Home Style Gravy

Drag has become a regular part of my life. Every time you might get dressed up for church, a fancy dance, or a theatrical performance, you are really doing drag. Anytime you purposefully alter your appearance to make an impression on others, you are doing drag. A lot of emphasis is placed on drag that is done by those who are purposefully transforming themselves to take on the impression of the opposite sex. This is a powerful and purposeful form of drag that is worth its currency in gold. I would also argue that drag is a valuable tool of empowerment to those who want and need to connect with their soul’s version of themselves.

On any given day, I am not the most attractive girl. I weigh over 300 lbs. My hair is long, thin, and lifeless. It is often pulled back into a ponytail. I fight to keep fly a ways tucked behind my ear. I wear dark wash jeans that are a little baggy with a V-neck t-shirt and some form of hoodie. No jewelry. No make-up. My footwear is either a slip-on Croc or a men’s work boot, depending on the weather outside. My “uniform” is comfortable and practical, but it doesn’t reflect the feminine. Now, I am a cis female and could just put on a dress and makeup, but that isn’t really me either. The reality of navigating the world in Spanx and layers upon layers of unbreathable flammable fabrics with a thick layer of makeup would be my own personal hell. Besides, there will be a point where I will just look like a sad melted clown.

In the safe space of my besties, Alex and Max’s home, I can live my fantasy and be in touch with the goddess that is Mimi. Over the years, my old dresses and costumes, underwear and wigs, nylons and jewelry, have found their way to our drag room. Combined with yards of sparkly fabrics, scraps of satin, and new infusions of makeup and whatever else we can repurpose, we have been able to come up with hundreds of looks with almost nothing. It has grown from a few bins in a closet to an area that has taken over what was once the largest room in their house.

Allowing ourselves permission to do this took a long time. It really started from a place of desperation. We were all pretty depressed and battling the curse of mid-life self-reflection. After following the rules, getting the careers, and buying the houses, none of us felt fulfilled. Painting our faces and putting on a costume and a wig lifted us. When I was diagnosed with cancer, after I had my surgery, even when all my hair fell out, dancing in drag made me realize that I wasn’t broken. I was still a whole person. Make-up can cover any imperfection. A little bit of fabric, pinned and tied in a certain way, looks younger and more flattering than any garment bought off the rack at Lane Bryant.

Filming our drag allowed us to really “see” ourselves. First, it gave us a purpose. The camera was an audience to perform to, and we were all hams. What came next was the ability to watch ourselves over and over. After a while, a personality began to appear. We all have had many breakdowns either while filming or after filming, and this was usually caused by not accepting who we really were or by trying to be something we were not. Eventually, when you are able to remove the judgement of yourself or how you think others will perceive you, I was finally able to really see myself. I began to enjoy what I saw. I would even venture to say, I learned to love myself and appreciate my own unique beauty.

Once you are blessed to find such an avenue of self-discovery, you want to share it with others. I have shared videos on this blog before; the boys and I have shared these videos with our families; I have even shared the videos with some of my students. Still, it is amazing how tepid the response can be. Some of the people we know best in the world are reluctant to share the joy and humor of these videos because it features guys in dresses. When you are so passionate and feel a conviction to share that passion with others, putting your art out there is like showing someone your new born child. You hope someone will like it; you wish that they too will see the beauty in it.

Uploading a video is frightening, but waiting for a response is agonizing. I have never felt more alone than waiting to see if anyone will watch it, like it, or comment on it. This is not much different than when my students hand me a paper to look over. I teach basic, transitional English to adults. Many of them have a lifetime of experiences to write about, but lack any confidence over their usage of grammar or structure. I like to let them know as quickly as I can that I am a friendly audience. My goal is to help them express themselves to the best of their ability. I always hope that those who stumble upon our videos approach it from the same place of love.

Of course, the desire for feedback is strong, but sometimes you need to just let go. Over the years, perfectionism has improved and also impeded our drag. Waiting for perfection stifles what is inspired. Attaching your worth to the acknowledgment of your peers just makes you crazy. So, release it. I am rebooting this blog because I need to write, and this site is my home. The boys and I are putting out our drag because we love it.

With that being said, I welcome you to our new series, “Home Style Gravy.” Our drag is from our living room. It is simple and unpretentious. The hope is that for some viewers it will feel like gravy. Unexpected. Delicious. Extra. I have taken the time to build a page that showcases these new videos as well as some of the old. Enjoy them. Share them. If you have a second to like or give a positive comment on them, we would love it. Appreciation is something that is always welcome. I thank you for sharing the joy with us. My hope is always that you leave with a smile on your face and the feeling of warmth in your heart.

Spiritual Bad-Ass

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Recently, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by author Debbianne DeRose for her new Spiritual Bad-Ass Tv YouTube series. The series highlights a bunch of Spiritual Bad-Asses who have a lot to say in how we can all get in touch with our Spiritual Bad-Ass selves.

The interview was a chance to really put the message of this blog in a nut-shell. Being diagnosed with cancer is an opportunity. For me, it was a catalyst to discover who I really am and make a choice to live a more authentic life. In the process, I discovered self-love, self acceptance, and got in touch with my creative self – through the healing art of drag.

Please check out the video and podcast via the link below on Debbianne DeRose’s website:

http://spiritualbadass.tv/mimi-mackensie/

Trust

Leaving my job took some balls. I was raised in a home where you better just take what you can get and deal with it. Just think of all those people out there who are unemployed and/or homeless. You don’t want to be one of them do you?

We are conditioned to believe that we need to work hard for everything. If you are not exhausting yourself by the end of the day, you are capable of doing more. If you see things that you don’t like at your workplace, you are to shut up and keep your nose to the grindstone. Don’t stand out. Don’t be a target.

In your list of priorities, a lot of people might say they put “God” or their family first, but take a look at the time and energy they spend on things and work is really the their first priority. This is conditioned from a very early age. My parents both worked. My parents would justify their dedication at work as their method of supporting us. I could even almost understand it if their work really filled their passions, but it didn’t. They were distracted. Sometimes it was a pleasant distraction, but it didn’t really fulfill them.

I don’t recommend that people just quit their jobs when they get frustrated or angry. I do recommend that if you find that what you are doing is not serving you, to honestly consider trying something else. Let yourself be inspired to move towards that which brings you real joy and fulfillment. You might not even know what that means right now, but just asking yourself the question is a start.

One thing that I have gained is time. At first, when you are not used to taking time to be with yourself, it can feel unpleasant. Many people pack their day with activities to avoid being with themselves and dealing with their baggage. With the lack of activity, it is easy to hear your fear based thoughts and develop anxiety over the future.

I find that I have gotten better with this over the years, but there is always going to be a part of you that will have a foot in the past or a little concern over how what you are doing might be perceived by others. I have been working on focusing on myself and not giving a rip about what other people think. It is hard to not feel guilty about doing this because I have been taught that being “selfish” is a bad thing. Really, the only way you can thrive and help others is be being “selfish.”

When you allow yourself enough space to separate yourself from the noise of the world, you can focus on your needs more clearly. I have time to focus on what I am most curious about. I have time to follow my interests. This allows you to develop some clarity on who you really are.

Our journey on this planet is based on us wanting to learn and grow. It is supposed to be fun. Just the fact that we are here and breathing makes us worthy. If we are attracted to a way of life, or when we see something we authentically desire, the Universe says okay, it is done. Abraham Hicks says that our rockets of desire deliver our manifestations in a sort of vibration escrow until we raise our vibration to match our desires. We don’t have to necessarily have to be asking consciously, it is automatic. We determine what we really want in the contrast of our lives. What we need to do is to figure out how to raise our vibrations to the point of allowing.

My main focus in this time has been how to raise my vibration. How can I fill myself with more joy? As my self-worth has increased, I realize that I want to take care of myself better. I want to feel at my optimal. I want to tune my instrument so I sound better when I am played because I know that I am worth it.

As I look for ways to raise my vibration, I have also found myself working through old bad tape. I often find that when I visit with Max and Alex, I feel comfortable enough to start examining areas of my life that don’t feel as good. Sometimes this is just in a conversation, but I also meet a lot of my fears when we are dressing up in drag.

As you can imagine, it takes some balls for a man to dress up in women’s underwear and prance around in heels. Yeah, some queens make it look natural, but the truth is that you have to confront all the stereotypes and negativity that you perceive others to have toward your art. It questions your sexuality, your sanity. As an overweight girl who has identity issues of her own, it can equally be as scary.

When I relax and submit myself to the process, I have to often confront my own fears and insecurities. I have noticed that I am completely overly sensitive to touch. Yes, I have been celibate most of my life and I am sure that it plays a role. I haven’t been touched much as an adult, and I feel like I was often neglected as a child in the touch department. Touch might be a sensory overload. Still, when I feel overwhelmed, there is a more carnal fear. I worry for my safety and go crazy.

After a recent freak out, Max asked if I had ever been sexually assaulted. My immediate answer is no. I haven’t been kidnapped. I haven’t been raped. I didn’t have relatives touch me inappropriately, so no. When I think about when I might have had similar freak out sessions to touch in my life, there is a set of experiences that do come to mind.

In middle school, I was a fat awkward little girl. I had boobs before most of the other girls in my class. In some way, I must have also known that I didn’t like boys. I know I was a really easy target. Leave it to a hand full of guys on my bus to focus in on me. They called me “Titanic.” From the second I got on the school bus, to the moment I got off, I was harassed by these guys. I was often fondled by them, called names, had horrible pranks played on me, you name it.

It went on for three years. During that time, no teacher or school administrator ever did anything. I told no one. It was pervasive enough that I knew adults saw it happening. Their lack of interest in confronting them, only lead me to believe that the students had more power than the adults. I didn’t mention it to my parents, because they were big bullies to me too. My mom had told me previously that if someone was being mean to me, it was my fault. My father made fun of my weight all the time. I felt like they didn’t have my back.

As an adult, I feel I should be over it. I never thought of it as sexual assault, even though it had aspects of unwanted touch and coercion, because it wasn’t “bad” enough. I had assumed that these incidents were only meant to humiliate me. I attached my self worth to what they thought of me. I didn’t feel that they desired me sexually. Maybe I did ask for it by just being that ugly.

What I have come to realize is that it was abuse. The fear they instilled in me still lingers. I learned so well from my bullies that I became my biggest bully. I believe this is how other sexual assault victims must feel like.

My intention in telling this story isn’t to rehash the emotion of it, but to understand why my primary responses are what they are. I am trying to confront the old tape and you have to be able to look at that initial old tape honestly. I didn’t deserve to be teased. I didn’t deserve to be assaulted. Now that I understand that I am worth better treatment, I have to confront one key aspect of my damage: trust.

Trust is the faith that ultimately everything is coming out of a place of love. Fear can’t exist in an environment of love. We trust because we have to. We feel better when we do.

Too often, we let past experiences or the acts of a few people destroy our capacity for trust. I believe that most people show their true colors early, and it is okay to reserve our trust for people who have proven themselves trustworthy. But for those of us with huge trust issues, we can find people who we trust and still hesitate to give them trust because of our fear of being screwed over.

As Alex was draping me with some fabric for a dress, he took out sharp shears to trim off some of the access. The entire time I was filled with fear. I was terrified of being cut which makes it so much easier for one to cut you. Alex had made sure that his hand was in the way, so if anyone were going to be cut, it would be him. He made sure to be extra careful. Besides, he had done this before with success.

I trust Alex and Max more than I trust anyone else in the world, but I couldn’t surrender. The fear backed up till I couldn’t take it anymore and I exploded in tears and protests. I was overwhelmed by emotion.

Fear is incompatible with anything you really want. It is our emotional guidance system letting you know that you are far out of alignment with how Source views the situation. Yet, it can emotionally hijack you. Your body courses in all sorts of chemicals, endorphins and hormones. Your body resorts to the primitive fight or flight response.

