Wednesday, June 13, 2018

And Finally...PRIDE

Saturday is PRIDE in Columbus. My girlfriend is in charge of Pride for her college and we will walk together with our three kids. This is new for me. My first Pride parade was only three years ago and I watched quietly from the sidelines beside a woman I had a complicated relationship with. I was not fully out, so I was just a spectator. Last year a friend insisted I not go alone, but with her large cadre of gay friends. They were kind, open, and friendly, but I was still more of a spectator than a participant. This year is the first time I will walk with the person I love and my daughters. I will not merely participate - I will BE. I will be all of me. All of my pieces finally in place and walking with the hope that my children will continue to be whomever they were born as and whomever they chose to be.

I am incredibly lucky. My coming out was essentially easy. I was not a teen living in fear. I was not bullied or afraid of being thrown out of my family. I did not have to fear loss of my job, my home or my loved ones. Coming out after 40 is received with more of a shrug and a “huh, OK.” That’s not to say that there weren’t surprises. My ex-husband worried that people would think it was why we got divorced. My mother wanted to know why I always choose “the hardest path” and some friends questioned if I was “doing what was best for my kids.” I was accused of being a rebel and selfish. Those moments stung, but I had the advantage of being at a place in my life where I knew and believed too much in myself to be discouraged by those voices.

That’s not to say that there wasn’t loss. There was – great, great loss. I lost two of the most important people in the world to me. My confusion, my discovery, my need to figure it out in my own time and on my own path caused each of them great hurt. She ghosted me, which I thought was something you only read about in bad online forums. As for him, I made the mistake in believing the right love means you never leave and was heartbroken when he did. To his credit, he tried to remain in my life, but it became too hard for him. He had moved on, quickly replacing me, yet unable to stay in touch as I eventually moved too. I had wounded them. My tornado came with the expected destruction and in the after-calm, I was alone. 

There has been incredible growth as well. I am so comfortable in this skin of mine. This finally, 100% “all-of-me" skin I now wear.  I have never so much as hesitated to be OUT with my girlfriend and that has affected my kids - IN THE BEST WAYS POSSIBLE! Not only do they adore my girlfriend, they regularly comment that they love our relationship, how we are together in the world. They are proud of us and send their “questioning” friends our way for advice (goodness help us).  All three of our kids are so blessedly unaware of the prejudice we would have faced even 10 years ago. To them we are boringly normal. And honestly, that’s the crazy part about this life of mine – I feel normal too. This is just who I am. It’s just who we are. 

That is until I DARE pay attention to the news. Lesbian couples kicked out of Ubers, Trans murder rates through the damn roof, the Supremes and the fucking cakes, hardware stores with signs hearkening back to separated water fountains, states seeking to disallow gay adoption and Chick-fil-A. I can’t even.

So Saturday we will walk in PRIDE, and I will embrace all of the good, bad, and ugly that comes.  I will no longer be a spectator too afraid to own my whole truth. I will no longer be just an ally. I will no longer fall short of using my voice. I will no longer stand while pieces of who I am walk by. 

I will walk. I will embrace. I will be all of me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Where the Hell is My Roadmap?

It’s been 63 days since I made the choice to make my sexuality public. 63 days of waiting for the welcoming committee, the bi-big sis or the gay genie. Still NOTHING. When you come out as a teen, the resources available to you are abundant. In addition to peers, most schools and youth groups today have some type of support and comradery. The road for these kids is painful and dark at times, but they are not alone. This is not the case when you are 41, divorced and living in suburbia. I am lucky to not feel afraid or threatened. I am not worried that I will be disowned or thrown out of my house. For that I feel blessed. But I am so very alone.

Where are my mentors? Where are my peers? Where are the “others” who’ve successfully navigated this road at my age and come through on the other side at peace? Where is the FUCKING roadmap?

