Tag Archives: fear

Rich

imageslp1bxi04Rich.

That’s the word that’s been in my head and in my heart for the past few weeks. Jingling around like gold coins in a drawstring pouch.

I’ve felt rich in life. Rich in love. Rich in friends. Rich in my writing life. Rich in everything I need.

I have a weekly routine and friends and my writing and enough special days and events to keep everything interesting.

It’s a rich life.

I think about love and how that makes everything richer. How things seem more special when W’s there. The way I can’t wait for her to get home at night so I can tell her about my day and experience it all over again through her eyes.

Of course, my life isn’t perfect. The house is usually a mess and the cat puked under the dining room table and shouldn’t I be due for a pay increase and when will those damn kids get jobs.

But my life is rich. It’s cheesecake and a hot fudge sundae with extra whipped cream and a $20 bill that I found in an old pair of jeans.

And then last night happens, and I am sad and hurt and broken inside. If you read this blog, you are probably feeling the same way.

imageszgi58iwpStill, I remind myself of the richness of my life. Of love and friends and the way they swirl around me like stardust.

This morning, W tells me everything will be okay and that she loves me.

A friend invites me to a drum circle. Other friends share kind words and blog posts they have found to be soothing and encouraging. A friend who runs a local LGBT group sends an e-mail about working together to protect the rights of those in our community. I will attend the steering committee meeting they are holding on Monday to find out what I can do to help.

W will be home soon. We will have dinner together and watch Luke Cage on Netflix. She’ll fall asleep first. I’ll write and read and then turn in for the night. If I can’t sleep, I’ll settle in close to W and the cats piled up at my feet.

Tomorrow, I’ll try to get out of the house and write in the little coffee shop in town. Maybe I’ll see some of my friends there. I’ll be kind to myself. I’ll be kind to others.

And when things seem hopeless or scary or pointless, I’ll take refuge in my rich life.

* * *

What makes your life rich?

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Middle-age Butch speaks

So, guys, I had my corporate speaking gig on Thursday.  It went really well.  Who’s the butch?  That would be me.

Remember how nervous I was?  I wrote about my fear here.

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Looking good.

To get myself psyched up, I watched wrestling.  And I wore my power tie.  One that had belonged to a friend who passed away a few weeks ago.  The guy got things done.  I’m taking you with me, I told him.  I figured I needed all the help I could get.

And there at 11:30 a.m. I stood in the front of a conference room full of people in my black Dr. Marten’s and navy blue vest and red-and-blue striped silk tie.

I talked about the power of story.  I told this story:

About 20 years ago, my mother threw me a bridal shower at a very fancy country inn.

I had wanted a bowling alley bridal shower with rented shoes and pepperoni pizza and pitchers of beer.

Note: You might be a lesbian and should not be marrying a man if you want your bridal shower to be held at a bowling alley.

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Me and my flowered dress.

There I stood in a pair of black high heels and a flowered dress drinking punch out of a small glass cup with a handle.  I wore a paper plate hat made out of ribbons and bows.  The shower was ending and I was supposed to thank everyone for coming.

I froze.  I had to be rescued by my best friend.

Penn State was playing Michigan that day.  “Kick-off is in 30 minutes,” she said.  “We have to go.”  We were PSU alumni after all.

And that’s been our running joke or running story.  “Kick-off is in 30 minutes.”  It has gotten me out of every single uncomfortable situation for the past 20 years.

I rewrote my story on Thursday.

I’ve never been big on all of that positive thinking stuff. It’s always seemed hokey.

But I’m thinking about things differently these days.  I’m careful with the stories I tell myself.  I pay close attention to the thoughts I allow in my head.

It just goes to show what a flip in your thinking can do.  That and a power necktie.

* * *

What personal story do you want to rewrite?

Fear

Like this guy.

Or like this guy.

I’ve been feeling really small these days. Not small in a good way. Like, hey, I lost 12 pounds and these cargo shorts are hanging off of me. But small in an all-balled-up way. Like a fist.

