hoop, to a multitude of holes are quite common. They gained notoriety back in the 60’s. In 2016, I decided to get my nose pierced. I will never forget that experience; I was told to make sure I ate something before and to expect my eyes to water up. My eyes did water up and I had the most intense dizzy spell. I loved how it looked but I kept hitting it by accident. After the required time allowed, I switched to a different style, but for some reason it came out several times! I am a little accident prone and finally gave up and let it heal. I miss it but truly don’t want to deal with that headache again.
The practice of piercing nipples and the genitals were common in Ancient Rome and India. It was ritualistic as well as symbolic depending on the region. Some Native American tribes had rituals that involved hanging by pierced skin. Eventually it was outlawed when the country was colonized; Europeans considered it an act of treason. Today many people still incorporate body modifications as a sign of expression, sexuality and enjoy the act of being pierced. As the say, too each his own and I’m all set with that!
Tattoos have become mainstream in the Modern World and have transitioned into a culture where there is no divide between the common person or those with wealth and status; everyone seems to have at least one. For some of us, it’s considered an addiction. I have accounts from several friends that stated the process of getting a tattoo is meditative and can lull them into a place of serenity, much like a narcotic high. Not for this girl.
Let me start by saying I have never been a fan of needles. I grew up with a fear that started in childhood and continued into my adult life. To add a bit of perspective to my phobia I like to recount a visit to the dentist that occurred in my twenties. On this occasion I was there for a follow up to have a cavity filled. I remember walking into the doctor’s office, I felt nervous and on edge but determined to see it through. The standard greeting and waiting occurred when finally, I was led to the chair.
A dental assistant retrieved my information, then began to prep for the procedure and told me “the doctor would soon be in”. Still on edge, I tried to relax and gazing upon the very attractive dental assistant helped. I found my center and was ready for the process to begin when the dentist walked in. The dentist took a quick glance in my mouth and without alerting me, produced a syringe and was about to numb the area. I freaked out and grabbed his arm that held the needle. He freaked, the dental assistant freaked, and I had a death grip on his arm.
In retrospect, I would have loved to be a fly on the wall observing this fiasco. I remember telling him to put the needle down and he exclaiming, “let go of my arm”; I was strong like bull. This went on for what seemed hours, a group of nurses were able to release my death grip, then backed off to allow me to calm down. Eventually, the drama subsided, and the procedure went smoothly. My remaining history with needles was less dramatic since that day; in 1997 I had an accident while landscaping and lost part of a finger on my dominant hand, that was a fun summer. After that ordeal, being pricked by a syringe was less dramatic. The moral of this story is to tell a patient what you are doing before producing a sharp object.
In 2016 my outlook on body art had changed and found myself drawn to the intricacies of several of my friends’ tattoos. The more I saw the more I recognized the artistry and pondered getting one for myself. I was in the midst of a metamorphosis. In 2014 after losing my parents I had a revelation and finally realized why I was so depressed, anxiety ridden, and suicidal for a good part of my life; I was in the wrong body. I always felt different and could not figure out what was wrong with me.
For the record, there was nothing wrong with me other than being born a woman in a male body. With haste I set forth to rectify the issue and have been in transition since November 2015. It was a bit of a bumpy ride in those first few months waiting for hormones to level out and the mood swings to dwindle; there’s nothing like going through puberty again in your 40’s. I had been making strides to become the person I was meant to be and in late 2017 I decided to get my first tattoo.
The decision of what to have permanently inked on your body is not something to take lightly. It won’t peel or wash off. It may fade a bit over time, but it’s there for life. Removal is possible, but costly. I had searched Pinterest and other sites for ideas and wanted my tattoo to represent the life changes and journey I am experiencing. Months of searching just left me overwhelmed until I decided on a symbol of rebirth. I had a general idea but now came the time of research and narrowing down a design.
I finally came up with two possibilities: a phoenix and a lotus blossom. Both represent change and rebirth, perfect! Once again, I took to the world wide web looking for different styles and designs and found several that appealed to me but needed secondary input; so, I asked my friends. I had quite the library of jpegs on my phone and whenever I had the opportunity would open my library and ask them “what do you think?” It finally came to me one night while at Flipside, a local pinball bar I frequent often; a friend really liked one of the lotus pictures I had shown her and mentioned maybe doing a unalome.
A unalome symbol represents the path to enlightenment in the Buddhist culture. The spirals are meant to symbolize the twists and turns in life, and the straight lines the moment one reaches enlightenment or peace and harmony. The friend I had shown the lotus was the woman who would tattoo me on October 20th in 2017 at Flats Tattooing in Groton Connecticut. At the time, she was an upcoming and brilliant artist working her way through her apprenticeship and was extremely patient with me.
As I stated before, placement is important, and it took me a bit of time until I decided of placing it at the base of my neck. Everyone has a different experience when being tattooed and nothing anyone could have said would have prepared me for it. For the record, it took longer to get the placement right than the actual tattoo. At first, I had the same reaction that occurred when I had my nose pierced, I had a dizzy spell; they produced a bowl of candy and said that this is quite common, and my blood sugar probably dropped. She told me to alert her if I needed to stop at any point and did several times. When it was completed, I thanked her profusely and was on my way. I couldn’t wait to show all my friends and thankfully it healed quickly.
Since then I have mapped out my body with other potential tattoos that include a tree of life on my lower back, a violet on my right shoulder, and the zodiac symbol for Aquarius on my left forearm, which I will be getting next month for my birthday. All it takes is time, money and finding a reputable tattoo artist. The latter I would recommend taking the time to search for and asking around. Friends, co-workers, and family are essential in seeking out a tattoo artist if they have ink of their own. Ask about their experience, were they satisfied and if they would use them again. Remember this is permanent and you do not want some amateur branding you with a mistake you’ll regret for the rest of your life.
Connections, if asked, “Who are you” the typical response would generally be answered with a description of people in your life. For example, “Hi I am Renée; I have two girls, Gabriella and Aria and am married to my soul mate Sarah.” The response may go on and list whom you work for, the organizations you belong to and how old your children are. The conversation may lead to a different topic, which for the purpose of this project is not important.
We are connected at the hip via social media and texting, yet, I find that many people cannot define who they are without associating with another person or group, and it does not stop with adults. Parents are quick to sing the praises of their children; “Tori is at the top of her class and has a perfect GPA” implies that Tori is highly intelligent but does not say much else about their daughter as a person. When most of us were teenagers we defined who we were by the clicks and groups we belonged to: the jocks, the preps, the AV club, the stoners and the list can go on. Yet, the individuality that we set for ourselves may have been lost on who we wanted to notice us.
College is no different for a student fresh out of high school. Sororities and Fraternities are prime examples of being identified by a group and is often praised in certain social networks after college. This point dictates the idea of individuality snubbed out by the prospective houses, at least in theory, to fit in with the “A” crowd. However, what if your desire goes against the social norms and you end up marching to the beat of your own drum; here is where our story truly begins and I ask the question once more, who are you?
Before attempting to describe who you are, I would like you to remove the secondary terms we often refer to: husband-wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, republican or democrat, Catholic or Jewish; you get the gist. What are you left with? This is where our identity takes a turn, but is it for the better? With that in mind let us take a stroll down memory lane; fasten your seatbelts, it is going to be a bumpy ride!
Thirty-five years ago I was fifteen (almost 16 as of next month) and in high school struggling to find my identity but had no desire to fit in. You could consider me a rebel but truth be told I was a quiet, lonely, depressed boy that hid it well. To the small click of friends I had, I came off as adventurous, a bit of a daredevil and socially awkward. Looking back at my fifteen-year-old self, no one would have believed I suffered from gender dysphoria and struggled to understand who I was and why I felt like I did, and had no one to talk to about it.
I was a bit of a hot mess for many years, and even now, I still am to a certain degree. Yet, let’s be honest here, who’s not a hot mess? I tried therapy several times but it was futile, talking did nothing, especially with one therapist who looked at me and said, “I don’t know how to deal with that.” It is not exactly comforting to hear a professional exclaim her ignorance on a subject. Regardless, I took to different avenues to determine who I was and what path I wanted to choose on this journey called life.
The journey of finding ourselves happens at different points in our lives. Many spend their twenties and early thirties traversing the world with a small fraction looking for enlightenment, while many are looking to find a mate, procreate and adopt a few pets. Regrettably, I did neither. I often explained my early life with me standing at a crossroads with the possibility of moving in eight different directions but could not pick one to save my life. Self-doubt and indecision plagued my soul and held me in place for far too long. Add to that my growing identity crisis and boom shakalaka, “Hello depression, party of one!”
I found solace in books and read everything from Eastern philosophy, quantum physics, archaeology and fiction. Literature was my lifeline but it did not answer the question “who am I?” I delved into Buddhism, Hinduism, Native American lore, as well as Wicca and other avenues that helped define my belief system and firmly rejecting my catholic upbringing. I finally settled with a combination of sects but describe myself as Buddhist, yet that still didn’t answer my question.
Returning to the secondary, when one is alone for far too long we look to others to define who we are. Relationships are a touchy subject for me and my success rate is subterranean. I attempted to put myself heart and soul into two adult relationships that went down like the Titanic and jaded any future attempts to find love. What I did learn is that we cannot define ourselves by the love we give, especially when the woman you are with is the devil incarnate. Too much negativity will wreak havoc on the soul. Check please, Penny out!
It was after the last debacle I started to realize the conundrum I was facing had much to do with my gender dysphoria, hello Captain Obvious! Sometime what is right before us is anything but clear and it takes patience and the ability to step back to gain perspective. Forty-five years of living on this planet and my journey was finally revealed with the passing of my mother. I still had a bit of time before I could set sail into those uncharted waters, yet I braved the storm and came out better for it. Who am I? It was starting to take focus.
As parents we want to protect and nurture our children, teach them the difference between right and wrong, and hope they grow up to be well adjusted and well rounded adults. I firmly believe that now, more than ever, it is important to allow a child to find their own identity and see where it takes them. Many early learning establishments are suppressing individuality with young children and emphasizing conformity but what happened to kids being kids? Ask a child “who are you” and in their own way they will say what their teachers and parents want to hear and that can do more damage then good. Snubbing out creativity and free thinking will only lead to more depressed, anxiety ridden adults heavily medicated for an ailment they never had. Way to destroy a child’s self-image!
Finally I pose the question “Who am I” and have an answer. I am Penelope. I am intelligent, creative, loving, empathetic, strong, beautiful and worthy. I could add several more adjectives but the one I feel describes others and myself; I am a survivor! We all traverse the battlefield of life, accumulate scars and stories, and learn, hopefully, from our mistakes. A very good friend of mine has a tattoo that states “life is a beautiful struggle” and it is true. As much as we wished for rainbows, butterflies and unicorns as children, we quickly learn there are clouds, skeletons and demons we must face in order to move forward.
There is no moral to this story. I am not wrapping this project up in a big pretty bow. What I would like to do is make a plea for humanity. Without delving into the religious and political aspects of this world, I want you to walk away from this column with the realization that everyone has struggles and that we can only defeat and overcome them by facing them. What we do not need are those feeling self righteous and like to judge others without looking in the mirror and taking a deep hard look at who they are. Would you like to be judged on who you are, whom you love and your lifestyle? I highly doubt it. So take heed before casting any stones, it may just ricochet and hit your right square in the face.
When I sat down to write this afternoon, I had no idea what to write. I found myself stumbling with ideas because I wanted to try to finish one more piece before the end of the month. My initial goal was one posting per week but I had been completely distracted with one of my other passions, music! I have foretold of my love of music several times thru the years and it is the one constant in my life. Every day I will have a guitar in my hands, strumming away, finger picking or blazing a scale up and down the fret board. It just seems logical to write about my passion!
Before I plunge in, I would like to mention that this month marks six years I have been writing this blog. I have matured as a writer and my style has evolved, especially with my fiction, what I lack is consistency, but I am on a path to change that. I have begun working on my second degree, I am getting my bachelors in Journalism, it seems quite fitting does it not? I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my loyal readers who have followed my writings and ramblings the past several years. Your support has not gone unnoticed, thank you!
One of the first pieces I wrote back in 2011 was about my beginning years playing guitar and trying to emulate my heroes, the blog in question focused on the virtuoso Joe Satriani, to revisit that piece, feel free to follow this link.
Joe has been a major influence starting in those early days and continues to inspire me with each new album release. What appealed to me about Joe’s playing is his sense of timing, fluidity and passion that resonates with each note that he plays. He could wail out thirty-two notes in a single bar or just one and it would just sing. His sense of harmony captured my heart and touched my soul and I was in it for the long haul.
Joe is but one influence that has captured my ears and my heart over the years. The legendary Gary Moore, who passed exactly a month after I began this writing endeavor, in February of 2011, was the link to my Irish ancestry. Born in Belfast, this Irish guitarist caught my attention with his cover of the Yardbirds' song Shape of Things, released in 1983 on Corridors of Power, and would be the first song I added to my repertoire. After buying the album and falling in love with his voice and guitar playing I began attaining his catalog, starting with the 1982 release Corridors of Power, and album I listened to and played along with for the last thirty-four years. From the blistering intro of End of the World to the cover of Free’s Wishing Well I began to learn to play by ear. Blood of Emeralds, released on his album After the War, tugged at my heart strings and paints a landscape I will visit before I die, to return to the land of my ancestors would be a dream come true!
