Girl “Friends”

I think about my childhood a lot.  I don’t really mean to, but it seems to be something that a lot of trans people talk about.  When did you know you were really a ___________ (pick a gender)?  This question always takes me back to my earliest memories and no where in there do I think I knew that I was anything other than different.  I’m not even sure if I knew that.  I just knew that what I wanted was at odds with what the authority figures in my life wanted.  I grew up in the dark ages, before the internet and reality tv.  No one knew anything about being transgender and no one ever said anything positive about gay people.  All of this was way too taboo and exotic.  My small town upbringing did not prepare me to live 30 years as a lesbian who is now living as a man.  I was ignorant about all of this stuff growing up and so was everyone I knew, even the authorities in my life.  How could I have known I was transgender at 4 years old?  I knew that I liked boy stuff and wanted to be like my brother and uncles.

I was a flower girl in my cousin’s wedding when I was about 7 years old.  I had no idea what that meant until the day of the wedding and they put me in a little light blue dress and stood me next to my male cousin who was the ring bearer.  He was wearing a black tuxedo.  Suddenly the difference in us just smacked me in the face like a wet dishrag.  I wanted to wear that tuxedo and I was so jealous of him.  It was experiences like this that I can tell you about where I felt jealousy because the boys got to do or wear things that I wanted to do or wear.  But I couldn’t tell you why that was.

And then there are friendships.  Friendship, for me, was complicated.  From an early age (5 or 6?), I got crushes on girls.  But I was expected to play with girls and develop friendships with them and get crushes on boys.  I tried.  Really, I did.  I could play with a girl as long as we could do what I wanted, but if she wanted to do really girly things, like play Barbie where I had to be one of the girl dolls, I was out of there.  I could deal with being Ken, but not Barbie.  Luckily, there weren’t all that many kids around for me to play with when I was young.  I lived on a short street with big houses on it that a lot of old people lived in.  We did not live in a big house.  We lived in a tiny bungalow that belonged to one of the big houses.  There was a seedy apartment building up the street from my house that mostly had single people who could barely pay their bills.  The place reeked of cigarettes and booze.  I hated going in there, but my one friend lived there.  His name was Scott.  I liked Scott because he was a real boy’s boy and he made me feel like a boy when we hung out.  We did boy stuff, whatever that was, and I didn’t have to worry about being the Barbie with him.  Occasionally, my mom would force me to play with his little sister because I really shouldn’t be friends with Scott.  I guess the adults were worried that we would end up having sex or something.  I don’t know what they were worried about, but I hated playing with his little sister.  Usually I managed to wiggle myself out of it after just a few minutes of torture.  I remember, one day being over at his apartment and his grandmother was there.  She gave me the most hateful look I had ever seen anyone give me.  I had no idea why she hated me so much, but every time I saw her she looked at me that way.

Scott moved away after a few years and I really never saw him again.  I didn’t really have friends until middle school.  I met this girl in band class who was new to me.  She was the prettiest girl I’d ever seen and I was immediately infatuated with her.  We became best friends and hung out together all the time.  We had sleep overs and participated in three-legged races and shit like that.  I would do anything I could to be near her.  This “friendship” of ours grew into a circle of girls who hung out together and did the sleep over thing and all that goes with it.  There was another girl in that group that I later developed a big crush on as well.  This circle of friends endured throughout high school and college, even though we all went different places.  Today, we are still friends and I’m out to all of them.

What I wonder about today is whether we were ever really friends and how different it would have been if I’d been born with a penis.  I mean, I was in love with two of them and what I really wanted wasn’t just friendship.  Of course, they had no idea how I felt at the time (or now, for that matter).  This was my big dark secret that I never told anyone.   I almost kissed one of them one time and I did tell her that I loved her, but you know, she just interpreted that as friendship love.  Life got really complicated when they were dating and going steady with boyfriends.  God that sucked.  I was so jealous of the boyfriends, yet I had to be nice to them and be happy for my “friend”.  I had crushes/feelings for these girls for a long time.  All through high school I was still obsessed with that original girl, even though she always had a handsome boyfriend.  And, to complicate things even more, I dated a couple of boys in high school on a semi serious basis.  It was, for me, way less serious than it probably seemed to my friends.  It was really just a cover for who I really was.  The boys I dated were nice guys that I liked as friends and had zero interest in as a romantic partner.  We never did anything more than kiss occasionally.