In the days leading up to my publishing All of the Things I Am, two of my heroes Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love) and Glennon Doyle Melton (Love Warrior) also came out. I’ve spent sleepless nights crafting my letter to them, asking for entry into their squad. Dear Liz and Glen, are you’re the big sisters I’ve been searching for? Pretty sure I’d be tagged as stalkerish.  I’ve scoured the internet and local resources for support groups and so few seem to apply. It’s like writing an old school personal ad – Bisexual, 41 year old mom seeking bi-mentor for long talks, too much wine and late night panic attacks. Only those with well-traveled road maps need apply. Sounds awesome.

The best is when someone I don’t know well says “wait, I thought you had a boyfriend?” I do. He’s amazing, kind, patient and tries endlessly to be my shoulder - but there’s a limit to how much a straight man can do. That’s the idea you see. I have always fallen for men and women. I just chose the easy path for almost 40 years and kept half of those feelings to myself.

One of my dearest friends and my therapist are both convinced that if I look hard enough, I’ll find a local support group. They might be right, but the searching alone is exhausting. When I went to college I was assigned a buddy. Joined a sorority and given a big sis. Started a new job and was paired with a mentor. So why the hell not for this?!?! Is that too much to ask? Do you have any idea how many questions I have?

Remember when you were pregnant or your partner was and you were deluged with “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and “Your Pregnancy.” But then a friend who really knew you and loved you enough shared their battered copy of “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy,” and shit got real. And guess what? Vicki Iovine built an empire. From pregnancy, through child rearing, to her inevitable divorce – there was a guide! So where is the Girlfriend’s Guide to Coming Out at 41?? Is it really too much to ask for? I have searched high and low for a website, a book, or a guru and found little.

Someone recently suggested that the mother of invention is identifying a need and filling it – “you should write the book.” Are you kidding? I am seeking the tome, the bible, the encyclopedia here people. I cannot write what I do not even fully understand. Besides, my life is exhausting enough. I barely have time in my day to read what I seek, much less to write it. Instead, I wait eagerly for my imaginary squad (are you listening Elizabeth and Glennon?) to write their next books, which I just know will be everything I’ve been missing. No pressure, ladies.

In the meantime I struggle with the fact that anyone who doesn’t know me well assumes my straight and it’s often too awkward to correct them.  I struggle that I find myself feeling defensive when I shouldn’t and offensive when it’s me with the issue. So that’s fun too.

So yeah, all I want for Hanukkah is a guide or a Sherpa. And if 2017 arrives and he/she is nowhere to be found – dammit, I’m starting my own group. Is there an app for that?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

All Of The Things I Am

“What was the most dramatic change you ever had to make? How did that situation change your life? If one unavoidable shift changed your world – for good or bad – in enduring ways, write it down and share it with Real Simple.”

The words jumped off the page as if they’d been written for me. I knew exactly how I’d answer the question. The emotion almost knocked me off of my feet and sucked the air out of my lungs. I’ve been struggling with the tornado in my head and heart for over a year. I’ve been desperate for a peace I cannot find, longing for perfect answers that do not come. I wrote and rewrote a submission in my head a million times before the due date. Sheer terror kept me from actually putting it on paper. I know myself. I know I strive to “Live Life Loudly” and own my truth. I find writing cathartic. If I wrote it, I’d want to share it and I wouldn’t. I COULDN’T.

I pride myself on “being me” and “being enough.” I write essays to my daughters encouraging them to “stay weird.” So WHY is it so f*cking hard for me to put THESE words on paper and say them out loud?!? Why, when I share with someone I trust, does it feel like I’m telling them a secret? Why? Why? Why?

Years of denial might have something to do with it. It was not so much shame or fear as much as it was lack of comfort. I have always needed to feel completely comfortable with my people, my space and in my own head. This was scary. It was terrifying and I kept reminding myself that I was too old for this sh*t. But I was the ultimate hypocrite. Always inspiring those I loved to be “all of themselves.” Always willing to fight the fight, to advocate and to push.

