Accidental Fudge

Updates Thursdays

Tag: chosen family (page 1 of 2)

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.

Weekend Adventures

As many of you may know, I work for a Jewish organization, and one of the best things about this is the fact that I end up with lots of extra days off throughout the year for holidays I don’t personally celebrate. Passover was this past week, and because of where it fell this year, we ended up with a couple of days off last week, and Monday and Tuesday off this week. I had just enough Southwest miles saved up for a free trip to the Twin Cities, so I decided to use my long weekend to catch up with family and some friends I hadn’t seen in a very long time.

I flew into MSP Saturday afternoon, and dropped my stuff off at my partner’s parents’ house, where I was staying for the weekend. That evening, I got dinner with my parents and brother (which went more-or-less okay – sometimes it’s hard to find things to talk about), and then got drinks with an old friend from church youth group. Catching up and reminiscing was a lot of fun.

Sunday I went over to my parents’ house, where we were joined by my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew. The time went well (better than I was expecting, to be honest). I was able to modify the Yoda hat I’d knit my nephew when he was just 7 months old so that it will continue to fit him for at least another couple of seasons (it was still big enough around, but was no longer covering his ears), and deliver the blanket I’d knit for him as a belated birthday gift. We enjoyed watching my nephew (who is three) and my parents’ dog (who is almost fifteen) chase each other around – they are best friends. We went for a walk to the park. All-in-all, it was a nice way to spend the day.

That evening, I went back to my partner’s parents’ house and was able to spend some time with them. We watched Moana, which was great, and I’m a little ashamed I didn’t get around to seeing it until now.

Monday I ended up seeing two of my best friends from college: one for breakfast, and one for dinner. It was wonderful seeing both of them and catching up. I also got to unexpectedly go out to coffee with my best friend in the middle of the day, after she texted me saying her afternoon meetings were canceled. I spent the evening watching baseball with my partner’s parents while we all talked to my partner on speakerphone. It was easily the most delightful Monday I’ve had in ages.

Tuesday morning I got up for an early breakfast with my best friend before leaving town. My flight out boarded on time, and then sat on the runway for an hour – evidently, because of some crosswinds, they were using just one runway for all arrivals and departures, and didn’t really communicate this to anyone ahead of time. But I made it home eventually, and was ridiculously happy when I did. As much as I loved seeing people over the weekend, packing that many visits into such a short time frame really drives home the point that I am an introvert. Being social can be fun, but it is also exhausting.

Thanks to everyone who made time for me this weekend, and apologies to those of you I didn’t see – there are so many of you that I just couldn’t get to everyone!

Thinking

 

I’m doing a lot of thinking these days.

I mean, I do a lot of thinking all the time. It’s a big part of who I am. But lately, my brain’s feeling a little crowded.

I’m thinking about privilege, particularly all of the privilege I have always had as a white person, and more recently that I’ve acquired as a white man.

I am thinking that I need to use all of that privilege to more constructive ends.

I’m thinking about family, about the ones I chose who also chose me, and about how my feelings surrounding my choice to step back from my family or origin have evolved over the past several months. I’m thinking about my grandparents, two of whom are still living but all of whom I’ve lost. I’m thinking of my uncle, my father’s best friend, who had breakfast with me a couple of weeks ago and whose father passed away this week.

I am thinking that grief is complex and unpredictable.

I’m thinking about identity, and how I relate to my body, and how desperately I’ve been trying to ignore the growing presence of body-related dysphoria in my life. I’m thinking about how top surgery is still unscheduled and likely won’t happen for close to a year, and about how it will put me even further in debt but how I can’t even care about that anymore.

I am thinking that I am grateful that my identity as a man came after and was shaped by twenty-odd years of identity as a girl and as a woman.

I’m thinking about knitting, and how many projects I’ve managed to finish this year, about how most of them were very small but two of them were sweaters for me (though only one of those is wearable), and how that’s a lot for me.

I am thinking I want to knit all the sweaters.

I’m thinking about tarot and insight and intuition, and about how much I want to help people, and whether those two things should be more connected in my life. I’m thinking about burnout and spoon theory and whether my desire to help people should sometimes take a back seat to helping myself.

I am thinking about the value of selfishness.

