Accidental Fudge

Updates Thursdays

Tag: family (page 1 of 2)

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!

All the Feelings

In the week since my last post, I feel like I’ve been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

Our time in Minnesota went really well. Hamilton was the soundtrack of the weekend, which I didn’t warm up to immediately (despite REALLY wanting to love it), but now I’m pretty totally sold on it.

The drive up was rough – it usually takes about eight hours, but it took ten, six of which were getting to the halfway point, driving about 40 mph for a large stretch due to snow and slick roads. Once we arrived, though, we had a good time.

We saw my family the morning of Christmas Eve. I got to see my dog (she’s an old lady at almost fifteen, but still feisty, and was happy to see me and very tolerant of how affectionate I was being), and my nephew (who was hilarious and chatty, bringing out all of his toys and then all of the dog’s toys to show us), along with my parents, brother, and sister-in-law. It went well.

That evening we hung out with my partner’s dad’s family. Christmas Day was very relaxed; we spent the evening with my partner’s mom’s family. It was late nights all around, but fun to spend time with family. And Monday morning, we got breakfast with one of our dearest friends in Minnesota, which was lovely.

The drive home Monday was, thankfully, totally uneventful compared to the drive there. It was windy, but otherwise was pretty easy going.

Tuesday, I headed back to work. That was hard enough, but then about halfway through the day, we got the news that Carrie Fisher had died. It took me all day to process enough to put coherent thoughts together about it, and I’m still reeling a bit. This is what I wrote about it on Facebook:

I was raised on Star Wars and Disney movies. As much as I love Disney movies, Princess Leia was my first real role model for how a woman could be a kick-ass leader who takes no shit from men (or anyone else). As a young girl, she meant the world to me.

Now, as a Bipolar adult, I still appreciate Princess Leia (and her later iteration as General Organa), but more than that…I appreciate Carrie Fisher. She dealt with her mental illness with a delightful blend of irreverence and grace. She actively fought the stigma against mental illness. She stood up for herself when held to the impossible standards to which we hold female celebrities. She was open about her struggles and her triumphs, even though the public did little to deserve that openness (we just demanded it).

She was witty. She was funny as hell. And I am struggling to accept that she’s gone. I usually feel pretty detached from celebrity deaths (aside from being distantly sad at the loss of life in general). This feels more personal. Still, I am comforted to some degree by the thought that at least in the end, it wasn’t her Bipolar brain that killed her.

Rest In Peace, Carrie Fisher. The world is less bright without you in it. Thank you for everything you were.

Tiny Happy Thoughts

I’m still feeling pretty tired this week, but I think I’m slowly adjusting to the colder weather and darker days, and (hopefully) coming out of the funk I’ve been in for the past few weeks. It’s been a good week, overall, and I have a few things I’m smiling about:

  1. Our new passports arrived on Saturday! My partner and I took last Monday off from work to get passports squared away (we needed to reapply in person since we were both changing names and gender markers). We paid for expedited service, because we wanted to be sure they were done before the end of the month. They estimated the wait time at two or three weeks. Five days later, there they were! We’re still waiting on the passport cards and our old passports to come back to us in the mail, but the actual passport books are here. It’s a huge relief to have that done and to know that our applications were approved, because while we were pretty confident we had everything in order, but you never know what’s going to happen with gender-related changes. Also, my passport was from when I was 16, so it’s nice to have one that’s not expired and that actually looks something like me.
  2. We put our Christmas tree up. I have complicated feelings about Christmas (really, I have complicated feelings about celebrating Christian holidays in general), but the lights and decorations have always been some of my favorite parts. We have a fake tree that I got the first Christmas I was in my first apartment by myself, so it’s been around a few years now, but it’s still in pretty good shape. I have more ornaments than will fit on the tree without even figuring in my partner’s ornaments (I got at least a couple every year growing up), so we had to do some thoughtful curating of what we wanted to actually put up. The end result is quite lovely.
  3. We’re planning Christmas travel. We’re going to take a whirlwind trip north to Minnesota over Christmas weekend. We won’t really get to see friends, but we’re seeing both of our families (something I would not have predicted had you asked me two months ago). So that’ll be an adventure.

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.

Anonymous Mail

To the person who sent me anonymous mail this week:

It arrived in my mailbox on Tuesday: a small, thin envelope addressed to “A. J. Hanson”. Inside the envelope was an index card, filled front and back with bible verses.

You didn’t list your name or address anywhere on the envelope or card, and I don’t recognize your handwriting, but I have a few guesses about who you are. The fact that you addressed the card to “A.J.” offered a pretty big hint, because literally no one else in my life outside of my family has a problem calling me by my name. The card was postmarked from Minneapolis, which further narrows down the possibilities.

On the one hand, I’d like to believe that this was a well-intentioned gesture.

On the other hand, the fact that you neglected to attach your name to this note in any way makes me think that you had at least some inkling that I might not take it well.

For future reference: that’s an inkling you should listen to. Your gut tells you someone might find something you’re thinking about sending offensive? Maybe don’t send it.

