Open Diary: Peace for Momma

September 15, 2010 at 9:13 pm (Hump Day: Mid-week Musings)

It is dusk and I watch the dolphins playing as the sun sets. I find my mind wandering, in this peace, to the early memories I have of the ocean. 

When I was very young, we lived in Florida near Coca Beach. We went to the beach frequently. I would immediately wade into the water and sit with my back to the waves, just at the breakers, and play and explore while the sea washed over me. I could sit like that for hours. My father would carry me on his shoulders, walk us out to deeper water, then swim to shore with me riding on his back. This way, we rode the waves into shore together. These are memories I have never lost. I have loved the ocean as far back as I can remember. Even Her creatures fascinate, teach and renew me. I am at home in the salt water, at ease walking the soft wet sand.

The early memories are also filled with images of my mother walking the beach for hours, picking up shells, wading in the water, and generally communing with the ocean. Of all the things she enjoys, this is the one thing that has always brought her a true peace. The ocean is her church. It is her therapy. It is an infusion of life force. Put her on a beach and she is reborn. This is the one thing we truly have in common. And, while we enjoy doing things together, combing the beach is the thing we do with ease and contentment.

We walk together picking up shells or calling the other’s attention to some thing of interest. We separate and go our own way. Mom wades in the water, walks the beach. She finds all sorts of shells others miss, discovers rocks and other evidence of the mystery that is the ocean. I float freely—without any floatation device—and nearly nap in the watery arms of the sea. I swim to shore, shell a bit and repeat the process. We come back together and share tales of our adventures and admire each other’s treasures. We are at our best together during these times.

From my chair on the porch outside of the condo, I watch my mother walking the beach. Head down, back slightly bent, she walks with her cane in one hand and a bag for shells in the other. Her focus is sharp. Her walk is less labored than at home; there is almost a spring in her step—not quite, but almost. It is, really, an air about her. She simply is lighter. The peace she clearly feels walks with her. I recognize it easily, no matter how far she walks. If I look closely enough, I can see her as I remember her when I was young. When she was young. As she was long before the cancer, the chemo and the toll it took on her. She becomes almost girl-like as she delights in the sun, the water, the shells—all the things that make her at home in the universe…and, in herself. She is beautiful. She is my mother. She has suffered much most of her life. This is the one thing that takes the suffering away—if only for a while. 

The water is calm. It is perfect for swimming. The sun glistens on the surface like a mirror. I am here on the concrete porch because I have become drastically allergic to some kind of insect bite—likely, sand fleas. I find myself feeling as if my body has betrayed me. I have bounced back from the years of damage I suffered before they found the pernicious anemia and I can live with the other allergies that result from having an autoimmune disorder. But this new-found allergy now prevents me from doing one of the few things that quickly and effortlessly brings me to center, feeds me spiritually and reconnects me to the family of things.

I am covered in swollen, inflamed and irritated wounds. Even my legs are swollen. I long for the water. The bites from this unknown assailant itch to the point of insane distraction. It is almost painful and persists despite the large amounts of antihistamines and cortisone creams. At least, there is no anaphylaxis. And, I had at least one good day of walking the beach and resting in the water. Not for the first time, I wonder if this physical misery was worth the drive down here, the time away from home and the things I need to be doing, not to mention the time away from the one I love. I look out at the ocean and bring myself back to the moment at hand. Mom is quite some distance away, walking. She has found something worth bending her tired back further to pick up and keep. I find myself smiling. A heron dives low, gracefully, and flies away with a good sized meal.

A few years back, when the cancer and the treatment made mom too sick to make her yearly trek to the key, I promised her—and myself—that I would do my best to get her here every year. She can no longer make the drive, but I can. And, she should not come alone. I realize as I watch her walking in her own world, at peace for the time being, this is the one thing I can give her that really matters. Adding on to my house and moving her in with me, into her own space, was significant. Tilling up half the yard so she can mess in the dirt, grow things and tend them, was a decent way to let her know I care about her quality of life. But this is the gift that counts.

This yearly act is the one thing that demonstrates my full knowledge and appreciation of her. I watch her with no small emotion. She is headed back to the porch. I know she has treasures to show me. The almost girlish lightness in her tired gait is nearly heart breaking in its joy. “I brought you some shells,” she says smiling…”since you can’t go find your own, I’ll bring them to you.” The voice in my mind that questions whether the trip was worth it becomes mute. My eyes water slightly. I walk into the condo with her, knowing that there is not much I would not suffer for this woman who is my mother. This peace she feels in the presence of the ocean is worth some itching, discomfort and relative misery. The bites will heal. The itching will subside. These moments we have together cannot be replaced.

Later, I will have coffee on the porch and look out upon the water I cannot enter. Still, I can see it. I can smell it. I can feel the salty breeze on my skin. I can close my eyes and feel myself floating. When I look in on mom before I go to bed, when I hear her sleeping peacefully, I will remember clearly why I am here. It is now, and will be then, worth it.

NOTE:  This work is published here as proprietary and may not be reproduced, distributed, sold, or otherwise utilized outside the posting on this site without the express permission of the author; these works are the sole property of the author writing as Androgynonamous or DreadPirateRobert.

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Taking Risks—Hump Day: Mid-week Musings

August 19, 2010 at 12:01 am (Hump Day: Mid-week Musings)

Now and then, I talk here about my job hunting ventures in this awful economic situation as well as the strangeness of the process. It has certainly been an adjustment to be job hunting at my age in a world that is so different from the way it was when I was leaving college and entering the work world. The arena of job searching is, in my opinion, one area where the increased reliance on technology has not helped us at all. It has, I think, taken a process that, by nature, needs to be as personal and interactive as possible and transformed it into the most impersonal, randomized, dull-witted, and banal activity it can be. It is so void of anything resembling interaction that one wonders how any person actually gets an interview or gets hired. There is only one thing about the new way of things that is good: volume. 

When there are actually several jobs to apply for, a person can apply for a large number in a relatively short amount of time and with a fair degree of efficiency—at least, in regard to completing the process. What happens in the ether is anyone’s guess. Whether a person ever looks at or reads our applications is a mystery. But, if the jobs are there to apply for, a massive amount of applications can be done in one day. For example, in the past week and a half, I have applied for approximately 35 jobs. A vast number of these were the any-old-retail-job-will-do kinds of jobs. But there were several of them for a change. This past week, however, it was not only quantity that was different; there was a difference in quality as well. 

There were actually three postings for Executive Director positions with three different non-profits in our area. I nearly fell over from shock. Well, truth is, I have applied for so many jobs for which I am over-qualified, for so long, that I almost missed these. Like my brain had trouble recognizing what I was seeing—kind of like what happens when you have been in a very dark room and walk out into the sun. These things stung my eyes at first, and I had to adjust. Then, because I had not seen a posting for a professional job in so long, I had to remember that I was one of those candidates. It was a lot like when I woke up after surgery and everyone was asking me what my name was. I had to stop and think for a moment. And, then, I had to say it a few times before it sounded right. Once I remembered who I was and the kind of jobs I am actually capable of and want, I applied for all three. 

Applying for these jobs, stepping even partially back into the light of my previous professional achievements and standards, was risky. But, reaching deep within to pull out that old and dusty leather coat of confidence and studded belt of self-awareness was not the real risk I took this past week. No, indeed. I went one further. I wore the metaphoric coat, so to speak.

