We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.
― Maya Angelou
Here we are, the final day of thanks for the month of November. I think every day, in my normal life, I say a mental and emotional thank you for something… the way my honey laughs, the excited way the pups greet me every time I walk in a room, the smiles of my grandsons, the beauty of the sky or the day or the soul of a friend. I appreciate things. Even so, this has been a lovely exercise in purposed thankfulness. Being cognizant of what I have in my life. I have a lot.
30. I am thankful for love. Love of all kinds. Love from friends, family, my pups, the grandsons, the kids, my Mom, my siblings, and most of all my honey. I am blessed to have so much love in my life. More love and more joy from that love than I could ever dream possible. I feel it like a wave sometimes, immense and overwhelming in a totally good way, and other times it’s presence is like a vast and endless calm sea supporting the weight of this tiny ship. Most importantly, I feel it. Always. I’m lucky, fortunate, grateful, thankful, honored, blessed, graced, and humbled by the magnitude of it. I am loved, and I love. It’s beautiful.
I’m actually sitting here at a loss for words. Shocking. Yesterday I was jumping up and down, crying, pumping my fists in the air, and trying to mouth the words, “it passed!” to K who was on the phone in a meeting for work. It was a comedy of sorts. She involved in her meeting, me jumping and crying and trying to shout without saying a word. She mouthed the words, “what’s up?” and I just kept whispering that it passed. We had a mini failure to communicate until she just asked the person on the phone to wait a second, held her hand over the headset mic, and said, “what’s going on?”. I could then finally answer aloud. “It passed! It passed!” She got excited, had to tell the person she was on the phone with what I’d just said. Finally, we could semi celebrate together. When she got off the phone we hugged each other. I was still crying.
I spent over two hours yesterday with headphones on, computer tabbed to the state house feed, listening and watching the debate about the Illinois marriage bill. It was infuriating, enlightening, glorious, encouraging, a tad scary at times, and ultimately wonderful. Whether people said things I agreed with, or not, it was fascinating to watch and listen to the process. When the vote finally came it happened so fast it was almost anticlimactic. They vote electronically so it took less than 10 seconds. Bam. Done.
I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on this. After all, there are many people, who for religious reasons, feel my right to marry who I love is wrong. And, oh well. I don’t expect people to agree. It’s a divisive issue. Always has been. I see it as the civil rights issue of our time, and others see it as a religious issue. I could argue that, as I have in the past on this blog, but today I won’t. Today I guess maybe I want to write about love.
I am in love. Since April of 2003, and if I really admit it to myself it was probably a couple of months earlier, I’ve been in love. In the beginning I was scared as hell. Me being in love with a woman was not something my family would expect and at that point didn’t know anything about. So I was scared. In love, but scared. Would they accept her, would they cast me out, would they turn their backs or talk behind mine? One of the reasons I kept being gay a secret for so long was because I didn’t want to go from being Tam to being gay Tam. Because whether people mean to or not, that’s exactly what happens. You suddenly become something different from what you were to other people. Not always in a bad way, but different none the less. I didn’t want that first perceived difference, until I met her, and then I didn’t want to keep it a secret or hide her from everyone in my life. I wanted her to be a part of my family. I wanted to live a whole and authentic life and to do that I had to tell my truth. So I did. And yes, I became gay Tam. But then — then I was just Tam again.
A lot happened right after the coming out thing, as you can imagine, but what mostly happened was a whole bunch of acceptance and love. Love. I have friends who are pretty religious people, but they still loved me. One of them, a super spiritual Christian guy, came to see me in person and ended up telling me he loved me, no matter what, and that it wasn’t his job to judge or condemn me. You know, the judge not lest ye be judged thing. I love him for that. I respect him for that. And I respect his beliefs. We differ, but that’s OK. My grandmother, who my mom elected to tell (with my permission of course) said, and I quote, it was about time I came out. ha ha ha! That still makes me smile and laugh. She’d suspected, she kind of already knew, she was OK with it, and had been impatient for me to just say it already.
I think I was surprised at how well people just sort of accepted K into our family, into our lives. Friends I’d had forever accepted her as well. People treated us as if we were just like every other couple. Because, you know, we were. We are. We’re the same — mortgage, dogs, making dinner, working, pulling weeds in the garden, going for walks, taking vacations, watching dumb television shows, having the occasional argument, babysitting the grand boys, grocery shopping. Same. We love. We are loved.
I’m lucky. I know this. When I say it’s not every day people find the kind of relationship we have, I mean anyone. Gay, straight, somewhere in the middle. People strive for this, this thing we have. This absolute certainty that we are. We are more than just meant for each other or made for each other or any of that. We are. Simple. When I met her it was as if everything snapped into place, an audible click. Home. I still feel that way. Lucky.
Yes, alright — we argue and somehow she puts up with me when I get too emotional. I put up with her need to do a million things at once which sometimes leads to her not listening as well as I’d like. We do struggle at times. Of course we do. We aren’t perfect. What’s great is that no matter how much we struggle or how angry we get or how hard things sometimes feel there’s never a feeling of wanting to end it, or go, or take a break, or any of that. The tough stuff always makes us stronger as a couple if we let it. We let it. We can’t imagine our lives without each other in them.
