One On One

Women need to know that the only way to have a relationship with someone is one-on-one.    We stay safe and connected by understanding the people around us, their needs and their fears, their desires and their dreams, their triggers and their terrors.

Certainly that’s what I had to learn very early to have relationships with my parents.  They weren’t like any stereotype I saw on TV or read about in books, not like any standard held up for mommies or daddies.   The characters I saw fit nicely into expected roles, but my Aspergers parents never learned to play those roles, growing up without the theory of mind to understand how others were seeing their performances.

My mother’s disappointment, pain and rage were always just a breath away and my father’s sweet and loving cluelessness meant he couldn’t grasp what you needed in this moment.    Society didn’t offer me any formula for dealing with people like them, so I ended up switching my brain onto full analytical to try and both understand them and control my own choices in a way that kept me as safe as possible.

My father’s lack of understanding kept us moving around the country every few years while my mother’s narcissism kept us inwardly focused and isolated wherever we went.    Opening her home to others was just a path to more pain for her so there was no extended family or social groups in our lives, as much as that was tough for my father who grew up in a small farm town with a loving mother.

I had no way to explain my family to others who only understood stereotypical models.   Like most Aspergers people, learning to pass in social settings was important, so my parents looked normative to those who saw what they expected to see, vision limited to conventional assumptions.   No matter how much I tried to explain, well, what could a kid know?

My relationship with my parents always had to be one-on-one, not falling back on any set of norms, be they ethnic, racial, religious or whatever.   I wasn’t even one of the boys or one of the girls, instead just being me. My parents were clearly and profoundly unique creatures, never having understood the scripts of those around them so they never could have absorbed the social conventions of others.

Of course, this meant that they couldn’t teach their kids about social conventions either, couldn’t help them fit into group patterns.   I was always walking into walls in relationships, never getting what was expected and appropriate for the role I was supposed to play.

Not having been immersed in any comforting and defined social identities meant that I had no conventional habit patterns to let go of when I started to engage my own queerness and the queerness of others.   There was a reason I could shepherd the team taking care of a gay floormate in trauma during freshman year; I knew how to deal with people one-on-one, knew how to observe and analyze,  knew how to modulate my own choices.

It also meant that I couldn’t trust my own emotions, couldn’t make choices of performance and release, couldn’t expect to be understood without hard work, and couldn’t easily fit into social rituals and expectations.   My mind was my defence and it was always, always on guard.

My challenge was to explore who I was behind those mental defences, but finding someone who could engage that space eventually proved beyond my capabilities.   I had to learn to explore by myself, unpacking and reshaping myself alone.

The comfort of group identity, of feeling immersed in “people like us,” following the group think and expected conventions is only understandable to me by seeing how much others hold tightly to their own group patterns.   Instead my stance is more like the one attributed to Groucho, who “wouldn’t join any club that would have someone like me as a member.”

How much do patterns and expectations mean that we can’t engage with other people one-on-one, just as they are?   “The only sensible person is my tailor, for he measures me anew each time we meet,” wrote George Bernard Shaw.   To me, a queer approach to life means seeing others as individuals,  knowing that their beliefs and choices tell you about them, and that you don’t have to see their views as attacks on what you hold dear.

Attacks, though, can often be taken as validation of the need to hold more tightly onto group identity, wrapping yourself more tightly in whatever flags you value and more loudly wailing about the difference between the good us and the terrifying them.   When we hold negative identity forms, knowing more about who we are not as a group than who we are as individuals, finding links to our continuous common humanity is hard, demanding that we transcend our own projected walls.

I am very grateful that I learned to deal with others one-on-one early, even if those lessons did come at the cost of not feeling safe and protected in a welcoming group identity.   Being open to the gifts of others has allowed me to treat others like I want to be treated, seeing, understanding and valuing their unique contributions to the group.

The loneliness that comes with that stance doesn’t erase my humanity, rather it affirms it.   I can see and understand not only others but also who I am and where the deep and profound connections exist.   Shamans walk through walls others think are real, so only by moving beyond even comforting convention can we even try to transcend the limits of our own inculcated vision.