One of these executive positions was posted by a non-profit clever enough to make use of the techno-application age to begin weeding out the gross multitude of applications they had the good sense to know they would get in this economic climate. They created a questionnaire, put it in a pdf file, and required the completed product be sent, by email, with a resume, list of references and an actual cover letter. I had to like these guys. I could not help but wonder how many applicants freaked over the cover letter due to lack of practice. I’m old school, however. Not a drop of worried sweat even formed on my little brow. Nor did I freak over the questionnaire. I am a writer—of sorts, anyway. I tore through that thing, handling with ease and renewed confidence the topics regarding experience working volunteers, working with Boards, managing budgets, management style and philosophies. I was in my element. Until I hit the last question. Then, I felt a little queasy. 

I did what I always do when I am thrown. I did what any real butch does when uncertain about the next move. I called my girlfriend. And, I ended up taking her advice. 

The last question was one of those canned interview questions for which everyone prepares a canned answer. And, as a previous business owner and a person who has been interviewing a long time, I asked at least one of those questions on purpose and for one reason only: to see if I got a canned answer or a real, honest response. These kinds of questions always have some other value; they do get at some basic stuff you want to know. But, their main purpose is to weed out the bullshit. It was the trick question. They wanted to know about a situation in a previous job that was irritating, why it was irritating,  and how we responded to it. Not that hard in itself. Except, it’s the trick question. And, given the probable volume of applicants, it is important to be sure you stand out from the masses. This was the question to nail, to hit it square on the head the first swing—it was the only swing I was going to get. 

My girlfriend’s response. “Be honest. Tell the truth. What have you got to lose at this point?” What, indeed. [This is one reason why I love her. She values honesty and integrity as much as I do. But she also loves to shake things up. Rock the boat a bit. Live close to the bone. Got to love her.] 

Given that all jobs have their frustrations and bad days, and I am a realist, there are only two things in my employment history that were really what I would call irritating. One was the massive mess that the mental health system has become due to lack of theoretical and practical cohesiveness and consistency, as well as inappropriate oversight. The other was the recent troubles I had with one particular demographic group and their response to my appearance. Everything else was just random daily shit that any professional accepts, handles and moves on in response to. Clearly, referring to the first would be a bad move. It would imply an inability to work within systems and accept things as they are. The second one…well…I am sure you can see the risks involved there. But, Di made a wonderful point I had not considered. If I bring it up first, if I put the whole androgyny thing on the table, there is no surprise when they see me. And, having the honesty and the guts to talk openly about it might be the thing that makes them bring me in for the actual interview in person, not on paper.

So, I took her advice. I answered by explaining the hell I went through with this particular client base:  affluent, retired, Southern folks. I talked openly about being called “sir” after I had introduced myself repeatedly. I discussed having to endure actually being asked what I was. I told them about my staff having to listen to statements such as “that thing that is your manager.” And, I talked openly about what it was like to face that every day after several years of relative reprieve found in my previous profession. I also discussed how I have developed a way of being and moving in the world that is open, accessible, light and engaging with people—a way of being that greets them first, lets them hear my voice, clears up any confusion and invites them in without being overly friendly or intrusive. I simply am with people. And, as a result, people are put at ease without ever having to acknowledge that there was a moment when they were not. I have learned to let others see me, to be light-hearted, and engaging.

Over the years, and with the exception of circumstances where interaction is not possible or is not appropriate—such as public restrooms, malls, gas stations, etc.—I have rarely had problems with people. Until, that is, I was working, daily, with this particular group of people. Many were very nice. Many did not cause problems. And, many of the people I saw each day, responded to me in ways I am used to; they liked me. But, every day, there were several who made it hell for all of us. They wore their frustration that I had confused them like a bad dress. I was open about all of this in my answer on the questionnaire. And, I was honest about my response to the whole thing. 

I told them that I resigned my position after having done everything I knew to do. And, I told them why. This is the part of my answer that I felt was most important because it speaks to who I am, how I see things, and my basic values. I resigned because the situation was not fair to me or to my team. There was nothing I could do to make it better for any of us. I could not, and would not, change who I am. It was affecting our performance numbers. It was not fair for them to suffer my situation with me. In my answer, I also pointed out what I believe to be a basic truth. In the business world, we are almost brainwashed to believe that there is a solution to every problem, that there is always a win-win if we look for it. The truth is that this is not true. Some things cannot be solved or prevented. When that happens, the only thing we can do is seek to determine what is the next right thing and do it. The next right thing is always the thing that, both, serves the greater good and comes the closest to fulfilling the original goal, whatever that is. I stated these things in my answer. 

The risk has been taken. The truth has been told. In many ways. Perhaps, the trials of the past three years in this awful job market and the dwindling of my resources, have transformed me in some way. Perhaps, all that has so beaten me down and demoralized me has somehow pulled me back to my own center. Perhaps, after retreating as far as they could, my balls are finally descending again. [Wait, that sounds like a different post…] I don’t know. I do know this: this is the scariest time in my life.

My savings are gone. The crap jobs I have had caused such a drop in income that I have spent my savings to keep my house and pay my bills. I have had major issues with my health and nearly died before I got treated for the right thing and started getting better. Then, I had to face the cancer. I have reunited with the woman I have loved for a long, long time and was concerned at times we would not find a way to stay with each other and make it all work. Yet, we have. And, somehow in the midst of my greatest fears, I am finding that my sense of self keeps growing, despite the blows to its weathered housing. And, I am finding courage persists when I feel as if I have run out. I am finding that I am worth a little risk taking. I am remembering who I am, learning more about myself, and remembering that taking risks and putting myself on the line are the ways that I achieved all the things I have in the past. I am rediscovering the warrior I have always been. At heart, my hair is long; my shield is made of many inner aspects; my sword is sharp and heavy. I am taking risks again. Maybe, I am remembering when to raise my shield and when to wield my weapons. Risking has given me more in my life than playing it safe ever has. I am hoping it will again. 

NOTE:  This work is published here as proprietary and may not be reproduced, distributed, sold, or otherwise utilized outside the posting on this site without the express permission of the author; these works are the sole property of the author writing as Androgynonamous or DreadPirateRobert.

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What Comes Next…Is Living: Mid-week Musings

August 12, 2010 at 2:11 am (Hump Day: Mid-week Musings)

Cancer. The first time I heard it, it sounded like this. “The biopsy revealed cells that appear to show signs of being highly suspicious of what we would expect to see in cancer cells.” Although I can be dense at times, this was not lost on me. It was Doctor-speak for “you have cancer.”

Given my practical nature, my response was simple.  “Where do we go from here?” Thus began the journey of the past year that led to my recent surgery.

In the meantime, there were plans to be made. There were things to take care of and put into place. Not the least of which was the creation of a plan for getting the whole thing paid for so that I could get about the business of healing and moving on. This was no small task. But, I found a charitable organization that acts as a third-party payor for people with no insurance. There was a ton of paperwork, weeks of reviews, an interview and months of waiting, but I qualified. My specialist found a surgeon who would accept my assistance program. And, I needed to arrange for practical things like a healthcare power of attorney, advance directives, beneficiaries, and whether there would be someone to smuggle in real food for me to eat. I get hungry. And, I like real food.

There were things to consider as well. Things that were concerns. I have a family history of cancer and problems of the thyroid. Both my mother and her mother had non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My mother’s was in her thyroid. Half of the women in my family have had all sorts of thyroid problems. And, added to all of this was the fact that I also have an autoimmune form of anemia. The genetic tendency for this also came from my grandmother who had it as well. All of these things were factors to consider in planning for my future while living in my now…which I did.

I went about my daily life which consisted of searching for a new career, working at landscaping and whatever other work I could find, tending to my home, spending time with family and friends, playing at my personal interests, and trying not to give too much attention to the idea of having cancer. Most importantly, I continued to focus on things that were primary—nurturing and developing my growing relationship with Scin, my relationships with others, and my own evolving sense of self. I put my energy into the things that make a life. The idea of cancer and pending surgery became part of the situation of life, not the life itself.