You can just let yourself get enveloped in the situation and break off friendships or vow never to do certain things again to try an avoid an unpleasant response, or you can try to check yourself out of the emotion and try to examine it as a third person. When you know a response is crazy, and have the ability to stand back and really reflect on what is going on objectively. This process really helps provide one with clarity. I knew immediately what I did not want, so I can now see what it is that I do want and walk closer to it.

I have noticed that when I am fed and have been fairly stable up to this point, I can separate myself from the experience to mine the nuggets I need for growth. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have a melt down from time to time, but it shortens its duration and allows for a quicker and more long lasting recovery.

I used to not trust that I could have a mini-meltdown without alienating myself from others. I used to be so embarrassed and used these incidents as a way to shame spiral for weeks. Once you can establish that you are a good person, no matter what, and you have developed a team of people that you can trust to be vulnerable with, you can overcome what ever it is that you need to.

This experience led me to focus on an area that I want to improve in my life: trust. Although I know that I feel better while doing it, I am still not where I need to be to improve my vibration. Besides, I don’t want to live the rest of my life always being convinced that someone is around the corner, just wanting to screw me over. Life is too short to waste good energy on that.

I noticed something else from this incident. As I distrusted the process of the shears coming at me and the person behind it, I created the right atmosphere to deliver exactly what I feared. If my worst fear was being cut, my trembling only produced fear in the person trying to perform the act, which could lead to more mistakes. Really, what was the worst that could happen? Be cut? Even if I was, it wasn’t going to really hurt me. Some people knowing that they even feared this outcome would prevent themselves from even being in that situation. This might produce a temporary comfort, but missing out on the experience prevents one to benefit from addressing one’s fears and from enjoying the fruits of getting beyond the fear.

Aren’t we taught that we should always be striving for perfection? Anytime we fall short, haven’t we been taught that failure is the worst outcome possible? Aren’t we told that if we can’t do something perfectly, that we shouldn’t try at all? In reality, failure is the only way to find success. We often have to figure out what doesn’t work so that we know what does work. Great thinkers often produce 1000s of bad experiments, drafts, or products before they get the one breakthrough that changes everything.

People often say that they may have trusted someone or something and then one thing occurred that made them question their trust. Because their trust was no longer perfect, they decide that they have to refrain from trusting in order to preserve themselves. Their lack of trust just attracts more incidents to cement their distrust. It can create so much fear that people just cower in their beds.

What I am learning is that trust is the belief that, more often than not, the Universe is only interested in our well-being. Trust is excepting that the major energy at play in our life is on our side. Trust is believing that you are worthy and that we are all connected. Trust is believing that other people are for the most part good. Trust is believing that we are all connected. Trust is believing that what we are called to do, what we are inspired to create, is worthwhile. Trust is knowing that what you need in this life will be provided for you. Trust is knowing that the core of this Universe is love.

When we can accept this, when we can believe that we can trust, we relax. Things will happen organically. Life is easier. We enjoy ourselves more because we are not constantly looking over our backs. Our energy is free from being rerouted to counter fear. All of a sudden, we have an abundance of energy to focus on things that are aligned with our true power. We allow ourselves to become aligned with who we really are. We become aligned with our true self, which extends beyond our physical manifestation. We realize that we don’t have to fear death, because there is no such thing. Energy can be neither created nor destroyed. We are eternal.

Once you are more clear about who you are and why you are here, you can start to see others in the same way that Source views them. Other people are kinder to you. Your relationships become deeper. You learn to love yourself and others. You realize that there is more that unites us than divides us.

The trick is when you decide to have full faith in the Universe, and in yourself, do not lose it if you see a slight flaw. When someone you trust messes up, how can you learn to forgive? How can you learn from the contrast? The trick is when you trust, it needs to be unconditional. You need to allow room for us to be human, to make errors. Often, what we perceive to be a mistake is actually a good thing. Most things that happen in life are neither good nor bad. They are just a necessary part of the journey. Although we might not be able to understand the significance in that moment, often such incidents are meant to push us toward what we really want.

I trust that the best part of my story is still ahead of me. I trust that I am right where I am supposed to be. I trust that there are really no mistakes. I trust that no matter what, I will be okay.

Freedom

Once I knew I had a week to recover before going back to work, I tried to push my anxiety and stress aside and just enjoy myself. I went to an apple orchard, hung out with the boys, watched only higher vibration videos or music, and did my best to keep nourished and treat myself gently. My breathing got better as I relaxed. I felt more peace, more joy.

As I kept listening to Abraham Hicks, I kept hearing that focusing on how you feel is the most important thing you can do. Your emotional guidance system is constantly showing you where each thought you have resides. Bad feeling thoughts are farther away from the truth or how Source feels about you. The uncomfortable feeling is an indication that you are pinching yourself off from Source. It is an indication that your thinking is out of alignment.

As I thought about it, how many times have I kept thinking thoughts that didn’t feel good? Often times, I justified it with needing to keep my feet firmly planted in reality. I rationalized that everyone has to deal with unpleasant things. By being irritated with them, it was just showing my weakness. If you don’t like something, you just have to work harder. My lack in satisfaction was only a result of not putting in enough effort. This kind of thinking allowed my inner demon to go on a litany of how much I sucked at a moment’s notice.

I wanted to believe that my happiness meant more. I kept thinking that it was such a wonderful idea, too bad that it was unrealistic. As I laid in a hospital bed, gasping for air, I began to think that maybe my happiness was the most important thing in my life. Every choice I have made in my life has been based in fear of some sort. I worried about how people would view my choices. I felt that my options were always limited, so the goal was to pick the lesser evil. In every choice, had I ever really thought that I had another option?

I thought about how I felt about my work. I came to teaching because I wanted to get out of sales and recruitment. I thought helping out the next generation would sit well with me karmically. It had good benefits. Once you got in, there was some job security. I knew it was a career people viewed with positivity. I also hope that it would mean more financial stability.

The entire time I went through the process to become a teacher, I ran into tons of obstacles. When my pre-diagnosis symptoms were at their worst, I had my first interview for a teaching position during my student internship. I could feel that I was bleeding heavily during the interview and did my best to ignore it. I felt the blood overwhelming my protection. When I stood up to shake the principal’s hand at the end, I felt a huge clot fall out and could feel it slip out of my underwear and down my pantyhose. When I looked back, there was a pool of blood on the chair. Embarrassed is a term that can’t even begin to express the horror I felt. Still, I pressed on.

As painful as it was, I wanted to prove that I could do it. I accepted a job at a wonderful school, with a principal that got it. The student body was kind and loved me. I put in the endless hours and resources just to receive a 12% pay decrease within the first four months. Even with the help of great mentor teachers, understanding administrators, and a kind student body, the burn out was high. We were often asked to create something out of nothing because the administration and the school board kept mishandling funds. I felt like I proved that I was a good teacher, but I was exhausted.

The next year, I never came back to school. I was diagnosed and went through treatment. I was given the time and space to heal and I appreciated it. When I came back this year, I didn’t feel super happy about it. I had learned so much about myself in a year. I realized I was a lesbian. Knowing that I was in a conservative district, I worried about being persecuted for it. Having taken a year to care for myself, I didn’t feel great about submitting myself to the pressure and the stress of teaching. I realized that I have social anxiety and being in this kind of environment was never going to sit well. I started to question my competence. My self-worth began to take a hit. I would commute two hours, put in 12-hour days, and have no energy left for anything but throwing myself in bed at the end of the day. My legs and back killed. My ankles swelled and caused great pain.

I tried to plow through the discomfort. This was my life now. I tried to take steps to make things easier, but things are never really easy for a new teacher. The curriculum didn’t exist, so I was trying to make it up. How could I pack 48 hours of work in 24? I started feeling depressed. How long can I do this for? Is this what the rest of my life was going to be like?

By the time Thursday rolled around, I had a serious conversation with the boys. I told them that I didn’t think I could go back. I knew it was ridiculous to give up after a good job and great health care, especially after being so sick. Still, as I thought about going back, all I could feel was this overwhelming sensation of nausea. As I described all of the reasons why I didn’t want to do it, my eyes flooded with tears. It became clear that every fiber of my being was done, over it.

If I am to go through life with ease and joy, selecting only the better feeling thoughts and letting my emotional response guide my behavior, there was no clearer message. The thought of going back, if even for one day, was too painful to even contemplate. If I really want to change the way I live my life, making my happiness my number one priority, the answer was very clear.

Still, this was something I have never really done before. I always have chosen security over my happiness. I didn’t always have faith or trust in the Universe having my back. I believed every news article that said jobs were hard to get. I believed in the myth that no employer would ever hire you if you had a bump in your work history. I viewed failure to be a good employee with homelessness and dire poverty.

When I realized if I only had three months to live, would I rather spend it forcing myself to do something I didn’t want to do or try to follow my bliss, the answer became clear. The boys backed me up. They understood and didn’t judge.

Over the weekend, I took a few things out of the classroom that I couldn’t live without. I looked around and questioned if I was doing the right thing. Maybe it would have worked out in a different time or space, but I was a different person. When I became a teacher, I had no connection to who I really was. I didn’t know what I want or what made me tick. I didn’t realize that I was putting myself in a situation that allowed me to bully myself or be bullied by others. I accepted that it was all right to be talked down to by students, parents, administration, or society because I was trying to do a greater good. I deserved more. I was worth it.

On Monday, I made the call and submitted my resignation letter. It was very quiet. No fireworks. I felt a peace come over me. All of the struggle I had put myself through lifted. I never had to worry about another conference or student fundraiser. I didn’t have to worry about teacher evaluations or the constant staff meetings that never produced anything. I was free.

I am not advocating that everyone quit their job, but it became a matter of life or death for me. I didn’t come through this last year to just go back to being the same miserable person I always was. It is time for me to take radical efforts to put me first. For once, I am not running to another job immediately out of fear. I am putting all of my time and effort into developing who I am and what I want to be and do without limitation. Finally, I feel truly free.

The Art of Allowing

I made it. I made it to my 37th birthday. This past year has been a whirlwind. I went from finally admitting that I like girls, to being diagnosed with cancer, having my lady bits ripped out, pouring drugs down my veins, radiating my torso to the edge of reasonable limits, getting a leave of absence from work, shaking off my house and my mortgage, and actually going on more dates than I had ever had previously in my life. I have never felt more fear, love, joy, and abundance.

Even though a list of everything that has happened to me this year may appear to be a list of sorrow and tragedy, I feel it is exactly the opposite. I have learned to trust more than I ever have in my life. I learned to communicate and build relationships. I learned to love myself first. I have also been learning how to love, receive offerings of love and appreciation, and show my love to others. The impact of these lessons has enriched my life in a way that I never realized it was possible to feel.

How does one top off such a year? With the most spectacular birthday party ever!

I didn’t know how good my birthday was going to be before it happened. I tend to understand that my birthday is a lot like Christmas in recent years. It would come and it would go. There might be a fun gift here or there, but it wasn’t going to be mind blowing. Getting older didn’t always sit well with me either. Here is another loveless, sexless year. What was I doing with my life? I felt all the pressure of being the town hag: childless, partnerless, pathetic. Instead of a day of celebration, it was really just a day for emotional abuse.

Because of this year, and all the growth I have gone through, I didn’t look at my birthday the same way. I didn’t have to hold down the label of being the poor, childless, unwedded, single, fat girl. I embraced the cute, quarky lesbian who chose a life without the shackles I have been told from birth that I needed. I wasn’t relationshipless; I was surrounded by friends who loved me. I didn’t have to feel judgment about not being enough because I finally discovered that I am enough.

At the beginning of the week, I decided that I was going to celebrate my birthday every day. I had one good meal and one delicious pastry every day. I bought myself an early birthday present. I treated myself with love and gratitude. It may sound ridiculous, but when you have never practiced this level of self-love…it is a weird and wonderful thing. It took so much effort to be so mean to myself in the past. It took so little effort to love myself and make me feel good.

My birthday started after midnight, with a shout-out from my beloved boys, Alex and Max. It was clear that they had some things planned for me, but I was to be patient for them to be revealed.

