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.

Being Okay With Me

I am 36 years old. Aren’t you supposed to know who you are by now? Shouldn’t your identity have been set during those awkward teen years? Well last year, at about this time, I had an epiphany. I had gone out on a date with a man that had checked off all the boxes on my wish list. I didn’t think this guy really existed, but here he was in front of me. After a nice first date, I never heard from him again. I was dumb founded. For a week or two, I didn’t know how I wanted to proceed. If I really wanted a relationship, why wasn’t I able to manifest it?

Cut to the boys and I talking, and them asking the fateful phrase, “so tell us about your lesbian tendencies.” I had worked on the depression. I became aware of my desire to constantly please others. I started working on being more vulnerable and having the courage to speak my truth. When confronted, I began to examine my life and came to the “a-ha” that the possibility of being a lesbian was pretty high.

That night, as I went through my past, I realized that this was the answer that only made sense. Why was I so in the dark? I had always been pro-gay. Why would I then be so far in the closet? I was so concerned with pleasing others, my parents, my family…that I wouldn’t even let myself entertain the thought of who I really was. I had spent decades repressing my sex drive and lying to myself about who I really was. I no longer had functioning instincts.

There was a huge release when I finally connected the dots. Maybe I wasn’t as screwed up as I thought. Just as relief overcame me, I was also slammed with fear. What does this mean? If I had been lying to myself for so long, how do I know what is true and what is not? I didn’t want to be “special.” Who the hell am I? Was I going to hell? I don’t hate men; I love them. That can’t be compatible with being a lesbian. I don’t want to be an ugly dyke? How would others in my life react?

I had one major meltdown the next day, but then I got over it. I had been single for so long that I kind have already given up the idea of having kids or even getting married. I had gay role models in my life. I knew I could do this. Luckily, no friends or family members have disowned me.

It has been a huge process. Still, I am by no means fully there. I tried dating girls. I was closer to hitting the mark, but I was also not having much success. I knew I felt like I needed to focus on me, but I got pressure to “keep looking.” I need to experience “sex” and “closeness” from someone else according to my friends. The dating process should be fun and exciting. Well, it isn’t. I felt able to be myself more than I had ever been before, but nothing was clicking.

I haven’t seen anyone else sense the beginning of December. Getting ready for my 27 radiation appointments, I wasn’t really looking to start anything new up. I think this was the right decision for me, but I could tell Max and Alex were afraid that if I didn’t immediately get on the fish bandwagon that I might never.

Time went on. Christmas happened. I was sort of in a funk; the weather landscape was less than cheery. Alex and Max kept asking, “Are you going to have sex this year? Is it even a priority?” I would try to shrink and fade back into the shadows.

Since my bit of clarity, I have realized that in some ways I know nothing about myself. When I look at who I am at any particular time in my life, was that really me? In some ways, it was just a mask. I wanted to be pretty and feel girly, but my stasis was a girl of comfort and practicality. I like to put on make up on occasion, but I couldn’t commit to doing it daily. It felt like torture. I love long hair, but I didn’t want to fuss with it.

With Alex doing drag, we would have dress up parties. I really enjoyed this. I felt pretty when we got made up. As I saw video and pictures of us, I equated being pretty with being of value. I could see myself as sexy. I started dreaming of a future where I looked closer to the quarky style of Zooey Deschanel, the Victorian drama of Stevie Nicks, or a little more Earth goddess.

As treatment went on, I became more self-conscious of my changing body. I had no hair, my eyebrows went for a while, I still had surgery scars, and I had a perpetual issue with boils in my nether region. I felt gross and radioactive. The last thing I wanted to do was to get close enough to someone to have me just be flat out rejected for what I knew I was unable to change.

This combined with pressure to “keep trying,” family and daddy troubles, crazy weather, and radiation therapy kind of put me in a funk. I became very focused on the short term. Alex and Max could sense this disconnect and slowing of my growth process. They were concerned that I was feeling “dead” inside. I had stopped dreaming and my motivation to get out of bed and attack life was lower than normal.