We’ve already been married twice. To each other. This makes me smile. The first time we got married we were alone on a beach in Hawaii. We’d purchased rings and found our spot and did it ourselves. Words spoken, rings exchanged, happy tears shed, poetry, and a sand ceremony she’d surprised me with. We still have that bottle of sand. We’ve considered ourselves married since then. I think, really, we’ve considered ourselves married since that first date. I know I was. It’s why we count our anniversaries from then. But the ceremony in Hawaii was a real marriage for us. Maybe not sanctified or certified or papered in any way, but real none the less. The second time we got married Oregon had just passed a domestic partnership law. I worked for a county in Oregon at the time so during a break I walked down to the proper desk, paid the fee, we filled out the paperwork, and a week later there it was, our certificate of domestic partnership. Not really a marriage, but a legal thing, even if it seemed slightly empty in a way. We laughed, but at least that, combined with the $1600 in paperwork we’d done with an attorney, sort of protected us as a couple. Sort of. I say this because later, when at different times we were each hospitalized, we had to give the hospital with our powers of attorney, etc. so that we could make decisions for each other. It added a stress regular couples don’t have to deal with. Nothing like worrying if you’ll be kicked out of your wife’s room because she isn’t legally your wife. Luckily those strangers were kind and gentle and accepting. So much so one of the nurses mentioned to us how fantastic our relationship was and that she rarely saw a couple so devoted. It was a compliment. It was a commentary. It spoke directly to the we that is us.
We’ve never had an actual ceremony in front of people. A ceremony the kids and my mom and my brothers and sisters and K’s brother and sister and parents and our friends, etc., etc., could attend. As a young woman I never thought I’d be able to have a wedding. It was so far out of the consciousness I literally never even imagined it. Later, K and I vowed not to do it until/unless it became federally legal. Our paperwork and our own private marriage were what we’ve had. And on one hand they’ve been enough. The hand that says we don’t need anyone telling us our relationship is valid and important and real. We know it is. We live it and feel it every day. On the other hand not being able to legally wed has denied us many rights other couples who can get married enjoy and take for granted every day. Some of those rights legal, like getting the same rights for the taxes we pay, and some human, like being recognized in the same way as all other couples who love each other and last are when they are married.
And again, I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything here. I’m just speaking to my own personal experience. Yesterday, when marriage happened for us in Illinois, I cried. I cried because it’s another step toward being culturally real. Toward begin a part of something bigger than just us. It’s being looked at, from the outside, as legit and meaningful in the same ways as other couples who are devoted to each other, who have taken that step. It means my mom can be at my wedding, the kids can be there, our family and friends can be there. It means we can celebrate and rejoice and affirm the love we have and have had for each other for over 10 years and our families and friends can hug us and share in that moment. I means all the same protections and privileges will then apply to us. It means inclusion, not exclusion. And it means so much more than I can even put into words. Which, as I said in the beginning of this, sometimes fail me.
There is nothing more important in this life than the people we love and who love us. Period, the end. Love is beautiful and special and precious and real. Man, woman, gay or straight. Ours is. Our love for each other and our love for the people in our lives. This latest happening in Illinois is a victory for love. It’s very existence has advanced us, as a species. It’s propelled us a bit closer toward a place and time when all people will be loved and accepted and celebrated for who they are. A time and a place that’s hopefully not too far off in the future. Love always wins. Eventually. Love of our spouses, our children, our families, our friends, our fellow man and woman. I believe this.
I believe in love.
I’m sentimental, empathetic, and very in tune with the feelings of others. Always have been. It’s the thing that makes me cry during silly commercials, sporting events, and when I hear a song on the radio that makes me think of someone I love. I feel things deeply. All things. Sometimes this makes it hard, I’m sure, to live with me. When I’m upset I’m emotionally upset, which I myself don’t always understand, and when I feel love I am so full of love I sometimes fear my body won’t be able to contain it. All of this emotion comes from the same well deep inside of me. It is at times overwhelming, explosive, warm, joyous, and all consuming. I don’t always appreciate these deep feelings I have, and have sometimes wished I didn’t have them at all, but honestly, I’m glad I’m like this. I’m glad I see, and feel, the world this way, through this blanket of empathy and love.
Earlier today I watched a Youtube video of a man using a flash mob, in Central Park, to help him propose to his boyfriend of many years. It was beautiful. Simply put, love is love. There can’t be too much of it in the world, in my opinion. So while I was watching this video I started to cry. It was moving, and as noted above, I’m a crier. I felt for them, was happy for them, happy for the people watching, happy for one of the guys Mom’s who was there to see it and crying herself. My honey looked over at me, we were both in our office, and said you must be watching something emotional. I had headphones on and tears streaming down my face. She’s used to this.
I watched the video and listened to that song and thought, once again, of my honey and how lucky I am to have her. It’s really, I think, why I was crying today. I was overwhelmed by the love I feel for her. I am difficult to live with. Difficult to love sometimes I think, but she is always right there, loving me as if it’s easy for her. Making me feel as though it’s easy for her, as though it’s something she has always done, something that’s natural and true. I am so blessed and lucky that she somehow manages to understand me and love me for all that I am, good and difficult. For 10 years. 10. I can’t express how much I love her. It comes from a place so deep inside that deep well of mine that I don’t think there are actually words. Just feelings so big and strong and true they defy articulation.
Honey… I have loved you for a thousand years and will love you for a thousand more….
I had the great idea to write this lovely post all about how much you mean to me, have meant to me, and all the ways you continue to be amazing, but now that I’m sitting here at the keyboard I’m a bit lost.
Let’s just start with how much you make me smile… and not at just the obvious times, like when you’re being incredibly funny or cute, which is often, but when you don’t know I’m watching you. The way you love on the dogs, talking to them in that sweet little kid voice they love, or when you fall asleep with a dog head up against your head, both of you so peaceful, or when you sing to Sebastian or talk to him, and also when you just talk to your daughter on the phone and you are her Mom and you love her very much and I admire that in you, or how you bite out of life all you can every time we go somewhere new, or even to the store. You make me smile all these times… and so many many more.