I went home and relaxed for a minute. My father arrived 25 minutes early to pick me up. He knocked on my door, which made me jump. When I answered, he came in holding a birthday card. I opened it. The card had a lovely message that stated that I had always had a hold over him, that he loved me. It also contained a fifty-dollar check. That was the most money I have gotten from my Dad in ages. I was shocked.

We walked out to the car and he paused and looked at me. “I don’t want you to go to this restaurant just for me; it is your birthday,” he stated. We had talked about going to this little Italian restaurant. It was a little pricey, but the food was delicious. I told him that I was excited to go there.

The restaurant is in an old building that used to house a machine shop. The ceiling had the kind of detail you just don’t see very often. The walls were old brick. The dining room had a capacity of less than a fifty people, and it was busier than any other time I had been in there.

We dined on a Cesar salad, Chicken Marsala with roasted red potatoes, asparagus, and a bottle of Chianti. It was absolutely delicious. For desert, I got a raspberry glazed cheesecake and my father had the cannoli. Over the delicious food, my father and I chatted about random stuff. Then he brought up that he wanted to talk to me sense the incident in December, my kidnapped coming out episode. He apologized that he dragged me to events that I didn’t want to go to. I explained to him that it wasn’t that I hadn’t enjoyed his company, or even the event and people that we got to experience together, the problem was that I was having difficulty telling him when it began to become really inconvenient because I didn’t want to disappoint him. The bigger message of the whole incident was that I wanted to be more honest and open with him, but I hesitated because I didn’t want to upset him or have him think anything less of me.

He began to tell me that it came as a surprise, because he was always an open book. What you see is what you get. My mother, on the other hand, was completely closed off. She never spoke of certain subjects around him. She also would get very upset with him, but never tell him why. He only realized it when her purse came flying at his head. Although this may sound over exaggerated, it was actually very true. I told him that it was obvious that my mother had the inability to be emotionally available to anyone. She was never really vulnerable to us, her family. The closest person to her, my Aunt April, didn’t even know everything. My mom just considered herself completely worthless. If she didn’t speak about something that happened to her, it was because she held an incredible amount of shame over it.

I told my father that he should never feel unable to ask me something. I said that my siblings and I want to feel able to be more vulnerable, but that the legacy of our mother had impacted all of us to hold similar demons. It wasn’t because he was a flawed person, or lousy husband that she was unable to open up to him, it was problem much larger than him. I felt a little sad that my father never really had the kind of relationship where he felt closer to his other half. It made me understand why I am the way that I am.

He was also concerned that Alex didn’t like him. He commented that he had never had problems with Max. I had to giggle. During my coming-out pow-wow, Alex sat with me to help me communicate with my father. He made it a point to guide the conversation, and didn’t hesitate to point out the truth or stand up for me. He was never mean, but my father had never had someone be so honest with him directly. I could see how my father could have interpreted it as an attack, because he was direct and honest even if he knew it might hurt a little. My father couldn’t distinguish it as a sign of love because the ego got in the way. I saw it as another surprise moment where I got some insight as to why I react in certain situations the way that I do. I also pointed out that Alex has never hated him, nor did he currently hold any ill will toward him.

The whole conversation was therapeutic in a way. I could tell at the end that my father didn’t really want to go. We sat for a while after we had eaten. He finished his coffee, than waited until he finished his wine. He talked about wanting to get an electric scooter, like a Hoveround, so he could walk the dogs and enjoy festivals again. I gave him permission to drive around a little bit. We checked out some medical supply stores, even though they were closed. Eventually, he dropped me back off at home. I couldn’t tell if he was reluctant to go home because of dealing with my brother-in-law who lived there, or because he just wanted to spend time with me. I hope it was the latter.

I was really touched by dinner, but I was excited to go over to Alex and Max’s. I knew they were up to something. I went over to their house as soon as I was done. I walked in to the studio being up and ready. I crept behind the green screen to find Alex in mid-makeup. He had texted me the link to a video.

Okay, I LOVE So You Think You Can Dance. One of the judges is the bubbly ballroom aficionado, Mary Murphy. The video Alex sent me was of him dressed up as “Fairy Murphy.” Alex had on a brown wig with bangs, dark rimmed glasses and no make-up. Fairy Murphy had seen some tape of me dancing and was to become my talent agent for a modeling/dance company. She had already booked me for my first video. The hint was that I would be Maddie. Huh? The video also had an ending title of amusing non-sense, “Save the Pandas! Eat salted vaginas.”

Well, Alex had it all set up. We were going to do a dance video to Sia’s Chandelier, the same video that Maddie from Dance Moms danced so beautifully in. He had laid out my costume, which was pretty dead on. He was going to be kind of a black swan in it. I got dressed and he put on my make-up. The make-up application was super soothing. I felt like I was at a spa.

We did several takes. Some had us playing with rope lights, others with fabric. It was the first video that we did where I felt completely open. I didn’t harbor any self-consciousness. I just tried to interpret the music. At the end, Alex and I collapsed from exhaustion. I looked like a sack of potatoes on the ground. He asked if I wanted to order pizza, and I yelled out, “yes.” Max came home from play rehearsal to find us post video, collapsed on the floor. I am sure it was a sight.

Clean up from the video took almost no time. I had a moment with Max and told him about all the fun stuff. He looked at me directly and stated, “I know. No, really. I know.” It was clear that Alex and him had been planning this out for a while. I had been walking through it just endlessly surprised and thrilled. I had no expectations; I was just open. It was a fun feeling. So many times, I have been in my head on a day like today. I would be trying to figure out why I was still such a loser on my birthday. Why wasn’t I where I wanted to be? This birthday, I had none of that negative talk in my head. I was just open, open to receiving. I wanted to be present. I didn’t want to miss any part.

The pizza was delicious. I couldn’t wait to see some of the video we shot. We started peeking at some of it when Alex’s brother and his boyfriend showed up. Alex’s brother was in a good mood, but his boyfriend was clearly uncomfortable. This was the second time we really met him. The first time ended with him getting drunk and leaving early to see a dying pet cat.

As I was talking to the brother and boyfriend, Alex yelled for Max to come to the bedroom. The boyfriend looked directly at Alex’s brother and said, “Look. We aren’t the only ones,” as if it was normal to yell at your partner. Alex was just trying to get Max so they could present my cake and balloons. Alex and Max emerged with it, fully lit with “Happy Birthday” candles. I felt like I was having movie play out before my eyes. It was beautiful. It was Instagram. The colors were so bright. Alex and Max sang “Happy Birthday” in harmony. I could have bawled. The last time I had a birthday so perfect, I was thirteen and being presented with a cake a vacation Bible school. My family had kind of forgotten my birthday, so it was a time where I felt so loved. This was definitely on that level. I made a wish and blew out the candles.

The cake was delicious. I am a cake savant. I know every bakery in the area. This one was from a great bakery just down the street. It was beautifully decorated. The frosting was light and whipped. The cake was moist and white. The raspberry filling between the tiers was to die for. I loved every bite.

All five of us tried to relax and get to know each other after the cake. The boyfriend was completely closed off. Trying to get him to open up and have fun was like trying to extract teeth. It was painful. I realized that the boys had complained that I used to act the same way. It was like the boyfriend felt like he wasn’t worthy; he was convinced the boys wouldn’t like him, so he threw more ammunition at them to hate him with. I noticed that as much as he felt we were judging him, his comments would indicate that he was totally judging us. He even just got up and left mid-conversation to smoke without excusing himself.

It was awkward and weird. You could tell that Alex’s brother was grateful to be over and he was happy and just wanted to play with us; the fact that his boyfriend was being a boob kind of embarrassed him. I was impressed at the kindness and inclusiveness Alex’s brother showed him. I could see that he was a good boyfriend and it was sweet. I was even surprised at how much Alex and Max were trying their best to be authentic and welcome him to the fold. I could tell that the boyfriend couldn’t accept it. He was so miserable that he couldn’t see how much love was there for him. I felt bad for him. I felt bad for my old self, but was really glad that I wasn’t stuck there anymore.

I wanted to completely check out. I was having a lovely birthday and he was dragging the energy down. Instead of closing off, I just decided that I was going to be totally open and honest. I usually reserve this uncensored version of me for the boys, but hell, it was my birthday. If he didn’t like me, it was his problem. Besides, if he really wants to be a part of this family, he better get used to it. I kind of shocked myself with how vulnerable I was and felt proud of being unapologetically myself. It came across like one of the final scenes in Auntie Mame. In it, her nephew is getting ready to marry a girl who was super shallow just because she was the epitome of what society thought a good guy should marry. The simple act of being herself, and inviting her friends and her nephew’s beloved characters in his life to be themselves, ticked off the girl and her family and called off the wedding. At first her nephew was embarrassed to death, but he could finally see through his fiancé and her family’s hollowness. This was not the family that he ever wanted to be a part of.

After the brother and his boyfriend left, Alex, Max, and I watched the rest of the raw footage from the video. It was great. We laughed until we cried and I wet my pants. I was told to go home and rest up because I was going to have a big day ahead of me. Before I went, there was a new message texted to me. Fairy Murphy had seen the tape and loved it. I was booked for a world tour. I needed to get my passport ready.

I didn’t have a passport. “Oh,” the boys remarked. “We got that handled.”

I was presented with a beautiful card made out of construction paper. It was a passport for my journey around the world. It was absolutely beautiful. It had obviously taken some time to make. Alex admitted that he glued all the pieces together with spirit gum (usually used to flatten his eyebrows while doing drag). Inside the card were several boxes just waiting to be stamped with my great adventures.

I went home completely stoked. It was already one of the best birthdays EVER. I still had a full day of festivity left. I was almost a little too excited to sleep; I couldn’t wait. Meanwhile, poor Alex and Max were busy out of their minds. Alex hadn’t really slept in days, and I couldn’t even begin to comprehend how much more he and Max busted out that night to make the next day even more perfect.

I was instructed by Fairy Murphy to return to the studio by noon, not any earlier nor any latter. She also added a hilarious tip, “wear gloves to a wake.” When I arrived, Alex and Max were definitely tired. They appeared to be far from rested. I was told that I needed to have my phone with me at all times throughout the day. I got my first text. It was from my Choreo-lady-bro, Tappy Nabs (taken from the powerhouse hip-hop choreographers and couple, Napoleon and Tabitha, nicknamed Nappy Tabs). Max was dressed up in a blonde wig with a thin, red shiny headband. His face was covered in blue eye shadow, bright pink cheeks, and bright red lips. His arms were bedazzled with a ton of bracelets. The clip ended with the message, “Show only your tits when mom is near.”

Tappy Nabs said that my first stop was Illinois. It was there that I was going to enjoy a special treat known by billions all over the world. I honestly had no idea what that meant. I grabbed my phone and passport and joined the boys in the car. They kept asking me if I knew where I was going. I had no idea, but my belly was grumbling. I actually felt a pain in my stomach and groaned a little in surprise, but didn’t let on to Max when he asked that I was hungry. Next thing I knew, we were pulling into a McDonald’s. Get it? McDonald’s was started in Illinois. Alex gave me a badge with a construction paper replica of the golden arches to tape in my passport. I ordered a bacon cheese Quarter pounder. It tasted so good. The sustenance also made the boys perk up.

Like clockwork, I got my next text when we had finished. Nappy Tabs said I was booked for a gig in exotic India. Again, the boys asked if I knew what that meant. I had no idea. Kama Sutra? Bollywood? Alex drove leisurely through town. I was enjoying the drive but the car was not. The transmission was slipping between first and second gear. With each slip, the car would jerk like it was going to stall. I started to worry if we were going to make it to where ever we were going. I was particularly nervous going up a steep hill on the west side of town. Before I knew it, Alex slipped into a very familiar parking lot. It belonged to a hair supply shop that we had recently discovered.