The fact that I’m still friends with my high school group is unusual and awkward now that I’m awake and knowledgeable about who and what I am.  Since they know I’m transitioning, I wonder whether they ever put pieces of our pasts together and truly understand why I was part of their group.  There’s a part of me that feels like I did something wrong all those years ago.  I know that I understood on some level, even back then, that I was not like them.  I feel like our friendships were built on a lie, or at least a falsehood.  It makes me feel like my whole life was built on a lie, like every relationship I had was false.  I was always just doing the best I could to pretend to really be a girl, but deep down I knew that I wasn’t.  I didn’t understand any of this at all, so I don’t blame myself.  And I don’t blame the world I grew up in either.  We were all navigating in the dark without a map or compass.  We were all ignorant.  Still, I wonder.  What do they think when they see me becoming my true self?  Do they realize that the thing that drew me to them was that I had a crush?  Do they wonder if we would have been friends if I’d been recognized as a boy?  Would we have dated?  I know for sure that I wouldn’t have been invited to the sleep overs.  And then I think that there was attraction on their part too, because, even in friendship, there is an attraction that brings people together.  I can honestly say that I did and do feel true friendship for these women and I cherish our long standing relationships.  I enjoy visiting with them and even like their husbands quite a bit.  Of the five women in my circle, I only had a crush on two of them.  One of them I don’t even really like at all, but the others do so we make nice with each other (it’s mutual).  I give this group of friends a lot of credit for helping me through my weird and awkward childhood and adolescent years.  They were my lifeline.  I don’t have any idea how I would have gotten through high school without them.  Still, I feel like I deceived them and that eats at me, even today.  I don’t still have those feelings for any of them and haven’t for a really long time.  At some point in high school I made a conscious decision to disengage from the notion of them as romantic partners.  It was too difficult to see them with their boyfriends and not even be able to tell them how I felt.  That’s probably when I started to date boys a little bit.

Unfortunately, I thought my story started and ended with my physical attraction to girls, so when I finally kissed a girl my freshman year of college and declared myself a lesbian, I thought that was the end of the story.  It took 30 years for me to realize that that was just the tip of the iceberg.  Unraveling my past and discovering who I really am has been like peeling the layers of an onion.  It’s taken a long time to get to the core of my onion and I’m not entirely sure I’ve arrived there yet, but I’m pretty close.  Processing through my relationship with these women, some of which I’ve known since kindergarten, has been just a small part of it.  Small, but vitally important.

Why I’m not a Butch

A couple of my readers have asked me to explain how I came to the conclusion that I was actually a Trans Man and not a Butch woman.  I’ve tried to write this post several times now and I keep running into problems with it.  It’s a complex question to answer.  The first problem is that I really never embraced  the identity of Butch.  Most of my life I identified as a Dyke or simply as a Lesbian.  I knew some older Butch women who dressed like men and had Femme wives and to my young feminist mind that was just too much like heterosexuality for my taste and I was turned off by it.  I was even in a relationship with a Butch for about seven years and she very much wanted me to be her Femme.  I didn’t have it in me and we mostly just stayed together because we loved each other as friends and enjoyed the company.  My current partner is a feminine woman but she isn’t really into Butch women.  She really was looking for someone who’s also a little feminine with a Tomboy side, what she refers to as CatFemme (her own category that she made up based on a woman named Cat that she found attractive a long time ago).  I guess she thought she might be able to mold me into more of a Femme but that didn’t really work out for her.  Instead, I got more masculine as the years went on.

Also of note is that I really didn’t know anything about the T in LGBTQ until about 7 or 8 years ago.  I didn’t understand what it meant to be Transgender until I had a friend who was MTF and she spent a lot of time educating me.  What I realized from talking to her over a period of time was that we were a lot alike, except the opposite.  Where she had hated having a beard, I’ve always felt jealous of men for their beards.  I hated dresses and frilly things and she dreamed of being able to wear them.  Pretty much everything I hated about being female she coveted and everything she hated about being a guy were things that I had always secretly felt envious of.  One day she asked me to read some psychological website that listed symptoms of transgenderism.  I related to pretty much every thing on the list.  After, she asked me what I thought and I told her that it sounded a lot like me.  This is how I realized that I was Transgender.  At the time, I kind of shrugged it off and said that it didn’t change anything.