Good mothers know that understanding your children as individuals, having deep one-on-one relationships with them, even when those relationships demand you move out of your comfort zone, beyond your own expectations and desires, feel your assumptions shatter and your heart break, experiencing pain & fear but staying present, is the only way to support them in becoming intensely themselves.

Staying connected to the truths others hold, even the scary or challenging ones, is the only way to stay safe and growing.

Spiny

One of the things I added to support group meetings, along with beach balls, was applause.

When someone told a story about doing something bold and brave, I started the applause, with the room quickly joining in. It’s a quick and simple way for the group to affirm courage, both in the storyteller and in themselves.

Once a young person was said they were timid about taking a risk.  During the meeting a beach ball was near my feet so I kicked it towards them.  Silently, as other stories were spun in the room, I encouraged them to kick the ball themselves.  They resisted but I persisted giving affirming and imploring looks.

When they finally gave the ball a kick I was surprised when the group burst forth in applause.   While I was quietly focused apparently people had caught on and watched and when my partner broke through the comfort of timidity, everyone was delighted and wanted to show it.  Smiles all around.

My history is centred around finding my own individual way to be in the world — I had no other choice with my family, mind and heart — and supporting others in claiming, owning and celebrating their own proud, queer individuality.   I tried to teach my sister to fight back, my brother how to not play to the crowd, and my parents to see themselves in context.  I delighted in being part of a corporate team, bringing my unique vision to our work and challenging others to be more themselves, more present, more playful, more conscious and more master in their own choices.

For people who want to heal and grow, I offer a great deal.

For people who want to fit in, assimilate and maintain their own comfort level, though, I am a real fucking pain in the ass.   I don’t just play along, I push the boundaries, don’t just stay silent but turn on the lights, don’t just accept smallness but instead celebrate brilliance.

I know that those people see me as a spiny mess, a mass of thorns and quills, sharp edges that cut through easy answers.

That’s bad enough, but even worse, I mirror and revel in their own queer uniqueness.  I push them to go into their own dark spaces, facing fear and sloppy thinking to push into the feelings of isolation, pain and rage to find the jewels they have tried to hide inside their own private hell.

In learning to love my own special relationship with creation I have learned to love the special queerness of other people, how they make art in the world by being more powerfully and unabashedly themselves.   “Be yourself,” Quentin Crisp told us. “Everyone else is already taken.”

We live in a society that likes to sort people into categories, relying on group identity rather than individual differences.   Maybe this is because our culture is so diverse that small differences are not as visible as they would have been in very homogeneous villages, or maybe it is just an attempt to simplify a complex and nuanced world, but it means living without fitting into a nice stereotype can leave you isolated and lonely.

Who are you if you do not fit easily, neatly and quickly into the expectations of others?   How can people know you without a shiny external package to draw the eye and stimulate their pre-programmed assumptions?  How will you be one of the crowd if you stand out as unique?

It’s hard to get applause for revealing your own queer self, hard to feel seen, understood and valued for showing what those junior high bullies used to pick on you about.  We learn to show a façade that becomes hardened enough that taking it down, evaluating what is really us and rebuilding a new presentation feels terrifying and impossible rather than liberating and empowering.   We are trapped in others expectations of us for good reasons.

Transcending our history and even our biology takes trust in something deep within us, in our eternal connection to creation rather than our ephemeral connection to a role we have been cast in.   Who is going to affirm our bold and brave choices, especially when those choices take us to places others still fear and resist inside themselves?   Who is going to say “Yes!” as we take our own leaps, falling sometimes, but learning, growing, releasing and transforming in the process?

The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are, so a life without being applauded for the courage of revealing your heart to others but especially to yourself is a life that surrenders your gifts to your fears.

You are not wonderful because you hide your spines.   You are wonderful when you own your own sharp nature, cutting through crap to bring your own special gifts to the world.

 

Torn Through

“You know how the trainer said no one crosses the lines he offered diagonally, like being a fast feeling performer and a slow thinking analyst at the same time?” my boss asked me.

