Accidental Fudge

Updates Thursdays

Big Days in Transness

Yesterday felt like a big day for me.

It was National Coming Out Day, which I have complicated feelings about – I feel like there can be too much emphasis on the importance of coming out and not enough on the importance of personal safety. Not everyone is privileged enough to be able to come out safely, and they shouldn’t feel like they need to do it “for the cause” if it means that they’re jeopardizing themselves.

I do have the privilege of relative safety, though, and I do feel like it’s important for me to be out and proud as much as possible, because I have seen firsthand the powerful change that can come about in people’s perspectives when they realize queer people and trans people are people they know, and not just nameless, faceless statistics.

After the election, I decided I was going to make a point to be more out at work. I was terrified, but I also felt like it was some small way that I could reclaim some power in what felt (and still often feels) like a hopeless situation. And then we added a new member to our department in the spring, and I decided that I wasn’t comfortable coming out to her, because we share an office and she seemed quite a bit more conservative than I am, and I didn’t want to make things awkward.

Two weeks ago, this coworker thought they had met a trans person for the first time, and she was freaking out about this person using the women’s restroom, and (probably assuming that, since I was a young, gay man, I could do this) she asked me to “explain transgender” to her.

I admit my initial reaction was not great – I laughed. What else could I do? So many of my coming out experiences have felt forced, and here was another. So I told her I was transgender (to which she responded, “No, you’re not!”). I told her we just need to pee like anyone else, that nothing was going to happen to her because a trans person was using the same restroom she was.

We haven’t talked about it since, but now I feel compelled, once again, to be out and proud wherever I can. I have so much privilege in that I am read 99% of the time as a cis man, and I’m white on top of that, and I need to use that privilege for good.

Aside from being National Coming Out Day, yesterday was my one-year post-op anniversary from chest masculinization surgery. It feels simultaneously like it’s been more and less than a year – on the one hand, I feel so much more comfortable in this body. On the other hand, I still vividly remember what it was like to bind every day (and my lungs remember, too), and when I am tired and have changed out of work clothes have occasionally had to remind myself that leaving the house again might mean putting on pants, but it doesn’t mean wrestling my way into a binder anymore.

Surgery was not a thing I thought I was going to want when I started thinking about transition, but it was definitely the right decision for me. I am still grateful and blown away that my insurance wound up paying for it. The fact that I had surgery doesn’t make me more trans (or more legitimate) than anyone else, but it was a way that I was able to make my body feel more like home, and really, that’s something I wish for everyone.

Joyful Travels

As I write this, I’m sitting at my kitchen table, getting a little work done from home before heading to the airport. By the time this goes live, I will be in Minnesota.

With all the darkness in the world this week, it’s nice to have something to be really, genuinely happy about – one of my best friends from my bible college days is getting married, and I’m so glad my partner and I are going to get to celebrate with her and her soon-to-be-husband.

Here are a handful of the things I’m most looking forward to over the weekend:

  1. The wedding. I’m not always the most excited about weddings, but I’m looking forward to this one. This friend and I have been through some things together, and I’m happy to bear witness to anything that is making her happy.
  2. I’m getting coffee with one of my professors from bible college (the only one I still talk to at this point), who I haven’t seen since before I moved to Chicago five years ago. She’s been through a lot recently, and I’m grateful that she’s taking the time to see me.
  3. I get to see my dog and my nephew. My little old lady dog is 15, and she’s slowing down. Every time I’ve seen her this year has felt like the biggest gift, because it was only a year ago that I thought I would probably never see her again (since I wasn’t back in communication with my family yet). I am painfully aware that every time I see her from here on out may be the last, so I’m not taking any opportunity for granted. Our visit to my parents happens to coincide with the time that they’re watching my nephew, too, so I’ll get to hang out with him a bit. From what little contact I’ve had with him, he seems like a bright, creative kid, and I’m looking forward to seeing him again.
  4. This might be the least-packed weekend in Minnesota we’ve had in…well, in a long time. I’m sad that we can’t see everyone, but I’m also looking forward to just relaxing a bit. And I’m hoping it’ll make going back to work on Monday a little easier.
  5. On Sunday, after we get back, we’re going to meet up with a friend at an apple orchard in Wisconsin. Despite my allergies to almost everything outdoors, I love autumn, and apple picking feels like the quintessential autumnal activity.