But I was in denial.  Everything had changed.  How I saw myself and my future changed.  How I looked at my past changed.  I started to question my sexuality and my relationship.  Was I ever really a Lesbian?  A period of intense introspection began where I read everything I could about being FTM and Butch.  I thought about trying to embrace being a Butch to satisfy my emerging masculinity in order to avoid transitioning and keep my relationship safe.  My friend said to me once that she thought living all those years as a Lesbian had actually kept me from realizing I was Trans sooner.  She was right.  What had actually happened was that identifying as a Lesbian only answered part of the question for me.  It identified who and what I was sexually attracted to.  Women.  I thought that was the end of the story but it was actually just the tip of the iceberg.  It didn’t answer a deeper question of why I always dreamed of being male and fantasized about a life as a man constantly.  It didn’t answer why I occasionally felt like me and my Lesbian friends were different somehow.  Why I couldn’t relate to them on some levels.  It didn’t answer why I was so against the idea of ever being a mother or why I was so disgusted when someone referred to me as my partner’s wife.

Back in those days I remember thinking that this was like an onion.  I would peel a layer away and digest it and then another layer and digest that.  I didn’t know how many layers I’d have to go through to get to the heart of the matter.  Really, the heart of the matter boiled down to one thing.  I had never in my whole life ever felt like I was really female.  From my earliest memory, I had wanted to be a boy.  If I could remember further back I’d probably be able to tell you that I actually thought I was a boy until someone told me otherwise.  Every instinct in my mind and body was to be a boy when I was a little kid.  It was the adults who stressed that I was a girl and should act and do differently that taught me that I wasn’t a boy.  They brainwashed me to go against my own natural instincts and thought processes.  So, as many trans people do, I made the best of it and did what I could to play along and keep the peace.  I made a lot of compromises.  Living as a Lesbian was a compromise, even though I didn’t think that at the time.  It was as close as I could get to where I needed to be in order to be happy.

So it should be pretty evident at this point that I was never a Lesbian and I was never a Butch.  I was born a Transgender Male.  I just didn’t know it until I was about 47 years old.  There’s no way I could have known about what I didn’t know existed.  Once I understood, though, everything made a whole lot more sense to me.  I spent a lot of time trying to decide whether I was a Butch or a Trans Man but, honestly, I think I was just in denial and trying to find a way around transitioning.  The bottom line is that Butch’s are women.  They are happy being women and being seen as women.  They are masculine women.  Their gender expression is masculine and sometimes very male appearing, but they are women and do not wish to change that.  Trans Men do not want to be seen as women and are not happy being forced to live as a woman.  This is the line in the sand as far as I’m concerned and for myself.  Lesbians are women and enjoy being women.  They might not love make up or dresses but they are still women and proud of it.  There are Butch women who elect to have Top Surgery to remove their breasts and some even take a little testosterone, but most do not want to transition fully to male.  They want to still live as women.  Masculine women.  Are some of them Transgender?  Possibly, but that is for them to decide.  I think there’s a fine line between Butch and FTM and the deciding factor is how you want the world to see you and how you see yourself.  Personally, I came to the conclusion that I was really male my entire life and that I’d been brainwashed into believing otherwise, so I was never really a Lesbian or a Butch.  I just got tired of hiding my masculine side as I got older and let it out more which made me appear Butch, even to myself.

This really is a complex issue and there is a lot of over-lap between the two identities at times.  What I wrote here is purely my opinion and reflects my own experiences.  I know that others will feel differently about this subject and that is their right.  I was asked how I came to the conclusion that I was Trans and not Butch and I have tried my best to answer that question as clearly and thoroughly as possible.  It is my hope that this helps someone figure out who they really are one day.

 

P.S. I want to say that I actually loved being a Lesbian in a lot of ways and it’s been really hard to let go of that identity.  It was hard to embrace it initially, but once I did, I found it to be a very enriching and enlightening experience.  I feel fortunate to have gotten to live those years as a Lesbian and get to know so many great women.  I was able to attend the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival twice in my younger days and still feel a deep appreciation for those experiences.  Lesbian culture is rich and diverse and delicious in so many ways and I truly miss it.  I often say that I was raised by Lesbians.  My own mother did a poor job of preparing me for “real” life and my circle of Lesbian friends from the 80s and 90s really taught me the skills I needed to survive and thrive in society.  They also gave me the space to be myself and never told me I had to be a certain way to be their friend.  They were my chosen family for a long time and I miss them.