Like any significant issue facing any couple, the situation brought with it fears, insecurities, frustrations, silences, uncertainties, and opportunities. And, it did for us what any serious situation has the potential to do for any couple. It brought us closer and made us stronger. We laughed and played. We talked. We bore silences and frustrations. We worried. We disagreed. We ran from each other and then, walked back, heads bowed and arms  extended. We cried. We watched movies. We held each other. And, we fucked like teenagers. We dealt with and struggled with the normal day-to-day things that couples face. We faced and resolved financial woes, car troubles, and larger issues like what to have for dinner. We read books and spent time with friends. We did the things that put together strings of hours and weave them into days, weeks and months. We waited.
My focus was the same as it is in regard to life in general: 
focus on the good, on what is working; do what is in front of me; trust my instincts and myself; know, every day, that the degree to which my life is good and healthy is directly related to the degree to which I am willing love myself and others; and–most of all–trust that God is doing for me, and will do, what I cannot do for myself.

However, over the months leading up to the surgery, a strange thing happened without my conscious awareness. Somewhere along the way, I came to believe the optimistic Doctor-speak that had seeped into their language as the date of surgery neared. “Thyroid biopsy is tricky…there is a good chance it is not cancer…false positives are common.” The plan my surgeon and I laid out made perfect sense and seemed like a good one: take out the right lobe, biopsy a slice or two while in surgery, and take the left lobe [and the smaller mass] if the results show cancer. As the date neared, I came to believe I would come out of surgery with only part of my thyroid gone.

The day came and I waited in pre-op with Scin and my mother. My mother sat in the corner reading while Scin and I flirted. She entertained me with toys that had randomly found their way into her bag when her son and I were done with them. We laughed when my surgeon came in to write his initials on my neck and review the plan with me. I reminded her of what I wanted to do should there be any need for her to make decisions. I held Scin’s hand until they wheeled me to the operating room. The staff and I joked as they attached one thing and another and strapped me down snuggly. The last thing I remember was joking with my surgeon.

I remember only a few things about waking up. I have a vague memory of hearing my doctor explain that he and Scin had talked and he had removed both lobes of my thyroid. I knew what that meant. But, what I recall about hearing the word cancer was that it was my own voice saying it. That I was talking to Scin. I was saying it—asking really: it really was cancer honey; I have cancer and they took my whole thyroid? Right?

She was sitting on the bed beside me, holding my hand. Nodding. I think there were tears in her eyes, but you never would have known it. My sweet tender Scin. The girl who so often looks to me for assurance and strength, who calls me her rock, who needs to know I have faith and all will be well, was holding my hand and holding me up. Assuring me. Telling me they got it all. Sitting beside me, silently, holding my hand. My mother sat back, watching, letting this woman she is coming to know care for her baby. Safe with them, I fell asleep for a little while. Once I was asleep, they left to eat.

For a while, each time I woke, I reviewed what I thought I knew. Each time, Scin greeted my questions with unwavering strength and tenderness. I verbalized my understanding. Cancer. It was my voice saying this. My voice taking ownership. Scin stayed and mom went home. It was a long night. I was sick for hours. Scin was there through all of the nausea and dry-heaving and the bitching about being hungry and too sick to eat. She has been here since. She will be here tomorrow. She will be here when I come back from my post-surgery follow-up with the surgeon. We will talk together about the pathology results, the recommendations for continuing care, the things to watch out for and do or not do next.

She will be here for what comes next. And, I will be there. We will be here for the doctor appointments and the birthday dinners for friends. We will be present when the other is sick. She will be here when I find the right job, the one I have been looking for that was waiting for all of this to be done. I will be there when we have dinner at her folk’s house. We will be together for family holidays. I will be here when her first book is published. We will be here for cook outs, and yard-mowing, and cub scouts. She will be here when a major journal actually publishes one of my poems. We will be present for putting energy into all the things that make a life. I know this because this is what comes next; living comes next. Doing the things that string together hours and weave them into days. That is what living is. Living is what is next. And, Scin is the woman I have chosen to be with when the living weaves the hours into a day, and the days are woven into months, and the months into years. What a beautiful weaving it will be. Beautiful. And, long.


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Random Thoughts On Humanness: Hump Day

July 28, 2010 at 11:51 pm (Hump Day: Mid-week Musings) (, , , )

So, it is Wednesday again. And, there have been some things to ponder in the goings on of late. For example, Scin and I both have strong feelings about finding a place of worship with which we are comfortable and in which we can be ourselves…appropriately, of course. So, we tried a local church when she and her son were down in February and we went back again once we got her basically moved into the new house.

Now, this place [nameless as we don’t know who reads me…] describes itself as open and affirming. And, indeed, they are that. However, our experiences with them have raised within me the following question: is there a point at which acceptance becomes a form of discrimination? And, then, if there is a place in interactive exchange where acceptance becomes a brand of discrimination, where is that point; what defines that line in the sand of interaction? I should, perhaps, explain.

The church has a clear open and affirming stance and everyone is highly supportive of that. They reach out almost aggressively–which, itself, is uncomfortable. We were showered with acceptance. We were invited here and there and met with introductions to the point of feeling as if we were the long-lost survivors of a ship wreck, suddenly rescued and were being seen in public for the first time. I began to feel like an oddity. This feeling was increased by the fact that they are so affirming that there is a LGBT group within the church that holds social events that are also meetings for planning this, that and the other thing. In addition, time is set aside for “studying” what it is to be same-sex oriented, how that relates to being a child of God, and/or how it impacts our lives to be Gay or Lesbian. Topics and the gatherings themselves are all about being queer. This would not be so bad except that these events are essentially segregated from other church events. It is very much as if we and the acceptance of our ilk represent some kind of project. It is as if we are special in some odd way that is not so good. I was waiting for them to start passing out special hats and ID bracelets. Add to this the almost boundaryless way of greeting and inviting you in and it begins to feel very strange.

Scin and I gave it our best effort at church and at the LGBT cook out thingy. And, we even went to the minor league baseball game with the group. However, we came away from all these events feeling uncomfortable. We talked about feeling like a project. We talked about the almost needy and desperate lack of boundaries these people displayed as they reached out to bring us into the fold. We discussed being recruited, how it feels like they are trying to beef up the congregate and reaching out to the queers might be a good way to keep the doors open. We talked about not wanting everything to be about being gay. We talked about how what we want is to be seen as fellow humans, as people who just happen to be lesbians. We processed feeling like we are special and not in a good way when everything is about our sexual orientation. All of this set me thinking about layers of discrimination. And, it set me thinking about the possibility that we were not the only ones being sold short or minimized by that level of so-called acceptance.

I wonder. Do we not minimize and distort the range of human diversity and individuality as well when we single out a group with such acceptance that we segregate them from the greater community? Is not that level of acceptance as harmful as identifying that group as somehow wrong or unnatural or evil…or otherwise less than others? And, do we not harm any hope of true human equality if we elevate the minority at the segregation of the majority? If any group accepts us by focusing on and agrandizing our sexual orientation, does that not minimize our overall human commonalities and individuality as people? My gut feeling is that the answer to all of these question is a resounding “yes.”

I may be wrong-headed here, but I believe that there is a point where claiming acceptance of a group only serves to further separate them from the “family of things” [as Mary Oliver would say]. I cannot speak for others, but I can say what I have strived for and desire as a person of same-sex orientation. What I want is to be seen as a fellow human being on the path of being an actualized human being and doing so in the greater community of other human beings. My sexuality is not the only aspect of who I am; it does not define me any more than having green eyes or being right-handed defines me. It is a biological fact of my personhood the same way as those other aspects of self. It is not all that I am. To single out that aspect of my existence is to lessen all the others. It also, sadly, lessens my heterosexual fellow humans; it reduces them to being merely heterosexuals as I am reduced to being a lesbian. This a natural outcome, however, of the human tendency to focus on differences rather than commonalities.

