It has been almost exactly two years since I told my now ex-husband that I “think I might be gay”. Not really that long when you think about it. I live in a new world now wearing a new pair of (comfortable) shoes. There is still the occasional stone that gets stuck in there which varies from being slightly annoying to extremely painful. I wrote about waves of grief. It seems that they go away, but really they just slow down… spread out… and when they hit they can knock me down or just lap at my feet. (I’m just full ofmetaphors today – it must be the rain.)
I have been home for just over a week after sharing my one-person show No Gold Star at the Halifax Fringe Festival. It was part of a double bill with my friends who showed their play Unexpectedly Trans and we named the performance “Out Late”. Doing this show is a wonderful challenge – a personal, emotional challenge. Coming out on stage to a new group of strangers every evening. Not knowing if I am in a supportive space or not on any given show. Not knowing how I will be judged or accepted for each concept and idea that comes out of my mouth. Being out there all vulnerable, especially the first performance, hit me hard like I was starting coming out all over again. Luckily I have an amazing support system that kept me going after night one.
To be completely honest – it’s not the most fun I’ve had performing. It is fun at parts but it is also scary. But it feels important, it feels purposeful. The amount of people who have said “Thank you for telling this story”. So onward I go. Grateful that I have this story-telling thing that I do, and hoping that it can reach as many people who need to hear it as possible.
I’ve had the privilege to spend my Valentine’s Day helping women in a way I know how. I am a pilates instructor. Much of the work I do is therapeutic. In the past year I have become frustrated with the feeling that I teach more hours than I have the energy or enthusiasm for, my “day job” has overridden my artistic career, and I don’t make an income reflective of my skill level, experience and education. “Boo hoo” right? … but from a different perspective, I feel these are legitimate things that every woman should have the right to think, feel, and do something about. After spending months knowing that this is how I felt, and not really knowing how or feeling ready to push and make a change, I finally was hit with a different approach. Instead of only figuring out how I can work less and get paid more, I thought – why not also do work for free, and enjoy it more. Give it away, so to speak. Obviously I can’t afford to do that 100%, but I realized that I was willing and able to give away my skills, experience and education one time a week to people who need it and cannot afford it.
This was my second week volunteering. I teach a “well back” class at one centre, and this week I also lead a workshop at a training centre for women who want to get into trades. The money that I did not make during these sessions was not missed. The energy and independence I have already gotten back from ‘giving it away’ has been more than worth it. And this week, as it so happened, was the day of the Women’s Memorial March in the downtown east side. I got to spend two and a half hours helping women take care of themselves, and literally walk with the women’s march on the way from one appointment to the other. It was a humbling experience, and I took it as a significant sign that I was in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing.
I want opportunities for growth and change in my life and in my career. I also want women in general to have more opportunities in their lives, and especially women with less privilege than me. I am lucky to be able to afford to volunteer, and I can see that there is a need for it. It is a small shift, but one that has already brought meaning and joy back into my “day job”. Interestingly enough, as I sought out these volunteer opportunities, I also found the motivation to make a couple small but significant steps toward my personal career goals. As someone recently said to me – and I am paraphrasing – “Your happiness or having more doesn’t take away from someone else’s, in fact, it could provide you with more to give.”
I’ve been doing an on line meditation practice for the past couple of weeks – part of my “self-care” resolution for 2017. Within this practice, we are guided to write the things we are grateful for on that given day. I am not a stranger to listing gratitudes, but in this practice we are encouraged to go a little deeper, “breathe them in”, and sometimes – to list one thing we struggle with/have struggled with and try to find gratitude for it.
This isn’t so easy. It’s not terribly difficult for me to “look at the positives” in theory. To write it down on a piece of paper. But to really feel it – that’s a bit more of a challenge.
I recently chose to find gratitude for the losses I’ve experienced through coming out and getting divorced. Of course I am grateful for the benefits – but I still struggle with the feeling that I have wound back the clock on both my career and my finances – that I’ve lost all progress, and may or may not get it back. That the big dream I was building for myself came crashing down, and there is no guarantee of repair. Prior to coming out, my artistic career was the most important thing to me. Since coming out, it has had to take a back seat… which I knew would happen, but hoped it would be brief.
In the exercise I wrote something like “I am grateful for these losses and heartbreaks, because when I do succeed, it will feel that much sweeter”. Right away I realized I was not feeling grateful for where I am now, but projecting toward something that I can’t control. I then wrote something like – ‘It has lead me to my present self’ – not quite understanding that statement fully. Later in the day it sunk in for me. I actually felt true gratitude for these losses – with the result being who I am today. I have said these kinds of things before, but not understood them in my heart. This is the thing: If I hadn’t lost so much, I wouldn’t know that there is way more to life than my career goals. I wouldn’t know that I would do it all over again – exactly the same way, suffering in the same way, and not knowing when or if or how my recovered career would come about. I would not know the joy of loving myself – my true self – and allowing it all to be seen. I wouldn’t know love for another person in the way I know it now. And I wouldn’t know that this love for myself and for another person could be worth gambling all the rest of it.
I don’t have to choose anymore. I may or may not get back some of what was lost. I am working toward it, and receiving wonderful new gifts, strengths and experiences along the way. Regardless of what happens in my career, I will always know that putting myself first was worth it.
It’s been one year since I came out on Facebook (thanks for the reminder, Facebook), and I almost feel normal. I was at an event with some women from my support group about a month ago, and I expressed how I feel like I should still be coming to the group. When I said that, they were surprised because they thought that now I was “out”, everything was fine. Funny how we perceive people, I had the same thoughts in regards to “out” women when I was still “in”.
Yes, everything is better. I am not hiding… not nearly as much at least. I feel like I am finally getting some strength back. Some strength to take risks, take on something new, maybe come out to some other random people – I don’t know. But these things take time – I figure they probably take more time the older one gets. I still am not out to everyone. I still allow people to assume that I am straight… and single, when I feel it is easier to do so, or when I feel it’s not really their business. That is fine by me – but there is some stress to it, some navigating. I still find myself wondering if I’m being too gay, or acting too straight in any given scenario… how much of myself to I let out in this situation or that situation?
I think this is just me being new to it. I think this is the norm for people who have been out for ages. But it is definitely a process – a process I look forward to working through. It does get easier for the most part.
I recently took a little trip to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo Mexico with my girlfriend and a friend of ours. A warm break to recharge the batteries. This has been a destination for me and my family for the last 9 years. The past two years I have gone with my girlfriend. Travel now has the added risk of me being not just a woman, but a gay woman. I have not yet learned how to entirely relax with this added layer, but I have been able to have moments.
As it turns out, there seems to be a small gay scene in Ixtapa/Zihua. Last year we stumbled upon a drag show in Zihua near Zorro’s bar. Years ago I had a drunk lesbian (Mexican) kiss me at at the same Zorro’s bar – quite suddenly, and I met another american Lesbian after dodging the first one. ( Unfortunately I was not attracted to either of them, so my sexual awakening had to wait till I was already married.) This year we noticed little clusters of not-so-in-the-closet gays and lesbians – during the day and during the night in both Zihua and Ixtapa. Seeing this was a relief. I wasn’t so nervous to touch my girlfriend, be a bit less restrained. We still would only hold hands when it seemed we were alone or in safe company – but it was something.
So I would like to encourage all you gay travellers to check out Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. Make it a little more gay. I’d like to see some more hand holders next time I visit.