wealthy in family

February 25

Dear Les,

I’m not out to my parents as genderqueer/nonbinary and this knowledge has weighed on me for years. For graduation, I considered asking them to stop calling me a girl—as they do nearly every day when talking to our dog. I’m Tilly’s “girl.” They mean it in the sweetest way, but I still cringe every time. I feel uncomfortable, sometimes irritated, sometimes sad. Because I don’t know how to bring up my gender identity with them—I’ve already had some uncomfortable conversations and nonconversations about other trans loved ones, and I don’t expect our conversation to be tulips and roses, I’ve kept waiting.  But all that aside, I’m fortunate. I won a lottery when I was born, Les. Gender and sexuality conversations may not be most delightful topics in our household, but I can hardly imagine having parents love me more. And I can hardly imagine having better siblings.

Tonight I found out that my dad, who has struggled with viruses, kidney stones, fatigue, and a fever for the past two months, all while having to continue to work every day as a small business owner, has an aneurysm in his heart. He requires heart surgery. After multiple calls from the doctor’s office and his having tests run this week, I’ll admit I was expecting news of this variety.

It was after my mom and I walked in the front door together this evening and he greeted us with a bright smile that he sat us down and shared the news. Not long after he told us that Elizabeth (my sister) already knew, and that she’d been into his work this morning. Also, her mother had more health news too; something doctors had just last week announced cleared up was in fact still present.

My dad is optimistic. His doctor is chagrined he didn’t catch the aneurysm last month and working hard to connect my dad with a good surgeon. My dad’s going to be out of commission for awhile after the surgery. Somehow, after years of his not getting more than four consecutive days off work (including the weekend), he’ll have to take time off. And it’s not for a vacation like we’ve all been wanting. My sister and I kind of laughed about this over the phone—saying after this, we’ll have to force a vacation to happen. If we can figure out his business stuff for bad things, we should figure it out for beautiful things too. Of course, good health is beautiful. A successful surgery and recovery is beautiful.

I find myself praying in my agnostic way and sending good vibes to my dad, my sister, her mom, and even FKS, who is sick right now and in the middle of many changes as she prepares to move down to California to live with her sister for at least a term.

Maybe things aren’t great right now, Les. But I’m hopeful. So hopeful.

what i am not (last week’s scribbles)

February 23

Les,

Sometimes I doodle between phone calls. Last week before Yosemite, this was one of my page’s tangles of words. Inspired, no doubt, by my discomfort dating someone with a partner—then that someone going through a break-up, and my sensing that for multiple reasons, now’s not a great time for us to date. Any angst in the tangle is not intended to be directed at that person. I think she’s quite lovely. In general, these are things I never hope to be to anyone I’m involved with. Was anyone else ever irritated by All American Reject’s song Dirty Little Secret when it was popular?

 

What I am not:

an emergency exit or escape

a break from your girlfriend/SO/partner

a secret

your cigarette

cutlery

 

I could be scribbles,

could be condensation turned trickle

could be a surprise candy from

the colorful piñata, skidded beneath picnic table.

Could be a conversation

about superheroes, or ethics, or plans.

I could be a hand.

 

I am not your distraction.

 

Until, perhaps, someday I am:

mouth on mouth, laughing, teasing

joking about where we could be,

not particularly caring

because our distracting one another

is not really

a distraction.

 

Back from Yosemite

February 22

It’s been awhile, Les. A whole two weeks. I’m sorry about that. Plenty has happened, plenty has been on my mind, and sometimes my INFP self just doesn’t feel like sharing. Part of that’s due to dating someone recently. Attraction doesn’t come easily to me, and I struggle to let myself relax and enjoy it without second guessing/fighting everything. But also, and probably more importantly, I’m  wondering what I’m doing with my life postgraduation. I’ve got an abundance of time and don’t know where to direct myself these days. After years of intense drive and ambition, I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that I may not be cut out for the kind of work I was preparing for. No one else has led me to believe this—just serious, honest personal reflections on my own sensitivities. Recognizing that I’m being opaque tonight, I’ll write more about career stuff in the future.