It is, actually, part of our biological preparedness for survival to discriminate, to distinguish differences, and to notice when things are possibly amiss. Biologically speaking, it is part of the hard-wired visual, olfactory and auditory survival instincts we were given to identify things in the environment such as resources and threats. It is also a facet of the serotonergically linked process of herding. It is a necessary set of abilities. However, as we have evolved as a species, the need for this ability has changed. Intellectually, and psychologically, we have been slow to adapt to the changes. We do not discriminate between safe nuts and berries anymore; we discriminate between types of people.

For me, the task of equality for all humans is about creating opportunities for all of us to learn more about the process of being human, of becoming people, and all the many ways that is, always, both a universal and individual process. And, how wonderful that is. There is more in our experiences as humans learning to be people that is common, and bonds us as such, than there is difference. How truly miraculous it would be if we could advance ourselves a little bit toward recognition of this.  I do not want to be seen as special in some way that ultimately makes me feel freakish. I would like to be part of a community of people who see me as they would see themselves, not as a person who is lesbian. I would like to be seen as a person with many facets, qualities, strengths and limitations, gifts and likes and dislikes. Is that not what it is to be a child of God? I don’t know. Perhaps I am mistaken.

Regardless, these are the things I have been thinking about. Maybe I have more questions than I do answers. So, next Sunday, we will go some place different. I know the right place is out there and I feel sure we will find it. At the very least, we know what we don’t want and that is half the discernment process. We are looking for common ground, not special ground. 

NOTE:  This work is published here as proprietary and may not be reproduced, distributed, sold, or otherwise utilized outside the posting on this site without the express permission of the author; these works are the sole property of the author writing as Androgynonamous or DreadPirateRobert.

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Turning of the Tide: Hump Day; Mid-week Musings

June 16, 2010 at 7:58 pm (Hump Day: Mid-week Musings)

Well, it is Wednesday again. As you know, I have taken some time to sort some things out and deal with some pretty significant practical things. I am back from my little sabbatical and have some things to talk about.

Firstly, I would like to say that we should all be proud of me for refraining from using this space to get on a socially conscious and politically oriented rant about the awful state of health care in this country–particularly, here in the South. I considered it more than once…but good sense prevailed and I worked that shit out in my head, rather than prattling on about it here. Those of you who follow me know that I have been struggling with the health care system here in order to acquire some assistance for the cancer I have and need to resolve.  I have been fooling around with various attempts to get assistance for over a year and was engaged in a lengthy, nearly unmanageable application process for a particular program for people who do not qualify for Medicaid due to lack of disability. My last visit to my sweet Scin was so short because I had to be back for a final appointment to determine whether I met the qualifications for this program. I met with them on Friday [June 11] and left the office with my laminated card showing I qualify and have coverage. It took six months and virtually no personal, financial or health related stone was left unturned in my life by the end of it all, but I can now have the surgery I need. I know there are a few of you–members of my tribe–who have been standing by with me to see how this all played out and I wanted you know that we are in the good. I also wanted to take a moment to thank you [you know who you are] for all of your very kind, warm and encouraging support. It has been a big source of comfort for you all to be here with me–with us–and I am grateful. The best thing about having started this little blog venture has been the finding of kin and the building of what I believe will be some strong lasting relationships for me…and for Scin and me as a couple. You guys really are the best.

That said, I have my appointment with the surgeon on June 21. I may not talk much about all of those details here, but those of you in the tribe will be kept informed. Rest assured.

There are other things going on as well that are worth some discussion. It should be obvious to anyone who reads me that I have a kind of spiritual, quasi-mystical bent that runs through my overall philosophy of life. I really do believe that there is a benevolent presence in the universe that walks with us and works with us to co-create the deeper form and function of our lives. I believe that the only thing that separates us from this is lack of awareness–it is there in this kind of quantum, vibratory and pervasive way whether we realize it or not. Once we become aware of it, the movement of it in our lives and the world around us becomes so clear at times that it is overwhelming. I have said before that an example of this, for me, is in the way in which Scin and I found a way to each other again. My talking to friends trying to find her after our break-ups and changing phone numbers and addresses. My almost obsessional writing of poems about reunions and reconnections. Scin waking in the night to write about us. Both of us writing and practically speaking into being the thing we now share between us. All resulting in Scin spending half the next day after writing of us tracking me down. Synchronicity is a powerful thing. There has been another round of that kind of thing lately.

For example, a few weeks ago, Scin emailed an old friend to inquire about possible free-lance work from the company for which the friend had been working. The friend connected her with the director. What actually transpired is the very real promise of an actual day job doing what she does best. The phone call and discussion of intents and preliminary details came today. We are very happy about this turn of events. I am thrilled and very proud of her. It will be wonderful to see her working at the level of her talent, skill, and potential again. Meanwhile, I attended a job fair on Tuesday. I have always maintained that if I could get in front of an actual person, I could make the connections needed to at least get an interview. The job fair proved this.

I left there with several promising connections. One of the last people I talked to was the representative for a  national education and career instruction institute. She and I hit it off as well and she recognized the things I am capable of–more than that, she understood that what I need is for someone to give me a break and give me a shot at this career change thing. She was clearly impressed with me and said that she would pass my resume on, that day, to the Assistant Director of Education in regard to a part-time position teaching medical coding and billing. Yesterday afternoon–the very same day–the ADE called me to ask some questions about finer points in my background and basically phone-interview me.  As I was writing this, the Director of Education called me and we hit it off right away. We had a marvelous, but short, conversation and I have an interview with her on Friday morning. It gets better. The position is not part-time as we thought; it is full-time. [Some of you know what this means: more finger crossing, turning 3 times and spitting. It should be over soon guys. The developing arthritis should heal up in no time. LMAO]

Other interesting tidbits of the day are also significant. I met today with Scin’s new landlord here and managed to convince him to rip out the old, circa 1970s carpet and get down to the wood floors. Scin and I were concerned about the possible negative affects on her son’s asthma. But, mostly, Scin hated it–in truth, I did too. So, the landlord and I are going in on Saturday morning to start ripping out the awful carpet. It will be better for the asthma issue too. And, since I love the kid much more than I ever expected, I am very pleased. The landlord also is leaving the mower at the house because he doesn’t really want to store it and is thinking about a fair price to sell it to me. Saves buying a new one. He is a cool guy. So, I will not only be refinishing quite a few pieces of furniture for my darling Scin and her new house; I will also be making it prettier by cleaning up the wood floors. Ah, the beginning of the husbitch tasks can’t get any better! I love to tear things up and make them better.

So, things are looking up all around. Scin and I are finding ways to move through all the normal stresses of such big change and good things are happening all around. The tide is turning. And, for me anyway, it is all evidence of the marvelous–in the true sense–way in which the benevolent universe works. I’m enjoying this. Very much, indeed. I cannot wait to see what is in store for me…and for us as the journey of our life together unfolds. And, I am hopeful.

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Coming Out In A Different Way: Mid-week Musings

May 26, 2010 at 11:49 pm (Hump Day: Mid-week Musings) (, , , , )

There are some things I have not, as yet, talked about here. I have decided that perhaps it is as good a time as any to put it all here and start talking about some significant things in my life. I came to this decision for a few reasons. One is that I need to be true to the venture, here on this forum, that Scin was so encouraging of and which has been such an affirming and validating experience for me. Another reason is that recent events have caused me to contemplate some things differently than I have been [this will be clear shortly].  And, finally, I have already begun to talk here about some of the related issues, such as my experiences with how the world at large relates to my androgynous appearance, and my gender identification issues. So, why not start talking even more openly about the big stuff?