Grateful, Centered

My first thought when I sat down to write this week’s blog was to whine, at length, about the horrible day I had on Tuesday trying to get to and from jury duty in the suburbs without a car. But I am trying to be a more grateful, centered person, so I’m not going to do that.

I’ve been feeling…a little off, lately. Not grateful or centered. I’ve been feeling frazzled about work, questioning if this is really where I want to be, or if I’m just staying here because of the good boss and good health insurance, and whether that actually matters. I’ve been having a lot of complicated feelings about gender and identity and privilege and what that all means (I regret none of the decisions I have made, but living in a world married to the concept of binary gender is frustrating). I’m trying to balance long-term planning (I’ve charted out how to pay off my credit card by 2020) and living in the moment. To be stable and flexible. And I feel like I’m not doing a very good job of any of it, like I’m just hanging on as the world spins, desperately wishing it would stop for a few minutes (or days) and let me catch my breath and figure out where I am and where I’m going.

I guess I’m in the midst of a minor existential crisis?

How irritating.

But back to the original point I think I was trying to make…I want to be a more grateful, centered person. I’m not doing a great job of it. But I do feel like the Universe is gently nudging me in the direction, despite the fact that I’ve felt like a cranky mess for the past few weeks. From my no-longer-daily-but-I’m-trying tarot meditations to sweet messages from friends to cute pictures of puppies on the internet, I run into reminders pretty regularly that really, I am okay. Even if I feel off-kilter, even if my allergies are driving me crazy and fogging my brain, even if I feel overwhelmed by a lot of things, even if I don’t know what (or possibly who) I want to be when I grow up, even if there’s plenty in the world at large to be terrified of right now, right now, in this moment, I am okay. And that’s really all I can ask for.

 

Turning on the Light

It’s Thursday, and I’m at a loss what to put on the blog this week. I’ve been feeling under the weather, the world is an increasingly scary place, and things feel a little dark right now. 

So I’m going to try to channel Albus Dumbledore, who reminded us that, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” In the spirit of this sentiment, here are some things that are making me happy right now:

  1. The Jewish high holy days have started, which means I get a bunch of abbreviated work weeks in the next month. Including this one. I’m off work today and tomorrow, and hoping to catch up on some stuff at home and kick the cold that’s been threatening all week. 
  2. Safe spaces outside of my apartment. I’m currently eating breakfast at Smack Dab, one of my favorite little coffee/quick breakfast spots in our neighborhood. I am a regular here, and always feel welcome when I walk through the door. 
  3. Good food. We tried a couple of new recipes this week that turned out really tasty. I made sweet potato hash browns last night that were pretty wonderful, if I do say so myself. And right now I’m eating a gluten free double chocolate pumpkin bread at Smack Dab and drinking a turmeric chai, and I’m pretty happy in this little slice of time. 

Happy Thoughts for a Foggy Morning

I nearly forgot to write something for the blog this week – I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather, which has scrambled my brain enough that I’m a little more scattered than usual. But here I am, on the bus, riding through the fog, so let’s talk about a few happy things from the past week. 

  1. I started taking a guitar fingerpicking class last week. It’s kicking my ass already, but in a way that’s motivating me to practice more. I’m excited to add some new skills to my rather slapdash guitar-playing repertoire. 
  2. It’s starting to feel like fall. Granted, the next few days are supposed to get hot again, but generally the weather has been getting cooler. We’ve had several lovely days that have allowed me to pull some hand knit sweaters out. The only downside of fall is that my allergies tend to flare up again, so I’ve spent most of the week not sure if I’m getting sick or am just allergic to all of the outdoors. Still, it’s pretty, and I like not feeling disgusting every time I go outside. 
  3. My tattoo is healing nicely. I am still super happy with how it turned out. It makes me smile every time I look at my arm. 

