And still…

There was an incredibly powerful exercise that I did once in a group session with other alcoholics and addicts. It was about the first step-admitting you are powerless. It was recommended by one of our peers, who said his sponsor guided him through it. He gave us all an index card and told us to number one through ten, leaving two lines for each number.

Then he said “I want you to think of ten of the worst things you did while you were drinking, and write them down. Leave an empty line.”

Our leader, Bob, was feeling sassy, so he timed people. The first person completed his in 27 seconds. Others needed to think a little harder. I was in the middle of the pack.

Then he gave us the key for the exercise.

After every statement, we had to write “and still I kept drinking.”

We had to confront the fact that not only did we facilitate these terrible experiences, we chose our demon again. And again. And again.

So for me it would start out a bit like:

I broke a goddamn toilet, and still I kept drinking.
I was sleepwalking naked, and still I kept drinking.
I let the horses out in the middle of the night, and still I kept drinking.
And so on.

It occurred to me recently that this same method could be modified a bit for other situations. I thought of my parents, the spiritual abuse they put me through, and how I’d keep crawling back to them.

So here’s another list. Yeah, it’s different, because the first reflects more personal choice rather than something being done to or with you. It was still a key moment for me to process this list, though. I think it’ll help give me strength.

1. They taught me how to tie a noose when I was really young*, and still I gave them more chances.
2. They told me I was getting fat, and still I gave them more chances.
3. They had me work for the family business in a shop from an incredibly young age, and still I gave them more chances.
4. They made me write pages from the Bible every day to improve my handwriting, until I developed carpal tunnel, and still I gave them more chances.
5. They held me to such high standards that it was impossible to ever succeed or feel like I could be good enough, and still I gave them more chances.
6. They stayed close with my exes even though it made me uncomfortable, and still I gave them more chances.
7. They put down my perfectly healthy dog unexpectedly without telling me while I was away in the hospital, and still I gave them more chances.
8. They left bible pages open about raising godly children after finding a dildo at age 16, and still I gave them more chances.
9. They guilt tripped me for how I was making them feel by choosing to live in my car rather than with them during a complicated time, and later gave me a mattress shoved behind a couch as a bedroom, and still I gave them more chances.
10. They refused to let me see a therapist or get medication for my depression, then insisted on a Christian counselor when it became court mandated after my first institutionalization, and had him perform an exorcism on me, and still I gave them more chances.

It was a pretty frequent pattern that I’d get sick of them and run off, or end up in a mental institution. But I always crawled back, and was always made to feel broken and wrong.

The last couple weeks, I kept getting little barbs from my Mom that indicated that she knew about the transition although I hadn’t had the guts to come out directly to them. Things like telling me how I was the feminine version of my dad, or how girly looking my hair was coming along to be, or how “a girl can dress up pretty and wear makeup and heels and have fun but when a boy does it it’s weird.”

It got to the point that I just walked out the door and left their property after she said something like that. Stopped talking to her. I texted her and said if she wanted to talk, I was meeting with my therapist and she could join, so she did.

She claimed she didn’t have a clue about the transition. She said that when she looks at me she sees “a very confused young person.” When my therapist gave me a chance to express how I was feeling, all I could come up with for a minute was “tense,” and she jumped in saying “And I’m devastated.” Not only did she continue to deadname and misgender me after we explained my wishes, she actively tried to correct my therapist and fiance when they were using the right ones. She asked my fiancé if he was okay with this, and after contorting her face in disgust when he said yes, asked “WHY?!?!” When he explained that his love had nothing to do with my gender, she said “Wow, so anybody can do what they want if they love ‘em.”

There’s another therapy session scheduled.

I added to the list number 11. They invalidated my choices about my gender and sexuality.

Any chances from here on out are to be supervised by a professional.

*It actually wasn’t until very recently that I realized this was fucked up. I mentioned something about it in passing on Facebook and a number of friends jumped in saying how gross that it was. I had been under the impression it was fairly normal, like a Boy Scout thing or whatnot.

The Day I Lost My Husband

I had a few friends come out as transgender in the last five years. When I saw this piece posted by my friend, about their own processing in the relationship, my eyes welled up. I couldn’t help it. I later read it to my boy, who didn’t respond to it emotionally on the same level I did, but still listened intently and nodded along. I don’t know what he saw in it, where it met him. I do know that it made me feel a little less like I was betraying a promise of who he signed up to be with, and made me feel a little less alone.

 

The Day I Lost My Husband

Two years, not long to be married, practically still newly-weds, but then it happened. He had been sitting there in front of me. There was a deep fear in his eyes, his hands were clutching mine as though to let go would mean our last parting, then he was gone. I mourned him then, and sometimes I mourn him still. Never again would I be held by manly arms or protected by his masculine presence as I walked. There would be no strong pecs to rest my head upon as we watched TV at night, no strong square chin speaking my name in whispers of love. No deep voice would ever again tell me how much I was loved, protected, and cared for. There would be no deep flirtatious whispers, no manly romantic gestures, no masculine presence to wake up to and fall asleep in the comfort of. In the space of a moment, it was gone, he was gone, and I mourned. Sometimes I still do. This is not what was supposed to be, this was not our male and female union we promised to be, forever, until death do we part. He was gone, but hands still held mine in their frantic grasp. My eyes still met dark, beautiful, exotic eyes. And I asked the only thing that I could think to ask, “Are you leaving me?”. She replied, “Of course not!” and then I kissed my wife. I held my wife. My wife held and comforted me. We talked, as we had always talked. We joked and laughed, as we always had. We even told the same jokes. The soul in front of me said, “I love you.” And my soul responded with every ounce of it, “I love you too.” I realized I couldn’t lose my husband, I had never had one. I didn’t mourn for a husband lost, but for a trip Mammoth Caves that went to Virginia Beach instead, for the vanilla ice cream cone I ordered, though they gave me cookie dough instead. I mourned for the loss of the beauty of Earth’s second moon, the boat I never sailed nor moored. I mourned for the husband that I, for a moment, thought I could have had. Truth be told, there were never any manly romantic gestures or well defined pecs. No deep voice had ever passed her lips, and it wasn’t a masculine presence that comforted me as I went to sleep or woke. These things only existed in that moment of loss when my mind turned to the what if’s, the “this is how it’s supposed to work,” and “this was not the plan”. Love called me back to myself, my soulmate still spoke to my soul. And if there is some discomfort as I wonder if my friends will abandon me, or if a public kiss will be met with disgust, it is worth it. My soulmate let me see her true soul. My wife upheld her vows that day. Together, we will be our true selves, together our souls will journey, we will be there for sick or well, for time and trials. And, most importantly, we will tell the same dumb jokes, comfort each other as we always did. We will cuddle and hold hands and if anything has changed, it is this: Today as I look in beautiful, loving eyes and hold soft, gentle hands, I know that she is my wife, and always has been. One day, in one moment, I lost a husband, but truth be told, I never really had one.

-Jennifer Bennett Plowman