Unconditional Love

I have three children. A daughter and two sons.

They are the most important thing I have ever done.

To say I am proud of them, is an understatement.

I cherish them

I adore them.

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They also drive me completely insane. They are difficult. Each in their own way.

They are a reflection of my parenting mistakes and my parenting perfections.

They mirror my best traits and my worst traits. Sometimes that’s hard to watch.

Look, there’s my kid, being a dick, the same way I am a dick. There’s my kid losing his/her temper the way I lose mine. There’s my kid doubting themselves, the way I doubt myself.

Dammit. That’s hard.

But also it’s a good lesson. I learn from them. It’s important and hard and good. All those things.

We do the best we can, we parents. We aren’t perfect. We have our faults, many learned from our own imperfect parents.

But I love my kids. A lot. So much.

That’s the most important part. Loving them.

But what does it mean to love your children? Where does the love end and does it ever end?

I think it’s hard, recognizing that our kids aren’t exactly what we imagined them to be.

I wanted a daughter who would wear pretty dresses and love dolls and have tea parties with me and do theatre with me and write stories and play make believe.

Instead I have a shy, athletic daughter who refused dresses by 18 months, thought dolls were scary, and doesn’t want anything to do with theatre.

But she’s mine. She’s my girl. She isn’t what I imagined her to be.

But she’s wonderful. I cannot imagine my life without her.  It would devastate me.

I know two people who have “disowned” their children.

dis·own
verb
1. refuse to acknowledge or maintain any connection with.
It’s very difficult for me to fathom this. I have three imperfect children. My oldest is 16. Perhaps there are things my children could do someday that would cause me to withdraw. It’s hard to imagine. I think I would love them through anything. Maybe if they became heroine addicts who repeatedly stole from me or were violent. Maybe if they become prostitutes or strippers?  I don’t know. Again, I can’t imagine. Yeah, I would be sad if those things happen but I think I would still be present.

I pride myself on being a non-judgmental person. But this I judge, this disowning of children. And I ask myself what is our obligation to these people we bring into the world? Are we obligated to love our children unconditionally? And what does it mean to love unconditionally?

One of the people I know who has turned away from his children did so because they hurt his feelings. Deeply. He had divorced their mom when they were young and moved to another state and remarried. His children struggled and their mom was angry and blamed him for the divorce, for her struggles, for destroying her life. He attempted to maintain his relationship with his sons. But she made it difficult and he didn’t fight hard. I know he didn’t. I was there. He had married my mom.

I love this man. He raised me. When I was teenager. And I was a very difficult teenager. I love him still.
When he and my mother divorced, he also maintained a relationship with me in a somewhat half-hearted way. He didn’t have to. We aren’t related by blood. But I didn’t let him go. That’s me. I hold onto people, I don’t let go of things that matter to me. Over the years, his relationship with his sons became increasingly strained. There was a visit gone wrong. A fight. Changed flights, nasty words.
And they have never spoken since. When grandparents passed away, there were a few stiff conversations. But no real attempt has been made to repair the relationship. He says he is done. They have hurt him too much. They say they are done. He was a bad father.
Done. Done with his children. He has three grandchildren he will never know. He has two successful, kind, interesting, fabulous grown sons with beautiful wives that he has no contact with.

I absolutely cannot understand it.

At all.