The last year has brought me to my knees. I have wrought turmoil, heartache, confusion and hurt on people I love. I have wavered between who I am, who I want to be, and what I am ready to own in my life. My inability to deal with these issues when I was younger have forced myself to deal with them now. Now, when they are not part of my fabric as I know it. Now, when it feels too late, too hard and too suffocating.  Now when the storm in my mind won’t stop swirling. The ME who tells my daughters they can be ANYTHING feels like a fraud. The ally in me feels like a half truth. The woman in me feels oppressed and afraid and very small without my authentic voice.

I am also a mom. As a mom my primary responsibility is to my kids - to protect them, to shield them, to love them unconditionally. And that’s the crossroads I find myself at. If I am to lift this mountain from my shoulders, if I am to unburden my heart and live my fullest truth – am I being selfish? Am I being a good mom? A dear friend asked – what would you tell your daughters if this was their dilemma? And I knew instantly that I’d tell them to be 100% themselves, to own their voice.
That same voice is reminding me as I write this that I will be judged, I will be whispered about, I will be afraid. I remind myself I will be ok.  I am enough. I am a good friend, a good mother, and a good human. I know in my gut that once we jump, we must decide if we are going to fall or fly. I choose to fly.

Today is National Coming Out Day. Humans around the world will dig to the deepest depths of their souls and share their truth. They will overcome fear, violence, rejection, and hate. They will choose - as I am - to own who they are.

I AM  - #mother #daughter #friend #jew #woman #liberal #ally #41 #bisexual

Thursday, September 22, 2016

As You Become a Bat Mitzvah

The weekend is here. The first family members have arrived. My lists have lists, which have lists. Your dad is doing his best to be patient as I try to check things off his list too. Three years ago when we chose your actual birthday for your Bat Mitzvah, I’m not sure I realized how much significance could be wrapped up into one weekend. We were still married then, your dad and I - a typical family. You were just 10 and a tiny dynamo of a kid.

Fast forward three years, and everything in your life and ours is so different. You have gown and matured so much and now remind me more of a teenager, than a child. You have taken our hurricane in stride and powered through. You have found your voice, your soul, your village and your true north. You are about to become an adult in the eyes of Jewish tradition and law. I know you chalk that up to early life expectancies when the Torah was written, and on the surface you are practical and likely correct. In my heart though, I understand what Rachel, Rebecca and Leah saw when they looked at their young daughters. They saw the soft, round cheeks more chiseled, they saw the eyes of concentration and focus, they heard a voice more full of confidence and knowledge, and they felt little hands slipping from their grasp.

I watch you while you chant your prayers, your Torah portion and your blessings and I am in awe of the person you are. How did your dad and I manage to make someone so amazing? I listen to your animated recitation of your D’var Torah and I am struck by your passion and conviction.  A speech you focused around the topic of acceptance, at an age when that might very well be most kids greatest challenge. You care so deeply about the issues that are meaningful to you in your life.

Unknown to you, your sister is currently compiling a list of “100 Things We Love About Talia” from our friends and family. Do you have any idea how easy it is for us to make that list? Your dad teased your sister that he had 20 off the top of his head and her request for 2-3 from him was “going to be impossible.”

Your stress and mine have hit epic levels in the last few weeks. We are so alike that way, wanting everything to be simply perfect for this weekend. I know that I keep reminding you that even if your worst fear comes true and you “mess up,” that only you and the Rabbi will ever know.  But I understand that we both suffer from the desire to not disappoint anyone, to cross every “T” and dot every “I”. I assure though my love, I could not be more proud of you and we haven’t even begun. You are my heart, my love. Your sister is my soul. You are everything I could have ever hoped for in a daughter and so very much more.

I am better because of you. I am wiser and kinder and calmer and zanier and sillier. You, my sweet girl, are mensch and an old soul. You, my love, have untapped and unending potential. You, my Bat Mitzvah, are just standing at the starting line and the finish is too far out to see.
This will be a weekend full of love, laughter, tradition and faith. It will be a weekend of family and food and fun. It will be a weekend when your dad and I work our hardest as a team for you, our love. Because there is nothing the two of us would not do for you. Our divorce is simply a fact of our lives; it does not define us, or you. It’s just our family and we make it work. And because it works, you will kick ass this weekend, no doubt in our minds. I promise to remind us both to breathe in the experience and breathe out the stress. This weekend is about you. Celebrating you. Embracing you. Being in awe of you.

