The Wisdom of 33

And so, another year of my life has come and gone, but something about this one feels off. Usually, I’m excited to begin a new year, but this time I can only say that I am ready. I have resigned myself to it.

I have hardened my heart for what is to come. Sure, there will be happiness and new experiences, but there will also be more challenges, more disappointment, and more suffering too. It’s funny how the good stuff is never enough to sustain you through the bad. It’s funny how existing gets harder and harder. This is what it means to age.

Thirty-three has been the hardest to handle. My 30s have been great so far, but there have been some strange changes to my body and a sombering of the mind I wasn’t prepared for. I am definitely coming to understand the importance of exercise and eating right, but I’ve learned more than that too. I’ve learned to see the boundary between myself and I’m beginning to understand its purpose. I’m growing wiser, I think, and I thought I would share some things I’ve learned off the top of my head.

  1. You hardly know yourself at all.
  2. Toxic ways of thinking are contagious. Protect yourself.
  3. Some of your problems are your own fault.
  4. Minding your own damn business is self-care.
  5. If someone you don’t like, doesn’t like you, let it go.
  6. Listen when it isn’t your turn to speak. Breathe before you respond.
  7. You could be wrong.
  8. Your feelings are all in your head, and they are 100% real.
  9. A quiet life can be a good life too.
  10. Make things that don’t exist on the internet.
  11. Ask all the questions you need. Deal with the answers you are given.
  12. Yeah, it could be worse, but it could be better too. Figure out how.
  13. Your body is going to fail, be ready.
  14. Relax into your relationships.
  15. Get a dog. Get any pet at all.
  16. Have serious conversations. Explore the heavy stuff with people.
  17. Break the rules every once in a while, unless you’ve already been warned.
  18. People don’t belong to you, and you don’t belong to them.
  19. Schedule your mental health days.
  20. Look up at the moon and stars. Notice when the sun rises and sets.
  21. Share playlists.
  22. Think about death.
  23. Let people know they mean something to you.
  24. It’s never as bad as you think.
  25. It’s never too late.
  26. If it’s important to you, it is important.
  27. Even if you know you will fail, try anyway.
  28. Make a list of all the things you are avoiding, figure out why.
  29. Be honest with yourself, and with others, about your fears.
  30. Keep a journal. Write all the bad stuff out, then write 5 good things.
  31. Protect your focus—and all of your other boundaries—at all costs.
  32. Water your plants. Water yourself.
  33. Let yourself be sad, angry, bored, hungry. Let yourself be.

That’s all I have for today, but it’s more than I had a year ago, five years ago, and 10 years ago I had almost nothing. I hope what I have helps you, or at least reminds you of what you already know. I hope to have gained more wisdom next year. I’ll consider it a personal failure if I don’t.

P.S. My birthday was actually last Friday. I wrote this then but didn’t have the courage to post it until now. It’s hard to share my story sometimes, even when it’s being served up in a simple list post.

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Photo by Lora Mipsum on Unsplash

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Look After One Another

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting nothing more than to crawl back into bed and escaping the world.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s imagine that Mondays are the days when we get to start all over again. Let’s imagine all the bad things that happened last week don’t matter anymore and that we’ve been given a second chance to do it all again, and this time, we might even get it right.

From now on Monday’s are for making the changes we want to see in ourselves, and for thinking about the changes we want to see in the world. Monday’s are our new favorite days!

As for me, this Monday is off to a better than usual start. I managed to wake up on time and get ready without having to rush. For some reason, I didn’t require the usual mental lectures and accosting I normally inflict upon myself. I just did what needed to be done. I’m hoping the rest of the week will be just as smooth.

“Anyone who cares about you has to realize that you need a little looking after, nothing else really matters.”

— Franz Kafka, Letters to Milena

A few weeks ago we received terrible news. One of our drivers was found dead in her home. The cause was determined to be Pulmonary Embolism or blood clots in her lungs. I didn’t know her very well, but the news saddened me. She had not shown up to work for two mornings before our staff decided to do a “welfare check” on her. I know it wouldn’t have saved her, but I don’t think it should have taken that long for someone to realize something was wrong.

It’s sad that she was so alone. I thought about how many people out there could be hurt or dying, and no one knew. I am lucky; I live with someone. Someone who makes sure I am okay throughout the day, every day, but what if I didn’t? I realized that if it weren’t for my girlfriend, it might be days before anyone realized something was wrong with me.

I don’t call people often and if they call me and I don’t answer they don’t think that’s out of the ordinary at all. They I am just doing what always do, avoiding people, or maybe I’m sleeping, or my phone is in another room. Unanswered texts are normal as well. I like to talk to people when I’m ready. I’m sure we all know someone like that.

What if something happened to them? How long until you knew?

It was not like this woman not to show up to work. Not only that but we work split shifts, which means we check in between two and three times a day. By the midday or the afternoon, when she didn’t show up for the second time, someone should have tried to find out what happened to her.