Through many conversations, it became clear that even though I had “come out” to all of the important people in my life, and they were cool with me, I was by no means cool with myself. I was still resisting what being a lesbian meant.  I cringed at the stereotypes. I didn’t really feel super butch or super femme. I still judged many aspects of myself to the point that I was still beating myself up for being inferior because of them. It was easier to hold on to the disappointment of not being who I thought I was, than to face the truth of who I am. If I was still resisting the truth, it felt like there was still hope that I could be what I thought I wanted to be, what I perceived was more desirable by others.

Alex and Max were catching on. They asked me, if I had to make a choice between 1) having a life partner that I could share everything with and be the fourth member of our little posse for life (never being able to write or journal again) or 2) have my great relationship with the boys and be able to live by writing for the rest of my life….what would I choose? Instantly, I could never imagine not being able to write. I felt like that shouldn’t be my answer, but I knew it was true to how I felt.

Finally, it dawned on the boys that maybe what I don’t need immediately is a relationship. Maybe, I was more of a tomboy than I let myself believe I was. Maybe I was meant to live a single life. Maybe everything I already was is exactly what I am supposed to be. Maybe the real lesson is that I need to continue to release who I think I should be and get radically comfortable with who I am.

With this mindset, there is a radical sense of relief. Stop fighting. Embrace who I am without judgment, and just “be.” On the other hand, there is an overwhelming sense of fear. I have been obviously conditioned to not be who I am for most of my life. By releasing the judgment and the guilt of not being who I thought I should be…there is a sense of huge loss because the foundation of everything you have built your life on seems to be shifting. It is easy to confuse this with the foundation crumbling and the house falling in on itself.

It is a Pandora’s box. You are afraid of what will be revealed when you open the lid. On some level, you are convinced that you won’t be able to handle it. For most of my life, I must have gotten that message from others. I strongly believed that I could be anything I wanted to be. If I wanted to be this image of a straight good girl, why couldn’t I be her? By releasing this, wasn’t I just giving up? Wasn’t my failure more about my lack of character than it was about being true to whom I am suppose to be?

Every night for the last year, I have been listening to clips of Abraham Hicks from YouTube. I believe in the Law of Attraction and use these audio recordings to help refocus my thoughts. What I have learned is that the Universe or God has our back. The Universe is not going to give us anything or any experience that we haven’t asked for. We may not see that always, but in time the dots do connect.

The most important thing for everyone to do is to follow their truth and to have fun. Having fun and being happy raises our vibration and helps us to attract positive and wonderful things from our vortex of everything we have ever really wanted. Our emotions are our guide to how close we are to be vibrationally in line with our truth. When we get angry with ourselves, we are separating ourselves from our Source. We know it is not true, and the worse we feel the farther away from the truth we are getting. In reality, life is suppose to come with “ease” but we let other people’s reality or judgment get in our way. We believe lies that we are suppose to work harder, that we should exercise more will power and determination.

If we stop listening to this noise from outside of us, and listen to our truth from within, we are aligning ourselves with our Source. When we accept what is true for us, we can relish in our possibilities, delight in the banquet of possibility by viewing through the lens of what we really want. We can choose our thoughts in order to focus on feeling good and release our fear and judgment. The need to harbor fear to protect oneself is released. The Universe sees we are ready and helps guide us closer to what we desire. The easier it comes, the better. We are closer to being a vibrational match to what we want and our ability to manifest is awe-inspiring.

For my entire life, I have been fighting the current. I have been forcing myself up stream. Alex mentioned that I am like a fish who has been trying their whole life to climb a tree and never understanding why I can’t. Since I wasn’t true to who I am, I never was able to really manifest what I thought I wanted because it wasn’t what I really wanted. I have become more aware of what I am doing, but only recently really understood.