This last year and a half has been, shall we say, tough… everyone knows what I’m talking about I’m sure. But it wasn’t just my health, it was yours before. You in the hospital before me being in the hospital. Glad we got all that out of the way… it wasn’t fun. But even still… there we were, you and me, always you and me, battling it all together, holding each other, encouraging each other, bolstering each other, and loving each other. I know, with everything that I am, that my journey through all of that would’ve been so much more difficult if I didn’t have you, my little rock, to lean on and lean into.
You understand me…. the me that hides from everyone else. The me that’s very insecure and stubborn and short tempered and wacko sometimes. The me that you somehow just get. I don’t know how you do, but you see me better than anyone has ever seen me, sometimes much better than I see myself. And, it’s good to be seen. It’s good to have someone know me this well. It’s what makes a person not feel alone. This knowing and the way you love me because and in spite of it all.
You have also let me into your world. That wonderful wacky place that it can be where joy is king. Where happiness reigns and where everything is put in the right perspective. We always say to each other that we see into people. Which we do and it’s creepy sometimes. We both get a vibe, a sense, a knowing of where someone’s at just by walking in the room with them. Well, I’ve always hidden myself well. I would see, but not be seen. Unless I wanted to be seen that is. Then I would let out little bits of things here and there to someone so they would get to know me. But you… there’s no hiding from you. Your world, your look, your being… they see me. You see me and you have let me into that beautiful place where you stand in it. I mean IN it. Feet planted firmly, heading in one direction, the us direction. The us direction… the direction of we, and us, and anything is possible or bearable or fathomable or knowable as long as we stand there holding hands together, looking forward together. I don’t say this much, but I’m so honored to be standing there next to you. So proud.
You’ve given me a family I didn’t have on my own. I have my Mom, who is fantastic (worthy of her own blog post, which I’m sure will be coming), and a brother (who I completely adore), and other siblings I love very much, and a huge huge group of family and friends who I’m blessed to know and love. But I didn’t have my own family. It wasn’t in the cards for me. But then I met you… and now look what I’m lucky enough to have… a daughter, a son in law, a grandson, and a son. To get to be a part of that… a part of this beautiful fantastic thing every day. I’m lucky. And you did that for me… You.
I could go on and on about how we are true split-aparts… two who have found the right purchase, the right home, and the right half. I could also say that we are complete because we found each other. Two halves of the same whole. Not realizing it until that first time we held hands and the world tilted into place. The feeling of coming home. Of being home… every day. I could go on and on about how we are lucky, and what’s so amazing is we both know it. No matter what we have faced or will face, we are good, we are fine. Together. You are more than enough for me honey. More than. If we lost everything I would be OK, WE would be OK, because we have each other. And you, my love, are more than I ever hoped to find, more than I ever dreamed I’d get, and more than enough to keep me happy for the rest of our lives.
I could go on and on… but…
Simply… I love you with everything that I am, all that I’ve ever been, and all that I ever will be….
There are many exciting things about our upcoming move…. new place, new things to explore, jumping off point for many other locales, new house to decorate and organize and live in, and most of all… a grandson and kids to hang out with and love. All so great.
Then there are the people here that we’re leaving. I’ve sort of been in denial about this. Concentrating on all the tasks at hand, all the things we are gaining by making this move. But the cold hard facts hit me a bit in the face today as I had lunch with a group of friends who also happen to be my former co-workers. I love these people. They are like family to me… so much time spent with them, so many laughs, so many little inside jokes, so many humbly serious moments of care and concern passing between us. I love them.
We had lunch today, like we have so many times over the last 12 years… laughing and telling stories and chatting about what’s up with each of us. It was lovely, as it always is when I spend time with these lovely people. And then it came time to leave. For me to get in my car and drive away and them to all walk back to the office and get on with the rest of their day being crime fighters. Doing noble work with the best of noble intentions. We stood there awkwardly for a few moments, not sure what to do. I looked at them in turn as they looked at me and then the hugging started. The see you laters commenced and the I won’t say goodbye we will just say see you in October. It was strange. I love and admire them… and, I will miss them terribly.
I will miss being able to just jump in the car and go down to what was once my office to hang out and chat and be around these wonderful people. I will miss their smiles, their laughter, their shoulders to cry on, and their great good company. I will miss their nearness.
I am excited about moving… very much so. But it is bitter sweet. So very excited on one hand… and sad on the other. I think with those hugs goodbye this afternoon the denial is starting to fall away. There are going to be many more hugs in the next two weeks… But there will also be hugs hello when we get to Urbana. Sweet sweet hugs that will help to temper all the goodbyes and see you laters.
We were making dinner tonight (orange sesame chicken, cheddar garlic mashed potatoes, steamed carrots and cauliflower, and green beans), and while we were in the process we were also unloading the dishwasher and washing the dishes/loading the dishwasher. Suddenly Karen says to me, hey, you know something that annoys me… it annoys me when someone loads a jar into the dishwasher with the label still on… because THIS happens (she picked up the glass lid to a dish that had dried stuck paper on the back of it that had come from the aforementioned label). I stood there in shock. I mean, it’s the first time she’s ever said anything I do annoys her.
All the time we’ve been together I’ve tried to get her to pin point something about my behavior that annoys her. She’s always said… nope… there’s nothing. And I’ve argued that although I know I’m peachy to live with, there has had to be something. Anything. To which she’s always maintained that no, not really. I’m not that annoying. Of course, she’s so relaxed a person, so comfortable in who she is, that she’s really mellow. Very. Even so, I know I have to be annoying. Sometimes. Once in awhile. Occasionally. C’mon.
