Monday, January 28, 2013

Privacy Versus Secrecy

Milwaukee, WI January 2012
I write memoir. It’s kind of my thing, has been for a few years now. I am a pretty public person, willing to talk with most folks about private issues, though I am discrete, or like to think of myself that way – trying not to over share, to have boundaries. Sometimes my wife has to remind me to speak quietly in a public place while having an intimate conversation on my cell phone.

I am very careful about confidentiality with my students, and set limits as to what gets shared about my own life with others, asking for confidentiality for myself. But now that some essays are getting published – on elephant journal, in the anthology Trans-Kin, I am beginning to realize what I have set up for myself here – a life of a writer sharing her life with everyone who will read it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Right To Exist

Enter/ing, LA/Mar Vista, January 2013

I know.

You wouldn't think I struggle with that, now, would ya?
Look: I do important work.
I Believe in What I Do.
People love me.
I am happily married.
I have a great home, great cats, a wonderful life.

And yet.
And yet.

 I am working on one of my memoirs (that's how much I am not sure I have a right to exist - I am writing two memoirs at once at age 35 - I jest, but there's a grain of truth there), and I keep running into my dad. Smack dab into my dad. No matter what I write about him, people say the same thing over and over again:
"Ok. You loved him. I get it. But why?"

An editor. A critique group. Friends. It's a valid point, one I have addressed before even here. But this time around, it comes when I am trying to pile through my control and anger issues, of which I have plethora. As most people do.

And he's right there, right in the center.

Listen. My dad had a hard life. He was adopted, had a single mom with a disabled sister living at home with them, for whom my dad had to rush home from school and care for. He married my mom, a woman who was not always able to function at top notch, didn't get paid enough, and had three kids. He had two heart attacks, got Diabetes and then cancer in his 50's, then died.

Whew. I know, right?

Today, in therapy, we discussed a memory that keeps reeling back into the scene, one that seems to be blocking any specific details of positive memories of me and him. In short (you want the long one? Read the memoir when it comes out!):
We are eating cheese and crackers late at night.
We are discussing why I have missed so much school lately (nervous kid, sick a lot, wanted to be home with him, though I said none of this then).
He tells me I need to go to school more.
He tells me not to be a nervous person.
He says "You are not a nervous person. I need you to not be a nervous person."

My hips and heart and throat get tense just typing that, though it is an ingrained, old and long-processed memory.

What one critiquer said about my memoir is that it is clear I was not allowed to have feelings as a kid.
In therapy, we went even deeper:
I wasn't allowed to have feelings.
It wasn't good to have feelings.
And if I couldn't have feelings, I could exist, but only without them.
So if I had them, I have no right to exist.

That's what my child mind heard when my father said that. And it fit with a lot of other messages from him. He was trying his best to keep a sinking ship afloat. He encouraged all three of us kids to be independent, forthright, political, funny. He also disencouraged our emotions.

Like a lot of deeply held (secret, even) beliefs, this one has blocked my other memories because it seems incongruous that my father could both love me and also somehow tell me that I don't have a right to exist. Well, shit. Talk about a mixed message: one I am sure he got when he was a kid (adopted, early divorce, always caring for others) and I am sure he intended to give to us so we could survive. In other words, he meant well.

Today, I could really feel that for the first time ever: the power of this awful idea that I don't have the right to exist, and the deep need I have had for 35 years to justify my existence: through work (yes, sometimes even the amazing work I do, which, don't worry, I won't stop doing but perhaps I'll be happier doing now!). Throughout my relationships. In everyday speech. All the time.

I know I am not alone in this.

Deep down, inside the core, I believe - some part of me believes - I don't have the right to exist. I know I do - meditation, Basic Goodness, you know, lots of good teachings. Not small stuff. But belief takes more work to re-wire.

I don't need reassurance. But I do need to root out that belief and give it a good airing out. Join me, would you? It's time to take the skeletons out and set generations of not believing we have the right to exist free.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

What I Really Really Want

"Hurt Pharmacy Open" Mar Vista, LA January 2013
Around Christmas, I had a series of wonderful conversations with my best friend about what we miss. We both find Christmas - the holidays in general - a lonely time. It's midwinter, dark, and people we love/chosen family, leave town to be with their families of origin. We'd say we miss our families of origin, but spending time with them is never what we hope? expect? it to be. We still feel lonely afterwards, no matter how wonderfully it goes, which sometimes, it actually does.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New Year's Intention

A few years ago, friends of ours introduced us to, or co-invented with us (none of us can seem to recall which happened) a practice of coming up with a single word for the upcoming year, on New Year's Eve. The word, we decided, should have many possible meanings, and not be stated as any kind of affirmation (I will play more in the coming year/I am playing more in the coming year) or resolution (I need to play more in the upcoming year). Instead, it would allow for word play - for exploration, for change in meaning, throughout the year.

The first one Dylan and I chose, and we chose the same, was "consume." We tried to gently explore our food consumption (going on a diet, eventually, but really focusing more on watching/noticing consumption than losing weight, which was a helpful change in perspective), and also financial consumption, consumption of goods, of energy, of social interactions.

Luckily, neither of us developed consumption.