Metamorphosis

Here is why I think people can change:

My mom just shared a trans rights supportive post on social media, saying how valuable trans people are. My mom used to be a fundamentalist Christian. But when my wife came out as trans three years ago, my mom did not hesitate to love and accept her. When who she loved came into conflict with her beliefs, she changed her beliefs not her love.

Love is transformative, and I’ve seen it happen.

Idea Soup 10/19/18

Idea Soup is my weekly cultural round-up of my food for thought. These posts will highlight the books, articles, songs, essays, poems, films, and TV that I am consuming. Not meant to be an exhaustive list, but a best-of compilation for the week. Click on the embedded links for more information or to purchase any of the media listed.

 

This week’s ingredients in my Idea Soup:

A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women by Siri Hustvedt“Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind.” The collection takes on such varied topics as entrenched sexism, neuroscience, psychiatry, writing, teaching writing, teaching writing to psychiatric patients, pornography, the economy/price structure of art, Robert Mapplethorpe, and gender roles in domesticity. Siri Hustvedt is one of my favorite writers and thinkers, and I enjoy the challenge of following her mind. Her structured arguments feel like elegant fractal somersaults.

 

ForeverAn Amazon original series starring Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen. They play a married couple who seem to have a loving, stable relationship. When everything seems perfect, what could go wrong? The show plays with the ideas of perfection, security, the afterlife, existential angst, and how individuals who sacrifice themselves for a relationship don’t do the relationship any good. The opening sequence of the first episode rivals and pays homage to the opening love story in Up. This show kept me guessing, and I recommend it to people who like Maya Rudolph, existential questions, and The Good Place. 1 series, 8 episodes.

 

“Now or Never Now”The fourth track on Metric’s newest album Art of Doubt. After a minute-plus instrumental introduction, the lyrics start with ideas of failure, weakness, and regret but progress to strength, self-confidence, and owning the self that you’ve become from experiencing defeat and artistic frostbite. I appreciate the duality of “now” or “never now”, which I interpret as playing with the idea of present time and the decision to unfreeze, move on, and own your experiences.

Colorado Cabin Fever Survival Guide – Part 1

This past weekend, Denver had several inches of snow. A little early for October but not unheard of. I spent Sunday morning resisting the instinct to laze around and slow down before remembering that Colorado winter days are for those exact things.

These are some of the routines and patterns that I use to survive Colorado cabin fever.

1. I like to move it, move it.

Whether it’s dancing to up-tempo music, taking a walk (or a run) around the block, or finding a cardio video on YouTube, move around. The endorphins from the exercise help your brain feel happy and clear your head. Repeat as often as needed. On snowed-in days, short, frequent bursts of physical activity work better than a 30-45 minute workout with no other exercise during the day. Move early, move often.

2. Play musical chairs with your to-do list.

On days when cold and snow have you stuck inside, don’t exacerbate it by sticking to the same task for too long. Take your to-do list and set a timer on your phone for 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, switch activities or tasks whether or not you’re finished with them. Frequently changing tasks makes the time go quickly and keeps you from having to use too much stamina.

3. Plan meals with the season.

If it’s winter, then it’s soup weather. Hot soup helps keep you warm and focused on those long cold days. This is the time of year when root vegetables, squash, and tubers are the freshest and cheapest produce. Chicken stock as a soup base will fortify your immune system during cold and flu season as well. Habitually drinking hot tea or coffee will also warm you up throughout the day and give you little rituals to look forward to.

4. Invest in winter gear.

During the winter, you can’t always stay inside under mounds of blankets. Invest in the appropriate winter gear to keep you warm and dry outside. This means you need at minimum a warm coat, snow pants, snow boots, gloves, and a hat that covers your ears. Being able to dress warmly will give you the freedom to spend time outdoors no matter the weather. And having the ability to spend time outside in winter is key to not feeling like a prisoner of winter.

 

Three to four months of winter can be daunting, but with some planning and willingness to change your routines for the season, you will enjoy slowing down to enjoy a Colorado winter.

The Local Park

The local park is a repository of frustrated motherhood, womanhood. I had forgotten the sheer insanity and inanity of preschool childrearing. The whining is endless and boring, a siren call with no allure. A siren call that mothers are compelled to answer for reasons of necessity. Dutifulness is everywhere. Pleasure, less so.

I awaited the start of school as an oasis during the summer. School semesters bring their own challenges and stressors, but it also brings mid-morning October runs, long writing sessions, and cool afternoons. The emotional management of children is not my preferred job. Their boredom tires and infuriates me. These are the moments when I know that I cannot ever go back to homeschooling my children.

These are also the moments when I look at the new-ish mothers with their young children, and I remember how endless those days felt. I remember the way we would sprint through our days, me cramming too much in and not getting enough sleep. My children frequently clinging to my back or in my arms, balanced against one of my hips. The unending story times, potty breaks, food messes, laundry, diaper changes, public and private emotional meltdowns (theirs and mine). And now none of that is my daily life. Everything has changed. Our developmental milestones and daily needs are comparatively alien.

My morning in the local park reminded me that every single boring, exhausting part passes. Every emotional milestone: passes. The sore arms from carrying children, pushing strollers, juggling bags: all of it passes. The mental wear and tear from the constant interruptions, questions, and songs also pass away. And this gives me hope for the things I am currently facing as a parent. The beginnings of puberty, the addictive qualities of screens, balancing technology with real-life interactions, teaching these humans the skills to survive as adults. It will all come together and eventually fall away.

All I can do–all I could ever do–is live in this moment.

