Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Greetings from the Carolina coast

Spring break is off to an excellent start!  The knitters are vacationing at the beach in North Carolina!  Four of us came down from WA and AZ to see our good friend who lives near UNC, and then we took off for the coast yesterday.  It has been really relaxing!  I have never been to this part of the country before, and it is pretty different from Seattle.  There are a lot of brick buildings, which I guess isn't an issue when you don't have to worry about earthquakes.

Today we didn't do much, which is kind of boring to write about but was fabulous to experience!  We had a lazy morning and then in the afternoon took a walk along the beach.  There were tons of dead and dying jellyfish on the shore.  I had never seen them up close like that before (at least not in an aquarium).  Then we came back and made dinner and some of us hung out in the hot tub.  It's been so nice not to have to think about school and homework for a little bit.  I am reading a really stupid chick lit book that is pretty freaking terrible, but it's great.  I'm also working on my first beaded knitting project which is challenging but fun.

Tomorrow we are going to explore a yarn store and go to a beer tasting about an hour away, so we'll probably be a bit more active.  I'm looking forward to it.

I'm also loving the warm weather.  I can't believe I can comfortably hang out in shorts and a t-shirt in March! Yay vacation!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

LGBT discrimination hurts everyone: My story about coming out as an ally

A key component of learning to be a counselor is "unpacking your suitcase."  In order to effectively guide others through their issues, one must first move through their own successfully.  I am in my second year of my program, and I have been making steady progress up until this quarter.  All of the sudden, things I thought were packed away nicely and neatly are coming unfolded and launching themselves at me with full force!  I am having to reexamine things I thought to be true, only this time I am looking at it from a different perspective.   At least I have the resources to know I need to move through the pain to get through it and not try to avoid it.  As of this moment, I can sum it up in one word: OUCH.  Psychological growth is painful!

It all started with my group counseling class, where I actually have to participate in a real group for two hours a week.  During the first session, I realized that I do not like self-disclosing to six people at one time.  I'm totally fine spilling my guts to my therapist, or my partner, or anyone who is willing to listen really.  But having multiple faces staring back at me as I share is terrifying, and something I did not truly understand until I experienced it myself.

During the second session, I decided to talk about my dad's coming out when I was 12.  That topic is something that has always been difficult for me to open up to people about.  I'm fine talking about it once people know, but it's that initial disclosure that freaks me out.  I've gotten better over the years, but it is still something I am not entirely comfortable with.  So as you might imagine, it was a huge risk telling six people at once.

When I got home that night, and for the next few days, I could not stop thinking about that session.  Why, exactly was it so hard for me to tell people that my dad is gay?  I think I came up with the answer in the middle of the night.  He first came out to my mom about a year before he came out to us kids.  After that it took them a long time to tell my grandparents.  During that period, my brother and I had to keep it a secret.  I even had to lie to my grandfather once to cover up the fact that we were going swimming in my dad's apartment pool.  I also kept it from my friends for a long while.  Basically, when I was 12-13 years old, this huge thing was happening in my life and I had no one to talk to.  I went about my junior high activities like I was fine, I kept my grades up, I did what I was supposed to.  But I was not fine.

At first I was angry at my parents.  They were so busy having the "perfect" divorce, making sure my dad still came home for dinners and that we acted as "normal" as possible, that no one bothered to check on me.  Why didn't anyone ask me about my feelings?  Why didn't they send me to a counselor?  Why weren't they more open?  Why all this secrecy and hiding and SHAME??

Then I attended a Safe Space training on Saturday to learn how to be a better LGBT ally.  It left me wrecked.  I have no other word to describe it.  That wasn't supposed to happen, right?  Wasn't I supposed to leave going "Rah rah rah, let's help the gay kids?"  Instead I felt a mixture of anger and grief and I wanted to curl up in a corner and cry.  It was only after participating in a dramatic sketch where a daughter comes out to her unsupportive parents, did it truly sink in as to why there was all the shame and secrecy.  My parents had grown up in environments where being gay was this horrible, sinful thing.  I'm sure they had seen and experienced discrimination similar to that in the sketch, or maybe worse.  I don't know.  But they had good reason to be scared.  

My anger shifted from being directed at them, to being directed at society.  This is not okay.  Why didn't my dad feel comfortable with his identity?  Don't people realize what they are doing?  Behaving this way is not only deeply hurtful to the LGBT community, it is DAMAGING TO EVERYONE.  It hurts the kids.  It hurts the parents.  It hurts the families.  It puts people in boxes and forces them to pretend to be things they are not.  It makes people feel unsafe.  It can contribute to suicide and violence.  One hateful act or word can spread further than one ever imagined.