I have a slew of things I need to do. One of those things is write a presentation for a corporate event slated for early November. This company has an LGBT group, and I’ve been asked to speak about my book. I’m planning on talking about the power of story — the stories we tell ourselves and the stories we share with others.

I have it all mapped out. A notebook filled with thoughts and quotes. I don’t even need the notebook. Everything is floating around in my head.

But I’ve yet to sit down and type it all up. I was going to do it last weekend. Now, it’s on my to-do list for this weekend.

Writing it out makes it real.

It’s not that I don’t think that I can do it.

It’s that I’m scared.

Even butches get scared sometimes. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

I’m not sure what I’m scared of.

“I need to get that Marianne Williamson quote tattooed on me,” W tells me.

She’s talking about this:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

It would be a very large tattoo.

So, I will sit and write. Write through the fear.

Superbutch

Thanks, guys.  I needed that.

I pulled on my star-spangled underoos and tied on my super-butch cape.

Cracks me up every time.

Cracks me up every time.

I wore my unicorn T-shirt and reminded myself of the power of positive thinking.

I chewed a lot of Vitamin C tablets.  I prayed.  I came up with a new mantra: love, love, love.

I read and re-read your comments.

W and I reenacted that scene from Moonstruck.  Snap out of it!  Snap out of it!  Snap out of it!

I am feeling better and butchier than ever.

I figure I needed to have my mini meltdown now and get it out if the way.  It’s all clear sailing from here on out.  Clear skin.  Clear mind.  Clear blue skies with fluffy white clouds.

As Alicia Keys would sing, this butch is on fire.

But I couldn’t have done it without you guys.  Seriously, it’s like having my own cheering section.

Moving forward, I promise to do my best to represent the lesbians and the butches.  Those of us who live somewhere in the middle of boy and girl, or maybe outside of the binary altogether.  The late bloomers.  The underdogs.  Everyone who has just wanted to fit in.  I will tell our stories with pride and dignity.

Superhero powThe one lesson I’ve learned this holiday weekend is that sometimes you have to be your own hero.

And that’s a whole lot easier to do when you have a team of superheroes flying by your side.

P.S. You guys look great in spandex.

The butch and the bat

We had a lot of excitement here last night.

It was about 1:30 a.m. and W and I were sound asleep when one of the children yelled something about a bat in the house.

We both put on our glasses and got out of bed.

There were shouts of “bat!” and “where?”

And that’s when we saw it.  A bat in the second-floor hallway.

This next part is fuzzy.  There was screaming.  Mine.  And running.  Me.

After venturing into the hallway, I spotted the bat flying back and forth in the enclosed space.  I ran back into our bedroom with my hands covering my head.  Because what bat wouldn’t try to get all tangled up in this butch’s perfect hairdo?

W says my arms were flailing, but really it was a windmill move purposefully designed to ward off bats.  Get all up in this space motherfucker, and I will cut you, I communicated with my wildly swinging hands that were now weapons.  Bat cutting weapons.

xx

It’s wings were THIS big.

Seriously, this sucker was huge.  It had a Brittney Griner wingspan.  For realz.

When the bat appeared to disappear, we determined it had made its way to the third floor.

“Good luck!” we yelled to the kid who sleeps on the third floor.

At this point, it was every man for himself.

I secured the door at the bottom of the steps leading up to the third floor.  W went to the bathroom because of excitement! and bladder!  The child who had first spotted the bat was in his room with the door closed.

And then I heard it.  A skree skree.  Or I will kill you when I get the chance or at least get tangled up in that butch hair you love so much.

And then I saw it.  The bat squeezing out the bottom of the door that I was holding shut.  I swear that bat folded itself up like some kind of origami project gone horribly wrong and slid under the door as if it was passing itself as a note.  A terrible black furry note with pointy teeth and possibly rabies.

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Me.

I screamed.  Again.  That tiny girl part somewhere deep inside me screamed.  It was loud and shrill.  I couldn’t control it.  I was that kid in Home Alone.  If that kid was a little girl.

