Archive for March, 2013|Monthly archive page

Silencing the Critic

Since I’ve “been stingy with the posts lately,” here’s one more random thought to end this lovely Spring day…

A friend recently remarked, into a lull in the conversation following a compliment I’d given:

“I was going to be self deprecating, but I’m trying to be less mean to myself. Left me at a blank.”

My thought: Self criticism is a double-edged sword. It’s useful at keeping arrogance in check. But easily can slip beyond that healthy ego-governing level, into destructiveness.

It’s also a really hard habit to break.

My inner critic arises from so many different sources of strictures and harsh examination: church, family background, social pressures, but also from a diffuse discontent and loathing of so many qualities I see inside me that I want to excise. I think it’s healthy to work at that goal, provided the focus is on improving areas of weakness, not wallowing in the shortcomings themselves. And, as I’ve said (see a few posts back), you do have to own your awesome.

Today’s awesome: I totally kicked ass at work yesterday, closing several key deals, earning millions of dollars of business for my company as the first quarter of 2013 came to an end. I love that rush, but I love even more the fact that I have the skills to do that consistently. I’m a rock star attorney, and I love it!!

Saturday Bullets

Oh, hi, blog! How you doin’? Been a while! Sorry…you know, life and such.

Well, here’s some random thoughts to share on a Spring Saturday. I’ll get back to regular posts soon…I hope.

• A friend and I were laughing the other day at my stubborn refusal to turn off notifications on my phone when I sleep (I might miss something cool!!), so shared this South African truism:
“Ja as jy dom is moet jy maar kak”

Which translates (I’m told, as I don’t speak Afrikaans):

“if you are stupid, you must suffer”

Ha! I like that. And I’ll gladly suffer interrupted sleep if it means I get that really important text, tweet, IM, or email…you know, the one with a pic of someone’s cat in a tutu, or something equally earth-shaking. 😉

• I’ve been trying hard lately to be more patient, fair and open-minded. When I’m stressed, I seem to be short on those qualities. It bugs me that my physical and emotional calm has so much influence over my ability to be kind. Hence, this mini self-improvement project. The hard part is identifying when my criticism is valid. A good piece of advice I got last week helps a lot: “Trust your gut on weird vibes… just reserve judgement until you can put your finger on what makes you uncomfortable.”

• Work-life balance is a constant struggle for me. I get a great deal of joy and satisfaction out of doing my job well, being needed, being a voice of reason in a crisis. But it’s sometimes hard to distinguish between being needed, being known as the go-to person for quality work, and just plain ol’ abuse if a strong work ethic. Plus, the firm, unadorned language needed to rebuff and correct the abuse when it happens, gets me labeled mean, unhelpful, shrill. It’s a lose-lose proposition. Still working on puzzling it out. Because, mean and shrill or not, I’ve got to stop the madness soon, cuz I’m about to burn out. Sigh.

• Well, that last bullet was kind of a downer, so I’ll end on a more positive note. I’ve recently been reminded of how much I love and miss one of my favorite pass-times, glass blowing. It’s a fascinating process, requiring concentration, imagination, stamina & control. I absolutely love the rush I get from taking the primal goo of liquid glass and shaping it with fire, tools and my hands, into a useful and beautiful object. I so need to get back to this! I’m actively working on it. I will report back when I’ve found a place to work and have cool pics to share. 😉

Come, Be Quiet With Me

Author’s Note: I know precisely zero about poetry, verse, lyric and ode. I know nothing of construction, cadence, syntax, pacing or poetic style. What I do know is my own heart, what is in it from moment to moment, what needs to stay safely hidden there, and what must come out to give me rest. This, another raw, unedited siphoning of the swirling flotsam at the top of my mind, is some of what needs to come out of me to give me rest. This, unlike any other post I’ve written, terrifies me to publish. But, as with so much of what I file away here, in this place of Sudden Awareness, this fragment of thought (it cannot qualify as a poem) must be put out into the universe to become real.

~ Come, Be Quiet With Me ~

Come, sit beside me here
In the still, quiet hour of gloaming
Come, hold my hand
Be complete with me in quiet companionship

Your presence beside me
A balm to my riven heart
Your presence with me
A peace, a hush to my noisy mind

Come, sit beside me here
In this hectic place of pressure and stress
Come, hold my hand
Ground me in the present, deflect the missiles of uncertainty

Your heart is a precious gift
A boon from a generous and kind providence
Your heart is a mirror of true vision
A source of ease and rest

Come, walk with me here
In a garden of possibility
Come, walk beside me
Hold my hand and choose a path with me

Your heart is a source of light for me
Though you oft times see darkness alone
Your spirit is generous to me
Exhorting me to happiness

Come, be quiet with me awhile
The world spins round about us
Come, be still with me a while
And rest

What’s in a name?

