Of course, as these things go, I didn’t notice what I had done. I thought I was leisurely checking out site improvements, sampling the bells and whistles, perusing what was out there to make my site faster, easier… better.
In the past I’ve held a quiet, personal vigil at home on November 20th for the Transgender Day of Remembrance instead of attending any of the memorial events hosted in my city & around the world. The very thought was too soul-crushing really.
When friends asked me to an event last November I couldn’t even vocalize what torment the thought of attending brought me. I felt like every name spoken could be my child, and I simply could not endure that thought. Not with others.
Ever since my father’s sudden and tragic death in 1981, I kept Loss under lock and key like a prisoner fearing it’s strength would consume me. There was a persistent, yet completely hidden darkness in me. Something I couldn’t shake after standing in the doorway watching him die. I never wanted to name it, or own it, like the various self-help books I consumed like snacks instructed me. I couldn’t possibly go near the dungeon where I held Loss in solitary confinement so why go searching for opportunities to allow it’s escape?
Only until my Reiki Master and I started to peel away the layers of understanding did I accept that these are my greatest life lessons, my biggest obstacles to growth, and I had to decide whether I would turn my back yet again or stand in the face of fear with arms wide open. I was done running, I knew it, so I let go.
I let go of the tape forever running in my head that said that everything and everyone will leave me. I let go of my father’s untimely passing. I let go of the abuse that prevented me from feeling. I let go of my programmed personal narrative telling me I could never be enough. I let go of pain, and said my goodbyes. And with all that newfound space I focused on one simple thing – love. Love for me, for you, for all of us.
Love. It’s my mantra. It’s my compass. It’s my fuel. It’s the reason I agreed to run a booth for PFLAG this year for the Transgender Day of Remembrance because I will no longer hide locked behind closed doors. I will go and celebrate every life lived. I’ll honor families and friends who supported their loved ones quest toward truth. I will be present, with my heart and arms open wide.
That Friday laziness came over me today. You know the one when you say, “It’s been a long week and I need a _______,” (fill in the blank with your favorite restorative indulgence) Whether it’s meditation, a glass of red wine, exercise, dinner out or a movie, we all reach a point when we want to escape and soothe ourselves. Boy, was I there today. Totally self-indulgent, thinking more about myself and what I needed… that is until I saw the clip of Roger Ebert on Hulu talking about how he communicates after losing his voice. It stopped me dead in my tracks.
The kids sauntered over once the discussion started and stayed for the whole thing. We watched so intently you’d think there was a space shuttle launching right before our eyes. What a courageous man. What a powerful message. I couldn’t hold back the water works. Truth be told, the kids even started to roll their eyes when I requested tissue for the tenth time. Yes, their mom gets a bit sentimental. Rightfully so.
My heart soared to learn about how Roger Ebert morphed what looked like an impossible situation to most of us into a fulfilling, rewarding life. He never gave up. When the TED discussion came to a close, I felt compelled to revisit a story I’d read about three years ago. Team Hoyt.
If you aren’t familiar with Dick and Rick Hoyt, you should be. They are a dynamic team, a loving duo, and a constant reminder to me (and many) to live fully. I’m not talking about counting our blessings and saying thanks more and all that jazz, I’m talking about finding out about what really means something to you in this world and pursuing it without limits. No boundaries. No finish lines. No stopping. Going beyond what you thought was humanly possible and then waking up and doing it again.
It doesn’t have to be physical either. Many of us are sitting back and saying, “I can’t run marathons, I have (this or that issue)” and that’s okay. Maybe exerting yourself physically isn’t your thing, but what is? Whatever it is that you feel passionate about, whether it’s planting veggies in abandoned lots or taking care of an older relative- do it, and do it with an open heart.
Buddha’s last words are something I think of every day, if not hourly. He reassured his followers as he started to leave his physical body. “Strive on tirelessly,” he told them when they asked how they would go on without him. The message has been interpreted in various ways, but this one resonates with me in a special way. Keep going with tenacity, perseverance and fortitude is what he is saying. Continue. Don’t stop.
I experience Dick Hoyt’s love for his child and I am rendered speechless. Can I summon a similar type of love, patience and courage every day as I parent and advocate for my children? Is it possible for me to break through my fear, discard my selfishness and release my ego long enough to meet every challenge before me with grace, with purpose? I ask myself all the time. Some days I respond with a resounding “Hell yes!” and other days I struggle to find the right words. Doubt can be like a sedative, coaxing us to give up a little bit more optimism each day.
Dick Hoyt has run more than 1,000 races with his son, and his son cannot move on his own. Dick swims pulling a boat behind him with Rick inside. After that Dick carries his son from the boat to the conjoined bike. After biking is done, Dick pushes Rick in front of him as he runs. Can you possibly imagine? Rick told his dad that he doesn’t feel handicapped when he is racing, and so they continue.