I’m thinking about friends, about the ones that I’ve lost and the ones that I’ve gained and the ones that I’ve kept despite distance and regardless of the infrequency of contact. I’m thinking about an upcoming weekend of manicures and chick flicks and cooking and domesticity and some of my favorite people.

I am thinking that I am grateful for my newfound ability to appreciate my own femininity.

I’m thinking about books, and how I used to read all the time, and how over half the books I’ve read this year were books I’d read before. I’m thinking about stories and escape and education.

I am thinking I should prioritize making more time for books in my life.

I’m thinking so many things about myself and my home and my hobbies and the people in my life, and my brain is often feeling like a very crowded place. The fact that I’m entering into a manic phase is amplifying that feeling, and it’s a little overwhelming. But it’s also encouraging.

I am thinking, therefore I am growing.

On Strength

I went to a tarot class last night. It was my first time reading and learning in a social setting with (mostly) strangers, and it was a lot of fun. The format of the class was straightforward: the first half focused on the meanings and symbols and significance of a single card, while the second half focused on a couple of readings riffing on the theme of the card. 

The particular card that was tonight’s focus was Strength, and as a starting point, the facilitator had us go around the table, introduce ourselves, and share how we defined strength, and how we defined weakness. 

Therewere definite themes that carried across all of our answers. Strength is mastery of self, acknowledgement of need, choosing to do what is necessary in spite of crippling self-doubt. Weakness is allowing oneself to be mastered by fear, refusing to admit ignorance, sitting by while external forces call the shots in one’s life. 

As a Bipolar person, a queer person, and a transgender person, I have been commended by many people for my strength. I’m never quite sure how to feel about this. Sometimes feels like “strength” really means “ability to pass for ‘normal,'” which is distressing and problematic. And, really, I don’t think I’m strong for those reasons exactly. 

Strength, to me, is self-awareness and self-determination. It’s asking for help when I need it. It’s choosing to deal with my shit instead of pretending it doesn’t exist. It’s mastery of impulsiveness and emotion. It’s honesty. 

And it’s amplified by the people I have chosen to surround myself with. In those moments when I need to reach out for help, I don’t have to reach very far. When I can’t support myself, I have a community who will support me, just as I support them when they’re struggling. Individually, we are awesome. Together, we are greater than the sum of our parts. 

There is strength in solitude, and there is strength in numbers. I am lucky to have known a taste of both. 

Silver Linings

I’m still feeling pretty rattled as I try to figure out where to go for this rheumatology follow-up. I’m feeling a lot of things, really, and not many of them are particularly pleasant. But I’m trying to look for reasons to smile, and really, if I take the time to step back a little and breathe, it’s not hard to find them. So here’s a short and sweet list of some reasons I’ve found to smile this week:

  1. Even though the humidity has caused an uptick in my general discomfort and has most of my joints feeling pretty stiff, I’ve managed to keep knitting pretty regularly. I’m on a sweater/vest kick at the moment. None of my projects are progressing very quickly, but I’m enjoying them all.
  2. Next weekend I’m headed to Seattle for a wedding. I’m super excited for the couple (my high school best friend and the great guy she’s been with for several years), and looking forward to a little 24-hour adventure.
  3. I’ve been digging deeper into some friendships here in Chicago, and it feels really good. I am reminded every day that I have an incredible support network, and that makes everything else life throws my way feel a lot more manageable.

Balance

Having an internet presence is a constant balancing act.

I love having this blog. I love that it makes me slow down long enough to write every week, often about things I might not otherwise take the time to think about.

But it’s always a balancing act. How much do I put out into the vast expanse of the internet? How much of my life am I willing to share with friends and strangers? When can I let myself vent about specific people or situations, and to what extent, and when do I need to just keep quiet?

I’ve been dealing with some pretty major emotional stuff lately, and I haven’t known how much to share here. But I think I need to say something, because I have a feeling it’ll come up on its own sooner rather than later, and I want to give some context before it does.

I haven’t spoken to my family of origin since March.

I just wrote 1000 words of explanation, but I am not going to post them, because this is part of the balancing act: I do not want to contribute to further drama. Suffice it to say that right when things seemed to be getting a little better, they turned around and got a whole lot worse, and I had to cut ties in order to maintain my sanity.

I don’t regret the decision to establish some distance. (Boundaries are a thing I’ve always struggled with, and it’s become very clear that I came by that honestly.) But it hasn’t been easy.