So, there is kind of a story to tell here about some ongoing issues and why I am writing this. This week, I made an appointment to see my GYN because…well…I was feeling a little out of balance, so to speak. And, with a visit to Scin coming up I wanted to be all well and perky. But, there were other things I wanted to talk to him about–things Scin and I have talked about and we wanted to see what his take was on the issue. It is important to know that my GYN is a very cool guy. Very hip to certain things and just a hell of a good doctor. He also meets me where I am, as I am, and, interestingly, treats me like one of the guys in many ways. I wanted to talk to him about some issues I have never really discussed with anyone but Scin. Which led to my talking about them some here.  I wanted to talk to him about the gender identification issues I had growing up, how I feel about them now, and the possible roles of testosterone in some health issues I have not divulged to you here.  

Had it not been for these health concerns, I would not have raised the issue I was now bringing to him because, until my reunion with Scin, I never felt a desire to talk about it. It was one of the many things in my life that I had worked out on my own, adjusted to, made peace with and accepted.  I am a fairly well-adjusted person and I am OK with myself and my world. I actually like myself, just as I am.  Nothing to talk about really. Until, that is, it occurred to me there might be some bearing on my health. You see, there are some existing issues that only a short list of people know about and about which I have been silent.

Let me give you the back story here, if I may. About 10 years ago now, I began to develop some kind of quirky medical symptoms. Nothing serious at the time, but stuff that was annoying and needed to be treated. So, in my mid-30s, I was diagnosed with IBS, early full-onset menopause, chronic fatigue syndrome and ADHD. Well, hell…oh, look; a bunny…I could have told them about the ADHD!  Over time, things got worse. I began having symptoms that were musculoskeletal and neuromuscular. I started having serious fatigue. They tested me for MS. No lesions. I changed my diet, started working out more regularly, and got better for a while.  Then, about 4 years ago, those symptoms returned and I started getting worse. More checks for MS. Then, I got even worse. They began to suspect ALS. However, later, when I started to have seizure-like episodes and cardiac symptoms, they began to look at other things. Turns out, I was about to kick the bucket from a life-threatening but highly treatable thing no one had bothered to look for. We discovered I suffered, severely at that point, from pernicious anemia–lack of ability to manufacture or effectively process B12. Good news, as far as I was concerned. So, I started the shots of monthly B12 I will take for the rest of my life–so that I can have a rest of my life. No big deal. Most of the symptoms have gotten better. Some remain.

In the meantime, in 2008, I had an incident that caused me to need a chest x-ray. There were some incidental findings in my thyroid. We kept up with the little solid-nodule-bastards. They doubled in a year. Last year, about this time, they decided to do the biopsy. This revealed early stage cancer. As we know, I have been underemployed for some time and I have no insurance. I have been the last six months trying to get assistance to have the surgery and treatment I need. Because I am not disabled, I do not qualify for Medicaid. I have been fooling around with an assistance program in my county for several months. Over this period, I have not been feeling so great. I work out daily. I eat right. I take care of myself. Still, after a year and a half of B12, I cannot build stamina past a certain point. And, I am still working to regain the weight I lost over the period of a few months 4 years ago. I am making progress, but it is slow and is not great progress.

What has this to do with the gynecologist, you might ask. Well, there is a story to that too. As I have discussed, I never felt like a girl, never felt quite like this was the gender I was supposed to be. Like being gay, it was one of those things I came to terms with on my own. And, I have been able to be in this body, make friends with it, and be fairly happy. My reunion with Scin has made some of the finer points of my gender issues more accessible and understandable for me simply because, for the first time, I really had a place to talk about it.  For example, I have never very much enjoyed the way most of my lovers performed oral sex. It was like foreplay. Or, it was downright annoying.  I prefered attention to my shaft, rather than the head of my clitoris. Most of the time, it wasn’t worth trying to explain. So, I developed methods, as we all do, for getting my needs met and moving on. Scin and I have rectified this, thankfully.  I am very happy, indeed, with the treatment my man-clit now receives, thank you very much.

Since my relationship with Scin, I have come to understand my body a bit more…it is true that there is a second sexual prime in your 40s! Having such a hot and interested partner helps too. At any rate, due to Scin’s unique experience with those of us true-from-birth-butches, she and I began to put some things together. Our discoveries about the nature of my genitals and their preferences, our awareness of my body structure and the way I build muscle, as well as the obvious factors like my butchness and androgyny, led us to consider the possibility that my free testosterone levels might be, perhaps, a little elevated from the norm and always have been.  Given my professional training and my particular areas of study, I began to contemplate the possible affects that higher than usual levels of T might have on the health issues I am facing. I began to wonder if it might play a role in the continued fatigue, failure to build stamina efficiently, and continued difficulty gaining weight. I also considered the reverse: that I may have had higher than normal levels and that this was normal for my body; but that they may now be decreased due to the wonkiness of my thyroid. So, given the benevolent universe provided me a reason to go to the doctor and spend money, I decided to get my money’s worth and discuss some of these issues with him.

We talked about my postulations and questions about the role of testosterone. We discussed the fact that there just isn’t enough research to determine how it might impact my particular health issues, but that common sense understanding of T would suggest there might be some interplay. And, he agreed that it is highly possible I have, by nature, elevated levels. He pointed out there is no point, right now, in checking levels since the cancer is still in my thyroid–it would be difficult to know what is or is not doing what at this point. We had a bit of fun too. He validated for me the likely role of T levels in regard to the particular form and functions of my manly clit. [To avoid some significant TMI, I’m keeping that between me, Scin and my doctor…] And, he validated the likely affects upon the gender identity issues I have had and to which I have adapted over time. He was, as I expected, highly informed on the issue, supportive, and not surprised at all. We discussed the possibility that it too would likely affect my fairly significant sex drive and…well…the fact that I am kind a male pig of sorts. We laughed a lot. And, we discussed all sorts of factors in genetic [as in, of or to do with cellular decisions made in the genomes of cells] predispositions to lesbianism, butchness, and the like. So, although my GYN has been aware of my sexual preference and my androgynous appearance, he had not known about the gender identification struggles I had growing up. He knows now. That is one thing I came out about this week. The important outcome is that he agreed I need to raise these questions to my primary doctor in order to improve my ongoing case for increasing my replacement B12.

So, to sum all of this up, I am coming out here, in this place with you, about a few things. Firstly, I have a nasty little autoimmune disorder called pernicious anemia that I have to deal with daily. It forces me to accept that I cannot do some things I used to…or that, at the least, I cannot do them the way I used to do them. It is, however, OK. I prefer it to the other disorders I might have had. And, I give myself my own shots. It really is no big deal. I’m just not quite as perky for quite as long as I used to be.  But who is? Especially, at 46.

Secondly, I have cancer. There. I said it. In black and white. In public. Having said that, I should say that I do really believe it will all work out and will be resolved. And, I am all right. At least for now. If you are going to have cancer, thyroid is the best to have. And, it is early stage. My thyroid still basically works. But getting it taken care of, locating and accessing resources to do so, and developing a plan for getting it done, are intensely frustrating ventures. And, as the whole thing drags on, it does create some stress. It is particularly hard on my family. It is hard for them to watch me fight for resources and wait for help. It is very hard, too, on Scin. She worries. I remind her to have faith. I reassure her. And, I trust. I trust the God of my understanding is taking care of me…as has always been the case. [Example: perncious anemia vs. ALS.]