“I heard that, yes,” I replied.

“But you do that, are both those things.” She was right.

I have always existed in those spaces between, the places where people who draw comforting walls think do not exist.   My liminality — existence in the door frame — started early when I had to be both parent and child, both girl and boy, both smart and stupid, both aware and disconnected.   Wounded healers are always sliced between, both holding pain and transcendence, loss and gratitude, needs and independence.

Shimmering to others is what I have always done, looking both mature and crazy, brilliant and lacking, happy and hurting.    Never really knowing how I appear to others, what is lost in the noise they can’t decode, and being aware that any choice I make can crack their assumptions leaves me feeling like I am always on unsteady ground, having to be ready to slip any minute.

Learning to have a thick skin was crucial to growing up in a family where emotions were erased through Aspergers style viewing even as un-managed frustration & pain was sprayed about.

That tough carapace, though, had to help me hold in feelings I had no place to process, no place to even surface, like the dreams I held every night about waking up as a girl.

Today, though, the rifts that run through my presentation in the world, with a big old body that clearly went though puberty as a male, a tough mind that built a model of the world to keep me sane, and a tender heart that never feels like it can melt as it needs to leave me cleft and unsteady.   What part of me will trigger unwanted detonations because I have failed to effectively conceal it?

Any space I consider entering is only going to be safe for part of who I am, or at least so I believe.   Attenuating the bits that don’t fit their expectations, assumptions and codes has always been expected of me.   Maybe, if I had support for some areas of my life I could compartmentalize a bit more, but my solitary existence is pernicious, my profound loneliness threading through every moment of my life.

I know that I can handle anything I face.   I also know that there will be a price to be paid for that handling, a cost I have to bear alone over precious time. My resiliency is diminishing with age, as are my possibilities.

As humans, we develop survival strategies that help us negotiate the challenges of the world.  Since my Asperger’s parents had no emotional strategies to share, I based my strategies around modelling my environment, developing structures that help me decode stories, finding connections between them to seek universal, baseline truths.   I started doing this from a very young age and now have a lifetime of understandings that give my choices structure,  give me comfort & balance, if not happiness & warmth.

Not having my strategies based around human networks means I have a very different approach to life than people who go with the crowd, stay connected with friends and family, or hold onto belief structures learned early.   I have had to go through the process of deconstruction and reconstruction of my values and knowledge so I could continue to grow and become more actualized.   Being post-therapy, though, is a place few choose to go, not wanting to have to face the dragon with “Thou Shalt” on every scale, to go through the fires to burn away the false and merely convenient.

My connection to power is not in being a sweet talker, saying what others love to hear, but instead in being a straight talker, holding fast to the truth as I have struggled to know it.   While straight talking has been my key to survival, it has never been a key to making friends and influencing people.   I was caretaker to my family, yes, but the most important choices I made were helping them see a bigger picture, feeling safe in a greater understanding rather than just being sweet and giving them what they thought they wanted.

I have never wanted to be too presumptive in entering a space.   Over the past 35 years, I never told people what pronouns to use with me, knowing that their choices tell me much more about them and how they are seeing me than they do about me.   I do feel better when people see what I am communicating and respect that, but if I don’t want to be told the right way to think then I can’t tell others what they should be thinking.   I have explained this to those who want to help transpeople knowing that a beginning and fragile exploration of self can be crushed by someone who doesn’t respect the courage it takes to try to reveal truths we have been told are scary and shameful.

“In your face” was never my choice.   As someone who believes deeply in teamwork I needed to build bridges, leading with connection rather than ego, giving the kind of respect I want to be given rather than demanding my way.   I have seen too many newly out transpeople act like petulant teenagers, which may be understandable but does not create mature connections.   Insisting that others honour your comfort zone while you ignore theirs does not feel like it builds relationships; I don’t want to have to negotiate the fears of others, so why should they have to pander to my fears, rather than expecting me to engage my own challenges?