The focus of this last week has really been getting comfortable with who I am. I am perfectly okay exactly as I am, right now. Not yesterday. Not 20 years ago. I am worthy and perfect right now! It is okay. It is okay if I don’t like make-up. It is okay if I have short hair. It is okay if I am overweight. It is okay if I don’t want to be in a relationship. It doesn’t mean that it will always be that way, but in order to be fully rooted in my power…I have to accept who I am now.

Hijacked

Since Christmas, I had been a little bummed out. I continued with my radiation appointments and received a special visit from Sam and his son. Seeing them really felt great and made the bitterness of missing them on the holiday fade away.

Alex and Max finally made it home. We celebrated our own Christmas. When I was invited over, the tree had a ton of gifts under it. Alex’s mother sent some lovely things for me. I am always a little surprised and super touched that she thinks of me. Her gift alone was ten times anything I got from my own family. The boys had equally showered me with lovely items, and I started to feel uncomfortable with this embarrassment of riches. I realized that this was the kind of feeling I had always hoped to have on the holiday, the gift of surprise and thoughtfulness.

I think they were surprised and pleased with my gifts. After Christmas, I had gone out and added more to them. I was so happy to have them in my life and grateful, that I just wanted them to know it.

We recounted tales of our Christmas. Alex had had his own family drama, but had gone out of his way to make a potentially explosive situation a positive one. When I told them about my day, they were a little stunned and dismayed. They had known I was upset and wanted to say something to my dad. I told them it wasn’t necessary, and we kind of went about our business.

We had stayed up so late, that I slept on their couch. It was late afternoon before we were functional. Our first course of business was to get something to eat. During dinner, I lamented about my family situation and how I couldn’t rely on them to be my “Christmas” anymore. I was still having trouble letting it go. We decided to stop some place so I could get one last gift for Alex’s brother.

I don’t know what was said, or what I did. We had already parked and were about to get out when Alex said he was done and that we should go to my father’s house to have a little conversation. It had been on my to do list since June. I had been feeling the need to tell my father how I felt bad about not living up to his expectations, and that I was probably a lesbian. The whole Christmas debacle just seemed to put a new sense of urgency on it.

I protested heavily. Max agreed with Alex and said if I wasn’t, they were going to. I tried to get out of the van, and Max hit the gas with the door still open.  I honestly thought about jumping out, but I knew I would have gotten hurt so I closed the door. This couldn’t be real. I screamed, I bawled, I kicked…but they kept driving.

“What do you want to say,” Alex kept asking. My mind was totally blank. I couldn’t think of anything. They circled my father’s house for a while, trying to get me to focus. “If you don’t do it,” Alex repeated, “ I will.”

By the time they pulled into the driveway, I was completely in shock. What I was going to say, or how I was going to say it. All I knew was that I was in very uncomfortable territory.

We walked in and sat with my family for a moment before my dad had to excuse himself to the bathroom. Max immediately told my sister that I needed to speak to my father and that her and her husband needed to vacate the area. He took them away and I was left with Alex and three dogs. Alex was twitching in his seat, fired up, and ready to take on the world. I just wanted to piss myself.

When my father exited the bathroom, he knew something was up. He sat in his chair and for the next hour and a half we had a conversation. I don’t know how I was able to form the words. How could I say them so that he heard me? How could I soften the blow? What was it that I really wanted to get off my chest?

Basically, for the first time in my life, I told my dad how much I loved him and how I worried about not living up to his expectations. I felt like when I disappointed him, he would passive aggressively take it out on me and I would feel so let down and unable to communicate it to him. Whenever he commented on my weight or made a snide comment, I never told him how much it really hurt and I would let the pain eat away at me. If I made a phone call asking for help, I believed that he thought that I was selfish or manipulative, but that I anguished for days prior to any request I would make.