Now that my kleenex have piled like a small mountain on the table and thankfully my sobs have turned to sniffles I can run to my little wonders and hug them like I’ll never let them go. Sure, they’ll snuggle at first and then slowly let go as they turn their attention back to their art projects and games, but I’ll freeze that moment in my mind, what it feels like to have my five and seven year olds in my arms. These two little miracles in my life.
What do I need in this world? Very little actually. What do I have to give? Everything, and more.
For all the times you planted humor, watered our imaginations with your words and imagery, weeded out the chaos amidst the logic and harvested the awareness that we are all human, responsible for our earth, ourselves and each other… Thank you Dr. Seuss!
As the name of my blog and my book suggest, I’m a Seussian, a devoted follower of Dr. Seuss and I strongly believe than most of life’s biggest mysteries could be solved by simply reading his books. Love. Vanity. War. Conservation. Integrity. Boredom. Courage. Government. Mischief. Freedom. Ethics. Commitment. You name it, I’ve grasped the concept first from Dr. Seuss. First as a child, then as an adult, I’ve gone back to his books when I’ve needed to take that flight of fancy into what really means anything to me in this world.
There is nothing more soothing than Oh! The Places You’ll Go! when you crave enlightenment. Yes, we WILL move mountains. 100% guaranteed.
acceptance, activism, balance, community, coping, education, family, fear, friends, future, gender fluid, gender identity, gender variance, healing, hiding, inspiration, joy, kids, love, self awareness, stealth, strength, transgender, transition
I’m thrilled to announce that Be Who You Are is finally available for purchase!
Such a long lesson in patience my friends, but isn’t that the way life leads us where we need to go? Recently I met with a lovely reporter who interviewed me months ago about the book and commented that I seemed much more at ease now. I had to admit to her that I didn’t know how I’d feel when the book was released. Would I summon the courage necessary to charge forward and spread this powerful message? Would I feel exposed on some basic level and feel paralyzed to move forward? I didn’t know. I was still thinking.
On one hand I feel like a warrior, ready to talk, discuss and educate, even with those people who do not agree with our perspective. On the other hand I feel like it is a giant leap, especially when I try to keep our real names and identities unknown. I think most families with gender non-conforming kids, especially those that have transitioned may feel this way. Visibility vs. Invisibility. Ever since Hope’s transition and I started writing this blog I have stepped back in many aspects of my life. I needed to. I abandoned my former career, a certain level of notoriety and even some friends that made my social circle as wide open as I wanted. I went from being in the center to walking away. Gladly.
During this time I’ve done some serious soul-searching, seeking awareness, even enlightenment, as I open myself to every single thing that scares me. While keeping my children safe was my primary focus during the hiatus, I think I took the chance to get away myself, just to think. I look back at all those mornings on the beach this summer when I watched those two carefree souls frolicking and splashing. I know now that I was gearing up. I was charging the battery. Getting strong. All that together time made us closer than ever and we needed it, probably more than we’ll ever know. I needed to be quiet in my thoughts for some time to really feel through what it was that I was after. Define what I was called to do.
Now I sit on my living room couch gazing at wood in the hearth just begging for fire. I feel like that wood, ready for the spark. Ready to begin. I know what I’m after – to tell our story, to raise awareness, to make this world a better place for my children and all children. I’ve had my time to think and rest, and now I’m ready to get to work.
Why can’t we all be as honest as children? Will showed me this picture he drew of me today. And then he asked me if I’d grow my hair long because I’d “be prettier that way.” A little choked up, I quickly replied that you don’t need long hair to be pretty. Anyone can be pretty any way. Boys can have long hair and girls can have short type of conversation. He didn’t buy this. The kid has a clear preference for his mother at five years old.
“Don’t you like my short hair?” I asked admittedly wide-eyed, a little smile creeping along my mouth as if to say, “Gotcha!” Of course he’s going to say something like “Oh… no… you ARE pretty, but I like long hair…” or something to that effect.
“No, I don’t like your short hair,” staring my straight in the face. And then he paused. Wait a second! My dad always said if you ask a silly question you’ll get a silly answer. That’s honesty for you. Take it or leave it, it’s the truth coming out of his mouth and I got a heavy handed dose of that reality today. Okay.
After tucking the kids into bed and kissing them goodnight I chuckled to myself. Here I talk on and on about standing in my truth and living honestly. My kids are shining examples of who I want to be – real.
acceptance, activism, balance, community, coping, education, family, fear, friends, future, gender fluid, gender variance, healing, inspiration, joy, love, self awareness, self expression, strength, transgender, transition
It Gets Better Project is a beacon of light. Moments ago I downloaded my video in the hopes that it could reach a parent who needs a brighter tomorrow. I believe we have the power to stand in our truth, whatever that truth is, and love despite the challenges and the fear before us.