When I mention to people that I been playing guitar for thirty-five years there eyes grow wide and exclaim, “You must be really good” to which I reply, “I can hold my own.” Humility is a good trait to have, especially considering the egos musicians can have. For a time musicians, especially in the world or Rock and Heavy Metal, have been compared, dissected and hailed to be the 'best ever' guitarists, drummer, bassist and such and to be quite honest there is no best, just personal opinion, yet there are landmark artists that set the standard, but I will get to that in a minute. Getting back to humility for a moment, I always doubted my abilities as a guitarist. I struggled for a while back in the day and certain riffs always seemed impossible, maybe due to my dyslexia or the minor case of attention deficit disorder that went unchecked. What develop after enough time was my ear, I have always had an ear for music, and once I could zero in and concentrate, I was able to pick out chord patterns and eventually scales.
Building music is very much a formula and based around a box pattern. With basic knowledge, most anyone can create a song with three chords and the pentatonic scale. This is used quite often in blues and rock. Bands like AC/DC have built a career on three and four chord riffs. Highway to Hell, Back in Black, You Shook Me All Night Long are songs that have no more than four chords. How a band survives is learning how to take those building blocks, expand upon them, and recreate them into different patterns. The band Deep Purple’s monumental song Smoke on the Water uses similar chords as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Saturday Night Special. If you change the time signature, what was once a hard rocking song is now a ballad. Go from a four fourths to a triplet you emulate the style of Santana. It is relative!
Some musicians try to evolve past the box and enjoy a more detailed and evolved song structure, enter Rush! Rush released its landmark album Moving Pictures in 1981 and brought this progressive rock band commercial success. Rush is a band that pushed the envelope of progression beyond what Yes has begun and accomplished this feat within a trio. Defying the odds and maintaining a career for many years solely on the efforts of its fans, word of mouth, Rush created an fan based comparable to the Kiss army and have achieved a loyal following across the globe and have been credited by major artists as a major influence. To hear an album is one thing, but to experience them live, it is an out of body experience. The greatness of Rush fell on deaf ears within the industry. In 2013 after releasing 20 studio albums, 11 live albums and 40 years of constant touring, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acknowledge the band for its contribution. Let us see any band today pull that off, doubtful! Rush gave me an inside look at how to look beyond the box and I had my first taste of playing their music with the YYZ, the instrumental off the landmark album Moving Pictures. Moving Pictures was that album that led me to obtain their entire catalog, see them live 6 times and spend countless hours just enjoying the music and playing along. Then something changed.
I had spent many years trying to emulate my idols, butchering songs left and right, but it never hindered my desire to play. I would pick up a riff here, a chord progression there and started to find my own voice. Consuming the knowledge, I had attained after five years of playing I realized that my goal was not to be the next Eddie Van Halen but to allow myself the joy of just playing and creating my own sound and music. Unfortunately, I had to take a hiatus after an accident in the 90s that damaged my left hand. I still remember that day quite vividly. I was working as a landscaper and had a run in with a walk behind mower. The blade had cut my index, middle and ring finger and I hit the ground faster than you can say virtuoso. Adrenaline kicked in and I gathered myself together to get to the hospital but the first thing that came to mind was “I’ll never play guitar again!”
Recovery took time and thanks to a brilliant surgeon and a beautiful physical therapist, I achieved in four months what should have taken at least six. During this down time I took to the piano once again, I began playing piano several years before learning guitar. Playing piano, though only one handed, allowed me to keep my dexterity with my right hand and I learned to play Fύr Elise by Beethoven. Music was my sanity. With a renewed interest for music, I started to fiddle and create. You cannot keep a good woman down, especially one as creative as I am. I do not feel complete unless I am building, painting, writing or making some kind of music. It is natural for me, not that I am claiming to be some savant, just that I find solace when I can develop something from the ground up. It could be utter garbage or a brilliant piece of writing; it just makes me happy regardless. Each endeavor is a learning process and helps me progress as a person and an artist.
My guitar collection has expanded with several acoustic guitars and a bass. I am drawn to stringed instruments and the next one I want to learn to play is cello, it is so haunting and beautiful. In the 90’s I saved up for a while and bought my baby, the love of my life, my Martin acoustic guitar. I paid one thousand dollars for it and it just keeps getting better with age. Such a beautiful tone and it resonates for days! With the acoustic came a slight change of course in my musical taste, which to this day is quite eclectic and vast, I listen to everything and I began writing more music and once again evolving as a musician and a person. I found myself more grounded but turning inward. I was listening more to the voice inside me, which seemed to levitate towards darker tones and altered tunings. Looking back, I understand that much of it came from the depression and my inability to truly see the person I was meant to be and eventually embraced. I began buying more music, folk and singer-songwriters that spoke to me. I had a renewed interest in artists I had not listened to in a while, searching for something and then I found it when a friend turned me onto Richard Thompson. One of my fondest moments was several years ago when I was able to see Richard Thompson at a local Rhythm and Roots Festival. It was just him and his acoustic and I was captivated from the moment he took to the stage until that final encore, a true wordsmith and incredible musician.
The one consistency throughout my life was my fear of crowds, which kept me from the spotlight and playing out. I have always been so critical of myself and though I find solace in my music, I have often felt too insignificant to share my music and then that changed in the past few years. After losing both parents I was looking for something, anything to hold onto that kept me grounded because I felt like my life was literally falling apart. I came into a little bit of money and invested in some recording equipment and began creating more regularly and finding that I like the aspect of laying down tracks and playing over them. It gave me the opportunity to have the feel of band without having to interact with others and could do it without leaving home. I holed up for quite some time and eventually had to get out. I spent part of that summer living in hell but eventually find a home I call my own and have been there ever since. This is my haven and a refuge where I can create in peace, usually. Being on the third floor has its advantages but sometimes trying to lay down acoustic tracks with doors slamming on the floor below you can be frustrating. There have been many a time I wanted to remove said door from its hinges but I just breathe and let go.
I can say that I have taken steps to get through that fear of playing out. When the weather allows I venture down the street to our local park, it is beautiful, peaceful with two fountains, plenty of trees and grass and just a vibe conducive to creating. This past summer I spent a considerable amount of time in the park, with a guitar, playing and working on material. I had lost so much in the past few years that I finally realized that some of my fears were insignificant and that the only thing holding me back is me! I care less what people think because I am there to get lost in the scenery and find inspiration among the surroundings, the children playing and the conversations with those that pass by. My next goal, once I can figure out what I want to play, is to do one of the local open mic nights. Where I do not sing I am hoping that one of my talented friends who do might actually do this with me. I feel it would take less emphasis off me but in all honesty, it is about me and over coming my fears. I will do it. Like so many things in the past few years, once I set my mind to something I achieve it!
Like I had mentioned in my last post I am not projecting this year and I stand by that. My goal is to live life for the moment and when the time is right this will happen, I have no doubt in my mind. I am just thankful that as I approach my 50th year on this planet I am going into the latter years with a purpose feeling stronger than ever that I can achieve anything I set my mind to it. We all can, its just about believing in ourselves, which can be difficult but I have faith that we can. Life is too short. Embrace the day and enjoy each moment and I will keep you posted on my endeavors.
At 5:58 a.m. on this morning of January 1, 2017, I awoke to darkness. The days may be getting longer but the rising sun has yet to catch up with the changing time, that is a slow progression marked by the winter solstice and is constantly in flux. Like many mornings my early rising was prompted by bodily functions, details are not needed but the desire to return to either slumber or start the day is a decision that many weigh each morning. It is the proverbial alarm clock, do I hit snooze or just get up? My decisions lead me to the living room where I perched on my sofa to contemplate the day, a station I frequent quite often.
Sitting in state, I reflected on the previous night’s events, as uneventful as they were and unlike previous years, when the clock struck 12:00:01 I was deep in slumber, which is apparently, what whiskey does to me. I spent my evening here alone, snuggled up on my sofa in a blanket watching Netflix and not really thinking about the past year nor the new year that is upon us. The norm is to make resolutions and after a few weeks or a month just give up on whatever quest or diet we had set forth for ourselves. We may feel determined at first but this silly notion that we need a new year to start something new is a bit preposterous.
Life is fleeting, so every second we waste on resolutions or the changing of a calendar year to start something new should change with out perception of who we are and what we want to be. Do not wait for a new year, a new month, a new week or tomorrow to follow your dreams or to make change. Time will not wait for us so why do we let it slip by without taking action, quite the query if you ask me.
Excuses are plentiful when faced with the potential for change. A new opportunity arises, possibly a new job, and the process of second-guessing and undermining ones abilities begins. I am not qualified, I am too old or too young, I need more education, I need to be in a different tax bracket, I could go on and on but the question I have to ask is this; are you trying to convince someone else or yourself. Nine times out of ten, we undermine ourselves out of fear. Fear has that ability but how do we cope and change that?
The age-old question of how do I stop being afraid is quite simple to answer but very difficult to follow through, face your fears. We can run and hide from our fears, stay within the darkness with the sole intention of eluding those fears but eventually they will catch up with us and ideally, we should be prepared to face them. Yet again, this is not an easy task. How do we prepare for the unknown? How do we battle a demon that has been stalking us from childhood? Well as someone who has faced her demons and have slay a good portion of them I suggest conviction.
That may sound a tad cryptic yet in truth, it is a necessity to procuring the correct weapon to destroy any adversary. Conviction is our ability to exude confidence and strength without waiver. A warrior must believe in her cause or it is lost before the battle begins, only then can we follow through and obtain our objective.
All this talk of battles may seem a bit daunting and over dramatic but truth be told it is a battle for many people to overcome their fears and we should not lay judgment without knowing the facts, which brings me to my next point; know your enemy? We are lucky enough to live in an age where information is only a browser click away. If anxiety and depression is your battle, the internet can give you a multitude of links for potential doctors and therapists in your area. Of course attaining that information is one thing, this is where your conviction comes in handy, allowing you to pick up the phone and making an appointment. The next step will be getting out the front door to go to said appointment but I have faith in you, so should you.
I have been a firm believer that life is a journey and not a destination but to venture out beyond the walls you have called home for years will be quite the undertaking. It is no easy feat to just pack a bag and take to the highways and byways as it once was. To dream a life of Kerouac is easy but to act on it may take a bit of planning, but where does one start? Pat Benatar sang that Love is a Battlefield but so is life these days and it should not keep you from living your dreams. Do you want to remain a shut in, afraid of your own shadow and everything around your or do you want to take charge and live? I vote for living because the alternative is not an option. So how do we remove the walls before us and venture out?
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Memorable words Neil Armstrong stated as he planted that first footprint on the moon and a mantra we can use in day-to-day life. To become a concert pianist takes years of practice and conviction, there is that word again, so to wake up one morning and decide that you want to play to the masses takes more than just going out and buying a piano. There are steps we need to follow. Getting out of our comfort zone should be gradual, opening the front door and taking a walk down the driveway would be a start, venturing around the neighborhood would be better and eventually expanding that territory will open more doors. I envy those that can just pack a bag and fly across the country but at the same token I would much rather take to the road and be able to see and experience what each new land holds and contributes to my journey.
If you come away from this piece with any thing, I hope it is the revelation that we are the sum of our experiences. It is engrained into us at an early age that we go to school, then college, find a job, then a partner, start a family and then die. Does it make them happy, possibly, but that leaves many unfulfilled, which can lead to affairs, divorce, substance abuse, overworking and other instances to fill a void. Ideally, finding a like-minded partner can make the journey easier and possibly more enjoyable but not having someone should not dampen your desire to improve yourself and explore the world around you. I have been alone for the majority of my life, I would love to find someone to share this life with but I will not let it hamper my desires and that adventure spirit I was born with. I have things to do and places to see.
This life has not been easy for me. I have been lucky enough to be born into a family where my parents loved me, clothed and fed me and instilled in me their core values which I have taken to heart and morphed into a guide that I follow in my day to day life. I have personal issues that were undefined as a child and were a bit confusing as I matured but in later years started to manifest in different ways. It took several breakdowns and a bit of a therapy to work through it but I finally recognized the person I was meant to be and decided to change. It was scary at first but each day it becomes easier. My point, if I can do it, you can do it! It just comes back to conviction and I have it spades. Every morning I wake up, look in the mirror and say “hello beautiful, you are intelligent, you are strong and you are worthy.” It has done wonders for my confidence and I will not allow negativity to dampen my stance. Of course, I have my days, we all do, but the key here is to recognize the issue and cope with it and not let it define you. In the last few years, I have taken charge of my life and am following my dreams. I am open to new experiences, meeting new people and enjoying a bevy of new friends. I am happy and more importantly, I am furthering my goal to be a better person.