 

 

The Deeper Side of Transition

When I started to transition from a butch lesbian to something on the male side of the spectrum I knew I needed to take things slowly.  I needed time to wrap my mind around exactly what I was doing and where I wanted to go with hormones, surgeries, name changes and the like.  I knew I needed time to wrap my mind around the idea of not being a lesbian anymore.  Of not being a sister and a daughter anymore.  Of being seen as male.  A white, heterosexual male.  I knew that the social side of transitioning was going to be the hardest part for me to navigate.  I wasn’t really sure I could handle it, or if my relationships could handle it.  In general, it’s been easier than I ever imagined.  But it’s also been tougher than I ever imagined too.  The person who’s given me the hardest time about everything is myself.  I get in my own way.  I’m not comfortable talking about my personal life to even my dearest friends.  I still feel like I’m walking around naked a lot of the time and everyone can see all of my flaws, scars and short-comings.  I still struggle with coming out to people, especially face-to-face, or even telling someone I changed my name.

I’ve been fortunate though.  The hormones have changed my looks gradually, lowered my voice to a definite male timbre, and top surgery seemed to seal the deal of helping me look like the man I’ve always felt like inside.  Before top surgery, I probably was perceived as male about 70% of the time and could still use a women’s washroom without too much fear.  I had started to work towards using the men’s but still didn’t feel like I could go in there safely 100% of the time.  Post top surgery, something magical happened and I was suddenly thrust over into the male side of the spectrum and it became clear to me very quickly that I was now seen primarily (98%) as male to the general public.  Generally, I’m happy with this turn of events, but it happened so suddenly that I wasn’t quite prepared for all of the repercussions this would foist on me and my family.  Now I am Candace’s husband, even though we’re not married, and I am my brother’s brother, and Candace’s mom’s son-in-law.  I don’t know if I could manage to pull off a non-binary transition now if I wanted to.  Luckily, I don’t want that but it’s still a little uncomfortable and strange for people to refer to me as someone’s brother or husband.  There’s a part of me that feels like I should be ok with this and it should feel natural.  Sometimes it does feel natural, but mostly it feels strange.  I’ve gotten totally comfortable with being referred to as sir and he/him by strangers but the titles still throw me.  I think it’s just a matter of getting used to it and will take time.  My brother also has to get used to this, and thankfully, has been very gracious about it so far.  He stumbles sometimes, but so do I.  I still avoid telling people I’m his brother by saying that he is MY brother and leaving my gender up to them to decide.

Basically, though, I’m really enjoying being a guy in public.  I went shopping at a jewelry store yesterday and it was really cool that everyone assumed I was shopping for my wife.  When I made my purchase, another man and I had a fun interchange about being good husbands.  Living the role of man, husband and brother in the real world is feeling like it fits much better than woman, wife, and sister ever did.  I feel freer in a lot of ways.  Socially, with the exception of a few people, I’m out to everyone.  It’s still awkward at times and we all have some adjustments to make, but I would consider this transition a success at this point.

Transitioning is funny though because we can’t always count on how the hormones or a surgery will effect how we’re perceived.  Just like a teenager, we can have a sudden growth spurt or physical change.  You could wake up one day and realize that you’re losing your hair at a much faster pace than expected.  Or your beard could suddenly sprout like a lumber jack.  If we’re not prepared socially for these changes it can really play havoc with our progress and mental space.  Whenever we inject a hormone we have to be prepared for whatever side effect it gives us and often, we think we are prepared until it does something unexpected.  In this case, the physical transition moves faster than our mental and social transition and causes a lot of problems.  Sometimes it’s more than we can handle at the moment and we have to make the heart breaking decision to stop our transition, temporarily or permanently.  I can’t say that I started hormones willing to take all of the possible side effects no matter what.  As time has progressed though, I’ve become willing to take them all no matter what.  I don’t relish the idea of becoming a bald guy, but I accept that it could happen.  I’ve seen my hairline recede quite a bit in the past couple of years and I know that my hair is thinner than it used to be up top.  Baldness is creeping up on me and I know it.  I don’t expect to go completely bald, but I do expect to lose quite a bit of hair.