My writing is my art and it is there I push boundaries, not in social interactions.  Finding people who can take these texts as truth, entering them, has never been easy or simple.   To do that people have to not just ignore what they don’t understand, assigning their own meanings and leaving the rest, they have to actively receive all of what I say, working, as I do, to grasp my inner map, both the comfortable and the dark parts.   For those who strive to avoid their own darkness, though, this is not really possible.

Walking into spaces has always required me to get an understanding of the group dynamic, to find sly & witty ways to interject my own views while respecting & clarifying the views others bring to the table.   This has always been my service, but finding those who can offer that service to me has proven well neigh impossible.

Bringing the crags and canyons of my own heart into a space where they are seen, understood and valued, held with compassion and awe, my shimmering nature and the hard won lessons it gave me respected rather than feared or erased, escapes me.   I may be able to stay in one zone of my liminal nature for a bit, but I am the doorway and all facets need to be cared for, not just the ones others find simple, useful and supportive.

All humans cross boundaries, transcend limits, offer luminescent connections.  Most, though, in this society that craves binary shorthands don’t explore or expose that truth, working to stay in comfortable boxes as a survival strategy.

“In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.”  I knew that was my mission statement the moment I heard anthropologist Anne Bolin say it.   I revel in my liminality, but finding ways that fits into social groups, well, never been easy.

My being torn through is a gift I have learned to treasure.   Having others treasure it, though, has always seemed to be asking too much beyond cultural norms.

Where do I find the community I need, the one that venerate the divine surprises offered us, those moments of sight that move us beyond comfort and into mature wisdom?  Where does all of me, including the precious liminal tears that define me, fit?

Singular

“It’s okay.   I’ll just sit with the other trannies.”

My hosts usually looked aghast when I said that, knowing that there were no other obvious transpeople in the audience.  There was no way I was just going to blend in, just going to be one of the gang.

I understand the pull of finding community, of not having to feel like you are alone in the world, having to pull off magic by yourself.    Being a solitary prophet, telling truths that have been hidden because they are challenging and unpopular, is not a calling which is easy to embrace.

The price of community, though, is often harder to understand as it is wrapped in apparent solidarity rather than obvious singularity.   As social creatures, humans are made to assimilate, to follow the crowd, to be one of the gang.   How could the Germans do what they did during WWII?   Well, every one else was doing it, so it must be okay, right?

When I enter spaces that are claimed by the LGBTQ community, I am most often struck by the lack of diversity they hold.   Only those who agree to assimilate are included, which excludes most of the transpeople I have met over my decades, in-person and virtually.

For those enmeshed in these communities, this absence is easy to discount.   After all, everyone is welcome in the safe space if they just agree to abide by the rules, surrendering their voice to the group and assimilating.   Why should the cost of playing nice be a barrier to inclusion unless you have some anti-social tendencies that shouldn’t be indulged anyway?

I have trouble imagining a space where everyone is like me, at least not a functional one, nor can I imagine myself becoming like everyone else to enter the group.   My experience, my stories and my voice cost me too very much to sacrifice for assimilation.

While many groups call for the end of corporate culture, it is specifically inside of corporations where I have found productive and valuable community.   Instead of joining together because we all are alike, in the business world we join together to achieve shared goals.

Diversity is required to create effective teams, everyone bringing a different skill set and viewpoint to the table.   Together, teams engage in the conflict of trying to find effective solutions that address all the conflicting needs, creating compromises that support innovation.   By asking each member to move beyond their comfort zone teams can find common ground, celebrating mastery & excellence and lifting up everyone together.

When I have tried to enter exclusive spaces, ones that exclude anyone who is not like us enough to be challenging, I feel erased.   It is only in spaces with shared goals that my singularity has been valued, letting me bring my unique contributions to the table.

It was 1997 when I participated in a Uniting as Allies workshop that I was the only one who stood to argue for inclusive organizations.  At that time one woman came up to me afterwards saying that she couldn’t imagine she would believe in the need to organize around shared goals rather than shared identity — identity politics — but that I had convinced her.