IT IS CONTAGIOUS.   

Please, help end the hate.  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

As the summer days fade

School starts back up next week.  I only have 6 more days of summer break.  As nice as it's been to have some time where I didn't have homework hanging over my head, I think I am about ready to hit the books again.

I can't really sum up these past 5 weeks in one word.  They weren't exactly great, but they weren't terrible either. 

I took a fun little trip down to Stevenson, WA for the West Coast Subaru Show.  We stayed in a cabin on the river with another couple and it was glorious!

I taught the wife in the aforementioned couple how to knit, and it's been fun to see her progress!  She is a great student.

I got a lot of knitting time in myself and started going to knitting group again.  I went through almost four seasons of Nip Tuck while I worked on baby blankets.  I also finished a novel I'd been reading since April and started two new ones.  (That is one thing I miss during school: by the time I'm done with the required reading, the last thing I want to do is read for pleasure.)

My 3-day work weeks flew by since there were no classes in the evening....

I saw Midnight in Paris.  It was whimsical and charming.

I applied for new jobs and had an interview (but didn't get it). 

I got a new guinea pig named Cozi.  She is super friendly and loves to be held.  Right now she is in quarantine but next week I'll introduce her to Punky.

F and I had our relationship tested due to money issues but we're ok for now.  I think we have been growing as a couple lately and we are becoming more comfortable.  But at the same time that terrifies me and so I have been guilty of lashing out due to fear.  We also witnessed the dissolving of his BFF's engagement, and I think that has both made us stronger and simultaneously put extra stress on us. 

A lot can happen in a few weeks but they seemed to just fly by...

It is amazing to think about last fall and how I was still settling into my new relationship and my new school.  This year the relationship is older and more familiar but definitely not stale, and I am finding myself anxious to get back to the routine of school!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Messages from the universe

I am not much of a religious person, but I do believe that sometimes things happen for a reason.  I've had experiences where in the darkest hour a stranger held a door for me, or let me go ahead of them in line, or offered me a ride to the bus stop when I was running late.  I believe that people are generally more good than evil, and that a little kindness can go a long way.

In the past few months I've realized that my current job is not really a good fit.  After working in research for over six years and completing a year of graduate school in education, I am ready to move up and on.  I am a very committed person, so I did go to my supervisor first to talk about advancement since I'd like to stay where I am until I graduate. Unfortunately, he is not open to it.  I'm at the top of the pay scale with the highest title I can have for the kind of work he needs.  So I've been looking for a new job that is a better fit with my goals.  I finally landed an interview last week and it went well.  She was checking my references and I had a second interview lined up this week.  However, I got a call today that she had chosen someone else.

Yes, I am a bit bummed because it would have been a great opportunity.  I went to have coffee with a my coworker during our break and on the way back we were riding in the elevator with a woman who started talking to us.  "I like your shoes," she said to me.  And then she called my coworker and me "cute" and told my coworker she had a great smile.

It wasn't a big deal, and the woman seemed a little crazy, but it was just the perfect boost at the perfect time.  It's things like that that make me remember that even if I'm a little disappointed now, things will work out in the end.  Maybe there is a better job out there, or maybe I will be able to quit in a few months and be a full-time student.  Who knows?  In the meantime, I will keep persevering...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The many layers of love

The recent breakup of a friend's engagement has me thinking a lot about love lately.  What is it?  What makes it disappear or endure?  What, exactly, is "true love"?  Is it that sparkly passion of Scarlett and Rhett, or is it the comfort and security of Ron and Hermione?

In the past, I have been guilty of dropping the L-bomb a bit too freely.  I think I said it at one point or another in every monogamous/serious relationship I've had, although the frequency varied.  For example, with non-bf I probably said it less than 10 times over three years because he never returned the sentiment.  With my boyfriend before that, we said it daily.

When I ponder over past relationships, of course with hindsight being 20/20, I think, "Oh, I didn't love him," or "That wasn't true love."  But that thinking is faulty.  Because I did love them.  At the time.  I loved them with what I knew about love when I was with them.  Sometimes the love was more about teenage hormones and other times it was more about friendship.  Sometimes it was about passion and excitement, and sometimes is was about loving love itself.  Sometimes it was about the other person, sometimes it was about me, and sometimes it was just about not wanting to be alone.  We are all guilty of that. 