Today… today was the day. Finally. I found that yes, something I do does annoy her. Though now that she’s told me, I won’t do it again. So, damn. Looks like I’ll just have to go on asking. And I was so excited there for a minute. Geez.
Karen’s away right now, on business. She left yesterday, and life just isn’t the same without her.
I’m always sad when she goes. I know, this time anyway, it’s only for a couple of nights, but that doesn’t seem to matter much. The missing her is the same…. strong. Intense. Things just aren’t quite right when we’re away from each other.
I never thought I’d be a person who counted on someone so much, or felt so connected to someone, as I do with her. It’s strange and incredible. I quite like it actually. And for a person who’s been pretty independent, depending on someone, well that’s an unusual thing.
Thinking about her, about us, makes me consider the nature of relationships, or at least of my view of them. What does it mean… to be in a relationship, to be a couple… connected.
I guess, for me, it means thinking of that other person before yourself, wanting to make sure they are OK, or happy, or taken care of. It means compromising what I want sometimes because something that might not be important to me is very important to her. It means not being stubborn and trying to get my way, or do things my way every time. It’s about acceptance of faults, and even a sort of celebration of them and the differences in us. Being in a relationship, to me, means I can relax knowing my trust is not misplaced. Which is huge for me. I trust, and she knows she can too. And trust, well… that’s the cornerstone, the place where feeling safe with someone comes from. Without it, there is no safety, no ability to truly relax into the relationship. And again I’ll say… I’m lucky, and I know it.
Being in a relationship means knowing that she’s there for me, just as I am for her. It involves putting her first, before anyone else. Thinking of her, before anyone else… including myself. It’s about having a playmate, a confidante, a friend, and a champion. It’s her knowing that if she falls, or has a bad day, or is upset, I’ll drop everything else and be there to hold onto. It’s big big love, swelling up inside and pouring out so much I can’t stop myself from saying “I love you” all the time. It’s about not just talking, but listening. Being in a relationship is being content, satisfied, and found. It’s understanding each other sometimes more than we understand ourselves. It’s being truthful and honest with each other even if it’s hard, or uncomfortable. And it’s about sharing our true selves with no apologies, while at the same time having an openness and a willingness to change. It’s a celebration of life and what it means to live.
Yes, I’m lucky, and I know it. I have found what people write about in books, sing about, and crave. I have a true partner in life, in every sense. We are, as we think of ourselves, two halves of a whole. When each found the other, we finally found our true and complete selves. I know it sounds corny, but that’s been the feeling…. like the world snapped in place, instantly and audibly, when our hearts met for the first time. I swear, it’s like all the cells in my body took a deep breath and then sighed collectively. And what’s amazing is that the feeling still exists… that instant relaxation, as if I’ve come home, is there every time I’ve been away from her and then am with her again. Every time.
I miss her, and I can’t wait until she comes home, because I know when she does I will, once again, feel like I’m home too. Even though I’ve been here all along, she hasn’t, and without her the house is just a place I live. The us that we are… that’s home. That’s why when she returns tomorrow, well, I’ll feel like I’m coming home too.
The Great Migration
Published November 17th, 2005 Essays 1 Comment Edit
The think tank has moved. I did, however, bring over my little missives from the previous site. Stay tuned….
Saturday, November 12th, 2005
Back to Busy-ness
I am amused and feeling a sense of happy contentment. It’s Friday night, and we have no plans. I think to myself… what a luxury. We seem to be busy all the time. And I want to know, when did that happen? When did busy become the way of life? I’m scratching my head here.
Everyone is rushing. Have to get to the next meeting, the next phone call, the next dinner, the next movie, the next chore around the house. We have calendars on desks, in phones, on computers, in hand held devices. And most of those, well the electronic ones anyway, have alarms. Not only do we constantly have to write everything down, we have to audibly remind ourselves that we wrote it down.
I know, sitting here right now, there are things I should, or could, or am supposed to be doing. I can walk around my house and see all of the things left undone. If I think on it hard enough I also conjure up all the stuff not done outside, but it’s raining, so I have an excuse. Sadly, not only do the tasks around here plague me, but the piles of paperwork and files on my desk start to creep into my consciousness. They do, if I let them. I must fight it!
I want to be a kid again. Or, better yet, be me, now, but with the magic secret super power I had as a kid… that strange and mysterious ability to forget absolutely everything, except what I was doing at the moment. To ignore anything, including the sounds of mom calling from the house, even when she used all three of my names, and that meant business. But, I didn’t hear it, at least not right away. And when I did, finally, she’d probably used the dreaded three name technique to gain attention one, two, or even three times. I was in my own world, master of my own fate. In charge, completely, of my destiny. I heard nothing. I saw nothing. I did nothing, except what I was doing, right then, at the moment.
At the moment, that’s the key.
Now as an adult, I am distracted. I’m watching a movie, or reading a book, or having a conversation… and suddenly, without intent or warning, the voice starts… my evil little inner twin, the task master. It begins to knock on my consciousness, slowly at first, little pictures or a word floating into “view” inside my head. It lets me know, I am not alone. It is always, except when I’m sleeping, with me. Even in sleep I think it’s there, it’s just probably sleeping too. But when I’m awake, it’s awake. It says things like… trash… or maybe… phone call. It doesn’t have to speak loudly, or even report its message fully. It just has to whisper, like wind slightly rustling the leaves. It pushes me, gently. Starting the swirl of thoughts in my brain…. Can you believe what that kid said today? Oops, I forgot to make that call. Where was that file? The look on that parents face was so sad. I need to remember that number when I go up to court. The car is so dirty. What’s for lunch? The lawn should’ve been mowed before it started raining. That shop door needs a new gasket… And so it goes… the list. Before I know it, three scenes of a movie have gone by and I’m thinking, what the hell just happened? Damn, I have to rewind.
