Archive for May, 2014|Monthly archive page

Determined Cheerfulness

So I took a quick look and it appears evenly split between positive and negative. The number of blog posts so far this year, I mean.  Six of each: complaining or angst-ing and positive or happy.  That’s not all that great a batting average.  Even.  .500. Middle of the road.  I know I can do better than that.  My goal is, has always been, to blog about my self-discovery and spread joy and positivity at the same time.  But here lately, it looks like I’m letting the internal critic have more voice than the internal cheerleader.

I’m not sure it’s just me, either.  Seems like lately, at least over the last month since I’ve been half-consciously keeping track, that many of my Tweeps and Facebook Folk have also been struggling with the negative and stressful (except for @kimboandersen, who is eternally up-beat, smiling and “kind…always”, which I greatly admire).  Even today, the Femme Fairy Godmother is having a rough day, but has reached out to her FB “pumpkins” to get encouragement from what’s going right in their Thursday.  By and large, looks like all her peeps are also having a rough day.

So here’s my intentional effort to break the cycle of angst and negativity.  I’m resorting to a list, but I’m still counting it.  Intentional positivity and determined cheerfulness for all!

Things that make me smile today:

  1. Lulu.  Always.  She is my bliss (as she so often puts it when she tells me of my effect on her).
  2. Lulu again – she sang to me on the way to work today, which always makes me happy.
  3. I have, for the first time in recent memory (over a year, maybe?) a day with no scheduled appointments or meetings. Hooray!
  4. It’s sunshiny outside my window, with puffy clouds and cornflower blue sky (see pic below). And the radiometer in my window is happily spinning like mad! Also, the albino goose (not a swan, we’ve checked and it has standard color/marking goslings) is swooping around on carefree wings outside my office window.
  5. My friend Deborah’s pictures of birds, flowers and other critters that she regularly posts on Twitter and Facebook. Her cardinals, especially, make me smile.
  6. The grapes I had with breakfast today were crisp and cold and juicy and sweet and I really enjoyed them.
  7. I’m wearing a fun polka-dot bow tie today with a checked shirt and the patterns don’t clash.
  8. Green grass, green trees swaying in the breeze, birds chirping and the general Spring-ishness of the day.
  9. Easily put out three potentially ugly work “fires” this morning with a little reasoning and calm persuasion. I love it when a plan comes together!
  10. Tomorrow is Friday!!!!!!!!!

Ok, peeps! Let’s hear your intentional positivity…leave me a comment and make me smile some more!

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Words of Equality

The fight for equality among LGBTQI peoples in the US has gained significant momentum in recent years, particularly in the last 12 months with respect to marriage equality. In the last two days we’ve come even further with federal district court rulings in Oregon and Pennsylvania declaring marriage laws in those states (defining marriage so as to exclude same-sex unions) as unconstitutional.

These are the thirteenth and fourteenth such wins in a row, I believe, making OR and PA the 18th and 19th states, respectively, to recognize same-sex marriage. So, not new or unique, thankfully. But I still find the decisions thrilling on many levels.

First, the weight of two more decisions, two more states, to the body of law and sanity can only be good news. The more states and nations that get on the right side of history, the easier it will be for oppressed and devalued peoples of every ilk everywhere to break free and gain their rightful equality.

Secondly, I’m excited to see love validated, regardless of the fears some harbor against what they perceive as different or other. Love is love is love…and it is legal in more places today to solemnize that love in marriage. Hallelujah!

But even in the midst of all these lofty social and ideological benefits, I am equally (heh) stoked, on a professional & word-geekery level. Reading the two latest court opinions stirs my internal word-nerd and excites the slumbering constitutional fan-butch inside me.

The prose these judges have used to convey their rulings and explain their rationale is so much more than dry legalese and incomprehensible chain citations. These judges have taken the time to illuminate their rationale and precedential commentary with words that convey the weighty burden they bear in the midst of a sea-change in American jurisprudence. Their voices in these written opinions clearly articulate the feeling and power of these judges’ convictions that they are delivering decisions on the right side of history and constitutional interpretation.