The word of the day is conviction. Remember that life is a journey and not a destination and that you should believe in yourself and follow your dreams. Lastly, I want you to go to a mirror, take a good look at yourself and say this with me:
Hello beautiful, you are intelligent,
you are strong and you are worthy.
Before I begin, I must apologize to my loyal followers. I have taken a substantial break from writing the last several months due to scheduling with work and school, yes you read that correctly and I will fill you in briefly, and doing what I can to move on through this next phase of my life. Much has happened in the last several months but I want to take this one-step at a time so please bear with me. Unlike most my previous posts this will be a bit more personal and for good reason. So let us get this ball rolling and jump right in.
October 11th was National Come Out Day. Across this nation, many people took to social media and various other avenues to declare themselves as the genuine person they are trying to portray and be themselves. What exactly does this mean? For some it meant coming out as gay while others told friends, loved ones and family that they were transgender. The latter applies to me.
To be quite honest the way it happened was not planned, nor did I know what the significance of the day was until early the next morning when I was watching a YouTube video by Princess Joules who was showing earlier footage of her coming out as Transgender. I initially set out to make another video of myself and my guitar playing, something I do time to time, and post it on Facebook, I have yet to feel confident enough to post to YouTube.
As of August of 2016, I had been living full time as a woman for a year but the big anniversary just came on October 15th, which was my first year of being on Hormone Replacement Therapy, (HRT). For those that are unaware of what HRT is, it is the gradual suppression of testosterone while elevating the estrogen levels in my body to help feminize my appearance. This includes breast growth, body fat redistribution to create hips and changes that will make me appear more feminine. For the record, I was quite feminine before the pills but after a year, the changes have been significant.
In addition to the HRT, I had decided to change up my diet. As of January of this year, I had cut all processed foods out of my diet. If it goes in my mouth, it is fruits, vegetables and meals made with fresh ingredients. I have known people who have tried weight watchers, Atkins and a host of other dietary plans but eating healthy combined with walking on a regular basis has allowed me to shed 30 pounds and I haven’t felt this good in years. My face has thinned out considerably, something else I was unaware of, it was my Doctor who asked me if I had lost weight which sent me looking through previous photos and that is when I saw the difference between this year and last, see the photo below.
Along with physical changes, I have managed to improve my mind set. Being able to live my life genuinely and authentically has opened up the proverbial closet for me and I feel more alive and happier than I ever have been. Do not get me wrong, I still have moments and days where life pushes me down. Yet the anxiety and depression that has overshadowed my life for so many years has receded exponentially. I have better coping skills, and I am able to see the real person in the mirror that has been hidden for so many years and I like what I see. I get up every morning and say “hello beautiful” to myself because I finally feel pretty for the first time in my life. That kind of confidence has been missing in action since I was born, but it has made its presence known and it feels good.
The events that preceded this rebirth truly do not need mentioning. I have no desire to rehash old wounds but I would like to express that in order to move forward we need to accept our past. You can live in denial and try to create a new persona but leaving it at the wayside will only delay the eventual chaos that will ensue.
What I really want to emphasize is we have the ability to change our stories. It is not easy and the path to acceptance can be rocky as hell and filled with obstacles but if you truly set your mind to it, anything is possible. The human spirit can be delicate and fragile but it is also resilient and strong enough to face adversity and overcome the darkness so many of us either hide from or hide in not wanting to accept ourselves for who we are and living a life that we deserve. No matter what someone may tell you, you can be happy and you deserve to be happy. Life is too short and if happiness means losing family and friends, well then, it is their loss. Do not let others hold you back from your dreams. You can do it. I have faith in you and it is never too late. I began this journey at the age of 47 and do not regret it one bit.
My video, for those who would like to view can follow this link: https://www.facebook.com/penelopepaige15/videos/vb.100006590104423/1849012301995089/?type=2&theater
Before I begin, I would like to state right now that if you are easily offended, take heart medication or have a stick up your ass this is not the article for you. Today I am unleashing a good old fashion rant. There will be no rhyme, there will be no reason, there will be lots of swearing and maybe a little stress relieved. Topics will vary, so if you feel lost, do not worry, it will be all on me. With that being stated, let us delve right in!
First on my list would be health insurance companies. We all have had to deal with these pencil pushing, corporate monkeys who know nothing about medicine but punch numbers all day and write policies that make the insurance company money and put the average person in debt. For the past two weeks, my doctor and I have been hounding my insurance company over a script that I need, estrodiol. I started taking estrodiol October of 2015 and have since had to increase it three times to account for my estrogen level. A recent blood test shown that my estrogen levels were not in the target range, I should have been between 100 and 200, but came in at 84. The logical step would be to increase my dosage. My doctor prescribed a new script and submitted it to my pharmacy. If only it was that easy.
Here comes the curve ball, the insurance company rejected this script on three different occasions. My doctor has religiously been hounding the insurance company. I have been calling as well. I do not have the funds to pay out of pocket for my medication. My pharmacy has been amazing and accommodating me with a few pills here and there while we try to work this out. I have been severely depressed and full of anxiety over this and what makes no sense to me at all is that this increase was only one milligram; I would need an additional fifteen two-milligram tablets per month, what the fuck! I mean seriously. My doctor has a call into their medical director and she seems to believe that once she speaks with her we should be back on track. Oh my fucking god I hope so! In the mean time I am continuing with the four-milligrams, that way I am still maintaining the estrogen level I have. O my lanta!
Next on my list are the ridiculous laws in North Carolina and Mississippi. Last month North Carolina pushed through a law that specifies that people must use the gendered bathroom that corresponds on their birth certificate. This has put transgender men and women in the spotlight once again, declaring open season on those who are trying to live their life authentically, under the guise that they are deviants just waiting to rape your wives and daughters. Here I have to ask, what the fuck are you basing this on? There have been no recorded incidents of an actual transgender person attacking or raping someone in a public bathroom. There are plenty of cases of men attacking other men and boys in bathrooms but yet to be one MTF incident. This is just more back wood, good ole boy, holier than though hypocrites who get off on bullying people under the guise of religious freedom.
This is just blatant abuse of power by a group of over privileged assholes that apparently recognize the warning signs that their time in office is up. Out with the old, in with the new, as they say, and coming of age is a new generation that doesn’t give a rats ass about your fucked up politics nor your misguided attempts to misinterpret a book that everyone seems to view as law but is nothing more than a piece of fiction. These politicians and religious leaders are promoting homegrown terrorism. The acts they are inciting resemble the tactics that Hitler and ISIS pulled out of their bag of tricks. As for the religious aspect of this argument, it is quite evident that their time is closely approaching extinction. The Catholic Church is trying like hell, fighting tooth and nail, to remain relevant but I have realized the prognosis as well and attendance is plummeting. Good fucking riddance. The bottom line; what the church and local government seem to forget, this is “not what Jesus would do!” What many seem to forget is the passage where it states, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Only the God they believe in has that right, but I guess they missed that memo.
Ego has no conscience. Plausible deniability rears its ugly head quite often when relationships come under fire. Words said out of anger under the guise of loyalty, emotions run rampant and before you know it, a life long friendship lays dead at the wayside. Sounds quite dramatic but we have all been there. The problem I find with many arguments reflects on the ability to hold ourselves accountable for what transpires. What makes matters worse is when a partner endorses those actions under the premise of loyalty. I am sorry, that is not loyalty, that is denial. Denial wears many masks and is a master of misdirection. You’re partner is flirting with a random person at a bar and instead of accepting the fact that the woman you love needs to dial it down a bit you lash out at the unsuspecting guy, oh that’s fucking mature! Seriously, grow the fuck up, realize you and your partner have issues and work on it, and do not take it out on people that do not deserve it. If a person is flirting, it is natural to flirt back. It is human nature.
The problem is most people do not mature past high school, which makes growing up that much harder. Oh, they think because they have good jobs and have money or a house that dictates they are mature adults, like fuck it does! Demeaning a person because they have less than you do does not make you an adult it makes you a bully and an asshole! Seriously, grow the fuck up! After ten years of marriage, you decide that it is just not working out, you have exhausted all the possible avenues of reconciliation, and divorce is all that there is left. The adult thing to do is to part ways amicably; unfortunately, it never works that way. How often have the children paid for the actions of a parent? Too fucking often! Keeping a child from a loving and supporting parent out of spite goes up my ass sideways. Making false claims just to ruin that parent’s relationship with their children is immature and vindictive. You can hate each other until the cows come home but using a child as a pawn should make your parental rights null and void, end of fucking story!
I have stated in several pieces that most people want the same things: to be healthy, to be prosperous and be able to support themselves and their families. To find someone to love and to be happy, but how can we do that when there are people who go out of their way to attack someone whose life does not affect them one fucking bit! Seriously, it is fine not to agree, that is just life, but blatantly targeting someone out of spite, that just makes you look pathetic and classifies you as a bully. I do not care if you are a lesbian, gay, straight, bisexual or transgender; life is too damn short to waste time victimizing people you do not like. Get the fuck over it, get a life and stop hurting others!
Who is your biggest influence? The answers will vary greatly depending on how you present the question and the intended audience. Musicians, artists and writers will delve deeply into the lives of the idols that sparked their passion. Seems quite logical doesn’t it? What if I asked the question, “who influenced your cooking styles” and I would surmise that nine times out of ten the response would be a parent.
Before I probe into the question at hand, I would be curious to know how many families still sit down to dinner on a regular basis. The average family life seems to be in hyper-drive; both mom and dad are working full time, one child is taking dance classes and is on the track team while the other plays lacrosse for his school along with a traveling team while juggling homework and attempting to keep an “A” average. It is no surprise that energy and caffeine beverages consumed border on addiction for both parents and their children. Who would have time to sit down for a family dinner? Takeout has skyrocketed in recent years. It is no wonder why family dinners been reduced to holidays and special events.
My family had its share of takeout and meals on the run. Both my parents worked full time jobs and I spent a good portion of my childhood with my mother’s parents who would feed us on a regular basis. My grandfather, we called him Pop, came from an Irish English background; his palette was quite different from my grandmother, Nana, who was Portuguese. I have vivid memories of my grandmother cooking boiled dinners in a pressure cooker and how their house smell amazing during those Sunday afternoons we spent with them. I was privy to Portuguese soups loaded with fresh vegetable, kale and chouriço with that famous sweet bread from Fall River. My only regret is that the recipe for said soup had disappeared during a move years ago. My goal is to attempt to revive it eventually.
When my mother cooked, she was quite good at it; unfortunately, she viewed it as a chore. Her baked beans and her apple pies were coveted and often requested at family events and holidays. I spent many years watching my mom peel apples, roll out dough and add her own special brand of love to her pies. One Sunday afternoon she was making a chicken pot pie, one of my personal favorites, and was struggling with the dough and I casually said “mom I can do that” to which she snickered and said “no you can’t” and I knew right then it was my time to step in and prove her wrong.
Normally my cooking consisted of grilling hamburgers, hot dogs and putting salads together but I was itching to do more and on a dare one Sunday I created my first chicken pot pie from scratch. I remember my mother sitting at our dining room table watching as I peeled potatoes, diced carrots and just waiting for me to ask for help. I think I surprised her as I continued the task while keeping our conversation on other matters. I had filled a 9 x 13 dish with potatoes, carrots, chicken and our standard gravy then began to prepare the counter to roll out my dough.
Jiffy piecrust was a staple in our pantry. My mother had used it for her apple and chicken potpies and during the holiday season would spread cinnamon and sugar over its surface, roll and bake them and we would devour them, it was her version of a snicker doodle. I floured my hands and the ball of dough and began to roll out my very first piecrust. Mom would coach me from the side but I took to the task with ease. It was not a perfect crust, I did have to piece together a few sections, but my mother realized that wintery afternoon I had been watching and learning. The look of surprise on my mother’s face as she and my father took that first bite was well worth the effort. I had done her proud and eventually would make it my own by adding peas to the mix and it did not end there.
One of my favorite meals growing up was my mother’s lasagna. Another meal I had witnessed the preparations for countless Sunday dinners. After the Pot Pie victory, I felt it was time to add another dish to my repertoire. I followed her basic recipe for the maiden voyage and the results were quite favorable but like my pot pie I felt I wanted to step it up a bit and began adding mushrooms and black olives to the mix. It received rave reviews and I found myself making dinner more frequently.
My father was not one to try new things and his palette consisted mainly of meat, potatoes and corn; apparently, it was a staple in his family growing up, so getting him to try new things or even a different vegetable was tricky and frustrating at times. Often after slaving in the kitchen creating something new to try he would grab his plate, get a small portion, pour a glass of milk, take a small bite, make this annoyed face and say “I don’t like that.” We had joked for years that we would eventually put those four words on his gravestone and his grandchildren would often mock him when they came over. Thankfully, my father was a good soul and took it in stride.
Though my dad had difficulty with meals, the man had a sweet tooth and took to baking. My father baked cookies and cakes for his grandchildren for a good twenty-five years before becoming too ill to bake and eventually dying. Dad never tried making a pie, he left that to my mother, said he did not have the first inkling of what to do. However, if you asked him for a peanut butter or chocolate chip cookies he would gravitate to the kitchen like a man on a mission and his grandchildren were eager to help.