Yet my efforts there left me feeling very alone. “Watch the token tranny dance the hoochie-koo!”   I was aware that my position left me singular, without a coterie of others around me, and that loneliness was hard to endure, even if I had done the work I knew that I was called to do, telling truths and valuing broader connection.

It’s not like there weren’t other transpeople there, but they had not yet owned their own grace.   “Thank you for representing us well,” a few of them said individually, “not like the others.”   A cost.

It’s hard to find people who value the energy of diversity in identity bound spaces.   As the identity spaces are policed for compliance rather than effectiveness, those who hold broader connections are pushed out while those who follow the rules, loudly singing the hymns are encouraged to police themselves and others more strongly.    When people don’t have successful experiences in diverse corporate cultures they don’t understand the power that difference can bring to a team though creative conflict.

“So, what do you want?” a pastor once asked me, eyeing my trans expression quizzically.

“I want what everyone wants,” I replied.

“And what is that?” he asked, unconvinced by my assertion.

“I want to be seen, understood and valued for my unique contribution to the group.”

He thought for a moment.

“Yes,” he agreed, “that is what everyone wants.”

Sadly, in groups where people are valued by how compliant they are to group tenets, unique contributions are rarely valued.

Asking people to stand up alone and offer what makes them different and special, the experiences, truths, skills and mastery of a lifetime, is asking them to take enter the spotlight and take personal responsibility for who they are.

Is there any wonder that so many of us instead try to become invisible, blending in and staying behind the defences of group identity?   And any wonder why we try to silence and devalue people who might reflect our differences, attempting to win favour with the group by policing challenges?   After all, if they aren’t one of us, they must be one of them, right?

The comfort of being one of the crowd — one of the children of Aspergers parents, one of the empaths, one of the queers, one of the theologians, even just one of the girls (or one of the boys) — was denied to me.   When I was twelve and that therapist tried to diagnose my transgender drives by asking who I wanted to be, I knew even at that time there was only one answer: I want to be myself.

For me, knowing we are all deeply connected meant that my singular difference was always surface deep.   Trying to explain this to others who desperately wanted to believe that we should all be the same on the surface and different inside, assimilating so we could blend in nicely, has always been nearly impossible.

You are a singular creation, just like everyone else.  I know that comes with a price, but if you really take the time to compare it to the price of following the gang, isn’t it really worthwhile to try in this one life we know that we are given?

 

 

Discomfort Zones

As to how the “Safe Space” open mic evening went, I wasn’t asked if I wanted to present when I walked in; no open sign-up sheet.   Just before the presentations started I asked for their e-mail address to the “Ornery” piece.   About a hour and a half later, the MC looks at the list on Google Drive and says “Our last presenter is Cali?” at which point the organizing committee ran up and says “That’s wrong!   That’s a mistake!”  Apparently, in the interim my piece had been read and found inappropriate, so I was purged.

The winner of the $25 Stewart’s gift card was a young woman of colour who broke down a bit reading a poem about how the experience of her enslaved South Carolina ancestors exists powerfully in her bones and her blood.   Here I am, suggesting we transcend history and biology to find new, but that is wrong.

“Comfort Zone” was the theme of the night, with lots of “trigger warnings” intended to create “safe space.”   Talking about a time when we knew we had to break beyond our comfort zone to confront how the comfort zone of a binary society had erased us, well, that notion seemed to make people just too damn uncomfortable.   Identity Politics has triumphed.

I come from a time when we knew we had to “fight for our right to be queer” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qkh_dp5LIjQ (September 1994) – but today, the notion of engaging what challenges and frightens us rather than just swaddling ourselves in comforting, isolating doctrine and dogma which separates and creates more polarization seems to be an idea too far out of step.

Oh well.

Ornery

There was one requirement for being an out transperson when I first emerged in the 1980s.

This was still a time when normative was seen as normal and those who violated expectations were easily written down as dangerous perverts, a time when gay rights were just being to be asserted as we began to face the horror of AIDS by coming out of a closet world to demand attention, funding and compassion.