Here are the concluding sentences of each of the PA and OR opinions. If you read them aloud to yourself as I did, you can hear the ring of certainty in the truth and rightness and justice of these rulings in every word:

“In the sixty years since [Brown v. Board of Education] was decided, “separate” has thankfully faded into history, and only “equal” remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex-marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage. We are better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.” John E. Jones III, U. S. District Court Judge, wrote in the conclusion of his opinion today declaring the Pennsylvania marriage laws unconstitutional.

This, after yesterday’s opinion by U. S. District Court Judge Michael McShane did the same thing to Oregon’s marriage laws. Judge McShane’s conclusion was perhaps a shade more lyrical and no less inspiring: “Where will this all lead? I know that many suggest we are going down a slippery slope that will have no moral boundaries. To those who truly harbor such fears, I can only say this: Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other…and rise.”

I’m so happy to be witnessing this evolution of civil rights in this country. It gives me hope that one day soon there will be no impediment to my marriage to my Special Femme, or to anyone’s marriage to their chosen love, regardless of their geographic residence.

Talking Tough

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  Much of my introspection and, honestly, dissatisfaction with my personal growth of late, comes down to some notion of strength or toughness…and my perceived lack thereof.

Focusing on self-selected attributes that butches and other masculine-identified people use to help define their identity, “strong” and “tough” occur most often in these conversations.  I even did a mini-survey of my butch and masculine-identified Tweeps and IRL friends recently to see if “strength” played a role in their personal identity. Though not a scientific poll, I was not surprised to see that all respondents agreed that it did play a role in their identity.  And setting aside gender and gender stereotypes for a moment, I have noticed that nearly all people I know on a level close enough to make the inquiry, regardless of gender or other demographic differentiators, have said that strength plays a role in their notion of themselves.

I wonder why that is? Is it the stigma of ‘weakness’ or privilege of ‘strength’? Or does the ideal of strength, in itself, have appeal and value beyond the normative social biases?

What is “strength”, anyway? We’ve romanticized, idealized, and genderized this concept in our society to the point that I’m not sure there is a viable definition today. Of course, the definition depends on the particular quality of strength we’re talking about: physical, emotional, mental, political, ideological, etc. They each have unique characteristics that differentiate them.  But at some point, all the primary attributes converge and form the essential nature of “strength”, regardless of type.

For me, strength embodies three main characteristics: (i) the ability to bear a load; (ii) resilience to recover from that burden; and (iii) resignation to the call for strength, or a will to be that load-bearing, resilient force.

For all my life, I’ve had the latter, a will to be strong.  In part, it’s because it is valued by my family and by society. But also it’s because I have an independent desire to be needed, essential to certain people in my life.  I do fairly well at the first aspect, as well:  bearing load.  For me, these two go hand-in-hand.  The will to be strong and the ability to take up the burden feed one another.  Physically, my frame and musculature are made for load-bearing.  Mentally, I’ve been trained to think and reason and lead and solve problems. Emotionally, I’ve been conditioned to empathy and faith, which practically beg for burdens to bear.  And ideologically, I tend to a certain degree of conviction, perseverance and stubbornness, which breed a tenacity that I associate with moral and mental strength.

But resiliency is my challenge.  Although my body heals itself fairly well and a good night’s sleep can work wonders on my mind and mood, I still struggle with the tension between empathy, conviction and internal sense of obligation or ownership of a burden on the one hand, and the price or toll of bearing it, on the other.  You see, while I feel the call and know my ability to be strong for myself and others, I have not mastered the ability to separate the burden from myself.  This leads to an unfortunately high frequency of tension headaches, nightmares, gut trouble and tears.  All are signs, in my skewed world view, of a flaw in my strength, of a terrible lack of resilience.  And in my Southern/Puerto Rican/Christian/Military/Midwestern inculcated psyche, that flaw equates to failure.

So back to the initial question: why do we value strength so much that it is one of the most frequently cited attributes used to define our ideal selves?

While every person is different and must answer for themselves, for me it comes down to a feeling of success when I’m strong and failure when I’m weak.  Right, wrong or indifferent, this is the fundamental answer for me.  It’s the reason I’ve been thinking so much about it lately, too.

As you have seen in so many of my past posts, I’ve embarked on a journey of self-discovery, enlightenment and improvement.  Positivity is a big part of this effort, as well as authenticity. I’ve discovered and accepted and begun to refine my true self and best nature.  I’ve found a partner to share the journey. And I’ve begun the life-long work of living openly, fully and authentically.  These are huge strides and I’m proud of myself and my progress so far.