And, finally, I am coming out fully on the whole gender identity thing. No more baby steps. No more dancing around the issue.  As Scin has helped me to describe it, I am a non-transitioning, transgendered male–and happy in my own skin. [You can call me Li, by the way.] I have come to like and appreciate this phraseology. It feels more positive than saying I have never felt female. It is an affirmative designation. Rather than a negative statement of what is not the case, it is a positive statement of what is a state of being for me. And, I am happy as I am. I am happy in my skin–especially as since I have the gift of love from a woman who gets me and gets my body. It is so refreshing. And, liberating. [And, the many ways in which she gets my body and very hot, very satisfying…but that is another story.]

So, there it is. I’m out in all the ways I possibly can be. Oh, wait; I forgot one. I am a closet Elvis fan. There. All neat and tidy and out in the open.

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Reinventing Myself: Mid-week Musings

May 19, 2010 at 8:53 pm (Hump Day: Mid-week Musings)

Well, it is hump day again and it has been an interesting day.  I had the opportunity to spend some time today with a friend I have not had time to see in quite a while. She and I had a lot of catching up to do. One of the things we talked about was my progress–or lack thereof, really–on the job front. 

As I have mentioned before, prior to my decision to reinvent myself in my 40s, I was a mental health professional. I was both a counselor and a clinical director. My focus was inpatient, crisis stabilization. This meant that my knowledge and skill base was [is] more far-reaching than the average therapist. Due to my dual roles as a clinician and a clinical director, I had to learn an enormous amount of medical terminology, procedures and protocols, general information and practical skills. I was, for example, a certified medication technician; I was certified in seizure management; I was trained to take, record and interpret vital signs, as well as to perform withdrawal  assessment scales and assessments of other intervention values such as levels of psychosis. [I even developed, with our medical director, many of the assessment tools we used.] And, I was able to assist my nurse manager in the training of our staff.  Since the issues we treated were primarily psychiatric, I have had a great deal of medical training outside of my degree and professional certification. My knowledge of medications, their actions and interactions is almost scary. I can take blood pressures, pulses and respirations in my sleep–and do it the old-fashioned way by actually counting them rather than reading a machine. It is amazing how much of that crap I have retained despite not using it every day for over 3 years. But, then, I was very good at my job. In fact, I have a knack for it and for science in general.

My friend is a paramedic.  She is very bright, very well-trained and good at what she does.  She is also younger than I am and wise beyond her years.  Her intelligence, wit and wisdom are factors in our friendship–these things and a shared love of motorcycles, girls, and playing guitar. [And, did I mention love of girls?] So, anyway, we were catching up and talking about the whole job hunting thing–my worry over running out of savings, my struggle to not lose faith in myself, and my frustrations with trying to find a decent job, let alone a managerial and/or directorial position. You see, I have continued to think of myself as, primarily, an administrator and manager. The other skills I have were things I associated with being a clinical person. And, that is something I no longer want to do. So, all the medical skills and knowledge were not factors I considered when I thought about seeking a new career. It all seemed like the stuff that belonged in the “out-with-the-old” wagon. Until, that is, I talked to my friend.

She pointed out to me that reinvention did not mean throwing the baby out with the bath water. [Again, wisdom beyond her years.] And, she reminded me of a conversation we had late one night well over a year ago. The conversation centered around what was initially a joke:  “you could always become a paramedic and ride around with me in the middle of the night.” At the time, I did not see how I could make that work and it did not seem like such a great idea.  It seemed, then, like I would be wasting my potential in some way. It does not seem that way now.  The truth is, as my friend reminded me, I have a knack for things medically clinical…and I am good with crises and with people. Hell, I’ve got some experience with crises and I have seen some shit. The main piece of information she gave me today that helped me turn a corner is this: to get started, I only have to have the EMT certification; and, I can get that in a matter of weeks. I can then work while I attend school for the medic training.

A matter of weeks…it doesn’t take as long as I thought.  And, since I am already degreed, I do not have to mess with all the general college crap for either the EMT or the paramedic training.  Thus, my time would be shortened anyway. Wheels started turning in my feeble brain…Ideas began to take shape.  I asked one more question about whether being a paramedic could lead to other things.  Turns out, there are programs that will, in a short time [relatively speaking], take you from a medic to a RN or a PA–especially, if you are already degreed. My friend, for example, is looking at the local accelerated PA programs. “Well”, I thought…”how about them apples?”

We talked some more. We talked about how much better she feels in her own skin and how much better her life is since she came out. We even took time to discuss really important things like the women we love, the beauty of female breasts, the simplicity and power of the clitoris, and the incredible wonder of vaginas. We talked about motorcycles. And, we talked about how well we think her boy will get along with Scin’s son. Oh, and grilling out; we talked about all of us sharing food too. We covered all the major stuff. And, by the time she left, I had made the decision to follow-up with my local unemployment office to apply for the retraining funds I am eligible for.

A matter of weeks for training. Job placement assistance. A few weeks to get a position starting out working as an EMT. I can find a way to pay the bills for a few more weeks–for a couple of months. Especially, given there is a relatively quick pay off in terms of getting back to work. As well as job security. And, income while going on for the paramedic certification. I can live with that. It is a good option for me. It is a good way to use and build upon the best of my old profession, the best of my previous skill sets. It is a good way for me to still be of service, to be of use to others, without having to return to mental health care. And, as my friend pointed out, perhaps the very best part is…I get to wear a uniform. Scin really likes the idea of the uniform. I must admit, I do too.

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Hump Day: Mid-week Musings

April 22, 2010 at 7:51 am (Hump Day: Mid-week Musings)

Well, yes; it is Thursday and not Wednesday.  I am a day late posting this. I had some running around to do which will be clear if you read on. So, I’m sorry I am late.  But, at least, I got this finished.  I hope you all have a great rest of the week.

Family of Choice

There is an old saying that reminds us we can choose our friends, but we can’t choose our families.  And, as we know, this is true; families are the results of genetic and environmental randomness.  [At least, on the surface. There are many of us who believe that, metaphysically, there may be more to it than that—but, that’s another topic.]  Sometimes, families work out well for all concerned; sometimes, they don’t.  Those of us who are not heterosexual, in particular, often learn the hard way that we need to create a family of choice to supplement—if not replace—our family or origin. This is true, also, for other folks who are different in some way or other from the cultural and familial norm into which they were born.

In many ways, I, personally, have been very lucky. My parents, overall, are and have been good parents and my brother and I are close.  In addition, I have good relationships with most of my cousins, aunts and uncles, and extended family members.  But, this was not the case with one of my mother’s sisters and her offspring. My aunt and her husband are fundamentalist Christians, fairly opinionated, and just plain quirky. The products of their joining aren’t much better. They had three children [a female and two males] who have grown into self-righteous, judgmental, entitled and—often—down right hateful people.  Just so you know, however, they love God and are just following God’s law in their judgment and treatment of others. Especially me. From the time I was five or six, it was clear that I was different in many ways. I liked to draw. I was active and energetic, but could also get lost in some drawing, book or music. I liked to be alone as much as I liked to play hard. They did not get me. That was fine; I did not get them either. Over the years, we all sort of accepted that we would never have chosen each other.

After I came out, our amicable acceptance of each other become much less civil. About ten years ago, when our grandmother died of ALS, my cousins crossed a line; they moved from a more obvious expression of our mutual dislike and their conviction I am evil and going to hell to a very public shunning of me and punishment of my brother—after all, he had the sad lot of having been born into the same family as I. It is one thing to disrespect and shun me; it is quite another to mistreat my brother. I get my butch daddy back up about my baby brother.  On the day of the funeral, the two male cousins noticed my brother and I walking toward the seats set aside for the grandchildren. The oldest, Kevin, rounded up all of his and his younger brother’s children, sat them in the remaining seats and made sure that my brother and I had nowhere to sit with the family. He and his brother stared at us as they protected their families from the queer cooties that might infect them. It was a gesture not lost on anyone there.  It was humiliating and everything in me wanted to champion my brother.  I wanted to kick some serious ugly-cousin ass.