Prefatory note: This post started as a short, cute anecdote about nicknames. But the mysterious paths in my brain led me, by the end of it, to an entirely different place than I expected. It rambles a bit, so I hope you don’t get too lost on the way.

———————————

As you can tell from earlier posts, identity, defining it and living it authentically, is on my mind, running very close to the surface all the time. I’ve no idea why, can’t pinpoint the exact day or time it started. As someone once said (in a movie, I think), it seems I was in the middle before I knew I had begun!

There’s so much to think about, explore, embrace in the umbrella of identity. One of the key facets of it is the fact that we each get to define our own. But, for me personally, it’s in the acceptance of my identity choices by people who are important to me that identity solidifies and becomes real.

Very central to this is the idea of belonging. Identity and belonging are two sides of the same coin. Feeling as if you belong in a place, a group, a label, is essential to wearing any identity. Belonging transforms that conscious choice if claiming an identity into reality more thoroughly than any single marker of identity can. Anyone can put on “drag”, the trappings of any given identity. But only when you feel confident in your belonging there, when you know, not just hope, that you are in the right place, do you step into belonging.

One sure way of knowing you belong in a physical place is by looking at the the keys you carry for that place, whether a metal key, a plastic card, or some other token of access. When you have the freedom to come and go in a physical space by virtue of the access or keys you carry, you know you belong there.

The same thing applies to people. I think of names as keys. When you are given a person’s name and invited to use it, you belong there, with them, in their space. It’s a privilege. This is especially true with nicknames, diminutives, endearments. The familiarity required to bestow and use a nickname or endearment for someone is like having a key to that person’s inner self. A friend described it as “an acknowledgement that you see someone well enough to pick up on a foible or trait and turn it into an endearment.”

Telling the story about my grandfather the other day, remembering just how he talked and all the quirky phrases he used to describe or refer to people, really got me to thinking about this. Names and labels are such powerful things. Beyond the meaning of the words themselves (which is often profound in itself), the wealth of emotion, context and sense of belonging that surrounds each name or phrase is astounding. I’m often delighted by the sense of rightness that comes with an aptly placed name.

Is there any greater warm-fuzzy than when the right person calls you by a certain name, uses a special endearment reserved just for you? Is there any more awkward, uncomfortable feeling than when someone presumes to use a diminutive or familiar form of your name without your invitation, or uses it in the wrong setting setting?

All this rambling is just to say this: “I’m gay.” I choose to own that truth that chose me. It’s not a name or endearment, and is a label only in the sense that the phrase is a verbal construct that is convenient to describe a very important facet of myself. But gay is so much more than that! It’s my identity. I belong here. It’s not a hope, aspiration, fear or dreaded surprise. Not anymore. I know it. I own it. For me, this acknowledgement inside myself is an essential first step to making it true in the whole of my life.

I’m not done. There’s all the work in the world left to do: coming out in real life, stepping into authenticity, living it the rest of my days. But the key to that future is this acknowledgement inside myself today.

Own Your Awesome

[Author’s note: I’m asking your forgiveness up front for what I suspect may be, at best, a rambling, half-coherent post. As i begin to draft, I’m working on about 5 hours sleep in the last 36. But something is clawing its way out of my head into this post, despite my efforts to wait until I’m awake and remember how to edit. You’ve been warned.]

Seems the universe has a message it’s trying to force into my head, make real in my consciousness. Everywhere I turn lately, it seems, I’m confronted by the same theme in a variety of presentations. Some are ‘slap you in the face’ direct messages. Some are indirect ‘see what I mean?’ cosmic snark. But all of them are designed to challenge life-long beliefs, call into question fundamental assumptions that comprise my very being.

That’s all nicely mysterious. But that’s not really what I’m going for. It’s just hard to articulate more clearly.

Ultimately, the message I’m seeing is a mix of: “you is kind, you is smart, you is important” and “own your awesome”.

Depending on what I’m doing/thinking at the time I encounter these little pep-talks, my reactions to them vary widely.

Bear with me as I try to map this out.

First, as I’ve revealed on this blog, I’m in the process of both coming out of the closet and of redefining or discovering who I truly am. All this at the ripe ol’ age of 44; roughly double the age most people tackle these things. So, point #1, I’m a little late to the party and am scrambling to catch up.

Second, and also evident in what I’ve shared on this blog, is that I’ve got what may be politely called a ‘complex’ relationship with my body and outward appearance. As everyone else in the world does, I struggle with remaining positive about something the world tells me daily is only ever negative, bad, wrong. Point #2 is that I have a lot to overcome in my head to feel easy in my own skin from day to day.