A Day in the Life of a Lesbian Housewife

When I wake up, my wife has already been up for an hour. She has done yoga, made coffee, and now has the vibrating intensity of someone who has had a cup or three. She is a poster child for all things disciplined and industrious. I try to match her by combing my hair before I go downstairs while herding our two children down to breakfast.

Breakfast is the meal that we consistently have together as a family. The kids hate bringing a full lunch to school, preferring to bring a collection of snacks, so I insist on a hot breakfast. Sometimes this is a serene and connecting family experience. Frequently it is a chance for either my wife or me to say, “Let’s have kids, you said. It’ll be fun, you said.” Sarcasm is on our family crest, right beside existential angst.

If it is a rushed morning, I take the kids to school in yoga pants, a t-shirt, and an oversize sweater stolen from my wife’s closet. If I’m going from the school to a library or coffee shop to write, I’ll dress it up with jeans, a t-shirt, and the same stolen sweater. When I’m working, comfort and ease always beat out style and neatness. It’s the perk of the freelance lesbian housewife–not having to care. At least some of the time.

At home, my housewife style combines wildly varying standards of cleanliness and DIY creativity. Examples:

  1. I make my own bread. My method is stupidly easy: it takes a bread machine and five ingredients. But I get big housewife points for being able to say I make my own bread.
  2. I regularly consider getting out the vacuum but then forget (or neglect) to vacuum for months at a time.
  3. I never dust. That’s what the bi-monthly vacuuming is for.
  4. I wash dishes because the sink is nearly always at capacity. We cook and eat at home most of the time, ergo an equivalent number of dirty dishes and pans. Keeping up with the flow of crockery is its own part-time job.
  5. I see a beautiful chunky knit headband in a sales email from Etsy. I bet I could make that myself from a skein in my yarn stash. I spend an hour trying to find a copycat pattern, start and finish the headband, decide to make one for all the women I know.
  6. I randomly decide to wash all of the windows. The Windex-ed rags provide evidence of my essential worth. This in no way correlates to writing deadlines or procrastination.
  7. I make dinner most weekday nights. This is the way we have divided up the meal prep in our relationship. Some nights, dinner is risotto with homemade stock, or beef stroganoff, or chickpea tikka masala. But it could just as easily be scrambled eggs and tater tots, baked potatoes, or bean burritos. I also keep an emergency frozen pizza on hand for the nights when everything goes to hell. Twice a week on average, in case you were wondering.
  8. Most days I also run errands, work in the yard, tend the few plants we have, check on the fruit trees, do laundry, provide homework help, and take care of my own exercising and social needs.

These housewife tasks are mish-mashed and dissected to fit into my life as a freelance writer. I love doing both, having one foot in the daily effort of managing my home and the other foot in the world of ideas and stories and, yes, even deadlines. The housewife life gives me a place to ground myself with the quotidian, the homely, the mundane, the earthly. The writing life gives me the opportunity to create stories, play with ideas, travel, and make an income with a flexible schedule.

So what makes the lesbian housewife life so different from the hetero housewife life? Well, for one, the sex is significantly different. Otherwise, they are pretty similar except perhaps for one major difference. My wife can (and has) done all of the same household tasks that I do. My role in our household was chosen and designed by me, not by her or by any handed-down gender roles. And because we each have the ability to completely run the household, my wife honors and appreciates the work that I do to keep our house running as well as the creative work that I do to keep myself happy. This is the give-and-take fluidity of managing a household in a lesbian relationship, and every day I feel lucky to be a part of it.

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Everyone has a rock star dream. For some, the dream is to work at a prestigious institution whether academic, scientific, artistic, or corporate. The dream might be owning your own business or being your own boss. For others, the dream could be living in an exotic country, in a city far removed from anything familiar. Perhaps the house itself is the dream in the form of a houseboat, a tiny house, an old farmhouse that needs renovation, or a recreational vehicle and a nomadic lifestyle.

Only last year, I dreamed of becoming a full-fledged CPA and globetrotting accountant, but I broke up with that dream in January 2018. So why did I leave that dream in the dust despite a good company with upward momentum and a strong network?

Dreams change.

I moved into my dream and began to follow the steps to make it happen. I was well connected and had clear indication from peers and superiors that my career would fall into line. Their only question was where would I like to live and work next? But making dreams into reality causes some strange shifts. It doesn’t feel the way you expected on the inside. Like a fancy dress with netting in the skirt, the romantic look of it masks the reality of yards of scratchy netting next to skin.

I did not want the dream anymore. The dream made me feel that I was leasing my life from my job. The dream required a two-hour daily commute. The dream meant that when I had time with my children, they saw a woman who was irritated and always tired. The dream severely limited my social life and strained my relationship with my wife. The day the dream became untenable was the day I realized that the next promotion would mean even more hours and even more stress. The promotion was only six months away, but I was already at my breaking point. It had to stop.

Unfortunately, realizing that it’s not working is not the same thing as breaking up. It took me three months to fully see that this dream was incompatible with who I was and who I wanted to be. I thought I had failed the dream, forgetting that dreams should be tailored to the dreamer and not the other way around. When dreams change, it’s okay to mourn a little, kick the dust, and give the limp, worn out dream one more embrace.

If the dream isn’t for you anymore, it doesn’t matter how shiny it is—put it down and walk away. You will find that you are full of dreams and breaking up with the wrong ones will bring those other possibilities to the surface. You will be able to walk through other doorways, down other avenues, unencumbered.

And your mind won’t itch the way it did before.