Watching my father bake was an experience to witness to believe. My mother would often antagonize him by saying, “you sure know how to make a mess” and “I’m not cleaning that up.” There relationship was epic and I will leave it at that, but mom was correct, my father would be making four dozen cookies and every surface in the kitchen was covered in something and the sink was filled with bowls, utensils and cookie sheets that looked like they were used as shields in the Nomadic wars. He truly made a chore out of baking and always needed the recipe in front of him. My father did not have a flair for improvisation, nor did my mother, the question unanswered, how did I acquire it?
In later years, my dad would pick up the reigns of kitchen duty. My mother had no desire to step into the kitchen to cook unless it was a holiday or the occasional Sunday dinner. His meals would often consist of a meat, a potato and a vegetable and eventually I realized if we wanted any variety I would have to take over as top chef in our household and would begin to add my own flair to some of their basic dishes. There were times it had positive response and often there was resistance from a man set in his ways. I had to pick my proverbial battles with certain delicacies.
My father’s meatloaf resembled his meatballs but a bit dry so with the advice of a friend, I added a few ingredients, eventually improvising my own and the result was favorable. My next step was to add a little life to our mashed potatoes that were beyond bland. I tried a few different ideas but eventually settled on a garlic mashed potato that my mother liked but my father tolerated, oh that stubbornness was monumental and those token words echoed through the house “I don’t like that.”
There were definitely meals that would put a smile on both their faces, especially in the summer when the fish was fresh. I would grill up tuna or swordfish steaks for my mother and me along with a few pieces of flounder for my dad, with a side of coleslaw and mashed potatoes. The first broccoli cheddar soup I made my mother thoroughly enjoyed as well as a winter vegetable soup that I found online. The first pulled pork I made, by chance hoping dad would enjoy it, and had hit the mark. He surprised me and I think my mother would have liked it if she had not passed.
About a month after my mother passed away, my father wanted to get back into baking. It was obvious he needed something to occupy his mind with her gone and he decided to buy a standup mixer. For years, he had been using a hand mixer and that would take so much out of him, so one day we ventured out and bought a Kitchen Aid Classic. It was so nice to see that spark come back but it did not last. The mixer was so heavy for him and I knew he felt a bit defeated and that is when I took over the family cookie business, so to speak. I quickly realized that this was something I could share with my father. I made my first batch of butterscotch cookies and his favorite peanut butter cookies. Dad was like a kid in a candy shop. After he passed away, I found it difficult to prepare any sort of meal much less bake, but a girl has to eat.
I missed cooking for my family yet the restrictions I had faced during meal preparations no longer existed. Cuisines I had been craving to explore were now possible and I conquered my fears much like Lewis and Clark and the continental divide. The local market was no longer a grudge match of finding what “they” would eat. I began improvising meals on a regular basis and perfecting meals that my parents preferred but never considered making while they were alive. My first Macaroni and Cheese was amazing because I found I loved to cook and would take those extra steps my parents never did. Unlike putting chunks of cheese on cooked macaroni and baking, I actually made my first roux. My mother would have loved it!
My father had a basic meatball recipe and most would devour them eagerly, especially one nephew, but a few months ago I made the perfect meatball mix and thought “dad would have enjoyed this!” I have made my first raspberry cheesecake, it did crack, but it tasted amazing, just ask my neighbors. Tonight I made my first pork roast over root vegetables. My father had made them in the past but I went that extra mile to sear it and spice it up a bit and it blew my mind how good it came out.
I owe my parents quite a bit, giving birth to me for starters, but inspiring me to try new things and not be afraid to fail. Surprisingly enough, other than one mishap with a soup where I had used the wrong type of cheese, I have been very successful in my endeavors. I did not realize until this evening while I was cleaning my dinner dishes how much my parents had influenced me and help push me to be a better person and excel in the kitchen. Both parents had said to me that maybe I should go to culinary school and become a chef. I have had relatives relate to me that my father told them how good a cook I was and one aunt in particular said, “You can cook for me anytime.”
I have been considering culinary school but the timing is wrong, though I do plan to further my education eventually. It is quite evident that we are influenced by many outside sources but none more prevalent than those that gave birth to us, whether we admit it or not. I am happy to say that I am a lot like my parents but also very much my own person and there is nothing wrong with that. I just believe we should give credit where credit is due before its too late. Where ever you are mom and dad, I love you and thank you for all you have done for me.
Two thousand sixteen has been a year of many deaths. It is only the beginning of March and the list of those that have passed continues to grow on a daily basis. The news and social media has become a who’s who of actors and musicians who have lost their battle to cancer while others have died of natural causes. Age catches up to all of us eventually, that circle of life. Both Nancy Reagan and George Martin were in their 90’s and lived a full life. One little boy did not have that opportunity.
It was just several hours ago, that Dorian Murray lost his battle to cancer. Unlike most, the world that have learned about this on newsfeeds and other media formats Dorian lived in a town I call my own, Westerly, Rhode Island. I am a native Rhode Islander. I have spent the majority of my life living along its shorelines. I moved to Westerly less than a year ago. The locals are generally friendly; the town has history, fantastic architecture and a fabulous park that I walk on a regular basis and I can see myself growing old here.
Dorian has been battling rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare pediatric disease often referred to as RMS, since he was four years old. It would be easy to focus on the struggles this little boy went through but I would prefer to look at how Dorian inspired thousands of people just by asking to be famous before he died and that he did. Hash tag D Strong has become a worldwide phenomenon that has touched so many lives and has brought the attention to a disease that targets children between one and five.
Support in this community can be seen everywhere you walk. The Town Hall and Library down town have posted banners and shone blue lights in their prospective windows; blue is Dorian’s favorite color. Businesses have been posting #D-Strong on their signs and doors. Last week there was a candlelight vigil in the park, unfortunately I learned about it too late to walk down and show my support. To read about it visit:
I did have an opportunity back in January, a close friend and I went down to our local beach where thousands joined to show support and spell out #D-Strong in the sand. Standing there on that chilly winter’s day all I could think about was how this little boy’s life has affected so many. For more on that please visit:
Beyond our small town #D-Strong has traveled across the country and gone as far as the Great Wall of China. Everyday people and celebrities have shown their support the only way they could, by making one little boy’s wish of being famous come true with photographs and videos.
There is no greater loss than losing a child and the internet and news sites have already latched onto this story and I do hope that the media will give the Murray’s time and space to mourn Dorian’s passing. Even the best of intentions will not suppress the loss of a child, so be respectful.
I am not a religious person by any means. My views are irrelevant here but I do believe Dorian’s body just could not hold on to his essence any longer. It was time to move on to the next stage, to a plane of consciousness where he no longer feels pain and will continue to shine in the night sky. It just hurts my soul to realize that most of us have no control over what happens to our children. It is debilitating.
Melissa Murray has started a nonprofit foundation in her son’s name, if you would like to donate to the foundation before the website is fully up and running, you can do so by making checks out to Dorian J. Murray Foundation and mailing to PO Box 1225, Westerly RI 02891
For more information on RMS and to donate to the American Cancer Society visit http://www.cancer.org/cancer/rhabdomyosarcoma/
The United States of America, an infant in the timeline of nations, has become the current playground for hypocrites, hate groups, racists’ thugs, terrorists and murderers of civil rights. From the bat shit crazy ideals of Kim Davis, a public servant that refused to do her job, to the Republican GOP candidates that are trying to bring this county back to the dark ages under the guise of making The United States great again is literally tearing this country limb from limb and selling it off as parts. Don’t believe me? Just throw a moral compass in a room full of politicians and watch it explode trying to find an escape route.
Politics may have fueled my passion to write tonight, the ramblings of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump is enough fodder to fill the Library of Congress ten times over, but I want to dedicate this piece to a community that I have a passion for and am recently now a part of, that being the LGBT Community. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender are like four letter words to a variety of groups across this nation, along with some Presidential hopefuls, that in all honesty shouldn’t be. Why, the reasons are vast and ridiculous while the most common crux is religion; my least favorite word in the English language, and the second being The Constitution.
In the past few months I have read numerous articles and posts about outlandish claims from hate groups describing the LGBT Community as the next ISIS or that it will bring about the Apocalypse. Ted Cruz, a certifiable madman who acknowledges an endorsement from an animal that wishes death upon the gay community, is at the forefront of trying to overrule the Supreme Courts ruling on same sex marriage. All because in his demented little mind he thinks it is ruining the sanctity of marriage. Excuse me but straight couples have cornered the market on destroying the sanctity of marriage for 1000’s of years. You want an escape goat look in the mirror.
Donald Trump is no better; his ideals flip flop as much as a fish gasping for life on a deck of a fishing vessel. Trump has yet to produce any actual knowledge of how a government actually works and his only background is that he has had several failed marriages; several failed businesses, a reality show and managed to amass a substantial fortune in the process, by the way the IRS is knocking at your back door. This is why he is able to actually run for president, because he has the funds to do so. There so needs to be a change in the process of running for president!
Same sex marriage is just the tip of the iceberg. Transgender men and women are the latest casualties in the war on equal rights. They’ve been called abominations, a term referred to me once, so not going there, to certain school systems wanting to check children’s genitalia to make sure they are using the proper restrooms and the current buzz that some politicians want to give religious groups the right to discriminate against those they deem worthy. Who added a double dose of bat shit crazy to the Kool Aid?
What I find the most absurd is this idea that the LGBT community is coming after your children. It’s all smoke and mirrors, they produce this magic dust that is sprinkled over their corn flakes and with the swipe of a wand they are instantly gay. Do you see how absolutely insane that sounds? Like the Great Wizard of Oz it’s a hoax, a guise to rile up the uninformed masses in to frenzy then attack defenseless people who are just trying to live their lives.
When this country was first settled it was deemed The Land of the Free, quite the oxymoron considering everything that has happened in the last 500+ years. Races have been condemned into servitude, massacred and left rotting because they lived by a different set of standards but let me ask you this, why do we allow others to set those standards, especially if we are allowed to be free thinkers? It’s quite the double edge sword. I am reminded of an old adage “do as I say but not as I do.” Sodomy was condemned but behind closed doors rulers were performing these acts. Priests for centuries have condemned homosexuality but had raped and sodomized boys and then looked the other way when accused. Still millions follow these assholes like they are the second coming. I got news for you, if he rises from the grave you’re all being led to the gates of hell for your deeds.
I’ve gotten a bit off track but have I really? We learn much from history and the big lesson here is not to repeat itself. Misinformation has destroyed empires. Millions have been killed for senseless acts. When are we going to say enough is enough? When will stand strong as a society and say “what they do in their private lives is none of your god damn business.” So they want to get married, who fucking cares, it’s their life. Oh it goes against your religion? Well guess what you breathing and blowing sanctimonious obscenities is against mine. Remember this is the land of the free, I am allowed to believe in my god and that god is the ruler of Common Sense and Decency. It’s been around for millennia and outdates your Dark Age mentality. Oh and by the way my god is neither male nor female, seems a bit preposterous to think an all seeing god has a gender. My god endorses love and acceptance and does not shun those that are different because we are all different. At the core of our existence we are all made of the same molecules and elements but how we grow and evolve changes based on our environment and how we are raised.
A few years back I had read an article proclaiming that we are entering a new age of enlightenment. I scoff at this myself considering everything that is happening across the globe but I realized something the other day that makes perfect sense. An epiphany if you may. I believe the reason we are seeing a flux with all these hate groups who are preaching death and destruction for other is because they are running scared. A change is coming. It’s been happening for a while now, slowly but surely. Countries around the globe are slowly realizing that everyone deserves happiness. Oh they aren’t screaming it from the roof tops and advertising it but this new wave of acceptance is mounting. It is slow crawl and will take more time than we want but religion is slowly being pushed into extinction. I am sure some of my readers scoff at that remark but it’s evident by these scare tactics many groups are taking. Why else would you make an insane remark that the LGBT Community is the next ISIS? It’s nothing more than delusions from power hungry infidels that are witnessing the end of the old and the beginning of the new. I just hope the casualty rate lessens.
So what does this mean? Well for starters you have to stop acting like spoiled children and go live your own lives. Stop giving credence to hate and fear, it will eat you alive in the end or you may end up a statistic because of it. Realize that groups like the LGBT Community are nothing more than a support group for like minded people who are dealing with the same struggles because lets face it, we are all struggling with something in our lives. If you don’t accept how these people are living their lives than fine, don’t socialize or acknowledge them but respect their right to live their lives, have the choice to get married and be happy. If your son or daughter comes out as transgender, remember you’re a parent that brought that child into the world and gave you love unconditionally. Why would you want to destroy that? It’s normal to have a difference of opinion but allowing your child to struggle with their identity which could possibly lead to their suicide is selfish and wrong on so many levels. A parent’s ultimate goal is to raise intelligent, well adjusted, caring and loving children that can go on and fix the mistakes they have made themselves and hopefully create a better world.