Silly Old Bear

A few weeks ago, I emailed the artist who did my leaf tattoo about an idea I had been kicking around for another piece.

I have wanted a bear tattoo for a while (particularly since transitioning has turned me into a bit of one myself). Recently, my partner and I re-read Winnie-the-Pooh, and I was reminded of a) how much I adore Winnie-the-Pooh and b) how much I adore the original E. H. Shepard illustrations of him. I’ve been periodically doing Google image searches for old illustrations over the past couple of months, and I’d come across one of Pooh singing, which was too good to pass up.

Last week I heard back from her that she’d be delighted to do this tattoo for me, and that she had an opening on Saturday. So I went for it, and I’m so, so happy I did, because it turned out SO GOOD:

Winnie-the-Pooh singing "Cottleston Pie"

Seriously, how cute is he?

I could not be more thrilled with how this tattoo came out, and I’m excited for it to be fully healed so I can show it off more (it’s at the flaky stage of healing right now, so it’s a good thing the weather cooled off in Chicago this week, because I’ll be wearing long sleeves for a bit)!

Post-script for the curious: the image comes from the story In Which Eeyore Has a Birthday and Gets Two Presents, and depicts Pooh singing Cottleston Pie, which my partner and I discovered was given a tune by the Muppets in this hilarious video:

I did not realize this until after I got the tattoo, but I love it all the more for this context. And I’ve had the little song running through my head all week.

Getting Organized

I’m still struggling a bit to get back into the swing of things post-vacation, but I’m finding that I’m in an organizing sort of mood. Back in the spring I definitely felt a strong spring cleaning urge (which has not always been the case in past years), but I’m feeling a similar urge now that fall is approaching. Which is probably a good thing, because there’s a lot of junk (both physically and mentally) that can build up in half a year.

Personally, I find the changing of the seasons at the solstices and equinoxes good times to check in with myself about how the year is going. We’re not quite at the autumn equinox yet, but it’s fast approaching, and I’m thinking about how I want to get my life in order heading into the cooler months.

One of the classes I took at Song School was about time management for creative people. I need to pull my notes back out and find other ways to integrate what I learned, but a couple of the big takeaways were to use a physical, paper planner (which I was sort of doing, but inconsistently), and color-coding it (which I had not tried before, and which I think will be a big improvement). I’m still going to be using my Google calendar, too (I would often be lost without those reminders coming up on my phone), but the physical act of writing things in my planner by hand means that they stick in my head a lot better.

Another thing that was stressed in that class was the importance of scheduling creative time. I have never been great at this, and it’s something I want to get better at. Next week I start a new guitar class at the Old Town School of Folk Music, so sometime this weekend I want to sit down and figure out a practice schedule for that, as well as slotting in some time for writing. I’m resistant to structure, but I know in the end it’s better for me.

I’m also starting to think more about knitting projects, after not knitting much all summer (which is pretty normal for me). I have a few sweater and vest projects lined up, and I’m starting to look at my yarn stash with a more critical eye. I have a lot of yarn, much of which was inherited from a friend who passed away a handful of years ago, so it has a lot of sentimental value…but I’m aware of the fact that the yarn I have doesn’t often line up with the projects I want to knit. So that’s something I’m going to need to deal with soon, too.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to spend a fair amount of time in the next few weeks getting my mental space in order, which will set me up to get my physical space in order, as well. I am finally in a place where I feel like I can start making some plans for what I want my life to look like in three to five years, instead of focusing so hard on the next handful of months.