“You are going to get a new wig!” the boys exclaimed. “Of thirty-five dollars or less,” Max added. I was STOKED! I really wanted a new wig. The last time I wore one, I had to wear a long one twisted up and pinned because it was too hot on my neck. I also thought my wigs were a little too dark for my complexion. Besides that, the boys and I have had some friction in the past because I don’t choose the right wigs and I am not always patient enough to wait for them to help me out. I didn’t have to worry about any of that. They were both here and they both wanted to make sure I got the cutest wig possible. I was given a badge with a girl’s head with a black bob and eagerly placed it in my passport.

I just walked into the store fully with open energy. As we walked to the wig corner, I was overwhelmed with all the possibilities. The boys asked if anything caught my fancy. I was just star struck. They began to pick out different options and styles. I tried on one; it didn’t really work. Max picked out a short, curly style. At first, I put it on with the part down the center. I looked like a redneck Carrot Top. Just as I was about to take it off, I twisted the wig so the part was on the side. This tiny movement made the wig just totally stand out. All I could imagine was a nerdy, book-wise hipster lesbian getting ready to walk into Whole Foods in Ann Arbor to look for artisanal cheeses. It just fit.

The boys loved it. They thought it was the most authentic to my personality wig I had ever put on. You could tell they were extremely pleased; especially when they found out it was only twenty dollars. I loved it so much that I wore it out of the store.

My next text from Tappy Nabs told me that I was take in the azure waters of Hawaii. I was to take in the clear waters and enjoy the local cuisine. I was given a badge that I thought was a mock up of an island, but twisted the right way was obviously a Hawaiian lei. The video ended with the note, “I buy rice when I am broke.”

We returned to the boys’ house where the rest of the day would unfold. Originally, the boys thought they were going to be really broke on my birthday. It had been a super tough month for them financially, so they concocted all of this when they thought they had nothing else to give. Alex got paid early, which enhanced some of the plans, but everything was built to capitalize on what we had and what they knew I loved. It was as exciting as a holiday was when you were a little kid and made decorations out of your scraps. What made it special was the time and energy involved. I was already blown away with everything. It was beyond anything anyone has ever done for me before.

Before we made it to the pool, Alex brought out some goodies. He had a blow-up toy for each of us. They were bought from the dollar store and were the appropriate size for a Cabbage Patch doll. I had a hard time blowing up my blue half ring, with a porpoise head. I worked on it for twenty minutes concerned about my breathing capabilities until Max pointed out a huge hole on one end. Still, they were fun. I was even presented with a plastic coconut beverage holder filled with a tropical punch. They had a lid with a straw, and a flourish of fake greenery on top. I got me a floppy sun hat to wear so I wouldn’t burn my head, and everyone was also given Hawaiian lei to add to the atmosphere.

We had put up the pool a week or two earlier but had not swam in it yet this year. I haven’t been able to swim for nearly a year. I wasn’t allowed to after all the procedures that I had. Now, fully healed, I could join the fun. I put on the new swimsuit I had order early in the summer. It was pin-up style, black with cherries all over it and a sweetheart neckline.

I was eager to climb up the staircase to the pool. Of course, it was wobbly and unstable like always. I have always been a little scared of slipping on it, but I hadn’t tried it since my surgery. Stairs have been my downfall after surgery. I have always been afraid of falling down stairs or ladders. I don’t know why. It is just a thing.

After the surgery, my thighs lost a lot of their strength. At first, I had trouble getting up and down stairs because I had no strength. Knowing that I had no strength, I knew I had to be careful because my thighs could give out. This made my fear of steps grow even worse. Once the boys moved their living room upstairs, I had to face this nearly every day. It would take me 5 minutes to do the stairs on any given occasion, and it is only one flight. I had made great progress over the last couple of months on the stairs. I can even do them without holding the rail on occasion, sometimes leg over leg.

I had not done anything as complicated as a ladder yet. Going up it was harder on the knees than I remembered. Getting up to the top, putting my foot over the side, and swinging over to walk down the other side was terrifying. I could feel the ladder shake as I became more nervous. I held my breath and just tried to continue moving without thinking too much. Eventually, I slipped into the water. It was super clear and chlorinated. The boys jumped in with their beautiful dog but we didn’t get to stay long.

A thunderstorm was approaching. We thought about waiting it out in the pool, but the dog was too nervous and Alex too guilty to leave her in the house. We decided to get a bite to eat. We climbed out of the pool as it began to rain. When we got up to the deck of the house, Max put some chicken on the grill. I sat under the large patio umbrella and watched as the rain came even harder. Max was getting soaked while trying to get everything cooked and Alex was prepping other food in the house.

I became fascinated by the faux coconut beverage containers. I stared at the one in my hand and started thinking about how I would have used such an item as a kid. I loved creating little villages and worlds for my tiny figurines. They were a hodgepodge of characters. Fisher Price people, Cabbage Patch kid erasers, He-Man & She-Ra, and another other creature that fit the scale of what I was playing in. I would have used this type of cup in some tropical sub-world that would sprout out on my family room floor, to the dismay of my parents.

I went from visions of doing this as a child, to other instances were I was drawn to miniatures. At 13, I was given a beautiful, wooden dollhouse and a family of Victorian people. I collected items to use in that house all the time, especially during a big family trip out West. One of my favorite places is the big dollhouse in the basement of the Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. I am always fascinated with the commentary on how all the tiny books and items were made and collected. I than jumped to thinking about an old woman that I used to talk to whenever I was dragged to functions for my father’s alma matter. She loved miniatures and told me about conferences she would attend or the latest item she had made for her latest project.

I had been struggling over the last few weeks about an artistic outlet I could pursue at the boys’ house. They had changed their entire house to accommodate their budding interests. Alex had a make-up table and new drag closet. Max had a work area where he was building a 23-foot dragon for his summer community theater production. They had made a space for me too, but I was at a loss of what to do in it. I knew they wanted me to feel comfortable and inspired, but I felt more lost.

I had brought over art supplies. I brought over a journal, but nothing was speaking to me. Now I had an epiphany. The boys were doing things that they have been toying around since their youth. If I thought about what I spent the most time doing in my youth, building little villages and characters held the majority of my time and attention. It hit me; maybe I need to get back into doing miniatures. It didn’t have to be an expensive hobby. You just had to look at things differently. I could do it in a still life, a shadow box, or whatever. I also knew exactly where I should start. I saw myself making characters out of the polymer clay they had at the art supply stores.

In that moment, I was hit with extreme clarity. I immediately shared it with a drenched Max. He could see where I was going with it. The feeling I described was exactly what he felt like when he worked on his creations. Alex came out and I told him. He was surprised at first because he had never heard me talk about my life in miniatures before. I told him that it was something that I never thought I would do again, that it was just child’s play. In a flash, I had an answer to the question I had been pondering for awhile. It was life changing in the level of clarity and ease of which the message came to me.

We ate dinner inside the house, grilled chicken with pineapple and tasty rice. It was very worthy of our tropical destination. I chuckled when I remembered the quote at the end of the last video. Max said that when they first came up with this, they were broke. The boys admitted that they had been planning this whole event for days. Every meal, every stop, every detail had been carefully thought out. You could tell that there was so much love and care put into the day. The rain only added to the tropical flare. It was a quick downpour. By the time we were finished eating, the storm had already left.

We returned to the pool to continue our swim. I had a moment of terror climbing up the ladder again. I had tried to just climb the ladder without worry. Unfortunately this time, I felt paralyzed at the top and unable to move. Max watched me and hesitated to help, but realized I was sort of at a stand still. He came over and held the ladder and calmly encouraged me to lift my foot over the pool railing. I was scared that twisting my foot on the ladder would lead to twisting my ankle or lead to loosing my footing. Eventually, I was able to make the transition and get into the pool.

We floated and chatted in the cool water for a while. We like to make a circle and create a current to ride on. At one point, we noticed the acoustics in the pool were amazing and lined up in the middle. Max sung out one note and Alex and I would harmonize to it. It was kind of interesting. The sound was great and took on a meditative monk like feel that sort of blew us away.

We also horsed around a little. Alex would lay me on my back and pull me around and around. As I relaxed, I enjoyed watching the canopy of the trees above go by. As a little girl, I loved playing in a pool. Sometimes I would be in the company of friends or older siblings and would want to have one of them lift me up or pull me around. I always knew that I was probably too big, so I didn’t really seek it out. Often, I would be the one pulling someone else around. In this pool, Alex is a heavyweight. He can lift almost anyone. So, my inner kid was invigorated and open enough to enjoy feeling the weightlessness.

When we returned from our swim, I got another text from Tabby Naps. This time I was going to go to the Wisconsin State Fair. I was to enjoy some delicious fair food and cheese curds. I was presented with a badge with a cheese wedge on it for my passport. While the food cooked, Alex pulled out a bag of cheese curds and put them in a bowl. Since my father is from Wisconsin, I am very familiar with cheese curds but we almost always fried them. I had never eaten them cold and unbreaded. I found that I loved the saltiness and spongy texture. I ate almost the entire bowl. We loaded up our plates with delicious croissant wrapped sausages, potato salad, macaroni salad, and baked beans before I got my next destination text.

“Are you ready to cool off,” Tappy Nabs asks. “Are you ready to feel colder than you ever felt in your life? Are you ready to explore the great northern wilderness of the North Pole and maybe get raped by a reindeer? Well girl, it’s your time. So get festive, and get on upstairs.”

I taped in my new North Pole badge, grabbed my plate of food, and started to head upstairs. As I came up, you could feel that that air conditioner had been on for some time. Than, I noticed some interesting decorations peeking out over the railing. The boys had pulled out Christmas.

The once sparse and white room had been taken over by the colors and lights of Christmas. There was a tree, decorated with the Abominable Monster from Rudolph and a swag of fabric. A string of felt cutouts hung from the antler of a vegan moose mount (done in foam board). The short wall under the television was covered in red fabric and lights. Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is you” played on the television and I found the elusive Miles, the black cat, laying on my red snowflake fleece blanket on my customary seat. I was so taken aback by Miles being out in the open, that I had to take several minutes to pet him. I hadn’t really cuddled with him brought him home two years ago. He tends to run and hide, so this was a real treat.

We sat down with our food, and Alex played a video of Judy Garland singing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” All three of us kind of teared up. Alex mentioned that I had always said that I liked to watch my Christmas tapes with my sister in the summer to try and recapture the feeling of Christmas. He and Max had done it for my birthday. It was so incredibly awesome and touching.

I looked over my shoulder to find a stocking hung on the wall. Alex said open it up. Inside was an assortment of candies: Snowcaps, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Reese’s pieces, and taffy. I hadn’t opened a stocking with real gifts in it for years. I felt like a little kid.

That wasn’t all. Alex flipped on a video of the Christmas Yule log with a holiday soundtrack and drew my attention to the end table by Max. There were several beautifully wrapped packages. I couldn’t believe they were for me! The boys passed them over for me to unwrap, one by one. There was a glow stick, a ribbon baton, butterfly stickers, a dart set, two kinds of comfy socks, and a bag of lavender air freshening potpourri.

I got overwhelmed in the middle of the gift fest. I couldn’t believe they did all of this for me. It was an embarrassment of riches. A part of me felt that it was too much, that I wasn’t deserving of it all. I worked to push that negative voice away so that I could be in the moment and fully enjoy all that was presented to me.

Alex created a play list of Christmas delights. He had segments from my favorite Christmas special of all time, Claymation Christmas. They were interspersed with holiday commercials from the 80s and the 90s. It was like a time capsule. We were sort of amused by the emotional manipulation and the catering to a kid demographic. It was clear that these messages messed with our heads over the years. They made you want a Rockwell holiday so bad. It was hard to keep from having your heartstrings pulled. In many ways, as happy as they made you, they could also make you sad. I was a sucker for a Hallmark moment.

In the midst of the play list, there was an important breaking news announcement from the desk of Fairy Murphy. She had great news; my video had been selected to be presented on TRL (Total Request Live, MTV’s biggest show of the 90s and 00s). Also, the ending title wanted me to know, “Once you go dyke, you buy a bike.” I was confused. We had shot the video the previous night, but it usually took days or weeks before Alex normally finished editing such videos.