I know another person who was “disowned” by her family when she told them she was gay.
They are a religious family and believe that her “choice” to be gay is a sin. They will not condone her behavior.
Her gayness, in their eyes, is just another example of her dramatic, attention seeking behavior.
Well.
I am basically nonjudgmental. I do understand how they feel to a certain extent. I understand, given who they are, how they were raised, their deeply set values, how difficult it is to accept something so foreign as gayness. I have family who have really struggled with my sexuality. I empathize with that difficultly. My kids, particularly my daughter, have really struggled…still struggle.  I believe they will get better at dealing with it when they grow up. Until then, I keep it…my sexuality at a distance. But they are kids. Not grown ups. And they aren’t my parents.
I could go on a tirade about choosing to be gay and why anyone would choose to be rejected and hated and discriminated against.
Or whether Jesus actually had anything to say about gayness. Which he didn’t. Not one word.
I want to say, instead…
what the hell people?
What the hell?
Parenting is about unconditional love.
Isn’t it? About that?
Am I wrong here? Are my kids too young for me to understand how a parent could simply walk away from their child?
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I believe in the above quote.
I don’t think parenting is easy. I think it’s the hardest job I have ever done.
And post divorce, post “gay” announcement, I can understand the depth of pain your children’s anger can cause you.
But walking away, giving up, rejecting your kids.
That is something I simply cannot understand.
I think you don’t get to do that.
I think when we have a child we are given a gift.
I think parenting requires unconditional love. Even when it hurts. Even when we disagree with our children.
We can say, “I disagree”.
But we don’t get to say, “goodbye”.
I watch this woman feel the pain of her parents rejection. I watch her think about the coming holidays, knowing she won’t be welcome with her family. Her favorite holiday is Christmas. At least it used to be.
She’s not perfect. She’s a fireball. A powerhouse. Complex.
I bet she wasn’t easy to parent. She will be the first to say so. She wasn’t like her siblings. She didn’t quite fit into her traditional, fundamentalist Christian family. And hiding her sexuality only made her life more difficult, it made her more difficult.
But she’s theirs. Their beautiful gift from God.
And I think it’s their job to love and accept her even if they don’t understand.
I think it’s a requirement for being a parent.
Am I wrong here?

Coming out…again…and again…and again…

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Admitting I was gay, or likely gay, or mostly gay…that was hard. For some I dropped the gay bomb in one swoop.

For others, I just let them find out naturally, on Facebook.

Or by introducing them to my “girlfriend”. That usually does it.

I see it register on their faces.

Did she say girlfriend?

Yes, she said girlfriend.

Then they process.

Then they realize.

Oh, shit. Ok.

Gay.

I am fine with it. It’s been two years. I have adjusted to the realization on people’s faces.

But I started a new job and i am not sure how to come out again.

There is a part of me that doesn’t want to. The whole coming out…again.

I just don’t feel like doing it.

Not because I am embarrassed or uncomfortable with my sexuality.

I’m answering questions vaguely…

The person I am dating.

I’m dating someone who…

I am headed to Corpus this weekend. I am in a long distance relationship.

Vague, non gender identifying terms.

It’s annoying that I am doing this. I’m annoyed with myself that I am avoiding it.

It probably doesn’t help that there is clearly a gay couple in the office who are “roommates”, like it’s 1955 again. Those ladies aren’t roommates, everyone knows it, but it’s an old school culture.

I guess I could just toss it out there and let the knowledge spread around the office. It’s likely that will happen eventually.

I guess being gay is just that way. You just have to deal with that.

And deal with it again.

And again and again.

Just another thing that never occurred to me when I was wearing my “totally heterosexual mask”.

The first time I came out it was hard. To say the words.

OMG it was hard.

“I am gay.”

But sometimes, saying them again, to a new group…it feels intrusive and annoying.

Like, why does this have to be weird? Why can’t I just be gay without it becoming a thing?

Because it is. A thing. For other people. A source of gossip.

It will blow over.

My new co-workers will adjust to the news. The super conservative freaked out ones will struggle.

The ones who don’t give a shit will be my friends.

And it will be fine.

But I’m stalling.

I am.

Welcome to Corpus Christi

I went to Corpus Christi with my girlfriend last weekend. Just a quick overnight trip. The plan was to hang out with some friends, sleep, have breakfast and head home. I was excited.

We went to a dive bar called Cheers. Not like the TV show, at all. But a friendly, laid back place where everyone was welcome.

Or so it would seem.