Our lives, as adults, are busy. There are appointments and weddings, shopping to do, calls to make, bills to pay, papers to finish, and lawns to mow. There are friends and family to spend time with, work to be done. It is a never ending constant parade of to dos, should dos, must dos. From the moment we wake until the moment we sleep, which sometimes does not come easily thanks to all the thinking, we are bombarded with it. And I, for one, think it’s time we left all the busy-ness behind and got back to the business of being kidlike again. The business of living now, seizing, as they say, the day. Letting everything else melt away… until finally, surprised because it snuck up on us, we get that elusive feeling of peace. Finally, if not briefly, satisfied with our lives, our homes, and ultimately, ourselves… inner voices quieted, a pervasive feeling of giddy awe ensuing, we do face the day, freer than we were. Amused, contented, and still. Think of it, a world of happy contented people. Looking at and living in the moment. Our world would quiet, and we… well… we might, finally, get to see an entire movie… without thinking about a thousand other things, and then having to rewind.
Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005
How to Accessorize
Lately, I feel like an accessory. Or, more to the point, I feel like in being gay, I’m a sort of accessory. Ten years ago, we weren’t, the gay I mean, even talked about, except, of course, in a negative light. Now we are everywhere. Flip the channel on the television and you’ll find us… on talk shows, sitcoms, the food network, and many of those home-decorating shows. We are the best friend, the funny neighbor, and the hip buddy with the excellent fashion sense. We are politically savvy, and not just where gay marriage is concerned. We know and are passionate about environmental causes, finding the cure for various kinds of cancer, keeping arts programs in schools, and education.
The marketing people, whoever they are, have figured this out. Because not only are we everywhere, we are also spending money. We are, generally, successful. Marketing firms know this. They have found a new and vital segment of the population. Sneaking into visual and print media are more and more ads with gay couples, or inferring gayness, in some way. They are trying to tap our market. And us… we’re easy. All a marketing firm has to do is acknowledge us and we’re theirs. Say to the heavens that we exist and are just as normal as every other person or couple, and we are with you, ready to do almost anything, support almost anything, buy almost anything.
Not to say we’re cheap, no… just hungry for simple recognition. A simple acknowledgement that we, just like all those straight people and couples out there, are the same. We love our families, our friends, and our partners. We want homes, jobs that provide a decent salary and some good benefits, peace in our lives. We want to raise families and contribute to society. We are passionate, creative, driven, smart, loving, playful, generous, deep souls… just like all of you. We breathe the same, feel the same, and love the same. We are no threat. We have no plans to take over the world. There is not a covert gay conspiracy, as some would suggest, lingering just under the surface of our wish to be “just like everyone else”. We are not recruiting. There is no secret phone line we must call every week to report the numbers we have scored for our team to determine if we’ve met our quota. No… we are, as much as anyone else, boringly normal.
And the media, as I’ve already toyed with earlier, is aware of this. They know we are here, and yes, we are queer. All of this new acknowledgement and media attention has lent itself to a mysterious phenomenon. Not just as portrayed on television and in movies, but maybe partially because of how we are portrayed on television and in movies, we are actually, in some circles, cool. We are hip, or at least, to know us is hip. Want to be thought of as “in”… mention you have a gay friend, roommate, old college buddy you always knew was gay. Want to be happenin‘… say casually, while relaying what you did last night, that you went to dinner with your gay friend and their partner. It’s social clout you can spend, it is. Think it isn’t so? Think being “in” with the gay doesn’t get you anywhere? Think again. Having a gay friend, relative, and/or a close acquaintance, can get you a long way up the hip and happening ladder. Say you watch Ellen or Will and Grace regularly, that you listen to Melissa Etheridge, the Indigo Girls, or Elton John… let on that you have heard of, or better yet have been to, a gay club or two and you, my friend, are in “the club”. That group of trendy, with it people, who are cultured, savvy, urban, and living on the cutting edge. Know how to accessorize, and the world is not only your oyster… it’s harvested, cooked, and prepared just the way you like it.
Let me explain. Need decorating tips, help with your wardrobe, a new recipe to try on your arriving company from out of town? Ask your male gay friends. They can help. They know which tie to wear with what shirt. And for that matter, they know which shoes to wear with what skirt. They can whip up a soufflé while simultaneously deciding what couch position provides the best feng shui. Need to know how to build a shop out back, tune your Harley, or what football team is ahead in their division, ask your female gay friends. They will be able to knock out a room remodel while quoting the prices of the best and most effective hiking boots sold at REI.
They key here is, according to our ever-present media, you have to know what you need and then know which gay person can be most helpful to your cause. Shoes? Harley? Plants for the sunroom? The starting line up for the San Diego Chargers? Choose wisely, and the gay can help. In fact, it’s best to have a bevy of gay people in your life. You never know when one will come in handy. If nothing else, you’ll be hip in non-gay circles and in with the newly trendy gay crowd. You’ll have an in. You will no longer be the back woods, unintelligent, uninformed, sad excuse for the regular person you once were. You will be, tah dah, friend of the gay. With the right gay friend, you’ll be a well rounded person. Lead a life that’s more vivid, more interesting, more colorful. No longer afraid to shop, to ride a Harley, to better arrange your furniture. No longer in the dark about what goes into a crème brule, or how many players are actually on a baseball team. You will be better equipped to deal with anything life throws at you. You will have constant comic relief. You will be politically correct, and yet somewhat controversial. All because you, my friend, know how to accessorize.