My jaw dropped as the final edit of our Sia Chandelier video popped on the screen. Alex had spent the entire night putting it together. It was beautifully edited on the tops of screen captures of the apartment in the original video. Alex’s persona, LyKra, and I were transported to the slightly insane, dark world Maddie had danced in to interpret Sia’s powerful ballad. I, in some ways, was Maddie.

Alex looked at me, with tears in his eyes, and said that he knew I would often look at the dancers like Maddie, or on a show like So You Think You Can Dance, and think that I would never be able to do what they do, to move people through movement and emotion. He wanted me to realize that despite my age, weight, or cancer I can still be the dancer that I dream of being. I can be my own version of Maddie.

We all bawled and watched the video several more times. It was special. There are no fancy dance moves, no technique. I am sure some people might chuckle at two fat people moving around like they are incapacitated to a song about alcoholism. Still, we saw two people who had removed the restraints of self-consciousness to sincerely dance with joy and pure intentions. Alex even saw it as us showing the strains of the struggle of life, encouraging others to hold on and face life with courage and excitement.

Emotionally spent, I got a new video message from Fairy Murphy. I was to go to Italy and enjoy some “balls, meatballs.” We enjoyed a lovely bowl of spaghetti and meatballs and I was presented with a badge for my passport with a paper cutout of the coliseum. Everything was so perfect. The time and attention to the details was intense. The hours of planning and prepping showed through. I finally understood what Oprah meant when she, “love is in the details.” Each detail meant that a separate thought or intention was set. Each detail represented a specific wish to delight me, to let me know that they knew me, to let me know they cared.

Before I could finish, I received another text from Fairy Murphy. My next stop was China with an ending title warning me that, “you better get that checked out.” Ha! I got a badge with a star made with little strips of paper.

“What could that mean?” Alex asked. I didn’t know. He than gave me another box to open. It was filled with six huge fireworks. But wait, there was more, another huge bag with smaller fireworks.

We went outside and he began to set them off. For a half hour we watched Alex light several fireworks. Some were small and sparkly. There were smoke bombs and noisy ones. In between them, were six huge ones. When he lit them up, the earth shook under our feet. We would watch them climb super high and explode into a canopy of light. I almost hit the ground when he lit the first one.

I couldn’t imagine anything sweeter, but there was one last text from the desk of Fairy Murphy. I was to end my day at Yellowstone National Park. I was given the final passport stamp, a yellow stone. The boys set up a bonfire in the back yard and brought out chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers for smores.

You could tell that they were exhausted. Quite frankly, so was I. We watched the glow of the fire trying to catch and marveled at the hundreds of fireflies in their backyard. I looked over and saw Alex almost passed out on the flimsy plastic Adirondack chairs, formerly from my back yard.

I decided to lay back and watch the sky from mine. I could feel my weight sink into the chair. I felt heavy and tired. I relaxed, completely thrilled with the birthday I had. The boys couldn’t believe it was already over. All their hard work was done.

I used to think that people didn’t feel this appreciated unless they were near death. I don’t think my mother ever was really able to feel the full love of those around her until she saw them by the side of her hospice bed. I, too, had difficulty being able to feel the love in my life. I wanted so desperately to be loved. When people gave comments or special gifts in the past, it was so easy to politely accept them and brush them off. I would reason that they just didn’t know the real me. If they did, they would realize that they were in error.

I knew that this thought pattern isolated me. I had so many walls built up over my life to prevent this emotion of being appreciated by others. I don’t know if I thought that if I never felt it, I would never know what it was like not to have it. I don’t know if I thought that those who showed affection might do so only to get close to me so they could hurt me. I don’t know why I had often been so closed down.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I realized that if I continued to isolate myself and prevent myself from feeling love, I would die. Feeling love, giving love, being surrounded by love is not a luxury; it is necessary for a human’s survival. I worked hard to allow more love in my life. I wore it on a bracelet on my wrist to remind me to always side with love. I put the word up in key places in my house.

Over time, I felt like I was able to feel it more and more. As much as I loved these boys before I was diagnosed, my love for them has only deepened in such a profound way. I know and trust them implicitly. I have seen them love me when I have acted like a spoiled brat, a fearful and scared child, and as a weak, sick and wounded sack of sorrow.

They have taken care of me, when I didn’t know how to take care of myself. They loved me when I didn’t know how to love myself. I wouldn’t probably be alive today if I had never met them, and I could never imagine my life without them. I will never know how to repay them.

Just when I was at my most relaxed state, the chair snapped. My back fell to the ground and my butt was still up on the bottom part of the seat. The sharp edges of the broken plastic were poking my skin precariously. The boys popped up and helped me get on my feet.

We stood looking at the fire that was refusing to start. The boys were clearly exhausted. They had been downing several 5-hour energies and relying on adrenaline to power them through the day. Now that their master plan had been executed, they could no longer fight back the exhaustion.

Even though it was 11 o’clock, super early in our world, I told them it was all right to call it a night. Alex glued the badges permanently onto my passport as Max and I gathered my bounty of gifts from the day. I gave each of them huge hugs and promised that this had been the best birthday of my life.

As I drove away, I broke down into a pile of tears. I realized that this was not only the best birthday of my life; it was probably the best day of my life. I finally understood that you could feel all this love and acceptance without the precept of disease and dying. I could no longer tell myself that I was unloved or uncared for; I clearly was deeply loved. I would no longer need a killer holiday to prove that others loved me or that I was worthy of that kind of love.

I worried about how I could repay the boys for all that they had given me. I used to suffer from the flawed belief that you couldn’t accept a gift that you couldn’t return in kind. This kind of thinking always made me nervous about accepting presents from others. Once you started to feel the guilt of having to return the favor, you can start to jump out of receiving the full love of the gift and can even start resenting it.

Today, I just let the love wash over me. I allowed myself to feel it in the way it was intended. I tried to stay present and relish every detail. I worried about my mind forgetting even one moment. Hence, I ran home to try and record every blissful second.

I wanted to let my boys know how everything they did deeply impacted my life. The only way I could really let them know how is to use my gift of writing to send them an ultimate love letter. I want them to know that no detail was overlooked. Even when the balloons lose their helium, the gifts wear out, and the memories fade, I could still let them know how much I know they cared. As Maya Angelou so poignantly said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I will never forget how this birthday made me feel.

_______________________________________________________________________

UPDATE: This video was featured on DanceMoms! It was a special interview with all the girls that aired prior to the season premiere January 2015.

Maddie Ziegler comments about our video:
“Like, people really put all their effort into this.”

You can check out the entire clip here:
https://youtu.be/DRHdGMbTnxw

Everything Always Works Out for Me

For some reason, I am a worrier. I come from a long line of them. I was trained from a young age to be nervous about all the possible bad things that could happen. Murphy’s law was always in effect. My father was always convinced that bad stuff only really happened to him.

When you spend three decades in this mindset, it is really hard to break it. I have fretted about almost ever decision I have made in life. Even when I make a decision, I will constantly second-guess it. This has made my life a living hell on more than one occasion.

When I knew that my doctor recommended chemotherapy and radiation after my surgery, it took me a month to figure out what course of treatment I wanted. I had a choice between a clinical trial and standard treatment, or even no treatment. I asked everyone for an opinion, and rarely would people give me their thoughts. Eventually, I just made a decision from my gut. Which is what was necessary, but it didn’t stop me from second guessing it.

I don’t know why people are wired to worry. It is a waste of energy. Somehow, I figured that if I focused on the problem and all the variables long enough, a solution would follow. I would careful collect data. How have other people done this? What is the current popular viewpoint? What is the viewpoint of those around me? With a million different ways to make a decision, how could I ever be sure that I was making the right one?

This was particularly worse when my self-esteem was nearly non-existent. I might have had an intuitive idea, but if it wasn’t backed by an “expert” or someone I trusted, it wasn’t good enough. There is nothing worse than to not trust yourself. That is why I believe I felt it necessary to worry. If I couldn’t trust my own answer to any problem, how could I ever trust any decision I made?

How could I get out of this perpetual wheel of doom? How could I keep from sliding down the spiral of shame?

First and foremost, worry is an extension of fear. Fear creates suffering. Suffering has evolved in humans as a tool to keep us searching for better options. It has helped us adapt to our surroundings and evolve. The problem is that humans start thinking that you have to suffer in order to change and grow. I used to be convinced that if something was bothering me, I had to sit in the discomfort long enough to get the motivation to change or come up with a solution.

In reality, the fear and suffering only made me less inclined to take risk. I was made only more skeptical of any solution, and I often thought that I might prefer living in the unwanted because the fear of trying the unknown might be worse. I was horrified about making mistakes. Not only was I set to be super judgmental of my actions, but I feared the judgment of others.

For the past year, I have been chipping away at this obstacle. My first step was taking an anti-depressant so I was chemically able to look at things in a more rational light. Secondly, I had to face my need to please. I had to stop caring what anyone else thought of me. That was a super difficult step. I had to say “no” to others and “yes” to myself. This only got easier as I worked on realizing that I am worthy. Just by being born, I am worthy. I don’t have to do anything to be worthy. If I make a bad choice, it doesn’t strip me from being worthy. Even if a posse of people considers me ugly, a loser, an idiot….that doesn’t make me any less worthy than them. I am, and have always been a “good” person.

Only after I could accept this, could I move on to change my old negative thought patterns. There are so many old tapes, old belief systems that we carry around in our heads. Often, they were recorded to help us out at some point. Once they have lost their effectiveness, they tend to hang out in the back of our mind instead of being thrown out. The process of changing them is challenging.

For me, I had to outline my new truth. Everyone and everything is a direct connection to Source, or the Universe. If the ocean was God, we are all a cup of God. We are all worthy of infinite love and acceptance no matter who we are or what we do.

I also began to really observe that we live in a “vibrational” reality. All matter vibrates at a certain frequency. We all are bound to the universal law of attraction. This law states that like attracts like. What ever you focus on persists. Our thoughts become things. This can actually be a horrifying thought. Anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer can tell you about bouts of thoughts that aren’t pleasant. If you believe thoughts become things, you start to focus on getting rid of bad thoughts, which only leads to more bad thoughts.

This is where I have come to terms with the belief and understanding that the Universe only wants what is best for us. We came into this human existence for the purpose of creating. We are on the leading edge of creation. By determining our points of attraction, we are creating an ever-expanding Universe.

It is like that pivotal scene in “The Never Ending Story.” Bastian, the young human boy, is left with the Empress of Fantasia and a single grain of sand left from the mythical world. She explains to him that the fate of Fantasia lies with him. All he needs to do is to imagine a new Fantasia, use his dreams to make wishes that will ultimately bring this world back to life. Of course, he is completely skeptical.

We have been told that “reality” is only what we see manifested in front of us. We limit ourselves from believing that we are ultimately responsible for the “reality” that we live in. The news, television, radio, and other messages thrown in our face indicate that the world is set up to be harsh, unpredictable, and dangerous. We are set up to distrust our neighbors. We are encouraged to fear the oncoming threats from a barrage of others. We echo a constant drum that forces beyond our control are working against us.

The true reality is that nothing is against us. There is neither good nor bad in this world. Everything is beneficial to the ultimate goal of creating more of what we want. When we stop blaming everything on everyone else, we can actually harness our real power. We are ultimately responsible for how we feel, what we do, and what we create.

What? I am responsible for getting cancer? In my case, yes. I lived in a well of darkness. I denied myself anything that brought me joy. I only reacted to the world around me, and refused to take care of myself because I thought it was more important to invest in what I believed others thought was more important.

I can look back and point out a million different ways I could have done things differently. There are times that I have even gotten down on myself for past decisions as idiotic, but I did the best I could with what I had to work with. Even if I made a decision that wasn’t wise, the lessons I learned through the failure only made me a better person. Hence, there really wasn’t anything that I did that was good or bad, right or wrong. It was just another step in the journey.

So, why do I feel bad?

