Looking In the Rear View, Giving Thanks

Tonight is an anniversary for me as well as Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving 2003 was one of the lowest points in my life. I had recently moved to Washington DC and had a one bedroom apartment that was baren. It had a bed (from the previous owner), a small kitchen table, and that was all for furniture. The previous year had seen me lose visitation to both my son and my daughter because I was trans. I was in a new city with very few friends. I had no one that I considered close enough to spend Thanksgiving day with. So I filled my day with laundry and prepped for my daily trans talk show. Somewhere in the middle of that I had a breakdown. I was crying, depressed, and really didn’t want to live anymore. Life without my children was something I could barely tolerate. The only thing that kept me alive was the memory of how I felt about my dad killing himself (he drank himself to death when I was 11). I thought my kids would rather have a transsexual father that they didn’t see than a dead one. In the pain of that moment I tried to find something to be thankful for. That day I wrote one of my first blog posts on Blogger.com. I said:

Thankful

Kids, today is Thanksgiving, and by all rights, I have very little to be thankful for. I dont see you anymore, and I speak to you rarely. One thing I am thankful for is your existance. I hope someday that you can understand how hurt I am, and how much I do love you. I am a piece of trash that some want to throw away and act as if I don’t exist. I am, and will always be, your Dad.

I made it through that day and continued to struggle with depression and daily existence. But life did slowly get better (2004, 2008).  Like a coronary artery bypass, the scars from my past won’t ever disappear. But I have healed.

Many things were  the same  today as they were on that day in 2003.  I was alone, I didn’t have my kids with me,  and I spent the  day trying  to avoid “Thanksgiving”. But it’s no 2003. I have so much to be grateful for. I have a wonderful life here in Madison. I have people here I consider family,  an amazing  job with fantastic coworkers, and an  amazing son back  in  Indianapolis  that is following his dream.

I am thankful every day for the people  in  my life. And I’m grateful that you are here to read this. I am blessed.

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Friendships, Loves, and China Sets

I’ve always viewed friendships as somewhat like fine china. Some patterns come and go with the seasons. Some are solid, never go out of style, and serve you many years. Good china will provide you a beautiful space to nourish yourself. But you must always keep in mind that no matter how durable it is, it’s still china and it will break if not handled with care.

I’ve never really had the ability to stop loving people after I’ve started loving them. A scene from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” explains how love works in my life.

(HEDWIG:) “Seriously, Tom, yes. I believe love is immortal.”

(guitar chords)

(TOMMY sings:) “Look what you done … (bad chord) goddammit! How is it immortal?”

(HEDWIG:) “Well, perhaps because love creates something that was not there before.”

(TOMMY:) “What, like procreation?”

(HEDWIG:) “Yes, but not only.”

(TOMMY:) “What, like recreation?”

(HEDWIG:) “Sometimes just creation.” Continue reading “Friendships, Loves, and China Sets”

My Klansman Poppy Taught Me How To Love Republicans

Growing up in a super dysfunctional household, I had very little in the way of nurturing. Between working full time and regularly engaging in marital battles, my mom had little quality time with us kids. I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandmother and grandfather (who we affectionately called “Granny” and “Poppy”). Pop was a very mean man. I can remember times he would come home for supper and if Granny didn’t have the food on the table, he’d call her every expletive in the book (with “bitch” in first place). Many times Granny took to venting with me, telling me stories of how he’d been mean to her (especially the story of her catching him cheating).

He was also one of the most racist men I’ve ever known. I can remember him yelling at the TV and turning it off when Emmanuel Lewis came on television, grumbling about how the niggers were taking over the world. From what my mom has told me he also was probably in the Klu Klux Klan. There were so many dark sides to my Poppy, it would be easy to hate him.

But I don’t. While I saw all the ugliness, I also saw a side of him that made me love him. More than any person in my young life he nurtured me. He would often spend time with me one on one, offering me a father figure that was rarely present at home. I can remember many trips he and I took to White Castle to just hang out and talk. When I would complain about the way my parents treated me (a difference in how my parents treated me and my brother, of which Granny and Poppy both acknowledged), Poppy would tell me not to mind that. He would enthusiastically comfort me saying “you are smart and you are going to do amazing things with your life”. That may not sound very profound, but those words coming from Poppy were.  Those words have echoed in the back of my mind for the past 35 or so years, giving me strength.

Pop taught me that people aren’t one dimensional. While he was an incredibly hateful to Granny, he was a loving and nurturing man to me. The duality of his life has made me look at people differently. Being a liberal Democrat on a Facebook account full of Indiana Republicans (mostly my Alumni from Southport High School), this skill has come in handy. I’ve been able to become good friends with people that are my ideological opposite. Poppy taught me to see the humanity in all people and life taught me what Bernard Meltzer knew:

“If you have learned how to disagree without being disagreeable, then you have discovered the secret of getting along — whether it be business, family relations, or life itself.”

Home Is Where Your Heart Is

A friend of mine moved to Indianapolis, Indiana from New York because in his words, “Indianapolis feels like home.” As someone that’s always hated living in Indianapolis, I couldn’t understand how someone would WANT to move there. There are people I miss in Indianapolis, but I don’t miss the place itself. A year ago I moved to Wisconsin to be near my best friend. I now know what Danni was talking about. I’ve never felt this at home.

Home is where a light is left on until you get home.
Home is morning tea with your best friend.
Home is not locational, it is emotional.
Home is the place where you are loved.

For now, Middleton, Wisconsin is my home and I’m grateful.

Happy New Year to you all.

All That I’ve Let In, I’m Blessed Beyond Belief

I’ve always found great joy in music, but there are few songs that impact me to such an extent that I cry the first time I hear them. Tonight I heard the following song did:
All That We Let In – Indigo Girls

“Dust in our eyes our own boots kicked up
Heartsick we nursed along the way we picked up
You may not see it when it’s sticking to your skin
But we’re better off for all that we let in

Lost friends and loved ones much too young
So much promises and work left undone
When all that guards us is a single center line
And the brutal crossing over when it’s time

Oooooooo
(I don’t know where it all begins)
Oooooooo
(And I don’t know where it all will end)
Oooooooo
(We’re better off for all that we let in)

One day those toughies will be withered up and bent
The father son the holy warriors and the president
With glory days of put up dukes for all the world to see
Beaten into submission in the name of the free Continue reading “All That I’ve Let In, I’m Blessed Beyond Belief”

The Pressure to Date is Off

For many years I thought I needed someone else to make me whole. Someone to “complete me.” I’ve tried so many ways to find that completeness, but sometimes the cliché is the truth. The easy truth is sometimes the hardest to actualize/realize/deal with.

Ultimately I realized that I never needed anything outside my own acceptance, my own love, and my own respect. Do I want those things from other people? Yes. Do I need them to be complete? Hardly.

But saying that doesn’t mean I want to be alone. It means I can be and that’s ok. I had a recent bout of loneliness that came over me quick and pressed down on me like an imploding house. But even in that, the above realization was always with me. I’m at a point in my life where my needs and wants are clearly defined. It helps to know the difference, especially when I get lonely. Filling that void in my life is a want, not a need. That is such a relief/weight lifted, I can’t even explain it enough for one to understand the gravity it implies.