In this area, there was a group, started by a married couple in the late 1950s, which held silent events that allowed transvestites — that was the term of the time — to get together.   Second Saturdays were the meeting time, at a bar tucked between empty business offices offering a deserted side street to climb out race up and enter the light and warmth.

Everyone who came into that venue shared one thing, the one attribute we needed to dress against convention and open the door to bigger dreams.

Each and every one of us there was ornery.

We had to be tough enough, disconnected enough to follow the deep desires of our heart, desires most of us had known since early childhood, to break every damn rule to show our nature on the outside by walking in the world.   We had tried exploring in secret and we knew there were many who still did that, but there, we were the ones with the gumption, the orneriness to break through, break out and enter a wider world.

Sure, our first steps were just into a bigger closet, but even that was huge.   For the first time we were around others who also had also struggled with hiding their own nature, who had tried to act like others expected while our hearts cried out for something bigger, for a life of being seen, understood and valued for who we really are from the inside.

Each of us had come to our own self knowledge and expression in a powerfully unique way.  We didn’t come out to find others like us to have sexual relationships, didn’t have any rules about how we should be, about what choices would make us attractive to others.

We weren’t there to partner.   We were there to personally claim, to reveal, to revel, to release.

Some of us would go on to work at shifting gender, striving to assimilate and disappear across that no-man’s/no-woman’s land, while others just needed to let off steam, going back to playing our assigned role as husband, father, man until we had another future moment to play.

On that day, I had a somewhat different goal.   I wanted to find balance and integration in my life, to get to somewhere where I could express all of me with much less of the trans curse of having to always conceal this or that as I tried to squeeze into a very binary system of gender.

My exploration was simple: I had to take my own ornery self and interact with all these other ornery people gathered, working to find what connected us and where we were different.    I soon found that the key to our differences was in how we built survival structures that allowed us to protect our tender trans spirits while also being effective in the wider world.

That safe space we shared was safe not because it was conflict free but because with respect for the ornery nature each one of us had to have to stand up, we could explore the challenges, choices, trade-offs, the pain and the loss we had to handle to be trans in a world where an either/or gender system erased the truth we had always held in our hearts.

After all, no matter how tender our souls were, we knew one thing: to survive, we had to be ornery.  Our choice was between ornery and abject; in that space we had chosen ornery.

Today, when trans representations are in the media, when professors want to tell us the right way to be trans, when many want to demand specific treatment,  it is easy to forget something I knew the moment I walked into that bar on that Saturday night thirty-five year ago: The space for trans emergence was broken open by the fierce, by the iconoclasts, by the driven, by the individuals who were ornery enough to claim their truth in a world that was hell-bent on erasing them.

I watch trans gatherings and see many young and newly emerged transpeople who have learned the rules of identity politics, but I rarely see what I saw in that bar on that long ago Saturday night: a hugely diverse gathering of ornery transpeople asserting their powerful and beautiful individuality.

For me, the most powerful safe space I ever entered was the space that didn’t just tolerate my bristly nature but a space that respected and revered the ornery strength I had to nurture to move beyond family, peer, social and institutional pressures to keep my battered heart alive and beating.   Every transperson there understood that struggle, understood that in the same way we didn’t want to be told the right and the wrong way to be ourselves, in the way we had to give others the space to express their truth, or at least their current state of understanding about it.

That struggle left many of us raw, hurting, angry and even sometimes a bit controlling & vindictive, but it also left each one of us gasping for the breath of freedom, for the warmth of understanding and for the light of possibilities.

Over the past decades I have written many, many words about the challenges that I and those I cared about faced, but if there is one word that gets to the point of  what I learned to value it is this: Ornery.

Be ornery.  Claim yourself.   Respect ornery.  Help others trust the will to leap.   Ornery isn’t something to be erased, ornery is something to be valued.

Without my ornery nature, and the ornery nature of many transpeople who came before and after me, I never would have found the safe space which allowed me to come to understanding, actualization, integration and peace within myself.

Oh, yes. Ornery.

Good Fight

I know how to fight with others.