I’ve also recently realized that I’ve been avoiding dealing with how I relate to my body. Dysphoria, for me, has mostly manifested in me being very detached from my body…of course, once I realized this, remaining detached got harder, and now I’m painfully aware of my discomfort with my body.

Starting next month, I’ll be on an insurance plan that will make it a lot easier for me to see a therapist, so that’s my plan at this point, because I have a lot of feelings about family and about my body that I need to process, and my partner shouldn’t have to be the only person in the world to listen to me blather as I try to work through those things.

So that’s where I’m at: seeking balance. Whether I achieve it is still hit or miss, but I think I’m getting there. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

 

Never Saw It Coming

I’ve known that I was Bipolar for close to six years now. In those six years, my cycles have typically followed a fairly predictable pattern. I’ve rarely jumped with no warning from one end of emotion to the other: usually, there’s a ramping up or a sliding down that happens and warns me of what’s coming.

I don’t know if it’s because there were sad things that happened while I was manic, which made things weird, or if it really was just very sudden, but that wasn’t how this most recent turn to DepressedBrain went. There was no easing my way down into darkness. I didn’t see it coming. It hid just out of sight and jumped out at me from behind a corner and suddenly, out of what felt like nowhere, I’ve found myself at one of the lowest points I’ve hit in the past year or more.

I wrote last week about the fact that I’ve recently started battling with body-related dysphoria for the first time. I’ve spent the past week trying to deconstruct what that means for me, what it feels like, why it’s so hard for me to figure out how to work around it. I don’t have any easy answers, but these are the best words I’ve found for it so far: after I started on testosterone and my body started changing, I experienced a period of time where I felt more comfortable than I ever had before in my skin – like I fit in my body for the first time that I could remember. There was this sense of wholeness, and rightness, to it. But now dysphoria has swooped in, and I’m back to feeling fractured: it’s not so much that I hate my body, but that it doesn’t feel like it belongs to me. It doesn’t fit me anymore. And that’s maddening and heart-wrenching, particularly after having experienced something better for a while. I don’t really know what to do with it.

I wonder if, maybe, the best thing I can do is take my focus off myself and onto other people. My sister was in town last weekend. (We don’t share any genetic material, but many years of shared experiences. Her family of origin treats her in ways no person should ever be treated, and I’ve had my own frustrations with my family of origin, so we’ve pieced together families of our own, and they include each other.) Neither she nor I nor my partner felt particularly up to venturing out of the apartment and into the cold (or for a host of other reasons), so the weekend consisted of a lot of me cooking a lot of good food and all of us sitting in the same space reading books and reminiscing. I was reminded how fulfilling it is for me when I am able to create a safe space for someone I love. Being a host stresses me out to some extent, because I always worry that I’m not being entertaining enough. But knowing that I am creating a space where we can all be ourselves mitigates that stress to some extent, particularly when I’m taking care of someone who I know has too few safe spaces in their life elsewhere.

I may not know how to take good care of myself in this moment, but at least I can still take care of other people. It’s not a long-term solution (or, really, even a solution at all), but it feels like it’s helping.

Thanks

I’m not big on this holiday that’s mostly all about making colonialism look heroic. However, there’s certainly something to be said for taking the time to be grateful, and I have a lot to be grateful for this week.