Religion will always be filled with hate and backwards ways of thinking. It’s the nature of the beast. The trick is to turn away from the lynch mob and learn how to be spiritual. What you believe is between you and your god alone. I know this sounds all Zen and filled with rainbows and butterflies but it can be if you want it to. There is a reason the LGBT Community uses a rainbow as their symbol. It represents the colors of the prism, where each color of the spectrum merges as a single beam of light. As human beings we are all a part of the color spectrum but how we choose to live our lives determines if it will be harmonious with nature and our surroundings or disruptive and destructive. Be positive and don’t look back, we’re not going that way.
Love, that dreaded four letter word; a word I already put a negative connotation on and it would be easy to see what road I may be traveling down as I write this. Love should have a positive response. I love ice cream. I love your shoes. I love this weather. It brings a sense of joy, a utopia where nothing else matters but the object or person you have this feeling for. So if it’s such a positive word why do so many cringe at its mention and talk about with such disdain?
Before diving in I have a relative idea of what most my readers might be thinking; “what can you write about love that I don’t already know?” It is a good question and I don’t have a good answer, at least not yet. I am at least hoping putting words down will be cathartic. Who hasn’t suffered in the name of love? Who hasn’t died in the name of love? Of course as I type this I am reminded of a U2 song, Pride In the Name of Love, great song.
There have been thousands of songs written about love. One that inspired this piece was by Van Halen that I was listening to earlier, Not Enough. For those not familiar with this Sammy Hagar era song here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbLjJfrTtNk . Some consider this a dark period for Van Halen but honestly I loved the band with David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar, they both brought their own style to the fold. The album with Gary Cherone, we won’t talk about that, like most Van Halen fans tend to do. Alas I digress, maybe out of fear of putting my true feelings down.
I’ve loved and lost. Most adults who have walked this earth have been down this path. A few months back I wrote a piece describing someone I once loved, what a bloody disaster that was. Without getting too involved with that subject she views relationship as a way to mold a prospective mate into her loyal minion. Didn’t work here but I wasted too many years with her that would have been better suited doing other things, like contracting a deadly disease or maiming myself. Oh wait I already did that and have the scars to prove it.
Emotional scars last longer than flesh wounds. Especially for those who have been emotionally abused by someone who claims they love them. Here is a heads up, that’s not Love. The excuses we tell ourselves and to others to protect these vile creatures are vast. “He is misunderstood. She only does that when she drinks. He had a bad day.” If any of these excuses are on point you can just raise your hand or just nod, realize you are not alone but to say that you love a person that physically or emotionally abuses you is destructive to your self worth and you are worth more than that.
“No one will ever love me.” One would argue that in order to be loved by someone else you must love yourself first and I tend to agree but let’s be honest here, it is easier said than done for many, my self included. Just an hour ago I was sitting on the floor crying my eyes out thinking I am going to be alone for the rest of my life and all I want to do is love someone, how pathetic is that? I’d like to blame the hormones but these feeling are rooted much deeper and I feel like a burden talking about them with my friends. So let’s skip this and move forward.
Family is forever. Family is blood, sweat and tears. Family will drive you absolutely insane and to the asylum when asked. Trust me I know! We’re supposed to love them unconditionally but boy do they make it hard some times. Having a large extended family, especially on my dad’s side, I have witnessed acts that small countries wouldn’t do to their enemies. Sounds a bit harsh but with a family that size wars are bound to happen and have. Out of respect to my family, both alive and those that have passed, I will not be drudging up dirt for entertainment value or to make a point. It’s disrespectful and I have learned quite a bit about myself over the past few years and personal laundry does not need to be aired on a public forum.
You can pick your nose, you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose. Yes I know that’s a tad gross but you get my point. I have amazing friends and I love them dearly. I’ve stated on numerous occasions that they are my biggest support system and it’s true. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today or the person I am trying to become. A true friend will love you unconditionally; will be there when you need them the most, at least in theory. I can think of one friendship I have had the honor of witnessing in the past few months. The love these two women have for each other is monumental, I am talking epic proportions. It’s the type of friendship many of us yearn for. I am sure they have had their share of disagreements, what relationship hasn’t, but it’s quite obvious they have worked through them and are stronger for it. Sometimes I just want to nudge them and say “get a room”. In all seriousness I feel that in sixty years time they will still be joined at the hip and not regretting one single day.
After a few paragraphs I haven’t divulged any hidden secrets about love and I think that’s the point. There is no great and almighty answer about love. It is vast and all consuming when it wants to be. I do believe we confuse or misread certain intentions and actions for love. Who hasn’t been stalked at least once in their life by someone professing their undying love to them? Odds would speculate that 2 out of 10 people have been stalked; maybe I am being a bit kind with those odds. The digital era has allowed predators with just basic knowledge the ability to stalk someone. Going back to that last relationship of mine, she is a confirmed stalker. She is also the reason I have a hard time trusting people and have questioned my self worth. What I have finally learned about her and myself is that she doesn’t define who I am, I do.
How do we find love? A question I have been asking myself for decades, seriously decades. Work, school, the grocery store, dating sites, online forums, all potential places to spark an interest that may lead to a love connection. Once again the digital era has upped the anti for serial daters, polygamist and in some regards made us lazy. How do you really learn about someone in a brief description and a photo, and as a person that has failed numerous times on these sites I have to say there is a horde of people that cannot spell to save their lives, its ridiculous isn’t it? How am I suppose to take you seriously if you didn’t take the time to proof read your profile before posting, I don’t care how gorgeous you are. I find intelligence sexier than a head shot with boobs spilling out all over the place. I also believe that when it comes to online dating more people are driven by their libido and what they think is love is lust. If not why are their sites like Tinder that promote nothing more than hook ups?
Great sex, or any sex, is often mistaken as love. We would like to think that the person we are having coitus with is someone we love but again our emotions get the best of us and mislead us down a path of debauchery all in the name of that almighty Orgasm. A question I have to ask, when the sex is gone what are you left with and do you still have the same feelings for that person. Love and happiness should allow contentment within but sometimes it’s not enough for that person whose ego craves being stroked constantly. Marriages have failed because of this. Relationships have crashed and burned. All in the name of love, at least that’s what we tell ourselves. Too often life gets in the way of our happiness and we forget how to balance ourselves. A healthy relationship will have its bumps and bruises but to call it quits because you’re too lazy and heartless to make it work is a recipe for disaster, you’ll never find true love. Everyone will end up either leaving you or you will be disappointed relationship after relationship.
Love and relationships are extremely difficult and will be our greatest challenge in life if we allow it to be. I think that’s the answer to the almighty question. If we allow ourselves to be loved we also have to open up to chance of loss and learning from our mistakes. Do we succumb to the darkness? Do we relinquish any hopes of happiness?
Giving up on love really isn’t an option. As much as we want to deny that we have given up on love we still grasp at hope and continue fighting that eternal battle within against the demons of past loves that have jaded us. I believe we are worthy and want to believe there is someone out there for all of us, I have to. All I ask is that you be true to yourself and don’t change for anyone. You are one of a kind, own it!
History is doomed to repeat itself. How often have we heard this in conversation? Be it casual or heated there is no doubt that certain subjects are elevated by agendas, passion and the occasional uninformed and uneducated adult who needs a quick lesson in grammar and fact checking. Take to the internet and instantly the user is overwhelmed by misinformation and world events that are quickly taken out of context simply from a headline.
Headlines are created to grab our attention with the intention of informing us about current events but aren’t always forthcoming, nor accurate of the content within. How many times have you scrolled through your social media pages and were misled by a headline only to read the article and find it had absolutely nothing in common with the headline? I would surmise relatively often. Now back to my initial statement. History “is” doomed to repeat itself. Why you ask? Oh pull up a chair and let Aunt Penelope tell you a story.
It’s a snowy Saturday night. After spending forty five minutes shoveling I came inside to warm up, have some dinner and relax the way I typically do; with my laptop in front of me and my television tuned in to Netflix. My show of choice as of late is “the L word”. A dear friend suggested it and I instantly fell in love with the cast and its overtly sexual endeavors and drama. Very well written and oh the eye candy! If you’re reading this Leisha Hailey call me!
I tend to multitask at night. Juggling Facebook feeds, texting friends, playing games and working on my writing all while watching television. On this particular night I was scanning through my notifications which seem to chime every ten seconds since I’ve joined several online lesbian groups. Word to the wise unless you want to spend the bulk of your time weeding through trivial postings one, maybe two groups at most would be sufficient, four is just overkill.
While trying to decipher a message an admin posted I noticed one word in particular that didn’t quite fit and quickly decrypted what was intended. I tried to politely point it out to which she insulted me, oh how mature and then proceeded to delete me from the group. I didn’t take notice at first; I was in the middle of another task when I remember something I wanted to comment on. Imagine my surprise when I couldn’t find the page. I took a moment, emailed this admin and asked if the page was down or if she removed me from the group and that I didn’t mean to offend. No response but I honestly wasn’t expecting one. Why you may ask; because the average adult never matures past high school.
I stopped getting upset over trivial events like this years ago. I just laughed it off, created a post without naming names or the group and moved on. A few minutes later while standing in my kitchen a thought came to me; this person must subscribe to the Donald Trump School of leadership, “oh you pointed out a flaw of mine, I’ll deny it and have you removed.” Tell me if I am off base here but this reminds me of playing in the sandbox as a kid. Everyone is playing, having a good time and all of a sudden you say something and the kid with all the toys gets upset, takes his toys back and tells you that you can’t play with them anymore. How childish indeed.
Resorting to action like this just bring me back to those teen years and puberty. All those hormones raging and forming social skills as we mature that will inevitably define who we are as a person. Many will go off to college, some will enlist in the military while others forgo both and just find work until they decide what they want to do or who they want to be when they grow up. I’ve got a secret for you, most never grow up. Enter the Republican GOP.
I mentioned Donald Trump; here we have the epitome of a High School bully, obnoxious, loud mouth and resorts to name calling and threats of violence. His intelligence is seriously in question and the thought that this, not even sure what to classify him as, ‘person’ is qualified to be president is preposterous. The same can be said about Ted Cruz, Ben Parsons and most of the republican GOP. To be fair there are some democrats whose opinions and political views are questionable but the republicans definitely hold the title of most bat shit crazy candidates. What surprises me is the amount of people that actually support and find them eligible candidates, but I digress.
Politics aside we find obnoxious, arrogant people in all walks of life that we have to deal with. Their mentality never made it past high school and is just as much a bully today as they were years ago. You know the type, close minded, self centered, ‘what can you do for me’ kind of people. These are generally the same people that mock the disabled, say the most racist of comments, shun anyone whose view oppose their own and look to the LGBTQ Community as abominations to human nature, sound familiar?
I have touched upon this topic in several other pieces I have written through the years. Each time hoping that eventually we can see the error of our ways and eventually work together to fix them but it just appears its getting worse as time progresses. If someone casts another out just on the basis of a grammatical error then we have regressed as a society and a race. The failure to recognize and adapt deters the chance to discover and cultivate social equality with our peers much less our enemies leading to the ultimate demise of the human race.
How does this correlate to history repeating itself? Elementary my dear Watson, (I’ve been dying to utilize that phrase for quite some time!), our core values have yet employed the ability to compartmentalize key elements that facilitate our instinct to mock, abuse and destroy things we don’t necessarily agree with. In turn the integration of multiple cultures co-existing and co-habitating without prejudice is beyond our current scope. Racism and sexism still weighs heavy on society. The feminist movement is being deconstructed by select groups of politicians and religions leaders who want to bring women back to the dark ages. We fought for equality and if we allow theses minions to continue their descent it will turn back the tides of progress.
Progression is natural, it’s instinctive. In the natural order we should be embracing a new era of enlightenment but the dark forces at play are making it harder to transcend into a society of equality and respect. We need a movement to replaced the guardians of old with a new breed that has evolved beyond the dark ages, that can protect with dignity and respect, that embrace compromise and understanding, that has the ability to show compassion and empathy and will lead us into the future.
Our current path is uncertain; we are living in strange times. If we’ve learned anything from history it should be that hate and fear creates death, destruction and war. History is repeating itself. We are at war with ourselves and in other nations. As a single entity we have no control over that. What we do have control over are our own actions and how we treat others. We can better ourselves and help our families, friends and neighbors in the process. Look beyond your self; learn to take constructive criticism without resorting to negative actions. Help stop the senseless bullying of others and affirm on a daily basis that violence solves nothing. We have a long road ahead of us. Do we travel it alone or as a unified entity? The choice is ultimately up to you.
Writing has always been quite therapeutic for me. It allows me to express myself in ways I can’t in my day to day life without sounding like a babbling buffoon. I have used my writing to express my feelings about injustice in the world. On occasion I have written about music and art, they are my passion when times are hard. Personal experiences have become rather scary to write about in the past few years but it allowed me to overcome some obstacles and move forward in doing so. What I am about to share with you easily is the biggest obstacle I have faced in my entire life next to losing both parents.