Tuesday, October 18th, 2005
I have this problem. Some wouldn’t think about it in that light, but to me, it’s a problem. I am a bit overweight. And on the surface, that would seem, to most people, to be the problem. But, it’s not. The real issue for me is, with my inner eye, I see myself as thin. It’s true. On the inside, I’m thin and in shape, just as I was 20 years ago at the height of my most in shape period. I can’t seem to realize that I’m not the same smallish, athletic, physically fit person I was then. Because inside, I feel like I am that person. Consequently, I don’t seem to be able to get motivated to work out. Which, at the center of it, is the thing.
It’s a conundrum of sorts. I “know”, some place within myself, that I am overweight. I “know” that the best thing to do is to eat better, work out, drink lots of water. Yadda yadda yadda. I know all of this. And yet, my thin inner me protests. It tells me I am already in shape, I’m already healthy. Why do I need to spend all of that time on the stationary bike, lifting weights, doing strength building exercises? Why do I need to choose the salad sans dressing over the burger with fries? A thin person doesn’t need to worry about all of that. And me… I’m thin. I know it. Thin.
Then it happens. The wake up call. I see a picture of myself and BAM! I can’t avoid it. There they are, staring me in the face. The chins. And, there’s not just one of them, as there should be and is on a thin person, there are two of them. Worse yet, as I hold back the gasp, sometimes there are three… if the angle is not quite right or my head is down. I know it’s me, I see the picture… yes, it’s me. I’m appalled. I’m shocked. I’m horrified. The visual image doesn’t match my inner picture of myself. Where’s the thin me? And who, someone tell me, is this girl with the chins? I can’t get my mind around it. But there it is, in the picture I’m holding in my hand.
If only I could hang on to that image of myself. Keep in touch with the shock of seeing the chins. Spoken of so often now that I almost feel the need to capitalize them as a signal of their “enormous” importance. If only I knew how to translate all of the visual horror into a change of self image. But no, I can’t. I’m horrified one minute, holding the picture, and feeling like the ol’ thin me the next after I put it down. Strange, but true.
I know what needs to happen. I know what I need to correct this terrible disparity. What I need is a brain exchange. A thought swap of sorts. I need to find a thin person who thinks they are too fat and switch mind sets with them. That, it seems, is the answer to my problem. Because just as I know my problem of perceived thinness is getting in my way of weight loss success, I know there are thin people out there whose thoughts of fatness are hindering their struggle to maintain and gain weight. If, somehow, we could switch patterns of thinking, we might, and probably could, both find success. Me as an overweight girl on the path to a thinner me, and them as a person who is too thin on the road to a fuller bodied them. We would both be much healthier. I think it could work.
I know, in the grand scheme of things, there are more important issues to worry about in the world. I know that the state of my reduced me self image should not be compared to world peace, hunger, war, incongruities in the fight for equal rights. And yet one small victory here is big for me. It would mean a reduction in my number of chins. I would see myself as I am now, and act. Which, if one looks at it, is a cause for celebration. Because finally, I might find myself with an inner thin self image that matches the truth of what is. And isn’t that what we are all looking for? An inner truth matching our projection of ourselves into the outer world. Just think… if we had a world where people could truly be themselves, whatever that would mean, what a beautiful world it would be. Self images, far and wide, improved… inner and outer. The thin inner me would rejoice at that. No more inner conflict. No more thinking I’m thin only to find, alas, I am not. No more shock in seeing pictures of myself. I can start… I can… it would just take a strong conversation with myself, again… and a chin up… or two.
Tuesday, October 11th, 2005
Pie and Coffee
Here it is, Tuesday, I’m back at work. How to describe the weekend? I find myself at a loss in this area because I’m emotionally pulled in so many directions. But here I sit, alone in my office during lunch, about to give it a try anyway, as torn as I am.
I guess the first thing that comes to mind is beautiful. And it was. The celebration of my grandmother’s life, held on Saturday, October 8, at noon, was simply beautiful. Not just the setting, though it was, and not just the people, though they were as well. No, it was the spirit of it. The mood. There we were, a large room full of people, all thinking and feeling so deeply about her. All honoring her. And honestly, there was joy in it. Sadness, to be sure, but also a feeling of joy and connection. She would’ve loved her day. Children and grandchildren getting up to talk about her, their voices all filled with so much love and respect. Music… sung and played, food… including, of course, chocolate, a slide show… with music, and people laughing about this thing or that thing they remembered her doing or saying. So much love, and so present in the room, the sense of a life so well lived. And I guess, thinking about it sitting here, that’s the thing. She lived her life well. And we, those lucky enough to be related to her, to be present because of her, learned that from her. We have learned how to live our lives well. The whole event so well organized by her children, the slide show so well done by her son. Her husband, our father and grandfather, so well looked after by his children, his grandchildren. So much compassion, so much respect. And there it is… the truth of the matter, and the truth of a life like hers. Even that day, with her physically gone from us, we were more connected because of her. The family bond strengthening… feeling her arms wrapped around the collection of us, hugging us tightly together. As if she was saying to us, I’m still here, holding you all. We all felt it. As we held each other, as we cried, and even as we laughed. I feel it still. I don’t think it will ever go away. Her power so strong, her influence so rich, her love so great.
We spent the rest of that day together, those that could, and the better part of the next. And then Sunday night we went to watch my uncle play music. She would’ve loved that as well. People enjoying his music, some food, some wine or beer or whatever, and again, being together.
