Life’s a Drag

One of the big take-a-ways from the movie The Secret or the talks from Abraham Hicks is that we are meant to feel good. Often times, we hope if X, Y, or Z happens, then we’ll feel good. In reality, it is quicker to make yourself feel better in order to make X, Y, and Z happen.

When you are already feeling crappy, it is hard to swallow that one. In my depressed state, I already hated myself. I felt as if I couldn’t feel better because I needed to be punished. I needed to feel impoverished because I couldn’t pay my student loans off. I needed to not spend money on food because paying off people was more important. I could think of a million reasons to deny myself fun.

During my “dead” years, I used to travel and see my best friends in Chicago once every three months. I called these “vacations from responsibility.” The point was to go somewhere and not worry about the million things I believe an adult had to worry about. I honestly felt that the mark of adulthood was to feel an over whelming sense of burden, constantly.

It got to the point that I often wondered what I was doing anything for. I was working 80-hour weeks, doing more than one job. The second I got my paycheck; it just went to paying bills. I often didn’t have any money left over to buy food or have fun. I would look around my empty house and thought that if this was life, I wanted to check out. It wasn’t worth living. There was no meaning, no joy.

When my best friends moved to Kalamazoo, I felt a little better. When we put our resources together, we found stuff to do. Just hanging out with them was fun. I had forgotten what that felt like. I became so worried that I would lose them or at least the excuse to have fun, that I became a little neurotic. I didn’t want to have too much fun, because the lack of it would just kill me.

Thanks to the unconditional love of my besties, I began to take a chill pill. One of the ways we decided to build fun into our lives was to put on little drag performances. Before I get started, I feel like I have to give a little background on my best friends, Alex and Max.

Max I met 17 years ago. We were young. We both loved theater. We met while rehearsing for musical shows at our local community theater group. I remember when I met him that there was just something so special about him. I felt like I had known him for years. We just clicked. He continued to contact me when I took off to live in Europe and Chicago. He stayed by my side as I watched my mother died. He was my rock.

Eventually, Max moved to Chicago and became my roommate. That is where he met Alex. Alex was 18 when we were 24. I remembered thinking he was so young and naïve. He was from the Upper Pennisula of Michigan and was attending school outside of the city. Alex and Max fell in love quickly. Before I knew it, I was in an old Jeep moving Alex’s things to our apartment. He transferred schools to pursue his relationship with Max. They were so cute.

I couldn’t be super happy for them, because I was commuting nearly every weekend to be with my dying mother in Michigan. Circumstances parted us physically, but I was always connected with “the boys.” A few years latter, they decided to move to the house across the street from me.

Alex and I became super close, as Max was busy holding down a job as a training manager at a ridiculous big box retail chain. Soon, Alex became as close to me as Max was. We went through a lot together. I loved them so hard I could barely handle it, and the fear of losing that made me crazy.

I think people naturally assume that a girl can’t be a friend with a boy without some sexual tension. It is really not the case. Our love is sort of a brother/sister one. They are my family. I would take a bullet for them, and I think they would take one for me. It isn’t Will and Grace but it is better.

No matter how much you love someone, sometimes events happen. We were all trying to figure out life. The boys decided to try and live in Key West. Watching them move was heartbreaking, but I knew the distance was only physical. When it didn’t work out, they moved back….still pretty close to me.

I think we know that we are somehow forever connected. That is why it was important to them that I feel better, that we feel better.

Now, we love RuPaul’s Drag Race. We have watched it since the first episode together. I know there is this strange contingent of gay males who think RuPaul is too gay for them, but they are seriously missing out.

When the boys and I were in some of our darkest moments, we started playing with my make-up. Over time, my wig collection was brought out, then my old dresses. We decided to try to lip sync for our lives. The iPhone captured our earliest attempts. Soon, ever weekend we would put together a little show.

Alex was the most insistent. When Max and I were not feeling it, Alex would find a way to make us sit still long enough for a makeover. After our little productions, part of the fun was watching the footage. It started with photos and developed into videos.