Before I continue I want to ask you to sit there for a moment and ask yourself “what do I fear the most?” I have no doubt that the answers will vary greatly and at one point in your life it felt like the biggest burden known to mankind. Whether or not it is doesn’t matter to the rest of the world. I am sure there are those that would laugh and make it seem trivial but to you it was the demon under the bed you couldn’t confront. The monkey on your back you just couldn’t shake or the dragon that couldn’t be slain. We all carry with us scars and reminders of our personal demons, whether we have faced them or not.
For as long as I can remember I have felt wrong, not quite right, a bit off center and the brunt of the joke. Back when I was a child it was categorized as “The Middle Child Syndrome” which I am. I was quiet and kept to myself. Some would even say withdrawn. I had a hard time concentrating and my mind would wander quite a bit. I did not do very well in school nor did I have friends. That might sound ridiculous to some but what I learned later in life is that I was socially awkward and had a hard time making friends. That would change in latter years but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I just felt wrong.
Today when a child, teenager or even an adult finds themselves feeling off they have a bevy of avenues to research and find out exactly what is wrong with them. From Doctors to Specialist to the ever popular World Wide Web there is a cornucopia of information to be had. Granted there is as much inaccurate information as there is accurate, it’s up to the searcher to decide whether to take it for face value or dig deeper. Back when I was growing up we didn’t have such knowledge at our fingertips which made getting useful information that much harder, if indeed you were brave enough to go looking.
What was obvious to my parents was my battle with school work. Whether or not they noticed my lack of friends growing up between preschool and junior high is a mystery but anyone paying attention would notice something right away. Unlike my brothers who were and still are social butterflies, I was the wallflower dying from lack of sun. In some ways I think it was easier to just sit back and watch. My older brother has six years on me and I don’t really remember seeing him much growing up. As for the youngest, the baby, oh boy did he shine like a diamond in the sun. All eyes were on him and let me tell you he made sure of it.
I felt unnoticed but I kind of liked it. I could just do my thing and not really have to worry much yet there was something inside me that I didn’t quite understand as a child. I found myself liking things that most “normal” boys didn’t. Not that I advertised it. Even at a young age I understood the implications of telling my parents I wanted a Barbie for Christmas instead of GI Joe. Not that I minded my GI Joes. Actually one of my favorite toys as a child was my Evel Knievel set. I had a doll of him, his motorcycle and the van and would jump that thing all over the house. It’s probably what turned me onto BMX later in life but I digress. The fact remains that along with my normal ‘boy’ toys I really wanted dolls and dresses to play with.
I’ve always loved bright colors. Pink and purple I absolutely loved but there not colors for boys, at least not in the 60’s and 70’s. It was kind of pushing it in the 80’s but the social landscape, especially in the music scene, definitely smash opened the door on social norms of what we’re suppose to wear and look like. It became a bit more main stream in the 80’s to push the envelope. From David Bowie’s creation of Ziggy Stardust to Ray Davies singing about Lola, the crossing of genders was starting to emerge slowly but was still kept very much in the closet, a place I resided for the majority of my life.
Now I could give a play by play of events during my preadolescence through my high school years but I’d rather not. I feel like I faked my way through most of my life pretending to be something I am not and continued to do so for years to come. I was told once by my younger brother that “it’s okay if your gay” to which I responded “I’m not gay” but in actuality I am, but not in the way you would think, which is kind of funny when I really think about it. What brought him to this query I can’t honestly say but maybe it was my collection of Vogue and Elle Magazine or how I liked to wear certain clothes or the fact that I wore earrings and shaved my legs. Not exactly concrete evidence is it?
Oh I gave reasons for everything which was quite plausible. I mentioned that I preferred Fashion magazines over Playboy because it leaves more to the imagination, which is very true. I’ve always preferred a well dressed woman than a three page spread that bares all. The fact that I also liked looking at clothing and makeup and jewelry was a perk. As for my earrings, at the time it was quite normal for straight guys to have them. Be it in NYC or the LA Strip, men were piercing their ears left and right, literally. Of course there was a stigma that one side meant you were gay and the other didn’t. If a guy had both ears pierced, then all bets were off and it was a flip of a coin to decide if he was or not. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it. Welcome to America where we label everyone. I’ll get to labeling in a bit.
My mother though wasn’t having it. The first time I pierced my ear my mother came out with “I had three boys, not two and a girl” oh how that destroyed me on so many levels and pushed me deeper into depression and the closet. At the time though I was older and feeling my oats as they say and we went back and forth quite a bit. There were others as well and the remarks ranged from are you a queer, a homo? I pushed back with no because I was neither. I knew in my mind that I had absolutely no desire what so ever to be with a man. As I put it for many years, I don’t want my own penis, why would I want someone else’s?
When I began to shave my legs it got a bit more interesting and the comments came more but I hid behind my cycling. I remember watching the film Breaking Away and when the main character was seen in the tub shaving his legs because the Italian riders did it to cut down on wind resistance it was more than enough encouragement for me to do it as well. God was that a tedious task. I also was inspired by the Greek sculptures that showed muscular men with clean shaven bodies. To me it was always more aesthetically pleasing than a hairy body. Having body hair just made me feel like a primate.
It wouldn’t be until my twenties that I felt brave enough to dress. I was always careful and hid what little I had like a pirate. I experimented with a variety of things and though it felt natural and made me feel good for a brief moment I would eventually get freaked, ask myself what is wrong with me and eventually purge whatever I had and tried to put it behind me. Anyone who has been down this road knows it doesn’t work that way. You just can’t turn off who you are. It eats at you from the inside out. It’s a ticking time bomb and the more you repress the more you become depressed. Depression and anxiety are old friends of mine. We go back a long way.
Along with depression and anxiety for those dealing with gender dysphoria, yes that is the technical term, comes a high fatality rate. Suicide amongst transgender, I seriously hate that word, is extremely high. I’ve been down this avenue several times starting in my twenties and somehow I have always managed to pull myself back from the edge. How I attempted is irrelevant, it’s bad enough that I tried. What I’ve learned along the way is that I am stronger than I realize and can get through anything if I set my mind to it. Unfortunately it took a half a life time to get here.
What makes matters worse is that the average transgender is not only coping with their own identity but having to deal with family, friends and strangers on the street who are clueless, living in the dark ages and don’t understand that they are trying to be their genuine self. The brother who years ago said it was okay if I was gay told me in a text back in January that “this whole idea of being a woman is an embarrassment to the family.” I felt crushed and devastated. One for being a fool and in a weak moment after my father died telling someone how I truly felt. I had tried my best for a very long time to keep my identity a secret but losing one parent after another, having a nervous breakdown on top of that, I was looking for some sort of support system and reached out slowly to a few people I thought I could trust. I was wrong; truth is you can’t trust anybody.
Like any secret, once you tell someone it’s like a virus that they can’t help but spread. Oh it’s told in strict confidence but when you have a family whose grapevine has a better communication system than NORAD your kind of screwed. Back in January of this year I went on the defense once again but instead of purging like I had in years past I put everything away. Purging is quite common for those who try to go “straight” for lack of a better term. I was faced with other issues, one being finding a new place to live. That disaster is basically covered in the last piece that I wrote. I tried to keep myself busy with other avenues, trying my best not to get pulled back in but you can’t fight who you really are and you shouldn’t.
Once I had moved into the apartment I now reside in I had one more barrier to break, one more obstacle to overcome, the neighbors. I had spent the bulk of my life trying to please others and this was my first opportunity to truly live my life the way I wanted but my neighbor on the second floor has two daughters. Adults are different, but I wanted to be respectful to them until I figured out how to do this. One night an opportunity arose, we bonded like we were long lost friends and I let the cat out of the bag. She came right out and told me “this is what I want to see” and I haven’t looked back since. Everyone has been accepting except one person whose opinion doesn’t matter. He basically told me I was an abomination to nature but I have since moved on and don’t find it necessary to give such an uneducated response any credence. There are always going to be those that don’t understand and have some backwards way of thinking to try and support their argument but in the end the only person you have to make happy is yourself.
I now live my life twenty-four seven as a woman, which is how I identify myself. I have always felt like a girl, hell I been called a girl along with other derogatory names that aren’t worthy of mentioning. I have legally changed my name on everything, which surprisingly went rather easy. In the eyes of the local, state and federal government I am woman hear me roar. I am on testosterone blockers and taking estrogen, have been for almost three months, seventy seven days to be exact, and loving every minute of it. Once I fully let go and embraced who I really am the bulk of my anxiety and depression went away, which was a huge relief. I never knew how much of it was tied into my identity and finally for the first time in the mirror I like what is reflecting back at me. I feel so pretty!
There is so much negative surrounding the LGBTQ community these days that I was a bit hesitant to write this. I am sure there are some asking why are you calling yourself out in this social climate and I have to honestly say it’s because I need to come clean. My ultimate goal is to just blend in and I have had so many people tell me that I am passable. That they would never guess that I used to be a man and that makes me happy. Because regardless of what was dangling between my legs it didn’t reflect the true person I am on the inside. I am just your average Joan Doe trying to blend in and live a happy and fruitful life. Too many people, especially these right wing-nuts, are trying to tell us we aren’t normal and are going against nature and God; but how is that freaking possible when there is no God and that we were created by nature.
When I was a kid I had an uncle that committed suicide. The big question that is still unanswered “was he gay or bisexual?” The jury is still out as far as I know but it was enough of a struggle for him that he took his life. I will never forget that day, my dad found him. He always struck me as a funny man, who got around, liked his alcohol a little too much, but not a bad person. We had a mutual friend that told me stories about my uncle and how he missed him. They met while working at Electric Boat. I can’t even begin to understand what he must have been going through growing up. The family knew but it was one of those things you didn’t talk about. It was swept under the rug and into the back of the closet. Maybe if someone actually took a moment and considered what it was like to be in his shoes, to actually sit down and have an honest conversation with him, he would have lived a longer and happier life but we’ll never know. This is what happens when you judge with blinders on.
As for me I am an open book, all you need to do is ask? I would rather give someone an honest answer that may help them understand and possibly save a life. There are too many senseless deaths and murders going on right now from people who are just hateful and ignorant and as a community and a race we need to stop categorizing and labeling people. Regardless of what many think you can’t turn someone gay or make them want to change genders, it doesn’t work that way. In order to even begin this journey your doctor and a mental health specialist has to determine your stability before even beginning medication.
I consider myself extremely lucky. For the first time in my life I have an unbelievable support network which entails some very special women. I have girl friends that I love who I can talk to, have a drink with, be silly with and go out with who support me completely. I been told by several that they admire me and think I’m brave for doing what makes me happy. I would agree it was brave to finally take this plunge but honestly not enough to be Woman of the Year, yes that was a dig at Caitlyn Jenner, don’t get me started. The issue about being gay, well my brother was right, but it turns out I’m not a gay man but a gay woman. I love women and that will never change.
My journey is just beginning and I know with a doubt there are still going to be obstacles to overcome. I say bring them on. For once in my life I feel ready, willing and able to meet this life head on and see what it has in store for me. No more hiding in closets, time to burst open the door and put in more shelving. We have shoes to buy!
Invasion of the Succubus, sounds like a B movie from the 70’s doesn’t it? In reality its how I would describe the months of June and July while I was residing with something that claimed to be my friend. Oh you know the type; self righteous, only has your best interest in mind (or so they claim) and it makes them seem like a good person for taking you in when no one else would. For the record, in order for that last part to be true you would actually have to ask other people if you could reside with them, which in fact I did not. I never really asked the Succubus to live with her either. I had a plan in my head but for some reason didn’t stick to my guns and followed like a sheep to slaughter into the gates of hell. Sounds a bit over dramatic doesn’t it, oh you have no idea!
I thought losing both parents in less than a year was traumatic. Compared to those two months it was a walk in the park. I don’t want to make light of the passing of my mom and dad, because believe me it wasn’t, but truth be told I knew it was coming eventually and on some level prepped myself for that day. I honestly didn’t think it be so soon. It’s not easy watching your loved ones pass on but it is the circle of life and we have to try and come to grips with it and move forward. Oh yes, like many things it was easier said than done. Still losing them was easier to handle than residing in the pit of despair.
I was overwhelmed. Dealing with the loss along with anxiety and depression on top of moving out of the family home which put me in a state I would not revisit anytime soon. The only thing I would change was the decision to move into an alternate dimension with a, well to put it bluntly, a succubus that literally drained the life and happiness out of you from the moment she awoke until she crawled back into her lair at night where she feasted on the unassuming souls of those that fell victim to her guise of friendship. To be honest with a friend like that you don’t need enemies.
What makes this all the more ridiculous is this creature claims to be a servant of God and declares she walks a righteous path by helping others. Insert maniacal laughter here. If she is righteous and so helpful I am Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die. A bit off track but honestly I can’t say the name without repeating the complete mantra. Who doesn’t love The Princess Bride? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? I seem to be on a 1980’s movie roll here, yet this is what I do, I cope with humor. A sense of humor, something else this creature failed to have.