Have you shared your message of hope?
This morning I sauntered along the park hand in hand with my little one. Lost in thought I caught a blizzard out of the corner of my eye and my son’s hearty belly laugh tickled my ears. Bright yellow leaves cascaded from an enormous tree by the hundreds. Instinctively we started darting from one leaf to the next trying to catch them mid-flight. I lost all train of my thoughts giving into the laughter built up within me. Each time we collected a leaf we squealed with joy and proudly displayed our latest catch. Exhilarating!
When we sat down to sketch a nearby fountain I felt like life slapped me in the face I was so alive and happy. As our Sharpies made masterpieces we talked about everything under the sun. What would we do for the holidays? Where did his grandfather go after he died? What was our favorite season? How did we describe God? The things this little (almost) five-year old and I covered. The incredibly loving and clever mind of this little person!
So many times I wonder if Hope’s life overshadows his, even more than any older child takes over a younger child’s schedule. We’ve altered all of our lives because of Hope’s transition and the bullying she experienced in school. Instead of being defiant or bitter, he is this affectionate, understanding brother always willing to tell his sister “You look pretty” or “That’s a nice dress” when she gets ready. It’s destiny that we are all connected this way. The love that surrounds this little family is inspiring and I am eternally grateful.
No matter how hard I try I can’t balance the scales of their lives and that is okay. I’m sure that is a struggle for every parent with more than one child. The best that I can do is to see each child for exactly who they are and celebrate that person proudly.
I think our little walkabouts will become a habit, not a special treat.
I hope you’re enjoying the new bright theme for the blog. I am, very much. Blogs are always a work in progress (much like lives), but little by little it takes such beautiful and inspiring shape. Gone is the need for the dark, somewhat pensive nature of my thoughts of last year. Welcome to the tranquility of lightness and life of the year to come.
You might be sitting there shouting at the screen, “Ummm… hate to break it to you Jen, but New Years has long gone,” and admittedly you are right. But even though January 1 seems like a memory by now, I have begun again. Started fresh. Made my resolutions to do good things and turned the page in so many ways. Doesn’t the possibility of a new year start at any time? There aren’t any hard, fast rules that I know of… and if there were, I’d break them anyway.
“I was in a self-induced coma,” I explained as we started picking at the appetizer plate. It’s true. I disconnected last summer when Hope transitioned. Whether it was the emotional heaviness of all the changes in our lives or just a feeling of being overwhelmed in general, or both, this social butterfly started to bail on events. So unlike me, a person who adores getting dressed up and catching up with friends. As summer turned to fall, I found myself ready and willing to go to a party early in the day; however, as time ticked by I got increasingly comfortable with all the rationalizations why I shouldn’t go. The kids need me. I’m tired. I gained too much weight and have nothing to wear. I’m depressed. I have so much on my mind I don’t feel like small talk. I wish I didn’t have to go. I’m scared. So many excuses flopped around in my brain all day, like lonely delicates on a slow cycle.
Each time I bailed on a fundraiser or gathering, I figured I would surely attend the next, and so on, and so on until the weeks turned to months. I stopped opening invite emails and then the moment arrived… Click! I just up and deleted my email address. Now that will stop the trappings of my social world once and for all! Only my inner circle had my personal email address so it made sense to me. If they really need me (and I mean beyond the occasional brunch or benefit) they will find me. While everyone was out gallivanting, I needed to sit back and think. And think I did.
“I lost my funny,” my friend disclosed as the entrees were taken away and my cheerful face fell. “It was the stress,” she confided as she told her story of trying to do it all and be everything to everyone, and I still couldn’t grasp it. Her? This industrious powerhouse of energy and light? Apparently even the life of the party got sidetracked once in a while too. Don’t fret, she quickly got her humor back, and might I add, better than ever. It was all just another step along the road.
Later that night as I walked to the subway I grabbed my scarf and threw it around my neck and finished the knot. The long anticipated cool breeze begged me to saunter slowly (not launch into my normal power walk) and I thought long and hard about our conversation. I guess life unfolds in due time.
There are moments we find ourselves hosting the celebration, organizing every last detail and making sure it all goes as planned. Other times we find ourselves as the unofficial entertainment with rousing stories full of merriment and laughter. Other periods we are the proverbial wallflower – in attendance, but not really there. And then there are times in our lives when we just don’t show up. We’re somewhere else altogether.
In the end it doesn’t matter as long as we are being true to ourselves. The seasons will come and go and true friends will be there if we are honest. And there is always another party right around the corner. I am sure of it.