Here’s the thing: I get that you take comfort in the scriptures of your religion, and that you want to share that comfort with everyone. I get that you probably feel personally responsible for the eternal destination of the souls of the people you know. I respect that this is a belief system that works for you.

But it doesn’t work for me, and hasn’t for a long time now. So when you send anonymous collections of verses about how Jesus loves me and is trying to win me back, I don’t feel comforted. I feel disrespected. I feel like my space is being invaded. I feel like the reality of how I move through the world is being invalidated. And I feel like I will never fucking escape from the disrespectful, invasive, and invalidating behavior of my family unless I move to a new home and don’t pass along a forwarding address.

Five months ago, I wrote to my family and asked for space. The only person to respond was my father, who said he would respect my request. That hasn’t happened. I find a note in my mailbox from him every couple of weeks, talking about how much he thinks of me and wants to come back to a place of greater communication. I recognize that he (and probably a lot of other people) believe this to be coming from a place of love.

I don’t feel loved. I feel harassed.

Unsurprisingly, I feel similarly harassed by anonymous messages trying to get me to come back to a faith that neither makes sense to me nor makes me feel welcome.

So next time you think you’re going to be a good Christian and anonymously send bible verses to the queer-as-fuck, transgender pagan of the family, please: just don’t. I respect that your faith works for you. Please let my soul be my own responsibility, and save us both a great deal of headache and frustration.

Sincerely,

Alyxander James

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.

 

Three Happy Moments

My schedule remains ridiculous, I feel like I’m never going to feel rested again, and life marches on – truly, things are going well, and I have very little to complain about. To stick with that theme, here is a short but sweet list of three particularly happy moments from the past week:

  1. I knit my nephew (who just turned one the beginning of this month) a Yoda hat for Halloween last year. I made it plenty big (both because he has a big head and because I wanted him to get a lot of use out of it), and from what I can see of pictures my sister-in-law puts on Facebook, it’s something he wears a lot, which is excellent. Last Friday, my dad was babysitting and sent me a video of my nephew, wearing the Yoda hat, wandering around out on their back porch and watching his shadow move as he shook his head and made the ears wiggle. It was pretty much the cutest thing ever, and I’m still giggling about it, and also super impressed that a one year old could make the connection that moving his head in a certain way made the shadow move.
  2. On Sunday, my partner and I went over to a friend’s apartment, and that friend gave us fabulous haircuts. I was feeling pretty scruffy and a little gross pre-haircut, but after the haircut (and the shave I gave myself that evening, because hey, that beard is starting to come in more), I’ve actually been feeling pretty okay about myself. It’s been a nice confidence boost, particularly coupled with the new binder.
  3. On Tuesday, before my songwriting class, I was hanging out around the Old Town School and knitting a hat. I got some inquisitive looks from children and adults (dudes knitting is not altogether uncommon, but uncommon enough that it tends to turn heads), but mostly people were walking by without noticing. At one point, two young sisters walked past, slowed down, and the older said to the younger (in that stage whisper of childhood that I’m sure she thought was inaudible to the adult she was referencing), “Do you think he’s better than Grandma?” The younger one answered, “Maybe…” It was all I could do to not bust out laughing.

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.

Bah, Humbug

The holiday season is in full swing. And I just want it to be over.

Usually, I really enjoy this time of year. I like the colder weather, and the lights. I’ve bought or made pretty much all the presents I’ll be giving. (Considering that there is still a whole week to go, I’m ahead of my usual game.)

But I just can’t seem to get into the holiday spirit this year.

It seems like everyone I know is having “one of those weeks.”

I have several friends dealing with some really awful things right now, and no matter how much I want or try to help, I know that there’s nothing I can really do to make it better for them.

I’ve spent the whole week feeling angry and bitter about my own family’s dysfunction (and consistent refusal to deal with that dysfunction). Because, let’s face it, there’s no time like a holiday to bring out family dysfunction.

Like many people I know and love, I’m in a rather tender place right now. I desperately need some time to decompress and process and deal with a whole slew of emotions that have surfaced in the past few weeks, and I have no idea when that time is going to happen.

But because it seems like a rough week for everyone, I hate to end this blog post on a disconsolate note. So here are a couple of happy things from this week that are not at all holiday related:

  1. One of my coworkers brought her Great Pyrenees (who happens to be a therapy dog) with her to work on Monday. This meant that I got to take a few minutes out of my day to pet an enormous dog who wanted nothing more than to flop on the floor and be loved. Puppy therapy is, to me, just about the best kind of therapy there is. It didn’t make everything better, but it definitely brightened what was otherwise a very Mondayish Monday.
  2. I got to work from home yesterday. I answered emails and worked on other work-related things, but I did not open my mouth to utter a single sound from the time my partner left in the morning to the time I met him at the train station to help him carry home groceries when he got off work. I still really need a day to just sit and wrestle with things – I still had to work, after all – but it was wonderful to have some quiet space to myself.
  3. I’ve been unusually excited about my knitting this week. It’s kind of a problem, in that I want to start all the projects and not finish anything, but it’s nice to feel excited about something amidst everything else.

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.
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