Another, deeper, side to transitioning is erasure of our pasts.  Now that I look male, people make a lot of assumptions about my past that just aren’t true.  I did not have all of the opportunities handed to me that I would have if I’d been born with male genitalia.  I was not raised as a boy.  I never was a Boy Scout.  I never played Little League or any male sport growing up.  I grew up queer, a Tom Boy, a lesbian and I had to fight and prove myself every inch of the way to get where I am today.  I played girl’s softball and was a Girl Scout growing up.  All of that is forgotten now and definitely does not seem to fit with my current persona.  This can be very disturbing and upsetting if we’re not prepared for it.  Personally, I don’t care that much and I never really liked being a “female role model” anyway, so it’s sort of a relief.  I know my history and that’s what matters to me.  No one ever handed me anything and I’ve had to work my butt off to get what I have and I don’t care who knows that about me.  Others, though, could find this to be very upsetting and it’s something to keep in mind.

Balancing the emotional and physical sides of the transition process is tricky and not for the faint of heart.  There are a lot of days where I still wonder if I can handle all of this and even whether I want to.  There are days when I wonder if I made the right decisions along the way.  But then I think about the option of going back to living as a butch lesbian and I know that I could never do that again.  So, it’s onward I go as there is no turning back for me at this point in time.  What the future brings is anybody’s guess, but I know I will handle it to the best of my ability.

I’ve Been Published

Months ago I wrote a short essay for a new book that Michael Eric Brown, of TransMentors International,  was working on and submitted it with little hope of it being accepted.  The book was to be an anthology of personal accounts by transgender men who came from a lesbian background.  The book is out in publication now and is actually a pretty interesting read.  Part One is educational and delves into many aspects of gender and sexuality.  Part Two is where Michael put all of the personal stories from folks like me.  I was pleasantly surprised and honored to be included in this book and hope that some of you might enjoy reading it.

If you’re interested, here is the link:

A Herstory of Transmasculine Identities: An Annotated Anthology

 

Nobody’s Normal

I used to think no one would really understand me.  Heck, I didn’t even understand me.  I wondered why I couldn’t just be like everyone else and why life couldn’t be simpler.  I wanted to fit in and be “normal”.  The other day I read a post on a forum I belong to from a person who was pretty much saying what I’ve felt for most of my life.  He wanted to know, in a nutshell, if others in the group ever felt like they just wished they were born in the sex they truly were and if others were also tired of always feeling like they didn’t fit in.  Oh boy!  You bet!!  Not only did I read that and nod my head in a knowing “mm hmm, yep” but a lot of other folks jumped in with their own affirmations and explanations for this not so odd commonality in the group.  Some of the comments got me really thinking about why we all want to be seen as “normal”, ordinary, fitting in, so much.  I think I figured it out, at least partly, and I want to share it with you today.

It’s because we’ve all been brainwashed from birth to believe that life works a certain way and that if you deviate from that one true path than YOU are the problem, not the system.  We live in a one size fits all society.  We’re put in pink and blue boxes from the minute we’re born and read fairy tales and watched Disney movies that only have one story line.  Boy meets girl.  Boy loses girl.  Boy gets girl back and they live happily ever after.  Well folks, there is no such thing as “happily ever after”, not all boys want to live happily ever after with a girl and some boys might look more like a girl than a boy.  I’m not saying that people can’t make marriages work for a lifetime.  They can.  There is clear evidence of this.  But, it takes a lot of work and give and take to do it.  And sometimes it sucks the life out of one or both people in order to pull it off.

I grew up watching shows like The Brady Bunch, Eight is Enough, Leave it To Beaver and Father Knows Best.  They all portrayed these perfect families with two loving opposite sex parents and their nearly perfect children.  Even when the kids or the parents did something bad it wasn’t really BAD stuff by today’s standards.  Even in the 1950s that just wasn’t realistic.  It is a nice fantasy, especially for a kid who’s life is far from perfect.  But it’s just further propagating the lies and making people feel like they’re failures when they don’t measure up to Ward Cleaver or Carol Brady.