I understand that your boss is not your keeper, but should they be? For many people, their coworkers are the people they see more that family and sometimes even spouses. For some people, their job is the only place they go regularly and the only place they might be missed from.

So, this week I think we should all think about what our responsibilities are to the people we see every day. What would you do if one day they stopped showing up? Would you shrug your shoulders and make jokes? Or would you do something about it? What would you do?

I have a friend I know lives alone. When she is planning on missing a day she tries to let me know and days she isn’t here, and I didn’t know about it in advance, I text her and make sure she is ok. I check with our office to see if she may have called in or if she had previously planned to be out. I ask other people she talks to if they’ve heard from her. I make sure I know she is okay.

We shouldn’t let days go by before we notice someone is missing or before we question whether something might be wrong.

This week, find someone to be responsible for. The person who works at the desk next to you. The coworker you see on your smoke break. The one who you’ve spoken to a few times but haven’t quite crossed over into friendship with. Talk to them and find out if they live alone and if they need someone to check in on them should they not show up.

I know it sounds weird or invasive, but I can’t stop thinking about that woman who lay dead in her home for two days before someone thought to call her. It’s sad. It’s sad we live this way. It’s sad we would rather not bother someone, or get in their business, than to make sure that they are okay.

We have to get over these uncomfortable feelings we have about caring for strangers.

We all need looking after, and for that to happen, we all have to be willing to be one another’s keeper.

***

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They Can’t Hurt Me Anymore

“The single best thing about coming out of the closet is that nobody can insult you by telling you what you’ve just told them.”

— Rachel Maddow

When you’re growing up queer there exists some time between when you realize you are different, when other people realize you are different, and when you are comfortable in your differentness.

For some of us, it is a short time, for some of us it can be nearly a lifetime.

During that in-between time there will be people around who will react to who we are in the wrong way, and almost always the result is we become ashamed of who we are and a lot of permanent damage is done.

***

I remember in 4th-grade year, there was a girl who lived in my apartment building, rode the same bus as me, and shared my classroom. She was my default friend and at recess, would sometimes play with her and her other friends. Playing with the girls meant standing around talking or doing quiet activities that wouldn’t result in injury or dirty clothes.

I thought that was boring so sometimes I played with the boys. I ran around, jumped off the swings, and played with action figures. I got dirty, I got hurt, and I had a great time.

The next year, in 5th grade, my default friend told me that she and the other girls didn’t want to play with me anymore. I was honestly so surprised I just stood there, staring, and asked her why. She said I was too different, too weird, too much like a boy, and that was the end of it.

I felt shame right away. I was different, and that was bad. I didn’t want to be different.

That was the last time I felt comfortable with my gender identity and expression. Before that, there was just me, just Lisa, I wasn’t a girly girl, and I wasn’t a tomboy, I just did what felt right for me. It hadn’t occurred to me before that moment that the things I did not only put me into a category of boy or girl but also dictated the way other people would treat me and whether or not they liked me.

For the next 20 or 25 years of my life, I would think I had to be either a girl or a boy. I would go through phases where I swung wildly from masculine to feminine and deep down I would not feel comfortable in the mask of either one. I would think there was no option to say I was both, or neither, or one day one and one day another. I didn’t know that feeling the way I did wasn’t exactly uncommon.

And one day I heard the term “Genderqueer” and a whole new world opened up for me. I could once again be just me, just Lisa, and never again will anyone hurt me by labeling me or rejecting me based on my sex or gender.

***

Later, in high school, after the girl crushes had come but I still hung on to the hope that my attraction to women was a phase there were a series of friends who would try to get me alone to ask me once and for all if I was gay or not.

I ducked and dodged these questions, and I grew to believe that just like my gender people would judge and reject me based on the feelings I had for girls. I was terrified of coming out.

After I finally did come out, I came out as a lesbian. I went completely to the other side of the spectrum; I was ashamed of my attraction to men. After some time I denied even to myself that I was attracted to men. In the world of lesbians, the bisexual girl is frowned upon and shunned. I even shunned other bisexual girls and warned against dating them. I was awful.

Since I have been dating a woman for the past 14 years of my life, I thought the distinction didn’t matter for me anymore. Whether or not I was a lesbian didn’t matter because I was only sleeping with my girlfriend. I let the issue go.

It took a long time, but I finally came to terms with the fact that I was exactly exclusively attracted to women and over the years I have found that being honest allows me to engage in conversations with my straight female friends that I wouldn’t have before. It may seem small but this kind of banter between women can help form bonds, and I am glad to be able to engage in it authentically. I also feel freer. I feel more me. I feel like there are no parts of me that are hidden anymore.

I try to educate people about what it means to either gay or bisexual. I try to tell people that some of the ideas they have about the ways people can be attracted to people and what that has to do with—or how it has nothing at all to do with—their gender identity and expression, or whether or not they are capable of a monogamous relationship. I try to tell people my story and let them know that we are all different but not so different after all.