Every one of us possesses a finely tuned emotional guidance system. Our emotions tell us how we really feel in relation to things. Unfortunately, I believe most of us have never really understood how to use it. It is actually amazing. Just like our sense of touch has evolved to help prevent us from burning our hand on a hot stove, our emotions can guide us toward what we really want.

Whenever you feel anxious, fearful, sad, or angry, you are actually pinching yourself off from Source. What? Let me explain it another way. God/the Universe/Source knows you. It is ultimately pure, unconditional love. Whenever we feel bad, it is an indication or how far we have pinched ourselves off from the love of God. When we doubt ourselves, when we second-guess the intentions of the world and our brothers and sisters, we are blocking ourselves from seeing and feeling the world as God sees it.

Another interesting point is that we are constantly making notes of what we like in the world. Every interaction we have fires off a point of attraction. It is different for all of us, and it happens whether we are aware of it or not. When we see things we do not like, it fires off a rocket of desire for what we do want. The more negativity we feel about something, the more we desire its opposite. This is the “contrast” we observe. When we are in the midst of people who anger us, jobs that frustrate us, and situations that overwhelm us, we are becoming clearer about what we really do want.

These desires are housed in an area called a “vortex.” Everything we have ever desired exists in this dimension and is available to us at any time. The problem is that this vortex exists only on our highest-level disc. In order for it to manifest in our reality, we have to raise our vibration to its level. If I want to listen to 103.3 FM, I will be disappointed when I dial in 98.2 FM because it is not the right frequency. Like attracts like. We attract what ever is at the same vibrational frequency we are on. If we are feeling grumpy, we are on the grumpy disc. During the day, people and situations that are on the grumpy vibration will be drawn to us.

So, how can I change my vibration?

You change your vibration a few different ways. First, quiet the mind. You reset the mind after you sleep or meditate. You do this by quieting the mind from thinking. If you hold any thought for as little as 17 seconds, law of attraction will bring a like-minded thought to build upon it. After several thoughts, you start building momentum in a certain direction. You can tell what disc you are on by the way you feel.

For instance, say you just woke up. Your mind is in good neutral territory. Try to stay focus on thoughts or actions that make you feel good or bring you joy. Observe things to be grateful for around you. Try to stay on your highest disc for as long as you can. Try to tune out any negativity: television programming, negative messages, fearful people, etc. If something happens, and you find yourself slipping, don’t get upset about it. Try to look at the positive, meditate, or take a nap. This is hard when you have been used to feeding your ego with negativity over the years, or serving up sob stories to everyone to build attention or look for sympathy. It is a new way of living, and it takes a while to learn how to stay focused.

Try to live in the present. Don’t worry about what is coming up, nor keep tormenting yourself with the past. We are all living on a river of ultimate well-being. Remember, the Universe knows what you want and the law of attraction is trying to get you to what you want on the path of least resistance. Our only responsibility is to have fun, don’t hurt anybody, and enjoy the ride. Many of us were raised to believe that the only way we can get anything we want is from hard work and struggle, but in reality it is the opposite.

Life is supposed to be fun. What we want can come to us through ease and joy if we just relax and let the Universe do the work. The Universe has built planets and stars, if we want a new car, it isn’t that difficult for the Universe to pull it out. The time between our rocket of desire and manifestation is the time needed to fill in our grid. I see this as the Universe putting what ever is necessary to make something happen into order. The less resistance we have toward what we want, the faster this process can happen.

Trusting in this process is difficult. Our first instinct is to “effort” our way to what we want. We beat our heads against the wall, trying to figure it all out. We don’t have to figure it out. We don’t have to get to the bottom of a problem; it isn’t our job. I have heard it compared to being dropped off in a river on a boat. We want desperately to do something, thinking it will help what we want to manifest come quicker. The second we start “efforting,” we start trying to paddle against the current. Nothing we want is upstream. If we just relax and focus on what brings us joy, the momentum of well being from the Universe will deliver us directly to what we want on the path of least resistance.

Afraid that this process of “allowing” is lazy? It is. Think about it. Everything we have been told in our society is wrong. Lazy can be a good thing. If we focus on quieting the mind and softening our resistance, the Universe can speak to us in inspirations. We might get an idea, have an opportunity present itself, and because it is divinely inspired…it appears and is executed with ease and joy. It isn’t work. It is enjoyable.

What if we are caught up in a sweep of momentum, and you are afraid it isn’t going in a positive direction? When I started to go to the doctor to figure out what was going on with me, it seemed like I was on an automatic roller coaster ride. First I needed an ultrasound, than a biopsy, than a scrape, then surgery. It would have been very easy to get caught up in fear and negativity. I, instead, made the unusual choice (for me) to just go with the momentum. I understood that the Universe only had my ultimate well being in mind. I just had to trust in that and relax and let the Universe work on my behalf. Ultimately, I would up okay and feeling better than I had in years.

What if I died? Well, aren’t we all going to at some point? Besides, I believe that death only puts us at one with God’s love. It is the ultimate reset button. You don’t need to fear death. Everything you are confronted with in this life was done with your well being in mind. Relax. Enjoy. Be present and witness the glory of God.

If you decide to give this a try, decide how effective it is based on how you ultimately feel. I love my life so much more since I have changed my mindset. If I hadn’t, I might as well have died because I was so miserable. Some people may think you have lost your mind. So what. You will draw better friends to you who get it and help you enjoy your journey or keep you pointed in the right direction.

I went from someone who hated the journey, who always wanted to get to the end of a project as fast as possible, to someone who is actually enjoying the path more than the destination. There is so much to see, to do, and to enjoy in this life. I have also enjoyed seeing my rockets of desire come to fruition in the most creative ways. You might think you wanted something a certain way, but if you remain open…you might see your desire manifest in ways that are far better than anything you could have imagined.

I have also come to realize that life will constantly test you on your ability to stay focused on the positive. I listen to Abraham Hicks and other spiritual leaders on a daily basis to keep centered. I also have amazing friends who can help me conquer trouble when it comes up.

If you try to capitalize on the law of attraction, you will on occasion have moments of true clarity. It is in these moments where I can look at everything that has happened in my life and realize that it all makes complete sense. Nothing that has happened in your life was without a purpose; it is all worthwhile. It is in these moments that you can sit back and truly say, “everything always works out for me.”

 

New Beginnings – A Time of Action

I am learning to realize that the one thing that you’re the most fearful about is probably the thing that you should face and release. You are already thinking about it, so you are creating momentum about it. Sooner or latter the universe is going to give you what you want.

As I realized that I had cancer, I had to laugh at some crazy coincidences. I was born on June 27, so my sign is Cancer. As a child, in the summer I was trapped in my home without adult supervision daily. I would get lost in St. Jude marathons and worry about those bald headed kids that where sure to die. My mother battled colon cancer for two years before passing away at the age of 56. My father got the exact same cancer. I worked for the American Cancer Society for five years.

When I was diagnosed, I did something that I had never done before. I only started to focus on the positive. I changed my thought patterns, found my self-worth, and built a bubble of love around me. I raised my vibration. As Abraham Hicks states, it is really the only thing we should focus on. Let the Universe pull together the rest. I just began to trust. Trust that I was put here on the planet to have fun, learn, and love. Nothing in this life is meant to be against you. The Universe, your spirit guides, all that lives and breaths is behind you, supporting you.

I knew after my surgery that I was going to be okay. I was loved. Everything was for a reason. Even though I still go through those darker periods on occasion, I have never been as depressed as I was before this all happened. I came close to it last week because I began to judge myself. The second you let expectations and judgment enter your reality, it is easy to get bumped off your high-flying disk.

Sometimes you feel reluctance to do something for a reason.

Your internal guidance system lets you know if you want to attempt something before you are ready for it. I used to judge myself as lazy when I got this feeling, and plowed through whatever I thought needed to be done, just to be done. I thought this was one of the key characteristics of being an adult. I also assumed that being an adult should suck.

This never really worked out well. I often resented doing what I was reluctant to do. Sometimes I thought that if I martyred myself enough, someone would see and praise my sacrifice. Nine times out of ten, people wouldn’t notice (which would make me even angrier) or I would brush off their complements and accolades.

If you can wrap your brain around the fact that you are a vibrational entity, that is connected to source directly, and the vortex of anything and everything you want is available to you if you can just match its vibration…..you can embrace your internal guidance system’s warning that you are not ready to move on yet. I have heard Abraham Hicks refer to this as waiting for the grid to fill in. You don’t have to do anything to speed up this grid; the Universe has the manifesting covered. All you need to do is soften your resistance, and ride the boat downstream. Nothing you want is ever upstream. Raise your vibration by doing what brings you happiness and joy. Trust that the Universe has your back.

For a control freak, who was raised to believe that you hard to work hard and sacrifice for everything you get in this world, it took me years to understand this. Even when I finally got it, I still sifting through negative thoughts. I knew that my Emotional Guidance system was in place to let me know that when I felt bad about something. I was firing off rockets of desire in the opposite direction. It only helped clarify what I wanted, but it still would scare me.

One of the ways to actively work through fear is to confront it. Calling the mortgage company for me was extremely tough, even if it isn’t for someone else. If I start to feel my throat close up, and I don’t want to tell someone something because I am afraid of upsetting them or embarrassing myself….I now know that I just need to do it. If I do it right away, I feel so much better. If there is a rough patch that develops, immediate attention prevents permanent scars.

I know this. I have become intimately aware of this principle, but I still find myself choking up. Sometimes my body will grind to a halt and not want to function. I may have missed the opportunity to speak up. That doesn’t mean that the opportunity for positive confrontation has passed. Focus on improving your vibration. When you feel better, just strike while the iron is hot.

I talked through everything with Alex and Max for weeks before I gained the courage to face my fear and call the mortgage company. It got my mind right. I worked on treating myself with kindness and understanding, instead of belittling my perceived flaws. I watched others do courageous things, and took courage from their demonstrations. I listened to nothing but positive and affirming programming. Finally, I realized that I had the least resistance in the morning when I got up. One day I just got up and did it before I lost the courage to it.

I am not saying that this is an easy process, but I feel like I grow by leaps and bounds when I do it and feel so much better. Inspired action feels good. It feels easy. Often, it also indicates that the best possible outcome may be achieved as well. Make decisions out of love, not fear. Don’t second guess yourself once you have decided.

I think being diagnosed with cancer was something I had dreaded my entire life. Once it happened, I was able to say been there, done that. It wasn’t so scary. Now I can focus on what I want in life instead of what I don’t.

The Learning Process

I was a good student in school. Often, I picked up things quickly. I was a people pleaser, so being able to quickly understand a lesson and receive the teacher’s good graces fed me. It was the kind of attention I lacked at home, and I thrived on it. I am a great test taker. I knew how to read test to gauge what kind of answers they were looking for, and was capable of making educated guesses for the ones I couldn’t figure out. I am quick to recognize a sequence or a pattern and follow it. These skills have served me well during my school years.

Yet, life has taught me that being a great student doesn’t always add up to actually learning the content. More often than not, I could cram lots of information in my head for a project or a test and promptly forget it shortly after. This was clear when I left high school Spanish for college Spanish. You always build on top of previous knowledge in Spanish. If I hadn’t been taught something, or if I forgot it, it was hard to not waste a lot of time in playing catch-up.

Because I was such a good student, I was a horrible learner. My educational process consisted in what I could do to make the instructor happy as opposed to actually learning new skills. Even as a teacher, I can see what section of students are there to “please” me, what section of students actually got things easily, and what section of students were really struggling to wrap their brain around the information. (We’ll leave out the section of students who didn’t care at this point.)

As a teacher, it is easier to play to the students who want your approval or get it quickly. They make your life easier and can give you a false sense of accomplishment because you can rationalize that it was through your efforts that they succeeded. In reality, these students would do well in any class. The students that make you pull your hair out to find new ways of explaining concepts, made you serve as coach to motivate them to keep trying, and cheerleader when they finally got it….are the students who really make you earn your paycheck.