But, I didn’t. I loved my grandmother and we were very close. I was also one of the few grandchildren who loved our grandfather and wasn’t afraid of him. [He could be a bit hard around the edges.] So, out of respect for my mother’s mother, I walked over to the side of the room and found some seats in the hallway designated to handle overflow. Three of our other cousins saw what happened, left their seats, and came to sit in the hall with us.  These are wonderful women.  They, of course, were born to my mother’s other sister—we are family, if you get my meaning. It was a beautiful moment.  Our homophobic other cousins watched in horrified puzzlement. It was like walking in your first pride march and having your family fall into line with you. The girls might as well have grabbed up some swords from the isle of Lesbos and cut the dicks off of Kevin and Brian.  They looked completely emasculated.

In the midst of all of that mess, there was another thing was both affronting and vindicating for me. A few weeks before she died, I had sent my grandmother a notebook I compiled of small drawings and poems I had created for her.  When my brother and I saw her in the hospital, she had it with her on her nightstand. During the funeral, I became aware—through the tears and sense of loss—that the preacher was saying something about poems written by one of the grandchildren.  As I mentioned, the evil male cousins have an evil sister. She fancies herself special and has a highly developed sense of entitlement. Apparently, she nosed around in grandma’s things and came across my poems. She then made copies for the aunts and uncles and the cousins. In addition, she provided the preacher with a copy so he could choose sections to read. 

So, I am sitting there grieving the loss of my grandmother and realize that the preacher is talking about me and reading from my poems to her. My private words to her were being read at the funeral as tribute to my grandmother. I was a mess.  I felt violated by my cousin. But I was also deeply moved that the preacher saw what I had written to her, recognized the descriptions of her as loving and appropriate, and felt we would all be lifted up by hearing some of those words. It was not his fault that I was not consulted. His reading of my words to her was a kind and beautiful thing. So, now, my hateful cousins were looking over at me sitting in my outcast seat, surrounded by love and acceptance. There we were in solidarity—arms across shoulders, hands linked, joined in grief and affection, each remembering our grandmother in our own ways as the preacher read small celebrations of her written by the black sheep, dyke granddaughter.  As they glared at us, you could see their confused recognition that it was not me or my brother who had been exiled. They were in exile, in more ways than one, and were there of their own choosing. 

I think of this now because my cousin, Kevin, went into the hospital Wednesday morning after suffering a massive heart attack. He is in a hospital about 30 miles away from me. As I write this, we are not sure he will live. Besides us, he is the only member of the family who lives in the south. The rest of the family, including his parents, all live in Indiana and Ohio. At the very same time, the father of one of my closest and dearest friends is in the hospital under similar and very severe circumstances.

So, you may wonder, where am I in all of this. Well, I am with my friend who is like a sister to me and whose father is like an uncle in my family of choice. I took her kids to daycare and will pick them up today while she waits as her father has surgery. I will help with the kids and I will be around for her. My friend. My sister of choice. I will not be at the hospital with my cousin. I’m sure he doesn’t want me there any more than I want to go. It would not serve anything good for me to be there.  Still, I find myself kind of sad that things are as they are. He is an ass; but, he is my cousin. He is family. And, it would be nice if we had been able to have the kind of relationship I have with my other cousins.

But, that is not the case. We would never have chosen each other. And, knowing that makes it easy to choose to be close to home where I can be supportive and helpful to my friend. I’ll be here with my family of choice. As I said, I am lucky. My family of choice includes my parents, my brother, and some really wonderful people who are not the blood of my blood, but might as well be. I choose all of them. And, I am all the better for it.

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Hump Day: Mid-week Musings

April 14, 2010 at 8:20 pm (Hump Day: Mid-week Musings) (, , )

Where You Least Expect It…

More than once, I have discussed some of the issues, frustrations and complications of reinventing myself in my mid-forties and career shopping in this strange and delicate economy.  Meanwhile, each week I have continued my basic routine: daily searches of job boards, City and County jobs, postings in the local paper, etc.; completing  job applications; and, running myself ragged trying to work at whatever odd landscaping jobs I can get.  I am sure many of you know that serious job hunting is, itself, a full-time job.  Trying work at something in the process can be overwhelming. Oddly, I think the manual labor has actually kept me from becoming completely exhausted.  I know that it definitely has kept me from coming unglued as I fret over securing a living wage before I run out of all my savings and lose my house.  I have been going at this pace for over two years…and without much light at the end of the tunnel showing itself.

Each week, I have faithfully applied for an average of six jobs.  It is often more like nine or ten in a week.  Sometimes, I apply for several in one day.  Often this is the case as, most days, there are not a lot of jobs that I could actually apply for with any credibility or hope.  I usually apply for jobs that are applicable to my skill sets and overall experience–in other words, management jobs, non-profit or other program directorships, human resources related jobs…or, just plain retail, low-level management jobs.  This week–Monday, in fact–I branched out and applied for a job that is not at all related to anything I have ever done.  It is a job I have actually thought about for a long time.  You know, the “wouldn’t-it-be-groovy-if,” kind of job.  I applied on a kind of lark.  Oh, what the hell?…why not?

You see, I have been going about this thing in a very methodical and practical way for a long time.  Applying for things for which, either, I have previous related experience or for which I have similar skill sets and which I could quickly learn.  For example, at the end of last week, I even applied for a job with the local Employment Security Commission.  This is a State position.  They wanted someone with either social work or counseling experience [that’s me], or staffing experience with a focus on hiring and interviewing [again, that’s me].  I thought this was perfect since I have both sets of skills and experience.  The folks at the ESC thought it was a great idea for me to apply–who better to assist others with finding a job than a person who has all the required skill sets and has been job hunting for over two years?  The application deadline was last Friday.  I have not heard a word from them.  This is the case with most of the jobs for which I apply.

So, Monday when I saw this other job, I was intrigued.  It is a fitness trainer position with a local center that has its own training program and trainer certification process.  For some time now, I have thought that it would be really neat if I could somehow become certified and work as a fitness trainer.  Afterall, I was a good counselor largely because I am really good at empowering and motivating people.  And, I love to work out.  I could spend my whole day in a gym and be in hog heaven.  But, I had no real way of becoming certified and I figured I should focus on what I know and apply for things similar to what I have done. 

For some reason, however, when I saw the ad in the paper, I could not pass it up.  So, I hammered out a cover letter and emailed it along with my resume to the email provided in the posting.  It was not much more than an hour later when my cell phone rang.  The guy was calling to set up an interview with me!  He was even calling on the same day I applied!  I nearly fell down into the pile of river rock I had been arranging.  I have applied and applied for countless jobs for which I am either over-qualified or perfectly suited to and I have not had so much as a phone interview in months.  Then, the job I apply for largely for shits and giggles turns out to be the one for which I am going to interview.  Go figure.  Or, as my mom would say:  who would have thunk it?

While, all along, I have had faith that things will work out, for the first time in some long months now, I have some real sense of a possible turning of the tide.  And, not directly because I finally have the opportunity interview.  The reason I feel some sense of light breaking after a long night is, also, more like a kind of faith thing.  It is not the interview itself; it is that the interview is for a job that seems completely nutty and far-fetched.  It is the opportunity out of the blue.  It is the road not even considered a real course, let alone traveled.  It is the least expected option in a universe of more reasonable options.

It has been my experience at many points in my life that, when the next right thing comes, it is often the last thing I expected–that when the best thing that could happen actually happens, it turns out to be something I had given up on entirely or never even imagined.  And, it comes quite unexpectedly.  Usually, when things are darkest.  Or, when I have settled into settling, become content with being basically content.

