Thursday, January 26, 2017

I Refuse To Live In Fear

The Women's March on Washington was an amazing experience. Never before have I taken part in a protest or stand where there were so many people and the energy stayed in a place of peaceful power. The unity and solidarity was palpable. At least in my experience of it.

Writing about it, finding the words to give it justice, has been challenging. To say the least. I left with the intention of writing about it while experiencing it but, honestly, it was so overwhelming that it made it impossible for me to write about. Now as I sit here and try to put words together to explain my experience, I find that I'm still failing.

Perhaps it's partly because of the constant barrage of daily bad news. I'm finding that the overwhelm is not going away. It's just gone from one extreme to the other. I've spent today limiting my social media contact and trying to listen to music but I'm finding that I mostly just want to sit in silence. The overwhelm is already so distracting that it's difficult to find my baring.

Everything that I care about is being signed away, shut down and de-funded. Not only are they things I care about, they are things that are important to the lives of so many people in this country. Shutting down the EPA will affect every single living being on this planet. That may sound overstated to some, but it absolutely is true. What we do matters.

Never in my lifetime have I seen such division and hatred in this country. The day before the inauguration we stopped at a Peet's Coffee in downtown Washington D.C. where the barista told us that just the day before he saw members of the KKK walking down the street in their robes and hoods. How completely terrifying.

Reading the news and talking to other people about their experiences has had me living in fear. I've had people online tell me that I'm giving into the "fear mongering" which confuses the fuck out of me because aren't they reading the same news? It really is true that if it doesn't affect some people personally, they just don't care about it and they think others to be ridiculous for caring about it. I just don't understand it.

While away in DC I had a brief conversation with another woman who cuts her hair very short. I won't identify her as butch because I don't know that she identifies that way. She's been considering whether or not to continue to get her hair cut short (buzz) because she fears for the possible consequences. I told her that I was having that very same struggle. But, the more I thought about it, the angrier I got. I'll be damned if I will let someone run me back into the closet. I'll be damned if I will allow someone to make me live in fear.

I am a warrior. I've always been a warrior and I will always be a warrior. A peaceful warrior but one nonetheless. I will always be an example for others in my community. I lead by example. I will not live my life according to anyone else. I will always be authentically me. Short hair, boxers, men's clothes and all. I am butch. I am a masculine of center woman.

Hear me fucking roar.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Women's March on Washington

So much change and transition has been happening for me over these past couple months. I keep meaning to sit down and write about them but either the words won't come or I just haven't been prioritizing writing. My paper journal has been neglected, as well. Sometimes the overwhelm of life silences the words and I just need to sit with and through it all.

This weekend I hope to write about this incredible experience I am about to embark on, though. This morning I leave for my first trip to Washington D.C. where I will march in the Women's March on Washington. It isn't my first march but it's the first time experiencing one of this size in a city where I've never been. I am a bit nervous, yes, but mostly I am incredibly excited for this experience.

Last night I explained to my Goddaughter, who is 8 years young, where I'm going and why. I was so proud of her. She gets it. I am not only marching for myself and all of the women I know, I am also marching for her. May this world be kinder and have more respect for her as she travels through it.

If you're heading to the March or plan to participate in any of the others around the country, please stay safe but let your voices be heard. Stand tall and stand proud. 

It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.
— Audre Lorde

Friday, November 11, 2016

Stand Back Up

For the past few days I've been grieving. Trying to make sense of what has happened in this country, what's happening now, trying to make sense of all of the hate. The political system in this country is broken and doesn't make any sense to me at all. The media in this country is what is leading us now and it confuses me. 

As a veteran, I proudly served this country. I am a US Marine and I served this country to protect the all of the freedoms that we all have. Even the freedom to hate this country, to disagree with the status quo, to stand up and let voices be heard to bring change. 

In these past few days I've felt a tremendous sense of sadness, fear, terror, anger and despair. The day after the election I walked to work suspect of everything and everyone around me. I was so full of fear that I wanted to hide. My normal way of being in the world where I smile and say hello to everyone had changed. I was withdrawn, head down and looking at the ground the whole way. Hiding. Trying to not be noticed. 

On one hand I do have that privilege of hiding during this dark time. I am white and on most days I pass as male. I have the option of shedding those clothes, growing my hair out and not being myself for the next four years while the country falls apart under this regime and my community gets bashed or beaten or killed. I have the option to live for the next four years in fear and terror and let the bullies win. I have the privilege of being able to hide. I recognize that privilege. 

But, I can't choose that path. My soul cannot choose that path. I can't chose the path of fear and let the bullies win. I can't live a lie and deny my friends and family and community. I can't stand on the sidelines and watch as people attack each other out of their own fear and hate. 