On a way brighter note, guess what?! My sister Elizabeth and I took a spontaneous (idea hatched 3 weeks ago) trip to Yosemite last week. She picked me up from work Wednesday night and we hit the road, stopping at the first rest stop in California that night after making our way through a blizzard just south of Ashland, then continuing on to the park the next morning. Because we had only two nights in the park (a mere 47 hours!), we made it our mission to get up early both mornings. By 5:40 we were up, by 7 we were on a trail.

Yosemite Highlights:

-On Thursday night, we noticed a rainbow halo around the moon! I’d noticed a similar ring once or twice before, but not rainbow! EarthSky explains what causes these halos.

-WE SAW A BOBCAT. While walking back from Mirror Lake and briefly checking out the backpacker’s campground, a bobcat nonchalantly walked over the ridge towards us before continuing onward. I really have no words to express my level of excitement, but I can tell you that about 10 minutes later when we were on a bridge admiring the blinding sunlit water and Half Dome, I lay down in the road and kicked my feet in the air I was so happy. IMG_3424.jpg-We hiked Yosemite Falls trail and FOLLOWED COUGAR TRACKS for a mile. No, they didn’t seem ultra fresh. Yes, we wondered how safe we were and took a video for our family & friends just in case we didn’t survive the hike. Yes, I was stoked. Yes, I spent considerable time on the 12+ drive home google searching tracks to see if we were correct about the cougar diagnosis. On the way down, I hugged an incense-cedar that had been scratched.

-I hiked that 2700 elevation change/3.5 mile icy trail in running shoes with no traction. Hands-down one of the most foolish decisions of my life—a decision I made rather reluctantly but eagerly (contradictory feelings, I know) because I wanted to be springy on the trail and my beautiful, reliable Danner boots are heavy trail monsters. When the trail became icy just below the upper falls (which started out as water then turned into snow/ice at the bottom!), I realized that I was an idiot—and that Elizabeth was not wearing running shoes like me, but rather trail shoes. With traction. I scoured my bag for anything I could add to my shoes (considered my work lanyard and even Apple headphones) but came up empty-handed. I cursed my poor decision-making and fretted about maybe needing to turn around. Fortunately, that first stairwell was the worst of it. We continued to the top although I avoided going anywhere close to the edge or down the rock steps to the creek. With the help of a stick, I made it down the mountain, falling only 8 times on my butt. Nearly everyone we encountered around the top had hiking boots &/or traction devices such as Yaktrax. I stoically clutched my stick and attempted to stand upright by the side of the trail as they passed. I was determined to let nobody (besides my sister) see me fall and mostly succeeded.

I’ll never knowingly begin a comparable hike in such poor footwear again but that was also the best hike of my life. IMG_3657.jpgUpper Yosemite Falls. Check out that footwear. I was worrying much of the time about the hike down—the descent would be undoubtedly more challenging. It was. I fell several times, and caught myself dozens more, sometimes spinning around my staked stick, but laughter was always present.

What else is there to say tonight, Les? I’m confused about a lot of things, but that’s okay. I just feel so darn grateful to love—that unseen cougar, that bobcat, my partner-in-crime sister, the outdoors, my family, my friends, former classmates and coworkers, the seasons, and more—and be loved, and to be alive. This weekend I was actively excited to live. And the thing is, as amazing as this weekend was, I realized that my life has been so rich and full I cannot quickly pick out other top weekends because I regularly appreciate the moment. I generally don’t catalog experiences, but I’ve been blessed with many wonderful opportunities and experiences. I am lucky, Les.

thoughts on polyamory as a reluctant other human

February 8

Dear Les,

For about a month, I’ve been dating a lovely individual who happens to be polyamorous and in an open relationship with her girlfriend. I’ll refer to her as FKS, the initials of her nickname. We connected through Tinder; she was one of my handful of right swipes (Perhaps two times out of a hundred, I swipe right as if to say, “Maybe”? It’s a strange age. And yeah, it feels superficial to swipe left on people). She mentioned her girlfriend in passing on our first date while we were wrestling with too-full tacos and a shortage of tortillas in a trendy little dark taco bar on Alberta. Taken aback, yet interested in remaining friendly, I let the conversation drift on. After a couple of minutes, I casually asked about her girlfriend and she shared that they were in an open relationship.