I fight fair —  always listening close, acknowledging good points, being willing to change my stance — and I fight fun, with kindness, wit and grace.    Instead of trying to silence or erase, just pointing out what I see as error and demanding beliefs like mine, I offer new ways of seeing the issue, making connections that offer a different and more compassionate perspective.

This fighting may not be appreciated by many who don’t want to be challenged, but for those with a commitment to a journey of mastery, moving beyond twisted thoughts to integration, clarity and actualization, a good fight helps with growth and healing.

Every kid knows that those who won’t fight with you won’t fight for you, won’t help you face the myriad of fights that occur in every human life.   It has long been the role of the coach, the shaman, the parent to help others build the skills to fight for themselves and what they value.

I always learn from fighting with others, as I have to make my own beliefs and understandings clear to them which makes them clear to me.   I know that the good fight is a gift to them, to the universe, and to myself.

What I don’t have in my life is people who know how to fight with me.   I crave someone who can make me say “Aha! That’s smart!  I never thought of that!” or “Yes, I can see where I am stuck because you suggested a different view that offers a way out!”  This kind of wit to get the jokes, affirm my truths and still offer leadership & hope escapes me.

Like so much of my life, starting with when I would hide in my room as a kid, this lack leaves me playing with myself.   The solitary, hermetic life started early for me.   As anyone who has travelled this path will tell you, going back into a society of that tends to knee-jerk, reactionary patterns, tightly holding onto old beliefs and settling for mediocrity is never easy or painless.   I just know that at some point I will hit an old button, triggering a memory of buried upset and take the blame for exposing those suppressed feelings, though acting out or separation.

The solitary life requires you to take care of yourself, often locking you into a cycle of diminishing resources.   You consume rather than being fed, nurse rather than healing.  Fresh and fun become limited and lossy.  There is a reason so many women look for good partners who can engage in a good fight.

I understand why others have issues with me.   I have been doing the work for so long that I carry a history of knowledge, hard won awareness and deep understanding.   This is a challenge to move beyond.   Most people know the patterns they were handed and little more, never having had to become a concept-former, seeing beyond to asserting their own clear, examined beliefs.

Trying to find the expectations you were promised by asserting your unconsidered entitlements is comforting.   Who doesn’t want an easy life where every fight is taken care of by inherited group beliefs?   Someone who never found those beliefs, instead having to question everything by themselves, doubting even the most common assertions, well, they are just a squeaky wheel who needs to be ignored, right?

The journey to individuality is a journey through queerness, a demand to face differences and engage them.   It requires going through our own hell to burn away the false and to accept the emerging truth.

Enjoying fights that repeat rituals, us versus them moments that vent frustration while affirming old assertions keeps old comforting patterns alive.   Being open to fights that offer new challenges and demand we move beyond to change our beliefs destroys old patterns, instead opening our eyes, mind and heart to new and unfamiliar possibilities.

Those who value my fighting with them are those who value new awareness.   They know how to laugh at surprising connections, know how to grow from different visions, know how to be affirmed in parts of themselves they have kept hidden.   Seeing the conventional exposed to reveal something deeper keeps them growing, learning, healing.

It is that growing, learning, healing that I miss in my own life.  I can tell stuck, and I can also understand that no conventional remedy will work; I have touched the ways I am extraordinary and need the wherewithal to make extraordinary leaps.

Discovering people who will engage in a good fight with you is a gift, even (or maybe especially) if it challenges your thinking, your beliefs and your choices.   That kind of energetic and engaged presence can be like air for those struggling to breathe more deeply and fully.

Learning to fight myself, and through that process, learning to fight others with kindness and grace has been a key survival strategy in my own life.   Though those fights I was able to find my own voice, able to learn how to observe those around me in a sharp way, able to learn compassion while standing up for myself.

Fighting alone, though, is lonely and limiting.   I understand that, which is why I continue to fight with and for others.

Finding those who will fight with and for me, though, well, my parents sure couldn’t do it and I have overwhelmed many others over a lifetime.

I need a good, kind, enervating, encouraging fight.   Bless me.