And third, beyond my view of my physical person, is the unrelenting socialization I’ve internalized that works against the changes coming about in my life. Lessons in Christian selflessness, down-home humility, Southern obedience, and Midwestern grit, have combined into a powerfully concentrated syrup of self-deprecation that coats my every thought. Point #3 is that it is very hard for me to not only take a compliment gracefully, but also to internalize it, think of myself in those terms without squirming and cringing.

The way these three points intersect has a lot to do with why I struggle so with the decision to come out to my friends and family.

A recent conversation with a friend highlighted one aspect of this particularly well. In telling me (patiently and for the hundredth time) that I deserve to be happy, fulfilled, she asserted that I needed to get “comfortable in asking for what [I] want, acknowledging what [I] want is real, valid and acceptable”.

Her point was that coming out is essential to achieving that happiness. But, even before getting to the monumental coming out decision, this point throws harsh light on a crack in my being that I try to ignore and hide under a veneer of laughing geniality: I’m fundamentally insecure in my right to be happy.

Is there such a thing as a right to happiness? Or is happiness a privilege, a unicorn that comes to some and not others? Do the misfits have as much ‘right’ to happiness as the privileged?

There’s no neat and tidy conclusion to this post answering all of these questions with a happily-ever-after warm fuzzy. My answer to all of those questions at the moment is: I don’t know.

But as my favorite law professor was fond of saying: “”I don’t know” is a fine, acceptable answer only for a moment and only if followed with furious effort to crush the ‘don’t’ to dust.”

So, I guess it’s boot-strap time again. Here I go, off to crush the ‘don’t’ and learn to own my awesome.

Daily Prompt: Playlist of the Week

Daily Prompt: Playlist of the Week
Tell us how your week went by putting together a playlist of five songs that represent it.

Haven’t ever done the Word Press Daily Prompt before, but this one from last Saturday captured my imagination. I did more than five songs–overachiever.

Playlist of My Butch Week:

You Can’t Always Get What You Want – The Rolling Stones

Trouble – P!nk

Should I Stay or Should I Go – The Clash

Boom Boom Pow – Black Eyed Peas

I Confess – k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang

Turn Me On – Norah Jones

Whammy Kiss – The B-52s

Moon Dance – Van Morrison

Titanium – David Guetta & Sia

Everything Will Be Alright – The Killers

Favorite Childhood Memory

I was chatting with a friend this afternoon, feeling meh about the upcoming work week. To change the mood, we started telling stories from our childhoods. This is my absolute favorite childhood memory. Telling it to my friend brought it back so vividly, that I thought I’d share it here. Enjoy…

My favorite memory from early childhood was Easter Sunday when I was 4. Easter where I grew up is nearly always cold & snowy. But this Easter was clear, warmer, and starting to thaw. After church my mom sent me outside (typical, else I was under foot), but neglected to change me out of the hated Easter dress.

I promptly found the biggest mud puddle I could and spent a blissful unsupervised half our running & jumping in the mud, making as big a mess as possible. My Mary Janes stuck at some point, so I took them off, plopped down in the middle of the puddle, and started a round of mud pies.

In the middle of it, my grandfather, a southern gent of impeccable dress & bearing, stopped by the house. My mother called to me to come inside, but didn’t really look out the door, just hollered. So, up I got, shook myself like a mutt, and trotted into the house.

Seeing my granddad in his favorite chair as soon as I hit the living room, I made a bee-line for him. He was wearing a beautiful dove-grey western suit, looking like Hank Williams, complete with ostrich boots and Stetson hung on the back of the chair. Before my mother could collar me, I flung myself into his lap, mud from head to toe, grinning like a fiend.

Both my mother and grandmother shrieked and moved to yank me off him. He threw back his head, laughing like a crazy man, ran a finger thru the mud on my cheek and painted it on his own face, all the while, crushing me in a bear hug made of heaven.

When my mother went to pick me up, he said, “Baby girl, caint you see I’m holdin’ my darlin’ chil’?” (That’s realy how he talked.) “This suit don’t mean a damn thing, if I caint hang on to this li’l bit when I want to.”

He asked me then what I’d been doing to look like a wild thing. I happily told him that “Momma asked me to go outside, so I thought I might as well enjoy myself.” Laughing out loud, he said he guessed I looked like I did enjoy myself.

“Yessir”, I said. “Momma made me wear this thing to the church house, where folks could see me! But she said to go play, so I did. I had to tame it down some, so’s I could stand it!”

My mother was mortified, of course, and fretted over his ruined suit. But he said he was proud of those mud stains. Said they proved he had someone to love and that he was loved. He flatly refused to let my mom have it cleaned.