  1. Last Thursday, I went to bed feeling a little stiff. Friday I woke up in pain. I tried to push through it, but when I realized I could barely make it down the stairs let alone to the bus stop, I decided to call in to the office and work from home. The pain got worse as the day went on, and my ability to move decreased drastically, to the point that I asked my partner to pick up a cane for me on his way home. I ended up needing the cane to get around all weekend long. This might seem like an odd story to start a list of points of gratitude, but there are two big things I’m thankful for in retrospect: first, that I have a partner who is super supportive and willing to adjust plans when my body won’t cooperate, and second, that even though I deal with chronic back issues, they rarely get that bad and the intense pain has so far been limited to a few days at a time.
  2. My name change hearing was Monday. I was joined by a volunteer from TJLP (the organization that helped me the day I filed for the change), and a friend who happens to be a minister (and who wore his clergy collar, just in case). The hearing lasted all of five minutes; the judge was kind. I have multiple friends whose name change hearings were before judges who were not at all understanding, asked invasive and unnecessary questions, and only granted the name change after making it very clear that they did not at all affirm my friends’ identities. I am grateful that this was not my experience; I am well aware just how lucky I am. I was also able to get my new driver’s license right after the hearing, and because Illinois prints their IDs while you wait, I walked away with my first form of ID bearing my chosen name (and a much better picture than my old ID, which was the thing that taught me that I have “resting angry face”).
  3. I changed my name with the social security office on Tuesday. I am thankful that the process was quick and (relatively) painless, that the clerk was helpful, and that I heeded my boss’s advice to go to the office in Evanston rather than the one downtown: I was in and out in 20 minutes.
  4. Both my direct supervisor and my department manager checked in when I got to work on Tuesday to ask how the hearing went. My manager said that he was glad they’d been calling me by the correct name all along, and glad that the government was on the same page now. The HR contact for our department has been helpful in letting me know what I need to send them to change my name in their systems. I am beyond grateful (particularly in light of the experiences that I have seen more than one friend go through after coming out at work) that my workplace has been supportive throughout the time I have been here. I am inclined to say that I do not deserve this kind of luck, but I think a more accurate statement would be that everyone in this situation deserves this kind of luck, and too few people have it.
  5. I’ve received many words of encouragement from many people this week, whether via text messages leading up to the hearing or via Facebook comments or a stop by my office to offer congratulations in person. Every kind thought has reminded me that I am surrounded by incredible communities of people who support me, and I am humbled by and grateful for every one of you. I’m a seriously lucky human.

Post-Vacation Musings

Vacation was, on the whole, lovely (though I more or less forgot to take pictures, so I can’t show you how lovely it was). Here are some things I’ve been reflecting on when looking back at the weekend:

  1. Driving through Wisconsin in the fall is actually a pretty great things to do. The trees were gorgeous, and there wasn’t as much construction as we’ve run into on some other trips, so it was a pretty relaxing drive. Being a Minnesotan, I tend to poke fun at Wisconsin quite a bit, but this trip made me think that maybe it’s an okay state after all. 😉
  2. I completely adore my nephew. Every time I see this kid I get more excited about being an Uncle Ommer and about knitting him all sorts of cozy things. (The Yoda hat was a smash, and I will shortly be starting a sweater for Christmas and a blanket for his birthday.) I was quite nervous going in, because I know he’s at that age where stranger anxiety is a thing. But though he wasn’t immediately sure of me, he never got upset, and warmed up to me pretty quickly. We were buddies for the handful of minutes I got to hold him, and that makes me unspeakably happy.
  3. While there were some frustrating things surrounding spending time with my family, none of them were so egregious that they couldn’t be outweighed by time with my partner’s family or with friends. We didn’t fit in visits with as many people as we often try to do, but the time we did get with friends felt extra special and left us feeling refreshed. Deep conversations were had, and I was able to vent when I needed to and move on.
  4. I’ve been working meditative time back into my schedule (not quite on a daily basis yet, but close). Making that time on vacation helped me feel much more centered and grounded, and I hope I can continue developing that habit.
  5. I have truly wonderful people in my life. I’m incredibly lucky.

Gratitude

A friend of mine nominated me on Saturday via Facebook to come up with three moments of gratitude a day for five days. Well, that was about five days ago, and I haven’t done it yet, but that seemed like a good direction for the blog this week. So Amanda, here’s my list; thanks for the inspiration.

  1. A partner who will join me on silly, spontaneous adventures. Last Thursday, I had the wild idea that we should rent a car over the weekend and drive to Cedar Falls, IA to catch Joe Stevens in concert. The conversation went something like this:

    A: We should go on a road trip and see Joe Stevens!
    E: But it’s Iowa.
    A: But concert!
    E: But IOWA.

    I acknowledged it was a pretty ridiculous idea, but I was a little sad…until I got off work and was greeted by a text to the effect of, “So, about that concert…”