Let me preface this by saying two things:

1) I am an affectionate person. Touch is my love language. I love touching the person I love. I literally cannot stop myself. I just really love touch. I am tactile. I like to touch and be touched. I also suffer from Basorexia…the overwhelming desire to kiss.

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2) I have spent most of my life living as a heterosexual. The lesbians I know tell me that I am bit unusual in my willingness to show affection for my lover in public. They tell me that it’s new for them. They tell me they are careful in public because people can be offended by two women showing affection for each other. I think this is bullshit and I have often said I won’t live by those silly rules. I have also been told that it’s common for women who come out later in life to struggle with accepting the “new rules” of public affection. If you suddenly join a “fringe” group, it can be difficult to accept the rules. The rules are dumb, why should I accept them?

So we went out to Cheers.

We sang. We were silly. Talking. Laughing.
At some point I noticed my lady and I were getting a lot of attention. She pointed it out, that it was making her uncomfortable. I ignored it.

But as the night wore on, I found myself getting uncomfortable too. We were getting a lot of attention. And not the good kind, not the kind that says,

“Oh look, two people in love, that’s so sweet.”

But the other kind. The kind of surprised looks, double takes, negative glances.

What? We are in a dive bar in Corpus. Who cares? This is a place filled with tattoos and oddballs. The gays must be welcomed here, right?

And then this:

My lady and I were dancing. Two men approach and ask to join us.

Who does that? Who approaches a couple and asks to join them? Are we in a swingers club?

We say no thank you.

They push harder.

We say no thank you, three more times. It was like they just couldn’t understand it.

“Guys, we are together, we are a couple, monogamous. In other words, fuck off.”

I couldn’t figure out what was happening.

And then this:

“Did you two just kiss? Like kiss, kiss?” -says highly intoxicated barely dressed girl

“Yes?” – I respond

“OMG, that’s so hot. I think that’s so hot.”

Wait, what?

And then I wondered…why is this happening right now?

What is it about this moment, this couple that’s drawing this level of attention. This isn’t my first girlfriend. I have never had this reaction before to showing affection in public.

I asked the rest of the group what was happening.

“It’s because you are both hot.”

But I have dated attractive women before.

“It’s because you are both hot and you don’t look gay.”

Oh, we don’t look gay. What does gay look like?

Short haired butch women?

Feminine petite men?

Gay comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s an equal opportunity thing, gay.

And then I knew I wanted to get the hell out of there and go to a place where we weren’t on display, where our kissing didn’t appear to be an invitation to join; as though our love were simply a porno the viewer was getting the pleasure of seeing live.

Gross.

As we stood up to leave, I kissed my beautiful, amazing, perfectly wonderful girlfriend on the lips one last time. And as I did so a man brushed past us and said loudly.

“Holy shit, lesbians. I am so glad I came downtown so I could see all the weirdos.”

I am a weirdo. Like I am an actual weirdo.

Wow.

For the first time since I came out two years ago, I understood why my lesbian friends shy away from public affection. It’s not just that it can be dangerous. With actual hate crimes happening, still happening in our world. It can be taken away from you and turned into something weird, or ugly, or pornographic.

And I am not ok with that.

I don’t want to be anyone’s entertainment.

I imagine a world where no one gives a shit who you love. Men with men, women and men, women and women…who cares? I want to live in a world where we are judged by our character and not by our sexual orientation…the tiniest piece of who we are. Yeah, I am getting all Martin Luther King Jr.

So we got the hell out of there and headed to the one place where everyone is welcome in Corpus Christi:

Whataburger

Yum

PS: This blog post could have been titled: Welcome to  Anywhere in the United States. It just happened to be in Corpus. Which is a great town. I am not dissing Corpus. Just humans, I am dissing some of the humans in the world. Stop being jerks, humans.

It finds you.

You can run from grief, but eventually it finds you. I had several moments of grief today. They just snuck up on me, out of no where, unexpectedly.