Song School 2017

Last week there was no blog, because my partner and I were at the Rocky Mountain Song School at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons, CO. I spent the week almost entirely unplugged: away from my phone, not thinking about work, not focusing so hard on the news. It was…

Well, it was incredible, really. I didn’t get a lot of writing done (there are classes pretty much all the time, and they’re all fascinating, and it’s impossible to get to all of them), but I learned so much. I met so many amazing, beautiful people doing amazing, beautiful work. We talked about songwriting generally, but also about songwriting as survival, as resistance, as revolution. We held space for each other, cheered each other on and pushed each other to do better. 

I’ve never been in a new place around so many new people and felt so safe to be myself. 

It was an amazing experience. I don’t have adequate words to describe it. 

The road trip there and back was pretty great, too, although we did have some moments in small towns where we didn’t feel so safe (being an obviously queer couple in small town rural America can be frightening). I remembered, once we were finally in Colorado, that getting out of the city and into nature sometimes is essential to my mental health. It’s a thing that’s easy to forget in the convenience of living in Chicago, where I can get everything else I need, but it’s important. 

I’m going to be processing what I learned and working on the new songs I started for a few months, I think. I can’t wait to go back next year!

Adventure Calls

This past week has been a fun one. Sunday, I got to take a class on hand-sewing bow ties, taught by the fabulous Franklin Habit. The bow tie I made turned out a little snug, but I’m already gearing up to make more (with some adjustments to size so I don’t strangle myself when I wear them).

My partner was visiting his family in Minnesota for a few days, so I got some time alone in our apartment, which is a weird and rather uncommon thing. I definitely missed having him there, but it was nice to be a hermit for a few days, too.

I’ve been struggling to focus at work this week, after a couple of weeks that felt uncharacteristically (but refreshingly) productive. I don’t really mind that I’m a little scattered right now, though, because tomorrow, I will be on vacation.

My partner and I leave tomorrow for a grand adventure we’ve been wanting to take for years now: we’re headed off to a week-long songwriting camp in Colorado.

I was feeling pretty anxious last week, mostly, I think, because I started worrying that the experience wouldn’t live up to expectations, since we’ve been looking forward to this for so long. I feel like yesterday I finally hit the point of accepting that the journey is just as important as the destination, and that even if it isn’t perfect (which it probably won’t be, because life is messy), it will still be a new experience and a thing worth trying.

Besides, my partner and I love road trips, and this will be the biggest one we’ve gotten to take together.

There will be no blog next week, because I’ll be busy making music and ignoring my phone/the internet as much as possible. Catch you all in a couple of weeks!

Change is Disorienting

Last weekend, for three days in a row, I drew The Tower for my morning tarot meditation. 

The Tower is a card of sudden change and destruction. Traditionally, it depicts lightning striking a tower that is on fire and crumbling, as two figures fall from it. It’s not often seen as a positive card, because while it can be the catalyst for positive change, in the moment, it tends to hurt. 

Each one of the three days that I pulled The Tower, I was wrestling with a lot of anxiety. Seeing that card first thing in the morning didn’t help.

One of the days that I pulled The Tower, my parents were coming to visit. We have a complicated and, in many places, painful history, and I was already nervous that the relative peace we’d been enjoying recently would fall apart when we were together in person rather than just over the phone. I spent a lot of the day feeling like I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop and one of us to blow up. 

It didn’t happen. We actually had quite a nice time, and the exhaustion I felt at the end of the day had more to do with my unnecessary worry than it did with anything else. 

That night, I pulled The Chariot before I went to bed. The Chariot is all about moving forward, about making the choice to keep moving, about not clinging to the parts of the past that will hinder your progress. In this instance, it was a reminder to let go of hurt and bitterness and let what positive change is happening happen. 

It wasn’t until the next night that I fully appreciated the lesson to be learned from those cards. Change is disorienting, and that’s true whether it’s a painful change or a positive one. It takes time to adjust perspective. That’s okay. Trouble arises when we resist the change. After all, change is life’s only constant. Accepting that is what allows us to grow. 
So, I’m making a conscious effort now to let go of the anxiety around change of all sorts, despite the fact that I am very much a creature of habit. I am going to work to embrace change in my life, even when, in the moment, it might hurt. 

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