  2. Friends with whom I can escape reality for a while. Saturday was Dungeons & Dragons & Knitting, which is the monthly Pathfinder game with some folks in our knitting circle (the original idea was to play D&D, but Pathfinder ended up happening instead…we just never changed the name). Four of us have an adventure in group storytelling while our partners hang out in the other room and knit and make fun of us. It’s consistently one of the highlights of every month.
  3. Open spaces. We did end up renting a car this weekend and going on a road trip into Iowa, taking a detour on our way to Cedar Falls so that I could show Ethan some of the northeast corner of the state, which is not entirely flat and very, very pretty. The farther we got from Chicago, the more I relaxed. Don’t get me wrong: I love living in Chicago. But wide open spaces do wonders for my soul.
  4. People who choose to love me because of who I am, not in spite of it. The reason I know that there is a pretty part of Iowa (the aforementioned northeast corner) is that my grandparents live there, on a farm in a valley surrounded by trees and bluffs and wildlife and gardens. I remain convinced at age 26 that their farm is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. We were close enough on Sunday that, had I so chosen, we could have stopped by for a surprise visit. But I didn’t. I love my grandparents very much. They love their grandchildren very much. But when I came out to them as Alyx in a letter two years ago, their response (also in a letter) was that they would never call me Alyx, because Alyx was “an imaginary person.” I am almost entirely certain that they don’t know that I started any sort of physical transition. I haven’t seen them in over two years, and I haven’t been on their farm in at least three, and I don’t know when (or if) either of those things will happen again, which is heart-wrenching whenever I think of it. But it also reminds me that I have a whole bunch of people in my life who not only accept that I am Alyx but actually celebrate my life with me, and that is a great comfort.
  5. Those moments of recognition by others in our communities. Visibility is such a huge thing, both for those of us who are still frequently misgendered, and those in our community who pass so well that no one believes they’re trans. There were a handful of those moments this weekend.
  6. Approachable heroes. Meeting Joe Stevens was great: he’s one of our songwriting idols, and is just a fantastic person. But even better than meeting Joe was the fact that we got to actually talk with him. By the end of the night, we were giving each other hugs goodbye. We’re now friends on Facebook. This is still blowing my mind.
  7. Adventures that lead to more adventures. When we got to Cedar Falls and started talking with Joe (and River Glen, who’s touring the Midwest with him), we mentioned we’d road tripped it from Chicago, at which point they told us they were actually going to be playing a house concert in Chicago on Monday night. Throughout the night they told us several times that we should come. We got in touch on Facebook and got the details, and despite the fact that my partner had only slept about 45 minutes and had worked a full day, and the fact that we’d returned the rental car and weren’t entire sure how we were going to get home after transit stopped running, Monday night we found ourselves in the very humid basement of a hippie couple we’d never met, sweating with strangers (and new friends, and someone we met at a karaoke bar three-and-a-half years ago), enjoying more music.
  8. Music that inspires me to create more music. I felt two things in regard to the music at both shows: first, that my songwriting is totally inadequate, and second, that I want to write more songs. There are times when I get the first feeling but not the second one; this was one of the beautiful moments where my feelings of inadequacy were outweighed by inspiration.
  9. New friends. We met some awesome people on Sunday and Monday.
  10. Thinking about the future. My partner and I have been doing a lot of talking about our future together, and it’s really wonderful not only to have a partner I want to have a future with, but to be able to think about the future at all. There was a long time when I could barely see past tomorrow. I’m learning to dream again.
  11. Air conditioning. This is a silly one, but it’s been ridiculously humid in Chicago this week. We don’t have AC at home, but I have it at the office, and I’m grateful for the times I can spend in places where everything does not feel soggy.
  12. Comfort in my skin. This isn’t a constant, but I’ve been feeling fairly centered and okay within myself this week. I was able to go to both concerts without feeling more than momentary social anxiety, and a lot of that had to do with being comfortable being myself. I spent a lot of years stuck in self-loathing, and while I’m not my biggest fan, I’ve at least reached the point where I feel a sort of benevolent indifference toward myself, which is unbelievably better for my mental health.
  13. Fresh perspective. I’m not sure exactly how to explain this one, because it’s been a largely internal thing. Mostly, there have been tiny things happening in the past few weeks that have helped me to look at the world in new (or old but forgotten) ways, and it’s been refreshing.
  14. A (mostly) calm brain. There have been a lot of storms here in the past week. My brain tends to get really uncomfortable when the weather is shifting back and forth rapidly. I’ve felt surprisingly stable in the midst of all of it.
  15. Concrete future plans. I alluded to this in last week’s post, and now that I’ve told my family, I can announce it to all of you: at the end of September I will be filing the requisite paperwork for a court date to legally change my name. By the end of the year I will legally be Alyxander James! There aren’t enough exclamation points in the world to express how excited I am.
Older posts

© 2017 Accidental Fudge

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