You, my heart, will be a woman in the eyes of Jewish law after this weekend. In my eyes however, you will always be my baby. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Stay Weird, My Love

The day you were born you looked at me with the eyes of an old soul. I knew right then you were what I’d waited my whole life for. You were wise from the start. I’ve always known that I have as much to learn from you as I have to teach you. You can be a typical teen at times. Cranky, argumentative and an emotional tornado, but you are so genuine, so kind and so unique. I am regularly in awe of how well you know yourself and how hard you are willing to fight not to change for me or anyone else.

But this one is tough, kiddo. Middle School. It’s not the schedule or the shifting of classes. It is not balancing multiple teachers or harder courses. It’s middle school kids. Are they all a special breed of gremlin that morph by smelling out fear and insecurity?  Perhaps.  Will the next two years be nothing but pimples, body odor and mean girls? No. There will be finals and term papers and rumor mongering too. There will be crushes and heartbreak and friendships tested. There will be moments of greatness and success that your insecurity will warn you to celebrate quietly as to not stand out.  I say this from experience. I don’t tell you this lightly or without knowing that I sound like I am prepping you for war, but forewarned is forearmed, sweetheart.

Don’t be shocked by how mean girls can be. Middle School girls are a special kind of mean. And while I hate to believe it, we’ve all been that girl and we’ve all been the victim of that girl. Don’t let it define you or wound you for too long. We all survived, scars and all.

You have been blessed thus far with a group of friends who are as “perfectly weird” as you are. Social misfits, who all “fit” together.  It’s why The Breakfast Club resonates so deeply in your soul. You have been so lucky to remain outside of most of the drama online and in person. Middle School will make that harder. But stay weird, my love.

Your “weird” is what makes you, you. The way you write. The way you draw. The way you wear your hear t right out on your sleeve. The way you laugh and giggle and sing. The way you dance and draw song lyrics all over your pants. The way you read obsessively and memorize whole books so that you can share the best parts with us. The way you get into the minds and hearts of characters and long to understand them as people. The way you are part girl and part woman and 100 shades of tween. The way you rally for the causes you believe in and do everything with a sense of passion and purpose.

As hard as it will become to remain true to whom you are, FIGHT for it. Fight for your friends when they are faced with cruelty or hardship. Fight for the ideals you already hold so dear. Fight to remain you while figuring out exactly who that is. Fight the urge to “fit in,” when standing out will take you so much further. Fight to ignore the bullies and the desire to be one when you are hurt. Fight taking down a friend, an acquaintance or even someone you really don’t like. There are some hurts that scar us forever. Fight against injustice when you see it, against boredom and insecurity when you feel it and cruelty when you hear it. And stay weird, my love.

Spend time nurturing new and old friends. Spend more time on the subjects you hate than the ones you love. Spend time being unique when it’s easier to be anonymous. Spend time bettering your mind and your body. Push yourself, HARD. Never turn in anything less than your best work. Never leave a friend alone. Never walk when you can run. Never say no because yes is more work. Never let anyone else define you, tell you what you think, what you feel or who you are. Never chose hate when you can chose love. Never treat anyone in a way you’d be ashamed to admit to me.

Things will be confusing for everyone around you - popularity, sexuality, identity and ideology. Keep your mind wide open. Let your spirit and your heart guide. And LISTEN. Don’t just hear but really LISTEN. Listen more when you disagree than when you agree – those times will prove to be your greatest lessons.

Trust me when I tell you that you will learn more about yourself and others in the next two years than you have in the last 13 combined. This is a passage out of childhood. It will be exciting, and overwhelming and scary and wonderful and awful. Some days it will be all of those things at once (oh blessed hormones).