I couldn’t handle his judgment of how I conducted my life and spent a lifetime trying to live up to my perceived standard of how he wanted me to be and how I couldn’t do it anymore. I could no longer pause my life to take on his obligations, or act as like his wife, or my siblings’ mother. At the end of the day, I still needed my daddy. I needed his love, guidance, and support. I couldn’t always be just his “rock.”

I also told him that, “the likelihood that I am a lesbian is high.” He countered with, “I have suspected that for years.” Still, I am having trouble with owning that identity. If I kept trying to live up to his perceived mold of what I should be, I would always be trying to hide myself. I wouldn’t be able to be closer to him because I would still feel the need to hide. I wouldn’t be able be authentic because I would still harbor the self-judgment and fear the truth.

Alex sat quietly, but also cut in when I needed to be refocused, or forced me to say everything even if I was reluctant. He stood up for me if my father said something judgmental. I wouldn’t have been able to say the things that I needed to if he wasn’t there to back me up. I was strengthened in the knowledge that someone was there to have my back. I am not used to that sort of support, and it felt scary as much as it was encouraging.

I told my dad that I didn’t know where we went from here, but I would work harder to be more authentic and assertive. To let him know when he hurt me, but also to open myself up more so he could know me better. Living this way was completely new to me, so I would make mistakes. We all would. But, it was how I needed to live my life in order to thrive and not die.

We left the house feeling like something was accomplished. Hugs and tears were shared. My father shook Alex’s hand and thanked him for helping me get what I needed off my chest. I was still as shell shocked in the car as I was before, but at least it was done.

I can’t say that the heavens opened up and that the angels sang, but I did feel exhausted and my head hurt. The boys were giddy. They kept saying that I had nothing to hide from my family now. It was true. Alex commented that it was all love. After a night of good sleep, I woke up lighter. My mouth sort of sat in a grin and I felt the warmth and positivity of simple contentment.

Overcoming the Disconnect

Life gives you a lot of opportunities to learn lessons.

The beginning of this week wasn’t bad, but I was definitely not on my highest flying disk. I know that I had slipped off after my hair was cut, but I couldn’t figure out what to really do about it. Monday came and I had to do a bunch of errands to pay some bills. It felt good to take care of some things that I had been neglectful of taking care of, but it left me with less than forty bucks to stay a float for two weeks.

Money has been a sore spot for a while. I have been so lucky that my school has had my back while I am out on leave. The union has been paying for my short-term disability. I am so grateful that they have my back, that I feel horrible when I feel like I am coming up short.

Like most cancer patients, I am sure a lot of us weren’t in a good spot financially before we got sick.  I was laid off and unemployed for a few years. How I was able to keep my house? I still don’t know. My bank account is in the perpetual red. I haven’t had money to buy clothes or shoes in years. All those times I bitched about money when I was younger, seem stupid to me now.

Anyway, whenever I pay what bills I can…I sometimes see the rest of the obligations I have and feel like a loser for not knowing how I will ever be solvent. Sometimes I don’t even know where to begin. It can be another cause of slipping off a high flying disk.

Of course, if you listen to the Law of Attraction advice, one of the best ways to stay in a place where you don’t have money is to focus on what you don’t have. So, for now I am trying to stay really grateful for what I do have…which is a lot when you think about it.

Yet, this little mental mind jockeying combined with a little self-conscience about my hair and nerves about getting a second infusion this week made life a little blah. I tried to make it a point to do some activities for fun, but I was thrown for a big curve ball on Wednesday.

I got home Tuesday night to find that my furnace wasn’t working. I knew there was no way I could afford a repairman, and my father is not always good in these types of situations. I covered up in every blanket I could get my hands on and found a way to sleep through the night. Michigan was getting cold. I could hold out for a few nights, but it isn’t like I could go through the whole winter without heat.

When I got up the next day, I had an appointment for a free massage. As I drove out, tears just streamed down my face. What was I going to do? I had to try and see if my father was interested in helping, but I hated the idea of asking him for money again.