I saw a meme on Facebook yesterday that asked if we (society) were ready for a lesbian Disney princess.  Heck yeah!  Bring it on!  We need to re-write all of those silly fairy tales out there and put all kinds of relationships and genders in them.  Why not a trans princess?  Or a gay prince?  That would be a start.  I know it will offend some people, but you know, it’s high time they wake up out of their dream land and realize that they’ve been living in the Matrix and sold a bunch of lies.  Life is not as simple as ‘if you have a penis then you’re a boy and if you have a vagina then you’re a girl’ and ‘marriage is only between a man and a woman’.  Nope!  It’s way more complicated than that and it’s time to stop perpetuating the brainwashing and lying about what our children’s futures are going to look like.  Very few of us are going to marry a Prince or kiss a frog and meet the love of our lives and none of us are going to fall into blissful, perfect love with someone and live happily ever after.  That’s all a lie.  And I think it’s destructive.

This destructive brainwashing and programming is what makes us miserable because, when we can’t conform to what society says we should be we think there’s something wrong with us.  The problem isn’t with us.  The problem is with the lies that society perpetuates to keep us all in our nice tight little confined boxes.  If one studies nature at all you can’t help but notice all of the color and variation as well as ‘abnormalities’ that naturally occur.  We celebrate four leaf clovers as being lucky, but really they are an a rare variation of the three leaf clover.  Roses come in a whole array of colors and that’s a wonderful thing.  There’s an animal rescue group in Alabama that house a lion, a tiger and a bear all in the same area because they grew up together from babies and they love each other and get along great.  Tell me that doesn’t go against nature!  People pay money to go see them and think it’s a great thing.  And it is.  But why can’t we allow people, our fellow humans, who are all struggling to just live their lives, find happiness how they wish with whomever they wish without condemning them and spitting in their faces for being ‘different’?  We can.  We just have to wake up and smell the roses and realize that we’ve been lied to our whole lives about what it is to be human.  And, for God’s sake, show some compassion and human decency for each other.  Celebrate the diversity of the human experience in all of it’s colors and glory.  Be you and enjoy your life!

 

Shame

I’m taking Brene’ Brown’s class on Living Brave.  This week’s lesson is on shame.  According to Brene’, shame can not live in the light of day, so if we talk about it it goes away.  I’ve talked about how I’m filled with shame from my childhood on a few occasions here so I thought maybe I’d delve deeper into that topic.  My shame is mostly around two things: my gender presentation and my sexuality.  I think many of you can probably relate to that.  But I also carry shame from not taking better care of myself and my weight, having an anxiety disorder, not being a better partner, not making more money, not being more confident in myself and a multitude of other things.  Every where I turn I feel shame.  Every time I look in the mirror I feel it.  Too fat.  Too short.  Ugly boobs.  How am I ever going to pass as male in the men’s room without facial hair and these huge boobs?  Going out in public is a shame filled experience now.  Perhaps it always has been but it’s just more obvious to me now.

My mother constantly harped on me looking and acting more feminine.  I was never feminine enough for her.  She was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find a boyfriend/husband.  And then when I was outed came out as lesbian I was shamed and disowned because of it.  My mother waged emotional warfare on me to get me to stop being gay.  She threatened to have me institutionalized, to put something in the newspaper about my sordid lifestyle, to call my college and have them kick me out for being lesbian, call my professors, out me if I ever joined the military or decided to be a teacher (both life ambitions at the time which I never dared to do).  In short, she threatened to ruin my life.  She even went as far as to drive around my college campus on weekends looking for me so she could roll the window down and shout nasty things at me when I walked by with my friends.  She came to a jazz band concert I was performing in and before we started stood in front of the band and called me a “finger f@*%er”.  She made my life a living hell.  I have PTSD from the things she did to me.  All in the name of making me turn straight and act like a nice young lady.  So, yeah, I deal with shame a lot.  And anxiety and depression too.

And on top of all that, I’m ashamed that I never stood up to her or told her where to go.  I’m ashamed because I’m weak and let her terrorize me and destroy my self confidence.  It set me up quite nicely to let others treat me just as awful.  I didn’t feel like I deserved respect.  Its’ sickening how much shame resides inside my being.  It’s a wonder I’ve been able to accomplish anything in life at all.  Somehow I just found work-arounds.  Instead of becoming a teacher, I pieced together a living teaching private lessons and doing other odd jobs, always settling for whatever I could get.  I’ve never made much money.  Guess why?  I don’t feel like I deserve it.  I don’t think I have much worth.  Even as a business owner now, I’m very susceptible to the complaint that my prices are too high and always worry that I’m charging too much, when in reality, I probably charge too little.  Shame and self esteem, for me, go hand in hand.