Today is an anniversary of sorts. One year ago today, I knew the trajectory of my life was about to change. I knew I could no longer stay on the path I was on. I was sitting in a concert, September 22, 2012 and I looked over at my husband and I knew. It had to change. I wasn’t sure how or what or when but I knew it that moment that I was living a lie so gigantic that I could no longer contain it. The lie was killing me. 

I remember going to the bathroom. I have a habit of hiding in bathrooms. It’s good because I pee a lot, so hiding in bathrooms is convenient. I cried in the stall. I felt panic, sheer terror. I felt incredibly alone. 

The next day, which…because it’s after midnight, is one year ago today…I looked at this man again. A man I had loved for twenty years and I decided I was going to tell him. 

That I was gay.

I can feel that moment, deep inside me, the memory of that moment. I can actually play it in my head, like a movie. The memory is attached to pain, to grief.

It’s ok. I am completely ok with the emotion that is welling up inside me as the memory passes through me, reminding me. I don’t know why the anniversary of that painful memory is welling up in me today, but it is. And I am happy to feel it. 

I know there is more coming. 

September 23, I knew I would tell him.

October 2, I told him.

November 11, I told my kids.

November 17, I moved out. 

From September 22 until November 17 2012 is, without a doubt, the most terrifying and painful two months of my life. There were days when I didn’t think I would survive it. Looking back I am not sure how I did it. I had a good support network, thank god. Even the friends who thought I had gone completely insane were there, still loving me. 

I think the brain, the soul or spirit or whatever, protects you a little, from the full extent of the grief. And now, a year later, as I reflect and assess the damage, I can feel the trapped grief erupting around me.

The difference now is that I can handle it. I know I can. I can feel the pain and the sadness surrounded by the joy and hope for the life I have now and the life I intend to have. I know I am going to be fine. 

Yeah, I know it’s silly to say it…but I am practicing some serious self-love right now. (you dirty birds, not that kind of self-love). I am talking about feeling it without allowing the feeling to overwhelm me and take control. I am able to quietly observe the emotion without being carried away by it.

I can look at today’s date, remember, reflect, even cry, from a distance, almost as an observer. The pain doesn’t own me anymore. 

That’s progress. I have to admit that meditation is helping me with that…after years of scoffing at the absurdity of meditation. I can see the benefit of allowing my mind to quiet, to become an observer of the intensity of my emotions. To disconnect slightly. 

I can feel the pain and still feel all the good emotion that circles around with it, joy, hope, excitement…

I couldn’t imagine being where I am right now on September 23rd last year. I have a job I love. I am about to buy a house…all by myself. I feel independent and free and generally peaceful and happy. My former husband is moving on with his life. I think we will salvage a friendship. My kids seem to be adjusting…it’s not ideal but I think they are going to be ok. I have great friends, some wonderful family, I am filled with hope.

It’s been a hell of a year. 

So grief, bring it on…I’m ready. 

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No, but for real.

Renee is gay.

It was written in my yearbook. 9th grade? 10th Grade? I don’t remember. But I remember the words. I remember how they stung. An insult. Someone I had presented my yearbook to for signing had taken the time to scrawl those words in my yearbook. I can picture them, written sideways, in the spine. I wonder who did it? I spent a lot of time trying to figure that out when it happened. Who would do such a thing? Stupid Bitches! Ha.

I didn’t think anything about being gay until another girl made a pass at me my senior year.  I will call her Christina. And we had “sex”. I guess you could call it that. We were sort of girlfriends for a while. I have to be honest, it’s a little vague in my memory now. I remember sexual activity. I remember trying to be her girlfriend. I hung out in a wild crowd back then so dating a chick was kind of cool. I didn’t think a lot about it.