In the past, if ever asked if I would date someone in an open relationship, my answer would have been no. It’s difficult for me to manage feelings for one person, let alone more than one, yet I do prefer monogamous romantic connections with individuals. I would like to be their only partner, too. Marriage and “settling down” with someone certainly offers me some anxiety—I recently commented to a friend how strange the institution of marriage is for implying life begins upon binding yourself to another human—but I like the idea of being sweet with a single someone. Holding their hand and no one else’s because at the end of the day their hand is the only one you want to hold. It’s just how I’m wired. Perhaps that’s just the result of my acculturation, perhaps not. Either way, monogamy is what I prefer.

My time with FKS has challenged me to reconsider my feelings on dating and polyamory, and by extension, monogamy. Until as recently as a couple years ago, I dismissed polyamory as an odd, misogynistic practice of Mormons, or just a plain odd thing. An excuse for folks to get more sex, I suppose. Exposure to different ideas and people in college, in addition to increased open-minded in general, made me realize that while polyamory most likely wasn’t for me, it could be a beautiful, healthy thing for others.

FKS and I make each other laugh and think. On paper, we would appear as opposites in many regards. She grew up in a humble music household in southern Oregon; I grew up in a middle-class home in the north. She moved out of her family home at 17, and at 18 moved up to Portland with her girlfriend; I left at 18 for college but returned most summers and now find myself back at home as a graduate. She attended her senior year of high school here in my neighborhood school then dropped out. She developed a heroin addiction. She got herself off heroin while biking 17 miles a day to work and working 56 hours a week. I attended high school across town and averaged 5-6 hours a night on homework. I rode the bus with a bus pass the youth commission I was part of helped secure for Portland’s public high school students. I had healthcare and dental care. Except for one hit of pot last July, I’ve never done drugs. I’ve been buzzed on alcohol only a handful of times; she quit drinking on New Year’s.

We share our stories and comment on the strengths of the other. Offer gratitude for each other’s stories.

I danced away from all of her attempts to kiss me before last weekend. Even last weekend, while preparing burritos in her kitchen, I pushed her away and shook my head with a goofy “Nooo” when she grabbed me by the collar and pulled me close for a kiss. It wasn’t right, I wasn’t ready. And yeah, the friends I’ve relayed this to don’t know how I could resist that kind of kiss. I waited until after we grabbed toilet paper from 7-Eleven, telling her I needed to know more about the nature of her relationship with her girlfriend. I needed to know about their understanding.

She shared that they’d been together for 7 months (also a Tinder match), and that from the beginning, they agreed that it was an open relationship.

Later, when she wanted to hear some of my poetry, I shared (an)other human and scrap of tinder with her. I had warned her about the angst and already shared my reservations about dating someone in a relationship. She loved the poems. She felt bad I was “breaking my rules.” I told her I had given the matter a lot of thought and that I was capable of making my own decisions (and I’m a stone anyway). Not too long after, we kissed. Even before though, mitigating my shyness, she spooned me. We spooned most of the night, and I marveled at the fit.

The reason I am “breaking my [original] rules” is because I realized I experience attraction of any kind so rarely that gently exploring something with a sweet albeit partnered human may not be such a bad thing, provided there is respect and understanding between all parties. I’m not particularly interested in meeting FKS’s girlfriend but it’s important to me that their communication is honest, respectful, and compassionate. I’d like the same thing with FKS. Also, importantly, and I belabor this point in my letters: I’m a rather stoney individual, Les. I’ve got a lot of hardness around my heart when it comes to dating. Whether it’s stone, or ice, I’m uncertain. I’m not eager to leap into a relationship—in part, I admit, because I have anxieties about not being “enough” for my partner. Maybe because of this stoniness. Sometimes I just feel frozen and like I can’t give others enough of me. Casually dating someone who already has a partner may actually be a really good thing for me. It helps relax some real or perceived pressure.

I find myself writing about this, however, because I don’t know how much more I can do. FKS is a beautiful human. A rare soul that I feel at home with, in spite of, or perhaps because of, our many differences, yet similarities. At least when we are together, our energy matches up and I feel at home in myself. But I’ve also been holding myself back, telling myself that this is just a casual thing.

I feel myself softening a bit, Les. And at the end of the day, I do not want to thaw with FKS and hurt because I want more than she has to give. I already know that she is polyamorous, and I respect this. What remains to be seen is if the best way to respect myself (and her), is to gracefully part ways if I seem to thaw more and want a relationship.