That was the last time I got to spend with him. He went back home the next day and was killed in an industrial accident not long afterward. But I still hang onto that memory of his unflinching acceptance of this wild thing. Makes me grin like a fiend to this day!

Two Words

They’ve been stuck in my head and throat so long I’m afraid I’ll never get them out. There are times I feel them swelling like a sponge in my mouth, threatening to choke me. Suffocating me.

Why is this so hard? One short sentence. Two tiny, one-syllable words. Perhaps the two most important words that exist for me at the moment, and they defeat me.

“I’m gay.”

So much is wrapped up in those two little words. They encapsulate authenticity, relief, peace, future happiness. But they also carry with them the power to loose a storm of destruction that could level my life, crushing me to powder in a moment. They could be keys that open important doors. Or they could form a grenade with no pin.

If I utter those two words out loud, there’s no un-saying them. Even if no one is there to hear, it’s out there in the universe, ringing like a carillon.

But why not say it? I’ve claimed it in my mind. I’ve admitted it to myself. I even blogged about it here. It’s already out there, isn’t it? It’s already real. Right?

No. It will never be real until it has the color, tone and shape of my voice.

Why is this so hard? Why is this so important? Why is it clawing at my brain, robbing my peace of mind?

Would it matter to anyone else in the universe if I never said it out loud? if I did? Why do I need anyone else to hear it? Am I plaguing myself needlessly? I have lived 44 years without ever saying those two words, that tiny sentence. Is it impossible that I could live the rest of my life happy without ever saying them to another living soul?

I’ve been told it will make me feel better, that I will feel free, real, whole, light. But does that add up to a reason to turn my entire life inside out, invite all sorts of pain and anger from those who will be scalded by the revelation?

No other two words have ever formed such an event horizon in my life. Two words are too few to carry such weight, to bear such importance.

But, right now, in this moment, those two words are my whole future. Because, I am self-aware enough to know that I have passed the point at which I could have reined in, avoided this precipice. Sooner or later, they will force themselves out of my throat, through my lips and into the ears of another person, shoving me head-long off the cliff. Those two words are both anchor and parachute. With them I either plummet or soar.

When will that moment come? I fear it will be a moment not of my choosing. That it will come upon me unaware and I will be found unprepared.

The solution is obvious, of course: take my power back and choose my own moment, my own audience.

Should be so simple. Why isn’t it?

Boundaries

“You set the boundaries, and I’ll respect them.” Rueing making that statement. Not because I want to hurt or disrespect your choice, but because it is in me to push against every boundary I meet. My very nature rebels at constraint.

I’ve never been a believer in “it’s best for you”, or “you’ll understand later”. I know that growth takes time and too much too soon isn’t good. But, just as with every horizon, beyond which a peek at beauty is visible, the urge to rush forward is palpable and hard to check. But, to respect the boundary set, I must go slowly, carefully.

So, this is me, being good, respecting boundaries, being a graceful loser.

Yeah, right! Inside, I’m sticking out my tongue and yellin’ “nanny, nanny boo boo!” at all the lines I just crossed in my head. I am fully aware how childish that is. I’m a little ashamed at that reaction. But it remains, nevertheless.

In real life, in interactions with people, I follow the rules. So, lines drawn push me to reflect internally, instead. I build the world where that line doesn’t exist, inside my head.

I have a vivid imagination. I see every detail of the stories I weave. My scenes are rich, plush, dressed to the nines and the action is rapid and explosive.

The thing about a floodgate is it’s hard to close until after the torrent is passed. That’s how my creativity goes–in rushing waves of bright, colorful sparks. Then a lull, a calm before the next storm.

My creativity gate has been open for a while now. So the rush is still on. I can’t stop it. I don’t want to.

But I respect your boundaries, your process, and will not cross them

…except in the safety of my own mind.

Spackle

[Author’s note: Another raw mind dump. They may be common for a while.]

Here’s where the ‘searching’ part becomes a labor of Hercules. When committing to see the beauty without regret, I didn’t anticipate that I’d be walking uphill against an avalanche.

Where does the line lay between ‘fake it ’til I make it’ and plain ol’ fraudulent deception? Is there such a thing as too much grace in withdrawal?

I’m revealing the cracks in my facade. I want to truly be the brave, graceful, generous heart that I present to the world, but my selfish nature heaves up and cracks the smooth surface.

I need some spackle, something to fill in the cracks when my bravado fails. Sleep, rest may be the solution, in time. But right now, I need something more durable, like concrete.

But since that’s not available, I’m gonna boot-strap myself up and out the door, slapping a smile on my face and buckling down to the work I neglected yesterday.

Faking it ’til I make it.

Song of the morning: Bleed It Out – Linkin Park

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