I do still identify as a lesbian since after much introspection I have found I am after all much more attracted to women than I am men. Which is just another example of how the labels we come up with rarely describe the reality of our feelings.

***

Throughout my life I have been called various names, dyke, fag, and even “rug doctor,” not to mention gay and queer, which shouldn’t be offensive but were said to me in a tone that let me know they were being used as insults.

I’ve been told I need to dress differently, that I am confused, that me, and people like me who are attracted to both men and women, and identify with both genders, just don’t exist. I’ve been told I am choosing to feel the way I do and that one day I will regret it.

I’ve been rejected, condemned, and fetishized by both men and women for who I am, who they think I am, and who they think they can make me into. I have been ashamed, afraid, and—most often—confused by how I feel inside. I’ve wanted to hide from myself and wished more than anything I could be someone else. I’ve been hurt by people, a lot, but all of that has changed.

I continue to grow and change and discover myself, but I won’t let myself feel afraid, or ashamed, or hurt. No one can do that too me again. I am who I am, and I know now that whoever that is, she is loved and will always be because I love myself and at the end of the day that is all that matters.

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Monday Motivation // Love and Accept Change that Happens in Others

Hello and happy Monday to you all! I know, I know, no one likes Mondays. No one likes to leave the freedom and comfort of the weekend behind to be thrust unprepared into the monotony and boredom of the work week. But life is short and to spend our whole lives hating one entire day of the week seems like a big waste of what little time we have on this Earth. Let’s try to think about Monday’s a little differently, shall we?

I say Mondays are a time for new beginnings. I say Mondays are full of new possibilities and an exciting chance to do it all over again, and this time, get it right.

My Monday isn’t a particularly exciting or eventful one. I am grateful for the lower temps we’ll be seeing today, low 80s rather than upper 90s. The heat has been brutal here. So much so we’ve had roads buckling from the heat. Tomorrow we’ll be back to the usual summer heat so today I plan to leave work a bit early and get out with the dog to enjoy the cool breeze while I can.

People who truely love you will accept the change that happens in you.

Kriti.G

My girlfriend and I have been together for almost 14 years now. That’s quite an accomplishment compared to the general public. It wasn’t easy. Maintaining it has at times been as easy as just existing together. The love came automatically, and the desire to be near one another and treat each other with compassion seemed to come naturally. At other times maintaining our relationship has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, harder than I ever thought it would be, harder than I thought it should be.

I would look back on all the sappy love stories I had read and watched and I wondered what was normal and what wasn’t.

We met when we were in our late teens, I was 17, she was 15 going on 16. We were young enough to have no idea that we weren’t yet the people we would become. We thought we had grown up, found love, and just had to coast to happily ever after from there. We thought we had already won the game of life. We were in for a very rude awakening.

The fights started two years in, just as we moved in together. We learned new things about one another, and new expectations were needed. I was clingy; she needed space. I was messy; she needed clean surfaces and organization. I was good at money management; she didn’t know how to fill out a check or open a checking account. We fought, made up, and tried our best to do what we thought grown ups did but no matter how hard we tried everything kept getting worse.

Things would get pretty bad before we would figure it out.

The trick is expectation adjustments and a willingness to accept that the person you love is going to change, in good, bad, and often surprising ways, continuously throughout your entire lives. Things will never be “what the used to” but they can still be good, always.

People forget that we never stop growing up. The growing is scary and causes us act in crazy and desperate ways. We try to force the other person into being the person they were, but whether we like it or not, the changes will happen anyway. They will happen with or without you and if you aren’t along for the ride, you may be asked to leave.

For us, I am now the organized one, and she has become messy. Now I am the spender, and she is in charge of the money. Now she has become the clingy one, and I need more space.

We never thought these, and other, changes would happen. We had to learn that the changes are good and true love means allowing the person you love to grow and change and experience life. The beauty of it is getting to be a part of it with them and them getting to be a part of your growing, changing, and experiencing life. It would be wrong to stifle that in each other. To do so would be to try to something away from them that is fundamental to being a human in this world. It would be a sin.

This week try to look at the people in your life who are important to you and get to know them again. Just a little bit. Ask them what is new. What new thing are they into? What new thing are they thinking about? What new thing do they want to do or make? What new thing have they learned or felt about life? Mark the ways they have changed since you met them and meditate on those changes. Think about the ways you have supported to those changes or the ways you have tried to stifle them and why. Then think about the ways you have changed and who has supported and stifled you. Thank the supporters, and talk to your stiflers. Ask them how they feel and why. Tell them how you feel and why too.

In this short and precious life, we need many things, two of which are to feel comfortable to be ourselves and to feel understood by the people we love. We cannot help but to grow and change with age, and we should not have to sacrifice our most basic emotional needs because of it.

We shouldn’t have that done to us, and we shouldn’t do it to the people we love.

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