Then I met, um…Jessica…yes, we will call her that. She had long brown hair and she was a real lesbian. I had a serious boyfriend at the time, someone I had dated off and on for years and was currently “shacking up with” according to my grandma. I was about 19. Jessica and I hung out for hours and hours and my boyfriend was insanely jealous but I considered us just friends. Then one night, I stayed at her house too late and ended up on her couch, making out for what felt like two days and was probably two hours. It was truly one of the most magical experiences of my then…very short…life. There were moments in the drama that ensued from that experience where I questioned my sexuality. But I didn’t linger on it. I decided I was bisexual and let it go. I dabbled in the “ladies” over the next few years but nothing serious and I mostly dated men. I met my husband when I was 22 and decided he was perfect, he had every quality I had ever imagined in a mate and I set my mind toward marrying him almost immediately. And I did, four years later, at age 26. By 27, I had my first child and my second at 29. I didn’t think too much about my continued attraction to some women. I noticed it but just decided it was simply bisexuality.

We moved across the country. I made new friends. I had another child. I drank a lot. There were some kisses, drunken kisses, with girlfriends over the years. I continued to claim bisexuality and wonder why I couldn’t connect sexually with my spouse the way I wanted to. I lived my life and always felt a sense of something not being quite right. I couldn’t feel happiness. There was always something missing and I filled that emptiness with alcohol and a steady stream of pot.

My husband and I argued over my continued experimenting with making out sessions with my drunk girlfriends. I told him he should loosen up. The other husband’s thought it was hot. Why couldn’t he? I tried to stop myself from doing it but a few glasses of wine and a willing participant and I would find myself smooching it up again. It never went further than that. The women weren’t gay, they were just being silly after a few drinks. All in good fun, right?

And then I got sober. That’s another story. Another blog. I committed to sobriety for a year. I didn’t know if I was truly an alcoholic but I knew I was messing up my kids with my partying ways, so I quit.

Boy reality is shocking when you first start living in it. I hadn’t been a daily drinker but near the end I was drinking a LOT. And smoking copious amounts of pot. When I quit I holed myself up in my house, I threw myself into projects, began writing about sobriety. I tried to stay busy and figure out what was really going on with me. It was during this time that I became friends with a lesbian. She was comfortable in her life, outgoing, friendly, likeable and 100% gay. I didn’t spend five minutes with her and instantly know I was gay too. It was more of an unfolding. I watched her. I studied her. I wondered what it would be like to be gay.  But I didn’t acknowledge being gay to her. I didn’t ask her if she thought I was gay. It didn’t cross my mind.

Until last summer…over a year ago. I was running with my non-gay friend and she made a casual comment in response to my announcing that I felt attracted to our mutual friend, the gay one. She said,

“Are you sure you aren’t gay?”

I responded with a scoff..

“I’m not gay. I am bisexual. You know that. But I feel lots of things toward her…lots of things.”

And then I blew it off. And off and off and off and off.

Sometime in August I settled on it. I was gay. I didn’t tell anyone. I just said it in my head.

“I think I might be gay. I think that might be my problem.”

And then when I knew it, I began to really know it. As in the knowledge took over ginormous pieces of my brain. I could think of nothing else.

GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY

Suddenly I found myself incapable of being sexual with my husband. He became a stranger to me. I became increasingly withdrawn and made an appointment with a therapist. I told her I wanted to tell my husband I was gay.

She tried to slow me down but it became a huge mountain of information that I could no longer contain and pretending became very difficult. I can remember the moment I decided to tell him. He was in the kitchen, being silly, making jokes with one of the kids. I looked at him and I thought, “holy shit…I don’t love him the way I should and I never will. He is being cheated by this lie. I have to tell him.”

And so I did.

And the shit hit the fan.

I moved out.

I started to divorce a man I had rarely ever fought with…who I had generally had a pretty decent relationship with. You know we had our issues, mostly, in my opinion because I was pretending to be something I wasn’t. And he was pretending nothing weird was going on.

I told my kids.

And the shit hit the fan. I mean it really hit the fan.

So now I am divorced, trying to heal my kids, trying to learn independence.  Trying to learn how to be gay this late in life.

Well I have always been gay, for the record, but now I am ready to actually be it.

A single, 42 year old lesbian with three kids.

So that’s where I am right now.