This love I feel for F is different than all those past loves.  I have been comparing it, trying to figure out why.  I've been dissecting the reasons he is the only one I've ever even considered cohabiting with, trying to come up with an explanation other than "I just know," or "It just feels right."  Finally, I think I've been able to figure it out.  It's not that I love him in a particular way, it's that I love him in all the ways.  We have a strong, connecting bond that only happens when you've been friends for over a decade. I am deeply attached.  I am fiercely protective of him and our relationship.  He is a member of my family, my inner circle.  But on top of all that, there is sparkly chemistry.  My heart pumps an extra beat or two when he seeks me out at home to give me a random kiss, or when we cuddle together on the couch.  And even though I enjoy my alone time, I am always happy to see him when he comes home.  I am as at ease with him as I am by myself, and that is saying something.  The combination of the sparks, comfort, and the fact that his presence adds to my life instead of drains my energy is how I know this is for real.  Really reals. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

"This life has been a test. Had it been an actual life, you would have received instructions on where to go and what to do."

I took a good emotional tumble last week.  It had to do with work.  My boss not only rejected my request, but did so in a way that stung like hell and broke me for a while.  

Although I am sensitive, I try to be strong at the same time.  I get knocked down easily, but I don't stay down for long.  Well, this week I stayed down for longer than I'd have liked.  

It happened on Wednesday, and I called in sick to work on Thursday.  I still don't know if I was being a coward or not, but I do know that having a day off to recharge really helped.  And I know that I wasn't a coward in asking for what I wanted, and I was brave to keep asking even in the face of roadblocks.  I saw it through to the end, and I have no regrets about what "could have been" because I did my best.  I think that's important.

I also let my fears get to me on Saturday when I was supposed to go on a bike ride with the guys.  I'm not proud of that.  But maybe being brave twice in five days was just too much.  And maybe that's ok.  

Tomorrow is my first day back after the incident.  I am worried, but I will get through it.  At least my coworkers are sweet and understanding.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em?

I am avid reader of the blogs Living Single and Onely: Single and Happy.  Bella DePaulo is so passionate and has prompted me to think about some things I previously took for granted.  The one that has stood out to me the most is the issue of rights and benefits for people not in a romantic relationship, especially marriage.  We have a long way to go still, but great progress has been made in the area of gay marriage.  However, what about people who aren't partnered?  Shouldn't they be able to add a close friend to their health insurance?  Or what about those in an opposite-sex domestic partnership?  At my place of employment, same-sex domestic partners can access benefits, but opposite-sex domestic partners cannot.  Sure, opposite-sex couples are allowed to get married.  But what if they aren't ready for that, or can't afford it? 

I am pro-marriage equality, but for the past few years I've been convinced that I would never end up tying the knot. It just wasn't important to me and I think a lot of the traditions are sexist: Why does the woman have to wait for the man to propose?  I know so many women who waited around for their partners for years.  Why isn't it socially acceptable and normal for women to do the asking if marriage is their desire?  And then there are the engagement rings.  I refuse to wear one unless my fiance does.  I am not a piece of property, I am not a prize (well, no more than he is).  Either we both wear engagement rings, or we both go ringless until the wedding day.

Anyway, you get my point.  Marriage was never something I "needed."  It was never a life goal, and I'd never break up with my partner for not wanting to get married.  We'd probably just continue living together indefinitely, which is perfectly acceptable to me.

BUT (yes, there is a but), since we started sharing a residence two months ago, I've been noticing all these little things that would just be easier if we were married.  For example, he doesn't have health insurance.  I've checked and double checked, but there's no way to add him to my policy unless we get married or are over 62, and that is a looooong way off. 

Then there is the matter of grocery shopping.  How do we split the bills?  Do I pay for my stuff, and he pays for his?  Or do we just divide it down the middle?  Sometimes we eat totally different things (I'm vegetarian and he is not), but sometimes we cook for each other.  What then?  Or what about the housewarming gift cards we got from my parents that were to both of us?  How do we keep track of ownership of that stuff?  So far whenever we want something for the house, one of us buys it so we know who it belongs to in the event of a breakup.  If we were married this stuff wouldn't matter so much because everything would be "ours." 

On top of these issues, there are the smaller ones that sneak up on me and make my heart twinge a little.  Last weekend was F's nephew's birthday party, and we signed the card "Uncle F and AMT."  A little part of me was sad that I wasn't "Auntie AMT."  And even though F's family has been nothing but kind and welcoming to me, I still feel like an outsider.  I like his family so much and sometimes wish I belonged in a way that only a spouse can.