I tried on several occasions to woo the beast with laughter but was rejected and pushed back into the darkness. This creature actually had the gall and said to me one night “I am tired of all your negativity” which boasted laughter and the response “well you’re the catalyst!” Nothing I attempted or did was right in this beast’s eyes. She would return from devouring a local village by day, her offspring by her side and I would say hi and ask him about his day and she would jump down my throat and scream “don’t talk to him!” Survival mode would kick in and I would return to my hole. During another incident I walked outside and found her first offspring and we started to chat and she came out like a raptor with blood in her eyes and screamed “don’t talk to her!” Of course the daughter and I looked at each other and at the same time said “wow” but in the back of my mind I was thinking “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.
For the record this creature mated with two different species to produce her offspring; the first offspring came from a mild mannered man who I would honestly refer to as the salt of the earth, the second a creature similar to her in status. Egotistical, only thinks of himself and views the child as a possession. After becoming privy of way too much information I surmised that the male species had been programmed by the matriarch of the clan and falls to attention when commanded. A match made in hell.
The Succubus has a record of being quite promiscuous and would entertain several suitors when we first met many years ago. I was young and naïve and fell victim to her spell but had enough insight to recognize her voracious appetite for sexual endeavors. There were several before me and at least two that I know of during our courtship which is quite interesting seeing she was still tied by marriage to the father of her first offspring. To be quite honest my self esteem in those early days was not up to par and I kick myself for getting involved with a creature bound to another, but alas I cannot change the past. We were only together a few years when I realized how evil an self centered this creature was when I managed to break that spell and escape. I barely got out alive.
I am sure my readers are scratching their heads and asking “what on earth made you return to such a vile creature’s lair” and to be quite honest I keep asking myself that same question. I always tried to see the good in all creatures but it wasn’t until recently that I truly saw this beast for what it was and can solemnly say that I shall never return as Buddha as my witness. I had broken ties with the beast but made the mistake of reaching out when my mother had passed. It was a moment of weakness and one I am still paying for, figuratively and literally.
As I reflect over the weeks I had resided in hell I have began to see that I didn’t do anything wrong, something that took a bit of time to realize. I cooked, I cleaned, I did laundry, yard work and assorted other tasks but was met with nothing but disdain and unmitigated snide remarks and was told one night that “you are not my equal.” Thank fucking Christ for that! Why would I want to be a vile and horrendous creature that consumes the life force of anything in its path? A creature that puts more emphasis on an occupation and a home that looks like the local landfill. To hear that beast state “it’s not that bad living here” put a permanent gouge in my mouth from biting my tongue on a constant basis.
The breaking point finally came, words were said and I had the anxiety attack of all anxiety attacks and while in the midst of trying to pack up a few things I sat down for a moment and found myself retreating inward. That fight or flight instinct went into hibernation mode and the world around me started to shrink. To describe what happened next would be too difficult to relive, much like those two months I lost, but I eventually returned to the land of the living and gathered what I could and left that night feeling free for the first time. Granted I still had things there but in my mind I would return for them after I found a place to hole up and get a decent night sleep, something that had been eluding me for months. For a few days I relived that night and the horrible remarks that beast screamed at me. It took all my strength not to slay the beast but I knew I was a better person to just keep my mouth shut and get out. Why should I sink down to her level and I didn’t really know how low it was until the day returned to collect the remainder of my possessions.
In the few days after the incident I stayed with my family, something that was hard for me to do because I felt like a failure but I am so grateful to my brother and sister in law for taking me in and being around my niece and nephew was definitely something the doctor had ordered. Speaking of grateful, I am also grateful to my older brother for help supporting me during the months after my dad had passed, without that I don’t know where I would be right now. It is true, without family you don’t really have anything. Relief came again a few days later when I found a place of my own and am currently residing in. It still doesn’t quite feel like home but it is getting there. Still there is one more piece to this story that shows how dreadful a creature the Succubus truly is.
Though I was raised a catholic I find myself these days more a Buddhist. One of the things I do remember from my catholic schooling days was one of the commandments Thou Shall Not Steal. Well guess who did? The beast was still trying to control me and the situation and was making it difficult for me to retrieve the rest of my things. After a few texts and a visit to the police department things were set in motion and I returned back to hell to retrieve my belongings, or what was left of them. The Succubus must have recruited a minion to help because my things had been tossed in the garage haphazardly and with no regards to personal property. I took a quick visual and started to notice things missing and the more I put in the truck the more it became evident that I was dealing with a common thief. I called the authorities and I realized it was “he said she said” but I was not going to sit by idly and let her think she got away with it.
I managed to finish loading up the truck with what was there and began to itemize what was missing. It actually took a few days to remember all that she took and by a rough estimate there is between 1200 and 1500 dollars worth of stuff she outright stole. What in her meager little mind thought it was in her right to just steal evades me but lets face the facts, you don’t do something like that and not have it come back at you tenfold. The universe has its own system of checks and balances and she will get hers in the end. I have no doubt in my mind that Karma will catch up with her. Granted there are things that are missing that I can’t replace but in actuality it was worth it just to be rid of that horrid creature from my life.
So what is the moral of this story? Beware of demons in sheep’s clothing seems to stand out. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Interesting side note to that lovely verse, I have run the gambit of ideas of scenarios I could do to her but I am taking the moral high road here because it’s the right thing to do. Why stoop to that level, though I have a mob of friends that would love to do it for me. Truly didn’t realize how many friends I had until this incident. The ideas I have heard have been enjoyable and entertaining but why bother with such a lowly creature that doesn’t deserve our attention. It will fade to black, hell it already has in my mind. This was the final nail in the coffin of that chapter and I can officially put it to rest at the bottom of the ocean where it belongs.
I am not sure why, but I have been putting this off for far too long. Maybe because it’s been a year of grieving for too many people and no matter how hard I try I can not stop the cycle of life. In the last month there have been three people that I know that have passed on to the other side. A man who I truly admired lost his battle to pancreatic cancer last week and was laid to rest on Monday. What a way to start the week, he was my brother’s first wife’s father. Say that five times fast?
The man I want to pay homage to is my father who passed on December 29th in the year of 2014. Those that follow this page may remember that I lost my mother last year on April 17th. 2014 was not a good year, no, not at all. Standing among my sister in law’s family on Monday just brought back memories of my dad and what I imagine his funeral must have been like. Unfortunately, I was in the hospital during his wake and funeral but to be quite honest that doesn’t bother me. I was there when he passed from this world and was able to grieve for him in my own way at the cemetery later.
My father was the youngest boy born into a family of ten boys and six girls. Yes, you read correctly, there were sixteen children in his family. My grandmother spent a good portion of her life pregnant and taking care of children and her ailing husband who died when my dad was young. In all honesty I have no idea how my grandmother did it. My dad and mother spent the first ten years of my life in his family home taking care of his mother while working full time. A home I have very fond memories of. As for my dad growing up in that house, I been told by family he was quite the carefree individual, that he was quite the character and it definitely carried over into adulthood. Not much bothered my father and if it did, he hid it well. He had the ability to just let things roll off him, a quality I wish I had.
If asked to describe my father I would have to start by saying he was regimented. A trait I am sure he picked up while serving in the Navy. He was stationed on the Great Lakes and in this last year we had some interesting conversations about his time in the service and to be quite honest I wish I was taking notes at the time, they were quite entertaining. Oh, the stories my dad had, he had the ability to keep your attention, but we will get to that in a bit. His regiment, especially in the later years, was like clock-work. He would rise at the crack of dawn, hours before anyone else. He would shower, shave and had a full course breakfast and skirt out the door to his usual stomping grounds, which generally involved bullshitting with the guys at whatever establishment he felt like visiting on that day.
After the service he returned back to Rhode Island and eventually found a job in the computer department at the University of Rhode Island. To give you a bit of perspective this was when computers took up an entire room and incorporated punch cards and binary codes. This is where he met my mother who was working as a secretary in the Bursar’s office. They soon started courting and eventually got married. The details of those early years seem to be a family secret; mom never really talked much about it other than dad was quite full of himself, which is kind of funny coming from her. They both had very strong personalities and were definitely complete opposites; and from what I understand, she was quite verbal with him when he decided to quite the University to become a police officer. Once again, I have to scream to the heavens, why?! My brothers and I could have had a free education?! Oh well, back to business.
I would have to say my dad was a simple man, meaning he knew what he liked, and it never really involved much, simple wants and simple needs. It is probably why he was a patrolman for almost thirty years. No aspirations of climbing up the ranks, he was content with making the rounds in his patrol car and keeping the peace, be it on the streets or in his rather large family. And it showed. When something happened, it seemed my dad was the first to know. There would be calls at all hours from family members needing help. My dad would literally drop everything and charge out the door to take care of whatever problem materialized.
When my brother’s and I were young my dad, like many new recruits, worked the third shift, so he spent a good portion of his days sleeping and we were told to be quiet so he could sleep. Well my baby brother, who is a lot like his father, would often go in and wake him up to tell him that he would make sure nobody disturbed him. Of course, dad would give his typical sigh, say thank you and send him on his way. I don’t know how many times over the year’s dad would recall this story. How can you be mad at a toddler who is looking out for your best interest, right?
With dad working nights and mom working days there wasn’t much alone time in the beginning, especially with three boys spread out over ten years. Still they would carve out time to go have dinner and go dancing when the opportunity struck, and my dad and mom like to cut a rug. It is how he got his nickname Jitterbug which was shortened to Jit and Uncle Jit over the years. I have heard stories of my dad when he was younger dancing through town, it’s probably where I got my moves from, like my dad I like to dance. He liked to dance, and he liked his music.
Dad’s musical tastes vary and were quite different from my mom’s. Where mom liked Manilow and Streisand, dad liked The Four Tops and The Temptations. Which makes sense, it something you can dance to. He really got into the early Motown groups and singers like Lloyd Price and Fats Domino. That was the cool music he liked that we would admit to as kids. Then of course there is the music he grew up on that we had to relive for years on PBS. If I had to listen to one more rerun of The Lawrence Welk Show I think I would have screamed and in the latter years, the remarks my mom would make on Saturday and Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. when the show came on where priceless. He would be all intent on watching and mom would just sit there with this puss on her face then exclaim “you just watched this last week” and eventually dad would just acquiescence and switch to Wheel of Fortune. It was like clockwork every week.
One thing about my father that never changed since we were kids is that he would jingle as he walked. Sounds odd doesn't it? Unlike most parents of today, my dad always carried cash. Even as time progressed and the inception of credit and debit cards my father didn't feel complete unless there were some bills in his wallet. He would drive my mom crazy with all the ATM withdrawal slips because the card was not enough. Regardless, where there is cash there was always coins jingling away in his pockets. When I was younger, he would often take my little brother and I to my mother’s parents in Jamestown to watch us; mom would be at work and he had to get ready to work 3:00 pm to 11:00p.m., the second shift. When we arrived at our grandparents, he would look at us and ask, "what do you want, a few dollars or the change in my pocket?" My little brother didn't pick up on it as quickly and would take the cash while I asked for the change and literally came out ahead of the game. I would sit at my grandfather's table counting it out while my younger brother was in the other room thinking he had a million dollars. I never had the heart to tell him I had more money. As time progressed he would continue giving change to his grandchildren for their piggybanks.
Honestly I wouldn't know how to define my parent’s marriage, probably because as a kid we are completely blind to most of it and as we get older we fall into our own routines and eventually stop paying attention. But unlike most children I spent my entire life with them, right up until they died, something I truly don’t regret. I was able to be there and take care of them in the latter years. Still like any marriage there was tension and rightly there should be after 50 years of marriage. No marriage is perfect and considering everything it is a testament to how one can survive even through the worst of times and there were some very hard times.
My dad had his first heart attack in 1990. It would be one of several followed by a triple bypass and eventually the addition of a pace maker – defibrillator which was replaced three times. There is an interesting story that goes along with his first heart attack. That day he had gone to the firing range to qualify, something he didn’t have to do but out of purpose decided to. From what I recollect he had pulled some maneuver where he jumped up on a table than fired his gun. At the moment something didn’t feel quite right but my dad being the man he was kind of shrugged it off and then came home. When arrived home he started to feel pressure in chest and couldn’t quite figure out what had caused it, so drove himself to the Emergency Room and proceeded to have a heart attack in the ER. In hindsight he was lucky he made it to the hospital. After recovering he retired from the police department. It was a grand event and began a new chapter in my dad’s life.
Not one being content just sitting around he had a few odd jobs that involved one of his passions, cars. He worked as a gas attendant at one place and then worked for a car dealership in town, which was right up his alley. Not only could he be around cars all day he could bull shit with everyone. My dad loved to talk, and he knew everyone, which became a running joke in our family. Often times we would take bets how many people we would run into that dad knew on any given day. Even his grandchildren got in on the action. To hear a new generation, ask “Pa is there anyone you don’t know” on a regular basis speaks volumes about the man. It would follow us out of state sometimes, which was amazing and kind of bizarre at the same time.
As for his love of cars it was quite interesting growing up in this family. Coming home from school there was always a different car in the driveway. I couldn’t even begin to count how many cars there have been over the years; but, after talking to a cousin recently this was something that ran in his family. Whenever they wanted something they would just go out and get it. Is it a flaw, some may think so, but as my cousin had mentioned, when her dad died many years ago, he died happy because he was able to do the things he wanted for his family. Of course, my dad’s love of cars did not always go over very well.