I found that seeing myself on the television made me actually SEE myself. I began really enjoying the girl I am. I could see how pretty I was. I could see the real me just dying to come alive. The practice left me feeling empowered and alive.

Alex found the same thing happen to him. He discovered a passion for drag. When we uncovered an old tape of him, at 13, doing drag in his childhood home, we realized that this was more than a past time. He developed a character and started to hone his craft. Eventually, he actually did a drag pageant and won on his first try.

As Alex found his passion, Max went back to his theatrical roots. What did he love to do the most? His 18-year-old self loved theater. He would do countless productions. Unfortunately, when he moved to Chicago – he sort of gave it up in order to work for a living. It became clear to him that he needed to return to doing what he loved, whether he got paid for it or not. He began to audition and got the lead in the first production he was cast in.

So, what did I really want?

That question became more difficult than I ever imagined. I had discovered that I had been trying so hard to please others that I had lost myself. I had lied to myself for so long, that I didn’t really know what I felt. Drag inspired me to begin seeking the help I needed to answer those questions.

As I began to share more with my friends, I allowed myself the freedom to be me. It almost felt like the first time in my life that I was deliberately doing so. I began to accept what I looked like. I accepted that I have a little too much love for pastry. I could start appreciating who I was.

I started looking at things in the past that brought me joy, and began to try them back on for size. I loved to write, so I went back to journaling. I took out my paint supplies and started painting. Little by little, I started reclaiming myself.

During one particular drag session, I found myself taken back by the beauty of Alex in drag. As he whipped out a number, I exclaimed, “Maybe I am a lesbian.”

In my life, many of my friends would say that I exhibited “lesbian” tendencies. I don’t like purses. I wear Crocs, Keens, or Merrills. I have a clip that I keep my keys on. I don’t wear a lot of make-up during the day. My clothes are not super girly. I have only slept with a handful of guys. I had never really had a boyfriend. When the boys told me to tell them which boys I thought were attractive through my daily interactions, I had a little difficulty. The girls always looked better. When I watched straight porn, I was never really turned on. The signs were all there.

The boys kind of confronted me on this point. As I talked it out with them, I felt the knot in my throat. It felt as if someone found that I was the wizard behind the curtain. I was exposed.

That night, I went home and looked up some lesbian porn. I lit up inside. Could it be? Was this really true? I looked up lesbian website and chat groups. The more I read, the more I realized…there is something to this. I went to bed exhilarated.

I had always been pro-gay. I have lesbian and gay male friends. One would think that it wouldn’t be such a big deal to claim my new identity. That next day I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. Oh my god, I am gay. I thought of my church family rejecting me. I realized that I was no longer part of the mainstream. I was living in the minority. Every lesbian stereotype you could think of went through my head. I cringed. I am not a big dyke! I don’t want to be a man. I love men. I like to be girly. Why was this happening to me? What am I to do? Who am I? If I could repress something so pivotal, what else was I hiding from myself?

The boys calmed me down and reinforced that my realizing I was gay didn’t mean that I was really any different. I had always been gay. My friends and family knew who I was and wouldn’t really be shocked that I was gay. I was still me. Gay is only a part of my identity.

After only one day of freaking out, I actually felt a huge release. Things in my life started to make sense. I had always been trying to live up to an ideal of what I thought I was supposed to be or do. I never operated from a place of being who I wanted to be. I didn’t need to try so hard any more. I could just be.

I became super enthusiastic. I changed all my profiles to women seeking women. As I sorted through profiles, I realized that there aren’t as many options for girls as there were for guys. I came across a lot of stereotypically manly women. It wasn’t what I had imagined for myself. I began to feel hopeless.

In a feeble attempt, I posted a Craigslist ad and got a response from a pretty girl. She was younger, but she seemed okay with the fact that I was only now embracing my new identity in my 30s. When I went out with her, I didn’t get as freaked out as I did when I was with a guy. I felt comfortable. I felt able to be myself and I told her very vulnerable things about me. It was very empowering.