Yet…I still feel the cloud of disappointment wash over me every time the tears flow after a hard, stressful day, or in the midst of a heavy, meaningful discussion with Lulu, or at an unexpected sign of love and support from someone I’m close to.  These tears and the emotional fragility that spawns them scream “weakness” at me, resonating with a certainty of my inadequate resilience, insufficient elasticity and brittle emotion.  Too, when faced with a lack of ready resources to undertake a burden for a friend or loved one (whether it’s a lack of time or money or ability), my mind rings with accusations of unpreparedness, which equals lack of resilience and failure.  On an intellectual level, I realize that this is, to a degree, irrational.  Not every problem is mine to bear and not every instance of weariness is failure.  But on a psychological and emotional level, it stings sharply to feel that I’ve let down myself and others in any matter simply because I was tired (physically, or otherwise) or at my limit in some way.

Because, in my head, bearing the burden and being resilient are equally critical components inside of and that maintain the bubble of will to be strong, so that “strong” is a function of all three in balance.  When one is out of balance, the bubble bursts and all the strength drains away.

Never mind the melodrama in that analogy. It is nevertheless a fairly accurate picture of how “strong” works in my life.  And when it is at its lowest ebb, my hold on everything that makes me who I am is at its weakest, too.  That’s why I value strength as a defining characteristic of my identity: it unites the traits I find closest to my heart and allows them to function in practical ways; when I am strong, I can be the best possible me.

So, keep this in mind when someone close to you gifts you with the opportunity for you to rely on their strength—don’t dismiss it. You may be helping someone hold onto what makes them the most perfect them they can be.

Naive, much?

I think my naiveté might be showing. If you’ve read much of this blog, you’ve probably tumbled to the fact I’m not terribly experienced or worldly-wise when it comes to relationships. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have found in my Special Femme a loving, caring, patient woman willing to let me grow into this role, this new identity, of Butch to her Femme, partner and mate. And I think that space and acceptance has made this first year even more extraordinary and beautiful.

At the same time however, our early success and rapport may have given me a skewed view on the nature of partnership and relationship mechanics. As we continue down the path of life together, new and alien experiences that only occur or have meaning in a relationship continually arise to prove to me my utter lack of knowledge and skill in the art of being a partner and life mate.

Let’s stop here and be very clear on this: Lulu and I have an incredible bond, a wonderful, positive, nurturing, healthy relationship. This post isn’t about a problem between us, as those are rare and quickly resolved privately and amicably when they do arise. This is all about my being a noob (even after a year together) and learning, haltingly and painstakingly, to deal with issues and events that I have never before encountered because of my previously sheltered existence.

What I find most frustrating is that none of it is terribly earth-shattering or new. You’d think that a reasonably intelligent person would be able to spot things on the horizon of this new phase of life and prepare for them. Things that should be simple and basic, such as remembering that I’m not alone anymore, that there’s someone else to consider and consult when making decisions, still are not automatic.

I expected it to be, but its not yet second nature for me to think as a collective being. As much as I love and depend on Lulu, her regard, her insight, her support and acceptance, I still haven’t learned to think of us, instead of me, in practical everyday things. Even things that start as “me” (like what I wear or who I hang out with) might also have an impact in or be influenced by “us”, but that’s still an effort to include in my thought process, when it should be automatic by now.

Part of it has to do with the 9,000 miles between us most of the time. When something is remote, primarily existing in virtual reality, its easy to not think about it in the context of an in-real-life, physical event or activity. But I think it’s more than that. I think that because I have never had a lasting, true partnership before, I have never truly appreciated the art and nuance of two people functioning as one whole.

Thus, I continue to frustrate myself by my continued ‘loner’ thinking. I’ve been blessed with an incredible gift of companionship and support from a lovely, patient, giving person and yet I can’t seem to internalize the scope of that gift. There are still moments when I catch myself remembering (as in smack-your-forehead-and-shout-“oh, yeah!” remembering) to think of talking to Lulu before making a decision that affects us both. Why should the need to do that still surprise me? And, worse, how can I forget that I have her to consider?

What’s wrong with my brain that I still haven’t mastered this?

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