So as we embark on this journey together, my love. Stay weird and know:
  1. My door, my ears, my heart and my lap and always open.
  2. There is nothing you can do that I cannot forgive, but you have to tell me so I can help.
  3. Girls will be mean. It will not make sense.
  4. You will be mean. It will not make sense. Learn from it.
  5. Deleted and erased no longer exist. Don’t do it, say it or show it if you’d be ashamed for it to wind up in your grandmother’s inbox.
  6. You have a powerful voice. Use it wisely and with conviction.
  7. Silence is equally as powerful when used correctly.
  8. You are beautiful, smart, funny, wise and strong. You will not truly believe any of that for many years, so I will be here to remind you.
  9. I want you to be successful, but not as much as I want you to be kind.
  10. Don’t give anything less than 100%. If you can’t, don’t bother.
  11. I don’t expect you to be the best. I simply expect you to try your hardest, always.
  12. You. Are. Loved.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

On Thriving

The thing about divorce is that even the “best” ones are, for a time - a shit storm. Your life is upside down and everything you defined yourself as is shifting. You are watching your partner of close to 20 years move out and then sell a house and move, all the while reminding yourself to breathe. And reminding your kids that their world is not ending. While doing all of that, it’s hard to not become self-involved, selfish and perhaps blind and deaf to everything that is not immediately in front of you.

Your expectations of your people become larger than life. You need life rafts, buoys and Atlas sized shoulders. And sometimes that’s ok. At others, it’s not.  You become so wrapped up in your own storm that you often forget that everyone’s lives are still in motion and they too are experiencing their own hard times, their own loss, and their own needs. You are so focused on staying afloat that your weight becomes an anchor, keeping you in only one place, focused on only your tugboat.

Different friends and family respond in different ways and you take that personally and make it their fault. You are hurt and angry and full of blame when they no longer show up. But they don’t see it that way. They have their own lives and they miss your presence in it. They need your strength and support at a time when you don’t have it to give. Time goes on and you feel alone and isolated from those who used to be your everything. And for a while no one is willing to give. Fingers point in every direction but the right one.  At yourself.

Eventually you are lucky enough to have it out with someone you refused to give up on, even though you should have both thrown in the towel. Lucky enough to have them call you out on your sh*t and remind you that it takes two to tango. Remind you that you have always believed in owning your own sh*t, but have been too busy feeling badly for yourself to pull up your big girl panties and do so.

Divorce is like a death and it too has stages of grieving. In three years I’ve passed though shock, through denial, through anger, through bargaining and depression and testing and into acceptance. But divorce is different too. It’s about moving through surviving and into thriving.

So that’s where I am. I am working on thriving and to do that I must own my sh*t.

I own my failures as a wife and a mother.

I own my selfishness as a friend, a sister, a daughter, a granddaughter, a lover and a girlfriend.

I own the passive aggressiveness and blame I wove through my writing when I was hurt and felt betrayed.

I own my weight gain, lack of motivation and strength when I could do nothing more than crawl under my covers and cry.

I own my voice though it was often harsh, crass and hurtful.

I own my mistakes and indecision.

I own the pain I've caused myself and others.

I own my lack of self-esteem, self-doubt and self-loathing.

I own the kind of friend that I am and I own that alone.

From here on in, I WILL OWN MY SH*T and I will thrive.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

40 Pledges, Self-Esteem and Cheesecake

While filling out paperwork the other day, I was made painfully aware of the fact that I am already ¾ of the way through my 40th year. Yikes! Leading up to 40, I had put a lot of pressure on the birthday. There were things I wanted very much to be able to say I had accomplished. Things I planned to do for myself, like my birthday celebration On Planning My Own. Then there was the one that was intended not to mark 40, but to carry me forward from there. The learnings, the insights, the promises and the ambitions. I had thought long and hard about making 40 pledges to myself – my gift to myself and myself alone. No pressure!