Karen and I left for home after Tom was done making music, and half way there, tired from driving so late, we stopped… for pie and coffee. I thought it was fitting, and I know grandma was smiling. She herself a fan of stopping during early morning hours for pie and coffee, getting a break from driving during long road trips, children asleep in the car. I thought to myself, as afterward we got back in the car and continued the drive home, grandma was there with us. And I know that she’s here with me now. As she will always be… during stops for pie and coffee, during those transcendent moments listening to a great piece of music, during a hug, a call, a laugh, the reading of an email from family. She is there. And that, as it always will, gives me a great sense of comfort… and joy.
Tuesday, October 4th, 2005
A life… Beautiful
My grandmother passed away early this morning. I got the call from my mom some time around 6:30, though now it’s hard to remember just when. I drove to work, not really remembering the drive, and have found myself sitting here, not able to concentrate on whatever task it is I’ve had at hand. And that much, I’m sure, is to be expected. I’m working today because, I think, if I didn’t, I’d just be sitting at home, restless… thinking. Instead, I sit here… restless, interrupted at times by a phone call or email I have to answer, and thinking.
I saw my grandmother three weeks ago. Frail…yes. Tired… absolutely. Full of life… always. She was an amazing woman. Had an amazing life. I walked around my grandparents house three weeks ago in wonder. Slowly passing by photographs of a positively amazing history… awe struck. Phenomenal. 64 years with my grandfather. 64 years of love, of life. A life so rich, so beautiful, that wandering around looking at the record of it, I could feel it’s texture. There were books and drawings, copies of marriage licenses, and picture after picture of a life so full it spilled from those photographs out into the living room, where the miracle of that life sat manifest… in children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. The legacy that’s been left is not just that these people all exist because of her, but that they are all, every last one of them, stellar. Magnificent. They are the best people I know. Intelligent, kind, loving, curious, full of laughter, accepting, driven, artistic, educated, musical, good to the core people. There is never judgment, never an unkind word, ever. They rejoice with each other, celebrate each other, comfort each other… all of them. All the time. There is never a criticism, even a hint of should or shouldn’t… always, in the truest sense of the word, there for each other. My grandparents had seven children, who themselves had 19 children, who themselves have starting bringing many more into the fold. And in the bunch of us, there is not one who is not, in his or her own way, an outstanding human being. All of this, for me, started with my grandparents… the people that they were… are… have been to us. Those two people created the beautiful tapestry that is our family. Those two people created something rare. And we, who are lucky enough to be part of it, know it. It is not, and has never been, taken for granted.
There was a lot of laughter that weekend, three weeks ago, as there always is with this family. My grandmother, central to the scene, as she has always been, involved in it all. I thought to myself, sitting with them that day, what an honor it was, and is, to be a part of it. The luck of my draw. I often wonder how it happened, that I ended up a part of this history, a link in this beautiful chain. I am thankful, every day, for my fortune. I am grateful every day, for the honor of it. And from now, until the end of my days, I will be celebrating my grandmother’s life, as she would’ve wanted me to… by living my life in the best way I can. With joy, love, peace, and happiness, amidst the family… that she made.
Monday, October 3rd, 2005
Three days in San Jose
Just got home from hanging with the in laws. It was a good trip. Karen’s parents seem to have accepted me, and better yet, they really like me. I think it’s nice for her. All the years of not really being able to be herself, and now she can just be. They are obviously happy she is happy, which is really the important thing anyway. We didn’t do much while we were there, other than hang around chatting, but that was nice. Every time I’m with them I like them more.
We did go to a movie one night with her sister, Cathy, and her nephew, Charles. I really like that kid. He’s 16 and sort of quirky, and it’s that great kind of quirky. He’s smart, has a great off beat sense of humor, and he doesn’t feel the need to conform to what’s hip. He’s a kid who absolutely loves movies. Old and new, it doesn’t matter. Plus, he knows about them… technique, directors, cast, etc. He’s passionate about it, and that, in anyone, is very attractive. We saw the movie Serenity. Good movie even if you’ve never seen the tv show. There were a lot of people there who obviously had not just watched the tv show, but have gotten into it so much they dress the part. There are clubs for browncoats. Who knew. Not I, but it was pretty entertaining watching them. It was premiere weekend for this particular film and since there’s such a huge cult following, which I also was unaware of, there was a line, the people in costume as I mentioned before, and pre-show trivia complete with prizes for those who knew obscure tidbits about the characters, etc. Needless to say, I didn’t win anything. I did, however, come home with a key chain, thanks to Cathy’s quick grab of a flying key chain after the trivia was over.
Karen’s parents made a full on turkey dinner Saturday night. I guess they figure that they don’t get their kids together very often and since all three were there, it was a time to celebrate. I got the honor of being the forker. When Karen’s dad carves the turkey a person stands there and forks the carved turkey onto the platter. I was told that not everyone gets to be a forker so I was touched he asked me. Standing there, forks at the ready, I felt the pressure to perform and live up to my new post and title. He said I did well, so I might, if I’m lucky, be asked to fork again.
Today I’m lucky enough to be able to hang at home. Relax after traveling. Karen, busy as she is, had to go in to work today. A perk of my job is getting to take off quite a bit of time. I’m fortunate enough to earn comp time on top of my accrued vacation time, so that helps. I slept in today. What a luxury. Sitting here sipping on green tea, still wearing pajamas that I know I won’t change out of, looking outside at the forest and the rain, I think it’s time to head in and see what movie I can find to watch. It’s Monday, and I’m home. How lucky am I?
What ya’all had to say to this point….