An example that I think best describes the kind of serendipity–and, perhaps, synchronicity–I am talking about is the reunion Scin and I were able to bring about in our lives.  Sometimes, the thing you think you lost turns up in a drawer you thought you looked in a hundred times; or, it was in the pocket of your favorite jeans all along.  Sometimes, the thing you think you really screwed up presents itself anew.  Sometimes, we do get second chances.  Often, when we least expect it. And, in many cases, it ends up being the next right thing. The best thing that could ever happen. The thing, in our slumber, we dreamed of but never expected would happen. 

Sometimes, the phone rings and we answer.  We answer, recognize the voice, and we speak our truth–boldly, bravely, and with heartfelt intent.  “I’ve been thinking of you for a long time and have been trying to find your new number.  There are things I want to say to you.”

And, the response we get is:  “I’ve been thinking of you too…in fact, I woke up in the middle of the night last night and had to get out of bed to write about us.”  Sometimes, the phone rings.  And, we answer.  And, it changes our lives forever.  For the better.

Sometimes, the phone rings and we answer.  And, a voice says, “I received your resume and I was calling to see if you’d be interested in an interview.”  Sometimes, when we least expect it, a bell rings. A door opens.

NOTE:  This work is published here as proprietary and may not be reproduced, distributed, sold, or otherwise utilized outside the posting on this site without the express permission of the author; these works are the sole property of the author writing as Androgynonamous or DreadPirateRobert.

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Hump Day: Mid-week Musings

April 7, 2010 at 9:11 pm (Hump Day: Mid-week Musings)

Yard Butch:  A Day in the Life

As many of you know, I left my profession some time ago and set out on the path of re-inventing myself in my mid-forties.  While I have been career shopping, I have also been eking out a meager living doing landscaping and lawn care.  It is not a bad gig, really.  I get peace and quiet…well, relative quiet in the white noise of weed-eaters and mowers…and, I get to work with a close friend, Ed, who is like another father to me.  I also get to do something that, overall, I like and enjoy.  It is preferrable to my old clinical profession.  

Generally speaking, grass and foliage do not talk out of turn, refuse to take their meds, try to elope, or make me have to get out of bed and go to work in the middle of the night to complete a transfer to a State hospital or have someone arrested for threatening my staff or another client.  I’m not on-call even when it is not my rotation.  I do not have to go in on the weekends to do second opinions on involuntary commitments.  And, I do not have to get up in the middle of the night to cover someone’s shift because she called off work at the last minute.  I get to be outside.  And, I get to do a lot of hard manual labor–this saves a fortune in gym fees.  The worst thing I have to deal with is a temperamental two-stroke weed-eater. 

Or, the stares, whispered remarks, and–sometimes–the confused, offended comments or scornful expressions of people who see me and become befuddled.

Picture this.  The local yard butch:  a too-thin, androgynous woman with moderately well-defined but kind of corded muscles, mowing the yard or laying the rock for a landscaped garden.  I am dressed in a tank-top, beat up work boots, torn up blue jeans and a ball cap or do-rag–depending on my mood.  All of this adorns a body that really has no hips to speak of…and, where most females have breasts, I have pectoral muscles and nipples.  Oh, and, I should mention the presence of the wrap around black shades.  [These protect my eyes from the crap the weed-eater throws out.  And, they look kind of hot.]  Often, the pattern of my boxers shows through the holes and tears in my jeans. There is no doubt it is a confusing sight.

There are several points in the average day when the confusion is obvious.  One of these  is the lunch experience.  The other yard grunts–who actually are male–give me the “hey-dyke, what-are-doing-on-our-turff” stare.  Or, on a good day, they give me the head nod of kinship.  I nod back.  Then, there is the restroom experience.  I can always tell when folks are watching to see which door I enter.  I swagger a little more just for fun.  The best fun is always when there are women my mother’s age in the restroom when I enter or when I come out of the stall to wash my hands.  They seem to get the most frustrated by me.

Today, I waited behind a woman who was at the sink washing her hands.  She developed a mildly aggravated expression and glared at me in the mirror as she washed.  I smiled at her.  As she was leaving, she stopped for a moment, and turned her head toward me as if she were going to speak.  Then, she looked down and left.  I guess she thought better of whatever she was going to say.   Even though I accept who I am and, overall, enjoy my ambiguous walk through the world I’ve been given, these times in the women’s room are the most uncomfortable.  This woman had the grace to not provide me with the customary clarification of which restroom I had entered.  When I sat down for lunch, I told Ed about my encounter in the restroom.  We laughed.  We ordered.  We laughed at the looks I had gotten from the family beside us who prayed together over their meal and watched us.  Ed reminded me that the waitress knew I was a woman.  Indeed, she did.

After lunch today, Ed and I went to the decorative rock lot to get another ton of river rock for a job.  We sort of know the old guy, Rick, who owns the place because we have bought from him a few times.  He is thin, clearly alcoholic, friendly and fairly competent.  He has a great sense of humor.  For some reason, he likes me.  So, he winked at me when he drove the fork lift up to the back of the trailer.  He usually winks at me at least once and jokes with me about Ed being a true foreman and making me do all the work.  [This is kind of true, but only because Ed can’t do at 62 years old what he could at my 46 years of age.  He is still a work horse of a man.] So, Rick dropped the load of rocks on the trailer and I walked over to get the metal gate for the trailer so we could put it back on.  Here comes scrawny old Rick to help me set the gate–the thing is about 8 feet wide and is not a light piece of trailer gate.  Ed was on his way, but there was Rick to help me.  He grinned at me and said, “you work too hard, girl.” 

I nodded.  “Well, I was raised to work hard…it’s in my blood,” I said laughing.  Rick advised me that once it is in your blood, work is all you know or all you need to feel good about yourself.  I smiled.  Inwardly and outwardly.  The three of us put the gate back and Ed and I headed for the truck.  Rick was waving.  We waved too.  In the truck, Ed observed that Rick treats me like a woman, but also like an equal–which means, really, he treats me like a person, a person who he respects as a hard worker and a decent person.  I acknowledged this little fact.  Ed said:  “pretty neat, huh, little girl?”

I laughed.  He does his best to understand and be supportive.  It is good. “Yea, pop…pretty neat.”  And, you read correctly; Ed calls me “little girl.”  He is the only person alive who can do that and still be alive afterward.  It is all right with me.  This is why:  one, he is well over 6 feet tall and weighs over 250 lbs–I am little compared to him; and, two, he knows me and accepts me…and, finally, he loves me like I am his daughter.  I love him as if he is my other father.  He looks at me and sees only the person he loves, respects and, often, admires.  I see the same when I look at him.  And, in the grand scheme of my daily experiences in the world, his way of supporting me may be telling of his generation and enculturation, but it helps.  At the end of the day, I am the yard butch who–like anyone else–is much more than what is seen.

I am Li the yard butch.  I am daughter to Carolyn and David.  Sister to Shawn.  Lover of Scin.  I am her sweet baby boi.  I am her lesbian lover.  I am friend to quite a few; acquaintance to many.  Keeper of my own sense of self.  I am a sometime artist and writer.  I am alpha master to my dog, Big Girl.  I am a lover of good food, good music and the writings of Thomas Merton.  I am a kind of Eastern-thinking, gnostic-pagan-Christian.  Cousin and niece to a large family.  I am Scin’s anam cara and she is mine.  I am babe to my mother.  I am Ed’s little girl.  I am Li the…many things, all one.

NOTE:  This work is published here as proprietary and may not be reproduced, distributed, sold, or otherwise utilized outside the posting on this site without the express permission of the author; these works are the sole property of the author writing as Androgynonamous or DreadPirateRobert.

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