Often, teacher preparation programs do little to really help you teach. Teachers often rely on their own experiences with learning to help them break down a subject to teach. If you were one of the students who got everything quickly, there can quickly be a barrier between you and the students who don’t operate the same way. Sure, several schools have employed diversity programs, special education training, and other programs to help ensure that teachers meet students at every level, but I think that they can sometimes miss the mark entirely. I think what a teacher really needs to do is to be placed in a situation where they are forced to learn something new that takes them out of their comfort zone.

For instance, I tried to pick up knitting. From the first second of just trying to cast the yarn onto the needle, I was miserable at it. Alex, a quick study to knitting, had the patience of a saint while he was trying to show me how to do it. I was easily frustrated. I was use to things coming easily to me, and couldn’t believe how I couldn’t get how to tie a piece of yarn onto a needle. Besides just getting the yarn to cooperate into the appropriate knot, you also had to be consistent with your yarn tension, pay attention to the knots being the same size, and worry about your yarn not falling to the floor and pulling out the last segment you had been working on for the last hour.

Although I had all the time in the world, had a great teacher, motivation, and the tools to do it, learning to knit still took a lot of effort. Because it was foreign to me, I had to retrain my brain to do something. I had to make what my mind was thinking and translate it into a physical response. If this line of communication didn’t work, it showed in my garment. Patience was a critical element to the process. I had to be patient enough to understand where communication in my body was breaking down, examine it, and tweak it. I had to be patient enough to understand that I wasn’t going to get it right on the first try, and needed to work my muscles out to respond to my mind in a way that was fruitful to my project. I had to be able to take critical feedback and respond to it positively. I had to separate the criticism from an indictment on my own personal worth. If I was having trouble doing one aspect of the task, it didn’t mean I was stupid, it just meant I needed more practice.

I also had to learn how to deal with frustration. If I didn’t check it, it had a tendency to build and grow until it could find a way to escape. This could happen in something as physical as tossing the project and all its materials across a room, to excusing myself to the nearest porch to sit in rage. In order to check myself, I needed to make sure that all my other bodily functions were running smoothly. Was I fed? Did I have to go to the bathroom? Was I hydrated? How was I feeling before I sat down? Was I in the right mind space to be taking this on? Was I safe? Did I have the energy to invest in this endeavor?

This is what students go through every day. They might not think about it consciously, or they may not have the necessary communication skills or the maturity to recognize it or give voice to it. As a teacher, you are supposed to recognize it with or without a student’s help. When you are surrounded by 150 students on various points of the spectrum, it is easy to miss a few.

When I put myself in this place, I can finally connect to what my students have to sift through in order to really learn something as oppose to regurgitating it. I can relate to students who get so frustrated that they just give up and check out. What is the point if you can’t see the benefit? Sometimes, you have to learn to just trust that there is a beneficial outcome if you can’t see it. If you have any trust issues, this can be the hardest part of the learning process.

Over the course of several months, working little by little, I finally finished a scarf that I presented to my sister for Christmas one year. It was not perfect, but I had finished what I had started. It felt good to finally finish what I had started, and even better to have something to show for it. Often we ask students to work on things that they won’t understand the benefit of for another decade or more. We then ask ourselves why are they not motivated? It is because they can’t see the payoff and they don’t trust your interpretation of it.

I had a chance to employ my learning process again with a magic piano app put out by Smule. I downloaded it over a year ago. I instantly loved the idea of pretending to play a real piano. It had a Rockband style of play that I was totally jazzed by. Even though I had great motivation to learn it, I realized quickly that my current skill level was not enough. I had rhythm, but I lacked the physical strength in my wrist to play what my mind was asking it to do.

I began playing a little every day. Sometimes my wrist would hurt and I would have to stop. Frustration would surface when I couldn’t play at the level that I wanted to. I would go without playing for days, and then pick it up again. At the time, I just enjoyed it enough to tinker with it.

Eventually, Alex caught on to the game. He had a natural knack for it. Even though I had already been playing for more than six months, he developed more skill in minutes than I had in months. I kept playing. The idea of buying a subscription so we had more access to the song library came up. Alex bought it without hesitation. I was so jealous, but I kept playing in free mode. Eventually, the boys asked me why I didn’t buy the subscription if I loved the game so much. I couldn’t justify spending money on such a superficial thing until I realized that I really did enjoy it that much. So, I took the plunge.

Having the song library open up was like Christmas to me. I enjoyed bouncing from pop hits to classical pieces. I at first played it for the joy of playing it. Alex than showed me the “achievements” section. There were several tasks designed to help you explore the game. To this point, I had enjoyed jumping levels as a measure of my progress, but this opened a whole new level to the game.

I must take a moment to mention that I had never finished a video game before. Alex and Max can whip through a Super Mario Brothers game in one night. I have never had the sensation of “winning” a game like that. I am also the type of person who HATES the process/journey. I like doing shows with short rehearsal schedule because I hate rehearsals. I just want to get on stage and do the show.

So, I looked at this “achievements” page as a challenge. I had accomplished several of them over the course of the year I spent playing in the free mode, but there were TONS that I had not checked off yet. Alex, being the astute guy he was, had already checked off most of them in the matter of a few months.

I began playing with a different focus. Instead of just playing for the fun of it, I got down to business. I was checking off achievements right and left, pounding it out. I learned new instruments, played at higher levels of difficulty, and played songs outside of my normal genres. Each time I clicked off an achievement, I felt more and more accomplished.

Eventually, I only had one achievement left to unlock. I needed to play 1000 songs. At first, I felt like I had played so many that I had to be close to getting there. When I looked at my progress tab, I saw that I had only played 178 of 1000 songs. What? I had been playing this app for over a year and I had only played 178 songs? I then committed myself to hitting 1000.

I am not a super goal oriented person. I thought of the diets I have been on and how I would obsess over calories to the point I would become unmotivated and quit. I am quick to toss off minor achievements as nothing. Still, I wanted to set a goal and achieve it. In this arena, nothing was dependent on the outcome. I was free to do it or not do it. This is why I believed I could stick with it to the end.

For over a week, I was constantly playing Smule. I would get started and look up several hours latter wondering where the time had gone. I was a machine. I noted that playing the songs became less fun for me because I was just playing through them to check it off of my “to do” list. I would check in with Alex, who was trying to do the same thing. Not that we really had a competition going, but feeling a little competition with him was motivating.

I would play Smule on the toilet till I couldn’t feel my legs and played some more. I played Smule until my wrist went numb. I ignored my cat, who kept nuzzling the phone to get my attention. I ignored my hunger and bodily functions to keep playing. My eyes would cross and I could barely see, but I still kept playing. I had to reach my goal at all costs. I than added one more stipulation, I wanted to do it before my subscription was up for renewal.

I would play for hours and see my progress jump a fraction of a percent. There were days were I was over it, but I continued to play. I played so many Asian pop songs, that they all began to sound the same. Finally, on one Sunday, I realized I only had 178 songs left to play. I sat down and played over 8 hours of Smule in order to cross the finish line. I had to force myself to take a break halfway because my eyes could no longer focus on the screen. I began to wonder if I was causing permanent damage, but I kept going.

Unfortunately, when you get to this achievement, there is no special animation. No princess being unlocked in a castle. I had to keep toggling between screens to find out when I finally crossed the threshold. I took screenshots of before and after. Eventually, I hit 1000 and sent out a Facebook notice and a text to Alex. He texted me back a lovely picture with animated fireworks. I noticed that Smule only had a catalogue of 1011 songs, so I played the last 11 as a victory lap.

In less than three weeks of having a subscription, I basically beat Smule. Through my sore eyes, numb, and hungry body, I felt like a victor. I had finally achieved a goal that I thought would be hard to obtain. I was able to get past obstacles of time and life to make it happen. I built up the muscle and coordination I hadn’t had before in order to achieve my goal. Even though my goal meant nothing to anyone else, I still found the motivation to achieve it.

I know that some might find obsessing about a video game as pathetic, or even little dangerous, but it was powerful to me. Games are just virtual worlds. If I spent the same time and energy on trying to learn a real piano, wouldn’t it been more worthwhile? Possibly. Still, the whole experience reinforced that I could achieve any goal I set for myself. I could see how the same sacrifices I made to win this game could be done to achieve goals with a little more value at stake. I realize the importance of an accountability partner and a little healthy competition. I felt how one could get over lack of motivation during more lackluster times, and how to make parts of the process exciting with mini goals and challenges.

In the end, it was a powerful lesson for me. I saw how I operated in certain situations and learned more about my tendencies. I understood my drive to pound things out and how it can be both positive and negative. I found ways to channel my frustration into motivation to achieve my goal. I also could see how I could incorporate this same experience into my teaching.

So, if you are a parent or a teacher, or someone who would like to see yourself achieve a goal that you think is impossible, I encourage you to step out of the box and try to learn something new. You may pick up a new and useful skill. You may learn something new about yourself. You may also learn how to be more empathetic to those going through the learning process and pick up new ways to help them make the necessary connections to find success.

Who Am I, Really?

A big part of this last year has been trying to get real with the real me. Up to 2012, I was a miserable single lady. I felt so left behind by my friends who married and had kids. I didn’t want it, but at the same time I felt undesirable because I wasn’t a part of it. For decades, I repressed any sort of sexuality. At first, I thought I was too fat or unpretty to be hit on. I then convinced myself that I couldn’t force anyone to love me so I should focus on only that which I could control. I overbooked my schedule and worked myself to death to avoid sitting with the real me.

I believe with all of my heart that my cancer is directly related to my dis-ease with my sexuality. I repressed every urge. I shied my eyes away from anything sexual. I took comfort in knowing that porn didn’t turn me on. In some ways, I just thought I was above such desires. The life of a nun looked interesting. I didn’t have to submit to anyone. I wasn’t caught up in a wash of confused emotions related to pleasure or sex because it wasn’t even on the table. In the end, I was just miserable.

I don’t know why sex was such a negative topic for me. I grew up in the church and knew that good girls didn’t do that. I believe my mother was abused. She instilled in me a level of distrust in men…which I didn’t really believe, except when it came to sex. I scared myself silly about STDs. I vowed to never get accidentally pregnant, because who wanted to deal with that?

Even though, I heard that sex was supposed to be awesome, my first time wasn’t really anything to write home about. I kept thinking, “Is this what everyone is in such a hissy about?” I was relieved to not be a virgin at 19, but then I was concerned that it was a slippery slope to slut hood.

This whole time, I strived to be a lady. I traveled around the world. I bought clothes, shoes, and make-up to try and be prettier, more presentable. I went into debt trying to buy things to fix me. I never understood why I couldn’t stick to beauty regimens. I got tired of trying to make myself look pretty, because it was never going to happen.

In reality, the only thing in my way was poor self-esteem, or was it?

Now that I am bald, I have actually not worn wigs a lot. I do like to put them on occasionally, but I prefer a hat or a hoodie. I don’t mind dresses, but I gravitate to pants, t-shirts, and hoodies. My excuse for not having a more diverse wardrobe is money, but it really isn’t that at all. I like the comfort of what I am wearing.

When I flipped the switch and came to the conclusion that I am attracted to girls, I immediately thought of myself as wanting to be more of a lipstick lesbian. How cute is it for two girls that look like girls to be into each other. As I looked through lesbian profiles, I saw more manly girls and felt instant disdain. If I wanted a boy, I would just go for a boy.

Being bald, people just look at you differently. Immediately, they assume that I am a boy. I have been called “sir” more times in the last month than I could care to admit. It doesn’t feel good. First, I attach it to looking ugly. I must be a “handsome” woman. Secondly, I feel that mistaking me for a man must immediately make someone believe that I am transgender. I don’t want to be a man. I don’t want to grow a beard. Whatever! I have been sensing a feeling that the boys suspect some level of gender bending in me. I feel they are intently listening to me to find an “a-ha” moment..