When my parents had first got married my mother had manage to save up and buy herself a car. It was something she was very proud of. Like all vehicles, eventually it needed to be serviced, so they switched cars for the day. When she came home, she found a different car in the driveway. This occurred during a time where titles weren’t needed. Mom was not very happy that day. We’ve had sedans, station wagons, and a variety of small cars. My father loved the big cars, the gas guzzlers and he would definitely put on some mileage travelling to various sporting events that my brothers were involved with.
Soccer moms have nothing on my father. If dad wasn’t working, he was always going to baseball and soccer games. Eventually soccer and baseball games turned into Disney on Ice and other events when the grandchildren started to arrive. When my older brother moved to Connecticut for his job in New York City my parents would often take the kids for a weekend or a week and dad would take to the helm as requested with a smile on his face. He loved his grandchildren, all five of them. They loved him too, especially because Pa would practically give them whatever they asked for, within reason, and would make cookies for them. Yes, my dad took to baking. Something else I have common with him. Baking came to him more after his retirement and the arrival of the grandkids.
Ask any grandparent and they will say they love all their grandchildren the same, but truth be told there is definitely a bond like no other with the first. Just like having your first child. There are memories that can’t be replicated no matter how hard you try. One such memory my dad had was a day he and the oldest grandchild were together making cookies, she must have been around three at the time, and for some reason he was having a hell of a time getting the cookies to form. Frustration was evident but he was determined to make these cookies with her, so he mustered them the best he could and put them in the oven. First batch comes out and he takes a bite and they didn’t taste right. He made this face, which of course made my niece giggle, and it dawns on him, he forgot the egg, the binding agent. For the rest of that day that little peanut, my nickname for her, told everyone “Pa forgot the egg.”
I mentioned there were sixteen brothers and sisters, well where there are brothers and sisters there are nieces and nephews. I have fifty-four “first” cousins. Ask any one of them who their favorite uncle was and there be no hesitation, my dad, Uncle Jit. Of course, with a family that large and him being one of the youngest you end up with nephews and nieces not that much younger than you are. The family is spread out all over the country and from what I understand quite a few made the long trek back here for the funeral. One of my regrets was not seeing some of them, but hey, I am not dwelling here. But they came from all over this country to pay respect to a man they loved. I have a cousin that traveled eighteen hundred miles to grieve a man who walked her down the aisle years ago. I have a cousin in New Jersey that has such fond memories of my father and the doll he had given her as a child.
I had mentioned my dad had stories and one I will never forget happened while he was working on the police department. I must have been in my twenties at the time and one day we were sitting around the kitchen table when he recalled this family jewel. He arrived back at the police station after working a second shift and walked by the cells to be met by three different voices saying, “hi Uncle Jit”. With any family there are trouble makers and with such an extended one of course there be more than usual; that night he saw one niece and two nephews taking up residence in the county jail for a variety of misdemeanors. He walked into dispatch and just shook his head. On another occasion my dad was called to a disturbance at a local establishment. He arrives and proceeds to break up the fight between two women and as he pulls one off the top of the other, he is greeted with “hi Uncle Jit.” We definitely have some repeat offenders in this family.
When I think of my father’s career on the police department and what is going on today, I am glad he retired when he did and am happy it was a different time. There are definitely trouble and horrors that no one should see, there always will be; but they were a different breed of officers compared to now. My dad reported to a car accident one night to find a headless body that has crashed into a stone wall. That’s not something you soon forget. He also found a high school friend who had killed himself, gunshot to the head. Other than the parents, I knew before anyone else. He had seen his share but at the same time there was mischief amongst the ranks. During his first years he was riding with a superior officer, it was the third shift; apparently it was very late, and he had drifted off. Well the superior took it upon himself to play a prank on my father. He pulled into a field where a bull was standing right next to his window, nudged my father and said, “friend of yours?” My father woke up, looked out the window and jumped nearly out of his seat.
What I find most amazing about my father was the fortitude he had up until the end. Here was a man that had multiple heart attacks and a bevy of other conditions that would stop most people in their tracks. His cardiologist had told him ten years ago, while in the hospital, that “technically you should be dead” but my father wasn’t ready to go. It was his motivation to get out and talk to people and socialize that kept him going along with seeing his family and his grandchildren. We all honestly thought that dad would go before mom and what a shock it was when she passed first. I still can’t believe it and still am in mourning here. To lose both parents in the same year is something no one should go through. Yet it happens.
As I look back, I remember a man who was loved by all, a man who had a dry sense of humor and a man who loved his family. He had the ability to captivate and tell stories that left you on the edge of you seat and eventually laughing hysterically. I remember a man who danced around the living room with his grandchildren in his arms, baking cookies and hunting down beanie babies. He was a man that I had the pleasure to call dad and I miss him dearly.
What's wrong with me? If it sounds like a personal question then you are correct but I dare ask how many of you pose the same question to yourself? There are those that would rephrase it and ask "what is wrong with you" but would not spend a nanosecond internalizing their own flaws. At least that is what most of us assume but you all know what happens when you assume anything? Most I am guessing would know but for the younger audience whose education is lacking to assume is to make an Ass out of U and Me.
Getting back to my initial question I often ask myself, and did just a few hours ago, what is wrong with me? Not to get off track right out of the gate here but there is one other question that tends to go hand in hand, why do I do the things I do? Sounds a bit self deprecating doesn't it. Alas if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, chances are its a duck. Yes I am no stranger to self deprecation. So why don't we run this gambit of issues up the flag pole and see who salutes, I warn you this will probably get ugly.
To start with I lack self confidence. To say I am insecure is grand understatement, I never feel anything I do is right and have been reminded through out my life that I am a loser and a big nothing. For those that have the ability to let statements slide off their back like ice cream in the August heat I envy. I am an emotional sponge and take it all to heart. Add to that the constant reminders that I have done nothing in my life plummets my confidence and self esteem to the deepest abyss. If it seems dark and dreary, well, welcome to my world.
Next on my list would be my inability to make decisions. I think indecisive should have been my middle name. I have question every move I have made for the past thirty years and it has literally gotten me no where. Why you ask? I have made the analogy that I have been standing at a crossroads that goes in eight different directions and all I can do is stand there contemplating where each road might go. Sound frustrating? Oh it can be, not just for me, but also for certain people in my life that get frustrated when we are out to dinner and I can't decide what I want to eat. The worst thing you can ask me is "what do you want to do" because I will literally stare into space thinking "oh crap, I can't decide" and realize the smart thing to do is just answer "what do you want to do?" I should say that there are times when I do have a plan in my head of what I want to do. It doesn't come often but I get frustrated with people who get put off by the fact that I made a plan to do something and they feel like I am blowing them off. Before I wrap "indecision" up with a pretty little bow I have to make one last statement that seems to fuel my existence. Euripides wrote "Question everything, learn something, answer nothing" which has become my mantra for years.
We all have fears. When I was younger I had a fear of heights, I still do a little, but I learned how to overcome them with time. After conquering that fear there was a good portion of time where I had no fear, god I miss those days, but lately that has changed. Fear has manifested and has taken hold of my soul. A few weeks after my father past I started fearing everything; my own shadow, loud noises, the dark, the light, driving, I was quickly becoming agoraphobic. Me of all people, it seemed crazy. For most of my life I enjoyed being outside, away from the confines of the four walls where we reside. I am, without a doubt, a child of the earth. I generally feel better with the earth below my feet and the sky above away from concrete and steel. I have a strong connection with nature but for weeks on end I feared crossing over that threshold out into the world. I have managed to break free a bit but there are days where getting out of bed is a chore in itself.
There is a strong fear of failure that festers deep inside me. I know I am not alone when it comes to this fear but unlike others it has hampered me from even trying to live my life. If that isn't a sad statement I don't know what is. My life experiences are few and far between, as I was reminded by someone earlier, and in some ways I have lived in a bubble. Which makes no sense because I feel like I have the soul of an adventure inside me, yet I think the adventurer within is a bit out of time. Hell I feel like I was born in the wrong time and on the wrong continent quite often, but I can't change that. To add insult to injury I might as well come clean and add that I also feel like I was born in the wrong body. If I didn't feel enough like a freak why not add an identity crisis to the mix. There are some demons you can't slay and that my friends is the demon that has been stalking me for decades and I have tried my best to keep it at bay but its trying its best to overtake me. I honestly don't want to harbor on this right now, it is definitely better for a later post, but I would like to say that in some ways I feel like I have a split personality, that I am two sides of the same coin. I'm not sure if that makes sense but the best way I can explain it is to picture the yin yang.
I have been "different " my entire life. Oh I was the quiet one. I had a learning disability growing up in a time when teachers had no bloody clue what to do. I was and still am a bit socially awkward. I was picked on a lot in grade school and I never felt accepted which just followed me through the rest of my schooling. I had social anxiety for a long time. I would get panic attacks in crowds. As a kid I had no idea what was happening or why but my mother recognized and would tell people "he doesn't like crowds" and left it at that. I eventually got better and it became a bit easier to be in crowds, the anxiety attacks had subsided, that is until recently.
The past year anxiety took on a new shape and form and enveloped me in ways I never knew existed. To be quite honest on several occasions I thought I was having a heart attack. I remember standing in my bedroom, short of breath, dizzy, this tightness in my chest and wondering "what's happening?" I ended up in the emergency room several times and had two extended stays at two different hospitals because of severe anxiety attacks. Oh that was fun, not! Since December I have run the gambit of tests. I have had an EEG, an MRI, Echo-cardiogram, a stress test and what have did they find? Outside of a slightly enlarged prostate, nothing. I am physically healthy and the general consensus is that stress was the culprit of my condition.
Stress can do a lot to the human body and the mind. I can attest to that. Losing both parents in less than a year had taken its toll on me, a toll I am still recovering from, and manifested with anxiety attacks along with audio and visual hallucinations. Oh I know there are a few people right now shaking their heads and yelling at the screen saying "why did you just type that, do you want people to think your crazy?" Crazy is relevant, we all are on some level, what I am clarifying is that when the mind is overloaded and is trying to cope with anything, especially loss, it manifests things that aren't necessarily there. Anyone that has gone days without sleep can relate, and yes there was a time where the amount of sleep I was getting per night was not much, which also attributed to my hallucinations. What gets me are the people that pay good money to experience this crap. I don't get it. I've seen floating heads, I saw a full manifestation of my father in my door that dematerialized right before my eyes. That one freaked me out. I walked down my stairs and saw a black hole in my living room and one afternoon there was a unicorn in my bedroom. Still what does all this mean?
What I have deduced, and actually have known for years, is that I have crappy coping skills. My ability to cope with stress has much to be desired. It is why I tend to let things fester and draw all the negativity inward and spend most of my days in solitude trying to work it out within. It is something I have done for a very long time. I am the quiet one and to sit in the dark, as I am right now, and try and work things out in my head is what I do. Answers sometimes come but more often than naught they don't and I end up sleeping on it, when I can sleep, and hope that the morning will bring a better insight to what bothers me. I rarely like to talk to others about what is "truly" bothering me and I have also learned that people may claim they care but will make it all about themselves when what you really need is a shoulder to cry on or an ear to bend. To find someone that is non judgmental and will listen is a rare find and a true friend. Because sometimes all we want is someone to listen and not sit there and start with "you know what you should do?" God that goes up my ass sideways.
Generally when I am at a loss and need a way to reflect and get perspective I take to the trails, be it hiking or my mountain bike and that is what I did today. This morning I hitched my bike rack, mounted my bike and took to a trail I haven't visited in three years. In retrospect I should have thought it through a bit more because I had forgotten how taxing and how large this place is. I found myself losing traction on several hills and ended up walking a bit, oh the decent was well worth it. I got lost four times and while trying to avoid a tree in the path took a header over my handlebars. I haven't done that in a long time, but to be honest it was just what the doctor ordered. Oh my arms and legs are killing me, I so need a full suspension bike, my back is a little sore, but I came away feeling better than I have in quite some time and on the way home saw three of the largest deer I have ever seen in my life. Of course all of that changed when I came home and the depression and anxiety came rearing its ugly head once again.
Its a constant struggle and one of the reasons I felt the need to write about this is to show others that your not alone in feeling how you feel. We all have our personal demons. Some of us worse than others. I have always said that the way I feel seems rough and hard to me but I know there are people out there that have it much worse than I do, which is true. I tend to think of others before myself, though someone had the nerve to tell me that I was selfish today. I will generally bend over backwards to help someone but god forbid I find myself in a deep funk and need to retreat for a while.
I have been in retreat mode for a while, I do have to admit that. I am beyond lost because my role in life has changed dramatically in the past year. For quite some time I been a caregiver. It is in my nature to do so and have at different stages in my life. The issue at hand is now I need to take care of myself and don't necessarily know how to. I have made some strides, baby steps per say, in the past few months but I am faced with a new obstacle and don't see a way around or over it, at least not one that is clear to me. What is worse is that I hate asking for help and view it as a weakness, not exactly sure where that came from. What to do?