(Anonymous) 2 weeks ago
Jeeze Girl…I gotta take issue with your latest epistle. Your’e one of my best friends and there is absolutely nothing “with it” or “cool” about me…I’m the old frumpy grumpy guy; the token old fart. Therefore your whole primise is ruined. Sorry about that, but then it’s not the first thing I have ravaged or despoiled. ted
(Anonymous) 2 weeks ago
I’m so proud to have a gay friend. Makes me kinda cool. You go girl. But hey the white socks/w black pants have got to go!!!!!
(Anonymous) 2 weeks ago
If ones knows TOKENHIPPYGIRL they also know that chins don’t matter. sm
(Anonymous) 3 weeks ago
Tam, you have a way with words that keeps me cracking up…You are very talented, and this note would be fabulous in some magazine somewhere…When are we going to get you published???
(Anonymous) 5 weeks ago
Pie & Coffee
Thanks for this. I came here to read, once again, the previous piece you wrote (and to send it on to Aunt Elizabeth) and find you have been spinning your magic again. I love these things you write and I know everyone else does too. Thanks again. Love, Syd
I got home yesterday to find a letter from my grandpa had arrived. I was thrilled.
We live in an age when hand written communication is going by the wayside. We call, we fax, we e-mail, we instant message, and we text message. We hardly ever sit down and actually write out, in longhand, what we want to say… and then to follow that up with taking the time to put it in an envelope, address it, put a stamp on it, and mail it. Unheard of.
So grandpa… thanks. I loved getting a letter from you. And, I had no trouble reading it either, as you had imagined I might. In fact, I read it aloud to Karen as she made dinner last night. It was fantastic.
Getting the letter made me think about my grandfather… and there’s so much I could say about him. Like, I wonder if he knows he’s the axis at the center of things in our family. I wonder if he realizes he’s where we all get our incredible sense of what’s right, our wonderful sense of play, and our good hearted and good natured demeanor. Because, amazingly enough, down to the last of the 60 of us, we are all both good natured and good hearted. It’s incredible really, the way we all look at life as a big adventure while at the same time keeping that balanced with a strong sense of responsibility. How did that happen, how did we get so lucky. Personally, I think it started at the top. It was grandpa. Grandpa and grandma.
It is luck really, to be born into such a family. This brood of fun loving, intelligent, interested, educated (and I don’t mean just formally), curious, playful, music loving, genuinely nice, thinking, eclectic, sincere people. And I say to myself… thank God I drew this lot. Thank you thank you.
I think about all of us, the line of us, and at the pinnacle is grandpa. He is the embodiment of everything we strive to be. And I know, if he’s reading this, being the guy he is, he won’t take credit for too much of who we’ve become… but he should. He was the example we all gauged our lives by… and in fact, he still is, and we still do.
He worked hard to support a family of 9, and I don’t think anyone has ever heard him complain about it. Ever. Not only that, through all of those years, he was a true partner to my grandma. They had, at least to an outside eye, a near perfect balance. He was the calm, always, in any storm. Level headed, easy going, and generous with his time, and his attention. As he still is.
One of the most amazing things about him is the glint in his eyes. He has a bit of mischief in him, and always a bit of fun. No matter what he’s doing, when I’ve been with him at least, he seems to enjoy himself… to find the fun. He gets life, knows what’s important, and loves it. To see that glint is to know he enjoys every day, and sees it as a gift. At least, I feel like he always has, and even if that’s not true, he made me feel that every time I was and have been with him, which is incredible.
I think about grandpa and I feel this overwhelming sense of pride. Pride because he’s my grandfather, pride because he raised my mother and her siblings to be who they are, and pride because I get to be a part of that… a part of this amazing history we are making every day. What’s more, I feel like grandpa has always understood me… like he’s always seen the real me. He’s always seemed to know what made me tick, and he has always been genuinely interested in what I had to say, even when I was very young. I’ve learned so much from him. Not just how to tie my shoes, which he did teach me, or how to play chess or backgammon, but what it means to be accepting, generous of spirit, and emotional. In fact, I’m getting emotional now… writing all of this and thinking about him. It’s how I am. I think about what makes me proud or happy or how much I love the people in my life and I get teary…. which, I guess, is something else I got from him. He is truly a grand self possessed man.
Lastly, there’s something else that when talking about grandpa a person can’t ignore or leave out… music and dance. He has played music nearly all of his life it seems, from the time he was a young man. Piano is his instrument of choice. He didn’t learn to read music, but instead listened, and then played. He loves it, completely, and has a style that is all his own and instantly engaging. Largely because of him music has always been a part of our lives, the love of it passed down from one generation to the next. Many of us have learned to play an instrument, or sing, or just to appreciate all kinds of music, the sounds of it playing around us most of our days. And for the gift of that, of making and listening to music, I am immeasurably grateful to him. The joy it brings, the center, the peace… he understands that, and has helped us to understand it as well. Besides playing and listening though, my grandpa also loves to dance. He relishes it, most especially now with his daughters and granddaughters. And when you partner him it’s as if you are transported to another place, forced to let go of everything in life expect for the moment you’re in with him… following him and moving to his own personal rhythm. It’s a wondrous thing. To get the honor of dancing with him, anytime… it’s jumping into life with both feet, letting go, and holding on… all at once. His love of it has been infectious, lovely, and yet another lesson in living life to the fullest.
It’s hard to sum up your feelings for and about someone, but I guess I’ll just say this… to know him is to respect and care about him, and to be his granddaughter is, in a word, breathtaking. He’s taught me so much about life, living well, what it means to be a good person, and fun. He is, without a doubt, one of the best people I have ever met. In fact, he could easily be the best person I have ever met. And lucky me… he’s not just some amazing guy I know… he’s my grandpa.