All the doors on the second floor were closed.  The bat was on the loose again in the hallway.

I ran downstairs.  To plot my next move.  Or sit on the couch.  I can’t be sure.  I was in an adrenaline-fueled fog.

xx

Stunned and captured.

I could hear W upstairs.  Apparently, the bat was now in our bedroom circling the room.  Our cat Magic was on our bed jumping at the circling bat.  W says Magic looked at her and nodded her feline head as if to say “I’ve got this.” Magic knocked the bat down and stunned the creature, and W was able to capture it by putting a waste can on top of it.

I could hear W getting all MacGyver.  Yelling out instructions for some makeshift bat catch-and-release kit.  Something thin, something sturdy.  Now!

In the end, she slid a piece of cardboard under the waste can, carried the can outside and released the bat into the night.

I tried to gather all of my butch dignity as I made my way upstairs and into bed.

 

Footsteps

I was leaving a store today around 9:30 a.m.  It is located in a suburban shopping center.  Today is a bright spring day.

I opened the door to the store and stepped out onto the sidewalk.  I tucked my brown leather wallet into my back pocket as I walked.  During this tucking process, I became aware of a person walking behind me.

My entire body tensed as I continued down the sidewalk, bracing for something.  A comment.  A sharp blow.

I have never been assaulted because I am gay (or for any other reason).

I have had people call me names from the safety of their moving cars.

Dyke.

Faggot.

I have had someone scratch my car through my rainbow sticker.

I think the fact that I was tucking my wallet into my back pocket when I noticed someone behind me heightened my anxiety.  I had been caught in an act of gender nonconformity.  Imagine, a girl who carries a wallet in her back pocket!

This is the price of looking gay.  Or at least it is one of them.

I walked to my car without incident.

I never turned my head to take a look at the person walking behind me.

* * *

Does this ever happen to you? Are you ever afraid of being out and about?

Breaking the rules

I just found out that one of my pieces is going to appear in an anthology.

Naturally, I’m excited.

And terrified.

Yes, even butches get scared sometimes.  Especially butches.

We just look like we’re made of bricks.  Under that tough exterior, it’s a different story.

So, what’s the story about being so scared, Middle-age butch?

Fish out of waterWell, it’s a fish-out-of-water tale.  It’s me putting myself on a piece of paper.  My thoughts, my feelings.

I’ve spent most of my life pretending and posing.  Trying to move through life so quietly that I appear invisible.

But this is just the opposite.  It’s shouting or at least raising my voice.  It’s believing that I have something to say and actually saying it and then signing my name above my words so that everyone knows where it all came from.

I worry most about those who know me.  What they will say?  What they will think?

I worry about my parents.  Sure, they know I’m gay.  But that’s about all they know.  They don’t know about my inner struggles.  Or, how I’ve been evolving.  How I now believe that there is a little bit of boy buried deep inside me.

RulesIt feels shameful.  Disrespectful in a way.  Contrary to how they raised me.  I was taught to be quiet and obedient.  To follow the rules: the rules of the house, the rules of society, the rules of gender.

My writing is all about breaking the rules.  It’s about living in that middle place where I get to make up the rules as I go along.

I worry that my parents will be embarrassed by what I write.  They thought they were getting a daughter.  That’s what the doctor had said.  A bouncing baby girl that they dressed in pink.  They did the best that they could.

They didn’t get a rule book either.

Vacation fears

W and I are headed to Provincetown, Mass., this weekend.

“I don’t travel well,” I told her.

“What does that mean?” she asked.

NewspaperI am a creature of habit.  I like my routine.  My newspaper in the morning.  The big stack of books that sits on the bench next to my side of the bed.  My cat.  The daily mail.

“We can get you a paper in the morning,” she said.

This is true.

“It won’t by my paper,” I said.

Because sometimes I am just difficult and a big giant baby dressed in flannel.