It is a beautiful thing to feel affection. It is a painful thing to feel affection.

 

I would happily welcome comments from anyone who reads this, if you are so inclined to share your thoughts. I know I have many polyamorous fellow bloggers—I’d be grateful to hear your perspectives/experiences. The same goes for monogamous bloggers. Thank you for reading 🙂

 

 

Address to Self, 2/8

February 8

Les, I talk to myself

and from the doctor comes

the prescription:

      No texts, no flirts,

no cocks crowing on the roofs

of coops at four in the morning;

No hunting for wilds

in the middle

of November foggy down.

In short, keep the turkey cold.

Consider a cessation

on jokes and winky faces.

The point on the pencil,

graphite

since well before the lead rumors,

is that you (meaning I)

may not fall

for someone with a girlfriend,

no matter

how cool they may be (with it).

Stone,

this is no time to soften.

Merrymaking and Losing My Pterodactyl

February 3

Hey Les,

Things have been rather serious and angsty on here lately so I feel like being lighter, goofier tonight. While I admit to being a stony little genderqueer scamp caught up in talk of fire and ice, I’m also just a dork who spends a lot of time giggling, and the handfuls of pretty serious selfies on here don’t actually reflect who I am much of the time; I’ve usually got at least a couple toes dipped in joyful self-deprecation and wonder. I laugh at myself and the world and at the end of the day that humor saves me. During my darker or number spells, one of the few things that softens me is imagining my eighty-something year-old self. I dream of pulling harmless, spirits-lifting pranks in a retirement home and and getting arrested for political disobedience. While wearing a rainbow spinny hat, preferably. Even when I can’t imagine anything else for myself in the preceding sixty years, I can still see that goofy existence and it’s beautiful. When I die, I want my obituary to read “merrymaker.” I hope to earn that name.

As a way to crack myself up and engage my my coworkers smile, I find myself pondering funny and cute antics for the office. Ideas (plans!) thus far include making tiny terrariums with grand names like Herbert the Terror to place in random spots around the office. When I say tiny, I mean less than half the size of a pinky or thumb. A coworker got really excited when I instant messaged him about this idea and asked if I’d give him hints as to where they’d be—he wanted a scavenger hunt! Knowing his enthusiasm, of course I will. I’ve made three so far and they’ve each lasted at least a couple weeks in my windowsill so it may be safe to start naming them and taking them to work. Somehow I also came up with the idea of tiny snowglobes. As I’m still figuring out how to stuff moss and soil in miniscule bottles in a more sophisticated manner, I need more practice before I make snowglobes. If you or anybody else has any ideas on how to make snowpeople no taller than a fingernail or wider than a nail, please hit me up. I don’t know how you’d do that, Les. It’s probably not a priority for you either, but I’ll keep my ears open for your suggestions.

In a toy store called Kids at Heart on Hawthorne Boulevard last Thursday, I found super small squishy rubber animals, again less than 1/2 the size of a pinky, to hide around my office and front part of the warehouse. On Monday morning I double-checked that my pals were in my backpack before leaving the house.  pals? A pterodactyl I planned to prop up in one of the windows, orca, red dragon, lizard, humpback whale, and great white shark. I usually arrive at work 25-30 minutes early so while waiting in the breakroom I attempted to stealthily transfer the animals from their littler paper bag in my backpack to my pocket. I got them in then awkwardly asked a coworker for advice on how to use the H20 dispenser machine. I’m not going to lie, I’ve always been afraid of dying a painful hot water death from those machines; I’m afraid I’ll misjudge the direction/force of the water and it’ll splash out at me. I admitted to my coworker S that it’s one of my life goals to avoid using those machines. He already thinks I’m odd so I don’t think I can become much more awkward in his eyes. He looked at me strangely but obliged. It was the tamest machine ever.

But back to the animals. When I returned to my desk, I reached my hand into my pocket and made a startling discovery: some animals had jumped ship. Despite transferring five to my pocket, only two came out: the humpback and dragon. Maybe they ate the other three. I scoured all of my pockets, rifled through my backpack, and retraced my steps around the front part of the warehouse to no avail; the lizard, orca, and pterodactyl were gone.

I’m confused yet delighted. I brought these toy animals to the office to hide in the open and make people smile, and they got started early by hiding from me.

Life is so damn beautiful.