Some how, the topic of going to a strip joint came up. The boys thought it would be a learning experience to take me to one and get me a lap dance. I felt myself immediately throw up walls. A girl can’t go into one of those places. I would be so embarrassed. I feared the boys would get off on my embarrassment and ride it for entertainment. What if I wasn’t attracted to them? What if I was? Instant fear shut down my entire system.

It leads to a very interesting conversation. What am I afraid of? Do I think strip clubs are morally wrong? No. Do I think the girls are skanky or sluts? No, actually, I think I admire them. I love dancing. I love the female form. It is like a show with beautiful topless women in it. Alex downloaded pics of the club; it was plush, dark, and full of red velvet. I actually love that esthetic. Alex and Max could visualize how awesome this could be for me, and I instantly wanted to hate them for it. They offered to hold my hand, come in with me; they promised that wouldn’t push me past my comfort level. Something in side of me was just fuming. I was facing meltdown. I could see exactly what they were seeing, and totally agreed with it, but there was another part of me that was grossed out.

The biggest emotion was embarrassment. I was embarrassed to be a girl liking girls. I was embarrassed to think that I would be in a situation with such sexual stimulation, that I thought I would get overwhelmed and just die. I didn’t want witnesses to see me meltdown and be so vulnerable. It was so polar opposite to who I thought I once was, or who I once tried to be. There was immediate shame. The emotions were almost enough to shut me down completely, but I was used to this pattern of behavior. As I was internally freaking out, I felt like I stepped back and try to examine the meltdown in progress. I could hear Alex and Max, but I refused to look them in the eyes. Still, I held open a doorway to hear the truth.

In reality, it is a perfect idea. No relationship commitments. No touching them. Dark. Visual. As Alex called it, it is live action porn. As much as I love scantily clad women dancers, I am positive I would enjoy the experience. I understood that it was a great idea, I just couldn’t bust through all the baggage. Part of me had never thought of it before, and was in denial that it was even a possibility. It was like a whole new world had sprung open. Another part of me felt all the shame, damage, guilt, immorality, and embarrassment of the situation.

Obviously, these same hang-ups must have an impact on my ability to find a girlfriend. In some ways, I have confronted so much and am open. In other ways, I am still completely pinched off from my sexuality. Thank god I learned to masturbate. I have a prescription to do so at least twice a week from my radiation oncologist to help combat the collapse of my vagina from the radiation. I think a bigger part of the problem is that I still don’t know exactly where I fall on the spectrum.

Abraham Hicks says that the first part of the Law of Attraction is that we send off rockets of desire every minute of every day. Just being in our environment, we can’t help but log our desires. The difficulty is in the allowing. We create so much resistance, that our grids can’t fill in. We can either choose to allow what we are attracted to in our lives, or we can revel in the absence of what we want. The Universe is just waiting for us to soften our resistance.

If I take out immediate judgment, whether it be my own or that of others, an interesting pattern emerges. There is not any really new information, I have known this for some time, but there is openness to the information and an understanding if I can keep the judgment at bay for just long enough to get a clearer picture.

I have always been attracted to boy stuff. I have always been a sort of tomboy. I grew up through the late seventies and eighties. Nerdy boys had so much available to them. I always asked Santa for Matchbox cars, or the entire catalogue of Star Wars toys. So many times, my efforts to lay out these desires ended up with a pink radio in the exact same model as my younger sister. My hair would be matted. I wouldn’t sit still for my mom to brush it out. I loved playing soccer with the boys at lunch during elementary school. When I asked to play in a league, my mother instantly shot it down.

These preferences continued as I got older. My best friends were often boys. I was always considered “one of the guys.” I relished blowing people’s expectations of girls out of the water. When a guy at a retail job that I worked at mentioned that girls weren’t strong enough to start one machine, I instantly proved him wrong. I like tools and am interested in DIY shows. I sat in a circle of all men in Japan, at my brother’s wedding, and drank brandy along with them. I have always been interested in a man cave. I have an affinity for the image of the old bachelor in “My Fair Lady.”

Still, I have no desire to cut off my tits and take testosterone. I love to get gussied up as a pretty girl on occasion and flirt. It is like a cat playing with a mouse, killing it, and not eating it. I could see myself golfing. I love Seth MacFarlane. Family Guy is a comedy treasure. I watch “Jackass” movies on opening night. Seth Rogen and I could hang. I even loved the movie “Ted.”

Again, none of this is shocking to me. I have known it all of my life. I guess the problem lies in the fact that I have been judging the fact that I have liked it all of my life. I realize that my concept of what is expected from a girl is different. I fear being judged as an ugly but not enough to repress it as far down as my sexual identity.

Honestly, I don’t know what to do. Really though, is there anything I am suppose to do? I think it is just another layer of understanding. It is the peeling back of another onion layer and reminding myself that I am perfectly okay just as I am. I don’t have to worry about slipping off some slippery slope. Getting real with myself doesn’t mean that I will put myself in any actual danger. The Universe has my back. Nothing in this life is meant to hurt me or punish me. I don’t have to define myself by the stereotypes and judgments of others. The only person I really have to listen to is myself.

I don’t have to do anything other than follow what comes with ease and joy. Life is too short to live like a zombie. Maybe that is why there are so many zombie things. Don’t too many people medicate and choke down what they thing they are suppose to do every day instead of just living true to themselves? I refuse to live in autopilot because it is safe. There is so much more to this existence if we can stay true to who we are.

Forgiveness and Allowing

My last post was written at a pretty low point. I want to emphasize that Max and Alex are not bad or evil. I thought it was important to post that story to show how the mind makes stuff up. Well, it is not a full work of fiction, but the emotions and stories you tell yourself about the situation are.

Only you are responsible for how you feel. If you feel crappy emotionally, it is only you who can change it. As the post was aptly titled, resistance is what it was. I had completely cut or pinched myself off from the love of others, from the love of source. Don’t we all do that from time to time? We are feeling low, so anything that triggers us can send us down a spiral.

Before my more recent slightly more enlightened self, that is the only way I knew how to deal. Someone upsets you, and as an immediate defense mechanism…I would ball up, cut myself out, build walls, go silent, do anything to avoid. In a fight or flight world, my first instinct is always flight.

Before you can really look at the underlying issues, I must really discuss the concept of low blood sugar. If you are not eating every two hours, and are known to be insulin resistant or diabetic, you must always take into account blood sugar. I am not saying that if your blood sugar is low that you can use that as the only excuse for bad behavior, but it plays a crucial role.

I have found that when my blood sugar drops, my whole demeanor changes. I am touchy and impatient. Anger is easier to access. I also find that it can heighten emotional bouts. That is why my friends and I keep protein shakes handy. It can ward off indiscretions until you can find sustenance. I am also working on losing weight and cutting sugar and carbs from my diet.

Now, blood sugar aside, if I am on a low energy swing of things, or am not feeling well, I have to understand that this can trigger things to be magnified in my eyes. I knew I was a lower energy when I went to the boys’ house. I was aware, but other issues pushed me to lose control.

The truth is that I struggle with personal contact and connection. Alex, bless his heart, has been trying to help me. He wants to help me desensitize myself so I can open my heart to more intimate connections with others. Thank god he has been willing to do so. In many ways, it has been a super healing process.

When they were trying to make the connection between my resistance to him and his resistance to my hugs (on occasion) it was from a space of wanting to support growth. Through a combination of low energy, low blood sugar, and fear….I could only really hear one thing. “We don’t want your love. We don’t want your hugs.”

All of a sudden, a world without any physical touch came through my head and lit up all sorts of buttons, bells, and whistles. I could feel a “red alert” activated in my body and an immediate wall begin to go up. My ability to listen was compromised and all I could hear were my fear filled thoughts. The filter was tilted to support the view that the world was out to get me. I was not loved. I would die alone, etc.

I am not proud of my behavior. In reality, my need to get away stemmed from a knowledge of knowing that I was not in a place to respond properly. I knew I was off the deep end. I knew I was not making sense. I became embarrassed. I was afraid. I felt so unworthy of having the equivalent of a “hissy fit” and wanted to hide.

For two days, I knew that I was ridiculous. My mind tried to figure out how to make it through if I was cut off from everyone. I started going through worse case scenarios. They were just stories, stories I made up in the attempt to be self-protective but were really in place to feed the ego.

I admire seeing parents who can help their child work through their emotions. As an adult, I have had to learn through trial in error, sometimes with a therapist, more often than not with the boys. It is okay to ask for help. It is okay to push through the embarrassment and ask for forgiveness.

On Saturday night, I realized that life is too short to continue this charade and I asked if the boys could use a visitor. They welcomed me with open arms. I even got hugs from each of them in the end. The only one who kept me pinched off from love was me.

We are all connected. We are all made from the same stardust. We only make life more difficult for ourselves when we believe, for whatever the reason, that we are separate from one another. We feel bad when we feel unworthy because we know instinctively that this is so counter to the truth. God is in us all. We are worthy because we are here. There is no other criteria needed for worthiness.

On Sunday, I actually had a session of Reiki. I had never done it before, but I knew if it could balance and align energies that I could definitely use it. During my session, I was told to reduce sugar and grains and drink more water. I was also told that she was told to do a lot of work on my heart chakra. I confessed that I was just accused of covering my heart chakra and had been having difficulty allowing love and intimacy in my life.

She said that her guides told her that this is carried over from a previous life. Apparently, it is one of the things I chose to work on in this life. I need to forgive others and myself more and allow more love in my life. Instead of cutting things off when a situation arises, I need to forgive and look for the lesson to be learned from the situation.

I also came across some writing about resistance. It was in relationship to change in a business setting, but I think it applies. All change is met with some form of resistance. Matter of fact, the more resistant we are, the closer we are to making a change. Growth requires stretching beyond our comfort zone. Just like exercise makes your muscles sore, because it is building and strengthening tissue. Abraham Hicks says that when we are caught in the momentum of a situation, it is best to go with the flow. It is when we try to “effort” ourselves, or try to fight the current, that we cause ourselves unneeded pain and suffering.

When I go in to get an infusion or a blood draw, I work hard to just breath and relax. I focus on the positive, and just allow and trust the nurse to do her thing. For the most part, it has made each experience easier and usually less painful. Matter of fact, my ease puts them at ease and allows them to relax and do what they have been trained to do with the least amount of discomfort.

Again, I am not proud that I had such a profound meltdown. It didn’t feel good, and I caused a lot of unnecessary pain for myself. If I would have allowed the fear and emotion to wash over me, recognized it, and just released it, I would have had a better time. If I would have just communicated what was going on with me, instead of getting embarrassed, shutting down, then looking for other parties to push blame on, I would have benefitted easier from the experience and all parties would have learned and grown in a more positive way.

The fact that it happened differently is really neither good nor bad. It is what I needed to experience at that time. It was where I was at on the path of my journey. I still learned an immense amount.

Again, of course if someone is abusing you on a regular basis or you know in your gut that you need to put some distance between you and someone else, do it. I have found that if you cut out someone because of an issue that you don’t want to deal with, sometimes it will show up again in a different relationship. Running away is easy. Staying and working through something might appear more difficult at first, but the benefit is so much more rewarding.

On Thursday, I will have my last infusion. My loved ones will be there with me. As much as I don’t look forward to the process of pokes and achy bones, this is my last opportunity to remind myself that I love me and that I am worth fighting for. My life has been enriched by this experience. The future holds nothing but positivity and light. I can’t even imagine all the wonder that I have in store, but I know that it exists.

I am not the same person as when I started. I hope that anyone who has to go through something like this would use it as an opportunity to get more in touch with themselves and use it as an excuse to determine what you really do want and go after it.

At the beginning, I was so afraid to share my thoughts and feelings with others. First, I didn’t know if anyone would really take an interest. The biggest fear was sharing my mistakes, or really admitting that everything wasn’t always okay. I heard a writer say that you only need three qualities to be a writer: something to say, the ability to say it, and the courage to do so…which is the most difficult of the three.

I hope sharing these stories really helps you out on your path. This isn’t the end; it is only really a beginning. Thank you for being a part of this journey with me.