It’s a mask.  A mask to cover up the fear.  The fear of being somewhere different with different people and different food and a different newspaper.

I’m afraid of a lot of things.  You wouldn’t know this to look at me.  Every morning, I dress in a coat of armor.  Masculine clothes with straight, rigid lines shield me from the rest of the world.   My arms folded in a large X across my chest serve as my sole accessory.  An additional barrier between me and them.

The only problem is that it keeps everyone away, even those who love me the most.

* * *

So, we leave for P-Town in three days.  Any suggestions on what to do or where to go?  Maybe a great lesbian bar will help me lower my defense shield. 

Writing group therapy

I have always been a loner.

As a child, I was drawn to solitary activities like reading, writing, drawing and a game for one called Electronic Detective, an 80s whodunnit game that was a combination between Merlin and Clue.

Party of oneI still enjoy solitary pursuits.  To me, a good book is as enjoyable as a good friend.  While I would much rather see a movie with W or eat a meal in her company, I have no problem catching a flick by myself or dining at a table for one.

There have been times in my life when it’s been just me.  Single.  Single mother.

During those lean times, I have had no one to rely on but myself.  I think that’s part of why I’m drawn to the steely toughness associated with being butch.  It is an exterior shield from life’s brutalities much like the protective sealer wax sprayed on a vehicle at the end of a car wash.

One of my weaknesses has always been asking for help.  Help?  Who needs help?  Not this able-bodied, flannel-clad butch.

And then I started going to therapy last year, and my therapist gave me a homework assignment to find something to do just for me.

Piecing together pieces of broken glass won't be my savior but stringing together words will

Piecing together pieces of broken glass won’t be my savior but stringing together words will.

The original plan was an art class.  I was going to learn to make mosaics.  But the thought of piecing together pieces of broken glass just wasn’t calling to me.

I remembered reading about a writer’s group that met at a local bookstore and decided to give it a go.  It was free and there was no form to fill out, so it was already beating the pants off of the art class.

I showed up that Tuesday and surprised myself by writing and sharing something very personal and emotional.  I had felt safe among the group members and confident enough in my writing abilities to take a risk.

For the next few weeks, I went to some meetings but not others.  It’s not that I didn’t like going or that I was super busy.  (Full disclosure: When I didn’t go, I laid in bed and watched old Dr. Phil shows and reruns of Sex in the City.)  I liked the people and the writing prompts and the writing that I accomplished within each two-hour session and the way that I felt after each group meeting.

The only thing holding me back was fear.  Because what if I committed to this group?  I would need to start working on a project of some sort.  Everyone was working on something — poems, novels, short stories, memoir chapters.  And what if I started something and it flat-out stunk like those detox foot patches that W and I tried?  What if I learned that a book is too hard for me to write?  Or that I’m not really a writer at all — never have been, never will be?

The funny thing was that the more sessions I attended the more confident I became in my writing and in myself.

Now, every Tuesday, I eagerly show up for group, notepad and pen at the ready.  I like being a part of something.  I like being a part of a group comprised of people who like the same things that I do — books and writing and writers and ideas and a clever turn of phrase.

I use our weekly meetings as a deadline to write another chapter.  I am plodding along.

We're all like this sometimes

We’re all like this sometimes

Last night, I e-mailed another chapter to the group for critique.  Right after pushing the send button, I started getting nervous.  I mean, what if it wasn’t any good?  Scarier yet, what if no one understood my words and they all found it really weird and strange?  The morning feedback has once again assuaged my fears.  I have learned that when I make myself vulnerable, people relate to what it is that I need to say.  For in the end, we are all naked tortoises lying on our backs, our soft bellies exposed to the world.

I think it is an ironic twist worthy of any good book plot: How a loner found companionship in a group of women engaged in the solitary pursuit of writing and found her voice.  It had been there all along for she sang in the shower and in the car and to her cats when no one else was around.  But it wasn’t until she was in the company of other like-minded people that she was able to sing out loud for the world to hear.