I used my massage to calm me down. I was so sure that he would shoot me down that I knew that I had to reframe my thinking or I would get exactly what I feared. My energy and vibration lifted. I drove back home to find two packages and two cards in the mail. I had signed up with a group of Chemo Angels. Each cancer patient is assigned two angels who would send cards and letters to lift their spirits while going through treatment. It was an unexpected surprise from strangers. I opened them up and let the awe of knowing that these people really cared about me wash over me. I believe the massage earlier helped me to receive these gifts.

After I felt a little cheered up, I called my father. He asked me how I was doing and I said I wasn’t great. I told him about the furnance and he went into a mini tirade about bills and him being broke. I found myself begin to sob…I couldn’t even ask him for help. I felt so bad for needing help. I think he was thrown for a loop and kicked in saying that he would take care of things. It felt like he finally understood that I needed him to act like a Dad who knew his daughter needed help.

I love my father. I took care of him when he was diagnosed with cancer. I became his sudo wife when my mom died. I hung out with him a lot. Sometime after my sister decided to move back from Virginia, I began to distance myself from him. I spent so much time with him that I felt like I couldn’t have a life. I had taken a loan out for school before he got sick and used it to live on when I took a leave of absence to take care of him. When I became unemployed, I couldn’t pay the loan. This kind of became a sore spot. The funny thing is, he had just paid for my sister’s wedding and it was the same amount.

Now that I have faced the fact that I am a lesbian, I have trouble feeling like I am nothing but a big disappointment to him. In some ways, I am sure he already knows. Still, the dream that I was following for most of my life was one that I knew would be acceptable to him. Have a great job, a guy, maybe some kids. Be an upstanding citizen. Go to church. It was the path I am sure everyone feels like they are suppose to follow. The problem was, it was never my path. It is what I thought I needed to do, not what I wanted to do.

Still, I feel like staying true to myself is like becoming an embarrassment to him. Would he still be proud of me? Would he think less of me? The pain in having these questions answered is what keeps me away along with the fact that the reason I don’t drive out to his house is because I don’t have enough money to pay for the gas.

The boys are well aware of this dilemma I have with him. Max was getting pissed off because I didn’t want to ask my father for help in the first place. He was rather short with me during that day and than invited me over. Max apologized for getting frustrated with me, but he said that he saw me slipping into old patterns and it was pissing him off. Part of the reason why my father would get pissed when I called him in an emergency is because I never tell him what is really going on in my life. I have shut him out and it put Alex and Max in a strange position. It puts them in a place where my father would feel animosity toward them where it wasn’t necessary. My desire to protect my father from any obligation toward me is what makes him feel bad. The point is he wants and deserves to know me more and I am the one who is hiding, avoiding any display of the true me.

In order for me to continue to grow on this path, I need to be authentic and vulnerable in all areas of my life, not just with the people and places I feel most comfortable being it. Of course, the thought of being that way with my family was excruciating. So, the boys told me that they wanted to see my father at my infusion appointment. Immediately, I thought no way. First, how would you like to be tethered next to someone you have been hiding from for 6 hours with no way out? They said, maybe he needs to see his daughter hooked up to IVs and bald to understand that I am human and vulnerable. Maybe he needs to feel like he is contributing to my emotional needs and not always the financial ones. Maybe he still needs to know that I need my Daddy.

As the Universe usually knows how to manifest these things, my sister decided to spend the night in my cold house. Maybe to get away from her husband, maybe to feel like she was giving me some support. She took me to my appointment and drove back to my house to meet the furnance guy. She had already scheduled my father to come a little latter, but the furnance guy was done and gone before the original appointment was scheduled to even start.