I began to feel whole. It is with this strength that I went to my doctor’s appointments. When it became clear that something was wrong, I didn’t freak out. When they told me that my uterus needed to be ripped out, I became okay with it. When telling my loved ones that I had cancer, I had to consider whether they could handle knowing that I also realized I was a lesbian. For the most part, everyone I told was supportive. Several even stated that it came as no surprise.

I had spent years feeling like I had missed something. Why wasn’t I with a guy? Everyone was having kids, why didn’t I have them? I had already chalked myself up to never getting married, and bawled my eyes out over it. At the time, I was upset because I thought I didn’t deserve it or that I was unworthy of being loved. What I realized was that I didn’t go through that because unconsciously, it wasn’t who I was.

Any doctor who is about to rip out a woman’s lady bits is going to be very careful to see how they are going to react about taking away a woman’s ability to reproduce. I am sure there are several women who have breakdowns right in their office. I know my doctor had a few women bail on the surgery hours before it was scheduled to happen because they couldn’t handle it.

I had gone through that grieving process for months before I even knew it was a real issue. When I first met my gynecological oncologist, I knew what I needed to do. To my surprise, I signed up for surgery less than a week latter.

The next couple days were a blur. I had to notify work. I had to set up my classroom for a long-term sub. I had to get things in order. I was so busy that I didn’t really have time to dread what was coming.

My boys agreed to house me and take care of me after surgery. My sister took my animals. My dad grumbled about the boys taking care of me, but I knew I didn’t want to rely on him. I had the boys sign a durable power of attorney. All the paperwork was done.

On the day of surgery, Max brought me to the hospital. My sister and father were waiting to see me. Having been through this with our parents, my sister wanted to take charge but I made sure Max was the one next to me. I did not freak out until I was in the prep area with IVs in my arms. I knew there was no going back. Max squeezed my hand; I knew he had my back.

As I was being rolled into the operating room, I had a comedic conversation with my male nurses. I climbed onto the table and watched them take the plastic off the arms of the robot that was going to dissect me. I was happy. I was talkative. As the doctor and nurses were prepping me, I know my jokes were making them smile. I remember the doctor and nurse holding my hands as they were putting me under. I felt that they cared deeply and they would take good care of me.

When I came to, I was in pain but not as bad as I could have been. I looked at the clock and realized the surgery had gone long. When I could have visitors, only my father and sister were there. Max had left for a musical rehearsal. When my father left for the bathroom, I asked my sister what was going on. She told me that my breathing became so shallow that they almost had to stop the procedure. When they took out my uterus, they had feared that there might be more involvement so they took out a bunch of lymph nodes.

I am sure that should have been an “oh, shit” moment. It wasn’t. For some reason, I woke up feeling like the Universe was on my side. All the grief I had over my lack of sex and love, focused negative energy on my lady bits. In my most depressed days, I am sure I had asked to die or be sick. In some ways, the Universe gave me what I wanted…my worst nightmare. The bright spot was that it wasn’t as miserable as I thought it could be. I was stronger than it.

After a somewhat uncomfortable night in the hospital, I was released to the care of my boys. For the next week, they took great care of me. They fed me, made sure I took my medicine, screened my visitors, and made sure I had fun. I felt so much love that I could barely handle it. In some ways, I knew that there wasn’t another spot I wanted to be in the world than where I was.

The transition home, after staying with the boys, was rough. My house reminded me of the years of loneliness I had felt. I had no TV. My bed was so uncomfortable. I couldn’t drive. I felt trapped. It wasn’t until the boys helped me set up my bed with extra pillows and tucked me in, that I fell asleep.

I realized that it is okay to ask for help. I focused on watching or listening to things that would bring me joy and light. I made it a point to make sure I was fed. I focused on doing things that made me happy. I ended up recovering from surgery very quickly.

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