And now that I am finally feeling strong enough to try and live life on my terms I find myself bucking up against the same old shame gremlins I’ve dealt with since I was a child.  I hear my mother telling me I look like a man (in that tone of voice and disgusted look on her face) every time I leave the house wearing the clothes I like to wear.  Every time I get my hair cut I see my mother’s face scowling at me for how boyish I look.  It’s hard to enjoy any of the things that I’m getting to do now.  But I plod through and keep going.  Some days are easier than others.  I tell myself I deserve to live how I want, that no one has the power to shame me like my mother used to do.  I’m stronger now.  I would never allow anyone to say or do the things she did when I was 20.  But the damage is still there and all I can do is support myself and tell myself that it’s all going to be ok.  I got through this 30 years ago and I can get through it now.

I just shared some of my darkest memories with all of you.  I’m ashamed of them.  I’m ashamed that my mother was so awful and that she hated who I was so much.  But I can’t change any of that now.  It’s over and she’s dead.  The past is the past.  But I shared it because I want to shed light on it.  I want it to go away, but I know it won’t ever completely go away.  The scars will always be there.  My mother didn’t love me.  She hated me.  That’s a pretty bitter pill to swallow.  And, no, I’m not proud of that.

 

Holiday Musings and the New Year

I’ve been trying to put my finger on when and what caused me to stop enjoying the holiday season.  I know that up through high school I liked Thanksgiving and Christmas a lot and looked forward to them each year.  Maybe it was my sophomore year in college when my mother dis-owned me and told me I couldn’t come home for Christmas because I had a girlfriend instead of a boyfriend.  Maybe it was because after high school I felt a lot of pressure to buy a lot of presents for people who only seemed to love me if I followed their rules even though I was a poor college student and had no money for all of that.  Maybe it started when I moved far, far away from my birth family to escape their tyrannical governing over my life and the pressure and guilt they put on me to travel home to spend the holidays with them each year when I really wanted to be with the people who loved and supported me throughout the year.  Maybe it is how the stores insist on putting Christmas decorations out earlier and earlier every year and the commercialism of the holidays takes over the true meaning of why we’re supposed to celebrate.  Maybe it’s because Candace loves Christmas so much and I feel pressured to enjoy it too.  Maybe it’s all of the excess, extravagance and gluttony.  Maybe it’s because I really don’t consider myself a Christian anymore.  Maybe it’s because I hate travelling during the holidays and dealing with all of the crowds and stressed out people, sleeping in someone else’s bed and being friendly 24/7 when I don’t feel like it.  Maybe it’s just all of it.  It’s all just exhausting and every year I dread it.

I’m not a scrooge, really.  I do love a lot about the holidays.  I love to drive around and look at the way people decorate their homes for the holidays.  I enjoy the parties and the cookies and the fruit cake even.  I enjoy decorating the tree and watching it light up my living room every evening.  I like to buy meaningful gifts for people and see them smile with surprise and happiness when they get something they really like or that was unexpected yet thoroughly appreciated.  I love the smells of the holidays and the delicious tastes as well.

Somehow, at some point, the magic of the season died for me.  Now, it’s just something I have to endure and get through.  I miss the simplicity of the Christmas of my youth when things were simpler.   Being an adult sucks sometimes and this is one of them.  I know, attitude is everything and I have a lousy one.  I try, really I do.  I put on that happy face and soldier on but inside, I just really want to stay home and have that simple Christmas that I miss so much without all of the guilt and stress.

But hey, I survived another year and am home again in my favorite chair now and I’m contemplating the new year about to start.  New Year’s still has its magic for me.  I look forward to it.  It means I survived Christmas and another year and get to look forward to starting fresh with new goals or maybe the same ones but a fresh start either way.  Clean slate, no more Christmas songs on the radio or decorations in my house and time to reflect on what I want to do with the next 12 months of my life.  It’s like cracking open a new book you’ve been dying to read.  What will happen in the new year?  What will I be thankful for at the end of this new year?  It’s a mystery because even with goals and plans you just never know what’s going to happen.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!  What are you hoping to make happen in 2016?