I did my labs and met with my doctor per usual, without my posse with me. I knew that someone would join me at the infusion room, so I wasn’t too worried. They started with the pre drugs and I got a little sleepy. When I woke up, my father was there. There is a one person maximum guest policy in the room. He had brought me some lunch. It was nice to see him there. The thing is that I do enjoy my father’s company. We are buddies. I don’t have to say all the shit that is on my mind. What he needs to know is that I still enjoy his company and I still care about what is going on with him and his life, just like he wants to be a bigger part of my life.

We hung out for three hours, and my brother showed up from out of town. It was a pleasant surprise. They swapped out and had a great time. It was one of his last vacation days and even though he was having car problems, he still made it over. I got a beautiful picture from my nephew, and my brother made me into a zombie with a Walking Dead app on his ipod.

My brother suffers from the same painful lack of vulnerability that I have. We totally got it from our parents. We are so busy trying to keep up appearances that we kill ourselves a little bit. I have had a Renassance, and I feel like he may be on the verge of one soon as well. I believe that part of the mix needs to be us sharing what we have been feeling and doing with one another. The thing about sibblings is that we are genetically connected and we carry the same family drama and tropes from childhood. We can use each other to heal from those wounds so we can live more fulfilling lives.

When the infusion was through, I had my brother drop me off at Alex and Max’s. That way, I had someone to watch me until I feel a little more comfortable being alone. While my brother was there, I could feel him completely open up. We shared our drag videos with him, my recent art work, talked about all kinds of things and just saw him relax and unwind. He didn’t feel like he had to be anywhere or answer to anyone for a while. The release of responsibility is sometimes a bigger vacation than a trip around the world.

When it was time for him to leave, I basked in the day that I had. Just 24 hours earlier, I had dreaded the idea of what would happened…but now I realized it was exactly what needed to happen. In order to really heal, I need to be me. I need to have my family in my life.

The boys and I had some great conversations. We are a unit, maybe a dysfunctional one. I don’t have to worry about losing Alex and Max, but we do need to open ourselves up to more people and more experiences in our lives. We had been doing it, but when I slipped up…they got tripped up too. One of the favorite places for me to be is in their presence, but they made a good point as to say that I need to feel like I can achieve the same amount of happy with them as without them. My enjoying my house, my family, new friends, and/or new experiences should not suffer because I am afraid of not having it with them. In reality, having a great time without them is giving them a gift. The same goes for the two of them. They should be open to having experiences by themselves individually, or even together with out me. It is what fuels us and makes us enjoy each other even more when we are together.

It is not as if I didn’t know this, but I had always assumed that they placed it on my head like I was the desperate one. In reality, they told me that it is as hard for them to do things without me as it is for me to do them without them. One of the biggest ways I could help out is to be more assertive. I need to not be always available to them. I should voice my opinions more and take my leave when I know that I am drained as opposed to when I think they want me gone. They had become as dependent on me as I was on them. This had served us well recently, but now we want bigger returns on our growth journey and this is the next step.

It is not meant to be sad, it is meant to be expansive. This is what can get us to our next level of success and enlightenment. We have filled out trivial pursuit pie hearts with our pieces to an overflow capacity. Yet, there are still empty spots waiting to be filled with the contributions of others. We can’t do that for one another.

Because of the love I was feeling from everyone, and the increasing amount of a-ha moments, I have to tell you that I felt very little pain from my infusion. Even yesterday I felt great. And, as a big surprise, I got another visit from my whole family. Unannounced, they showed up to check on me and we even went out for dinner. I can’t tell you the last time that happened. Instead of feeling put out, I really enjoyed it. I even let my father drive my car for the first time. Not because I wouldn’t let him drive it, but because in a round about way he asked to.

It gives me hope that new beginnings are starting. The hierarchy and false pretenses of the past may be finally falling away. Maybe this whole cancer journey was just a catalyst to make these important life changes, a huge moment to stop the crazy spinning of what we perceive life is (work, work, and little play) and focus on our truth, our love, and our path.

Life’s a Drag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what did I really want?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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