I set out very intentionally. They needed to be realistic but aspirational. They needed to reflect the real me and where I am in my life. They needed to be sunshine, silver lining and a few kicks in the ass. There needed to be things I could consider daily and others that were bigger, more global and long term. My self-esteem has taken a beating over the last few years, so they needed to avoid adding to that. Then there was the question of whether or not they made it on paper. Are they kept in my mind? Written down? Said out loud? Oh my – published?

On a daily basis I am reminded that I could be better, do better and feel better so that seemed like a good place to start, right? As the mom of two tween girls, my number one job is to make sure that my girls have self-respect. Yes, there’s feeding, clothing and loving, too. I assure you though, as I look back at the best lesson I got from my own mother it was that “I was the boss of me.” No one could force me to drink or do drugs, no one could coerce me into thinking that sex was no big deal or to jump off the bridge because everyone else was. Of course I struggled, like all teens. But I trusted my parents to be true to their word – they would be there NO MATTER WHAT and I was the boss of me.

It’s a lesson even as divorced parents, I know my ex and I are on the same page about. We might go about it differently, but the take away for my kids is the same. So I started there and 40 pledges later I ended.

1.      I will stop beating myself up. The world will do it enough for me.

2.      I will eat cheesecake, it makes me happy.

3.      I will listen to hear and not to respond.

4.      I will breathe before I scream. If I must scream, I will open the door to the basement and scream until I can’t breathe.

5.      I will kiss my children every time I say hello and goodbye.

6.      I will say I love you without hesitation. By now I am a good judge of who has earned that.

7.      I will mean what I say and say what I mean.

8.      I will listen to my mommy and always do my best work, clean up after myself, be the boss of me and believe that I can.

9.      I will listen to my daddy and smell the roses, think hard, love harder and be silly.

10.   I will listen to my children as they teach me how they need to be themselves, how fast time really passes, the importance of family dinner, bedtime cuddles and that being a mom is equal parts holding on and letting go. Helicopter who?

11.   I will let myself feel even when it scares the shit out of me.

12.   I will be open and honest about the things that make me, me.

13.   I will fight tooth and nail against injustice, even when it makes me unpopular.

14.   I will be willing to be wrong and say so.

15.   I will be willing to learn, to see and to absorb from those who know more or differently than I do.

16.   I will eat cheesecake, it makes me happy.

17.   I will be willing to give up even when I don’t want to, when it becomes clear that that is the only choice.

18.   I will learn from my mistakes and avoid making them again. When I screw up and make the same mistake again, I will be gentle with myself.

19.   I will love with 100% of myself. It is the only way I know how.

20.   I will be generous with my time, my resources and my energy.

21.   I will forgive those who hurt me, wronged me and spoke ill of me. Unless it had to do with my kids and in that case, they are dead to me.

22.   I will work hard.

23.   I will play hard.

24.   I will travel more.

25.   I will give up certain dreams if it’s for the greater good of my family.

26.   I will be grateful.

27.   I will have a lot of sex. It too makes me happy.

28.   I will smile a real smile in pictures and worry less about how I look.

29.   I will take care of my body.

30.   I will eat better (except for cheesecake, obviously).

31.   I will exercise my body and my mind and embrace activities that do both at the same time (like sex).

32.   I will honor those I have lost in the last few years. Each of them took a part of me with them when they left and that is ok.

33.   I will laugh. Loudly. Loud enough to embarrass my children and to fill my soul with the light only laughter can.

34.   I will put myself first when I can. When I can’t, I will eat cheesecake.

35.   I will guard my heart less, knowing that means I’m likely to get hurt. If I don’t, I will miss humans and experiences that will change my entire being.

36.   I will refuse to be labeled or defined by ANYONE but me and I will teach my daughters the same.

37.   I will dance. Sometimes nothing in the world feels as good (well…maybe cheesecake).

38.   I will learn new things on a regular basis and make them part of my being.

39.   I will read. For work, for pleasure, for my children. It doesn’t matter. I simply love to read.

40.   I will write. More.