I won't live in hiding. I am proud of who I am. It's taken me a long time to come to this point, to fully be me in all of my authenticity. I've survived the looks and stares and attacks in the public bathrooms. I've changed people's minds along the way, as well. I've done all of that out of love and respect for myself and those who came before me. I've done all of it for those who will come after me. I will not hide. I will stand up with my community and I will stand up to the bullies because I will not let them win. I will not let them beat me down. I will keep standing up no matter how hard they push me. 

I choose to live with love and peace and to lead by example. To peacefully protest with those who think like me because we have to be heard. We have to join together in this dark time. We have to unify. It's the only way to survive these next four years. 

I've felt knocked down these past few days but today I am standing back up, finding solid ground in my power and meditating on the words of those who have lead in peace:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. - Dr. Martin Luther King

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. - Dr. Martin Luther King
If we want there to be peace in the world, we have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid in our hearts, to find the soft spot and stay with it. We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility. That's the true practice of peace. - Pema Chodron

There is a saying in Tibetan, 'Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.' No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that's our real disaster.” 

― Dalai Lama XIV

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Heart & Soul

This past Monday I took a walk in the woods close to the house. My heart and my thoughts have been heavy with home, family, friends and work so I was attempting to find my center. Nature always helps calm my mind and soothe my soul.

I walked up through the old North Cemetery communing with the trees. They aren't as vibrant as I've seen them in past years but they are beginning to change. We've been in a drought so the Autumn colors seem to be a bit quiet this year. Still, I smiled at the trees and even stopped to tell a couple how beautiful they were. I like to run my hand along the bark gently in greeting.

Trees are comforting to me. They are strong yet flexible. They know how to sway with the wind. Their leaves whisper gentle sounds of comfort.

In the park where I walked there is a pond. Sadly, a much smaller pond because of the drought but, still, a pond. After walking the loop trail around the park I headed to the bench next to the pond to watch the sunlight dance on the water.

When I sat down on the bench I noticed that my feet didn't touch the ground. Sort of like what it might feel like to kids when they sit on a big bench. I smiled at the realization then as I sat there I began to relax into that feeling of being a little kid. A kid who needed comforting. A kid who can't explain why it hurts but knows that it just does. A kid who's lost her family or is just too far away from them.

As these thoughts filled my head I felt the burning in my chest. The tears began to form in the corner of my eyes. They fought me to get out, to find freedom on my cheeks. Finally I stopped fighting them for a bit. The release felt good but I stopped them again. My only thought being, "What if someone walks by or comes to sit on the bench, too?" I was alone. There wasn't anyone that was going to want to share the bench with me but I didn't want to be surprised. So, I got up and walked along the bank of the pond. On the other side of me was thick brush so I knew for sure no one would happen upon me there.

As soon as I got far enough away and tucked back into a little alcove of bushes, my body let go. Why I felt the need to hide, I'm not clear, but I allowed myself to just to let it out. Out it came, too. In full force. My heart felt like it was going to burn through my chest as I silently sobbed and cried.

I love my family dearly and want nothing more than to help all of them in any way I can. My West Coast family is struggling and I'm feeling quite helpless all the way out here. My heart aches to be with them.

The transient feeling I've had over the last few years has helped me find myself and my priorities. It's been a good tool but I'm beginning to feel like I need to grow roots again. Ideas of a house, eventually a partner, a long term job, holidays spent surrounded by family and so much love are all floating around in my head quite a bit these days. I want to settle down again. I want to build those roots so I can stand even taller.

The tears I cried that day were for my family, for the distance, for their struggles and for the time it may take me to get home.


Just knowing I have a sense of that word now brings happy tears to my eyes.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Self Compassion & Understanding

Returning from the Farmer's Market with a carrot top tail.
This morning I woke up with a sense of sadness. I awoke to clouds and rain and cool air and the sound tires make in the rain as the cars pass by beneath my window. I slept in this morning after staying up late. I've been tired, yes, but this tired today felt different. It felt a little like escape.

My weekend mornings are usually spent leisurely drinking at least two cups of coffee while I read or journal in bed. This morning as I sipped my first cup I felt it. The sadness. The loneliness. It scared me so I finished my first cup, took a shower and walked down to the farmer's market. I felt this pull to run from it but at the same time I knew that taking it for a walk would do it some good and it did. When I returned I continued to find ways to get away from it, though. Escape, I recognize, is an old pattern for me.

I cleaned while listening to a pod cast. It was a Moth Slam that airs on NPR and sometimes those stories stir up emotions and sometimes they inspire me to write or look at things differently. Sometimes they just plain make me cry. I'm not even sure what the story was about at this point but I remember feeling the tears start to well up and the surge of emotions in my chest. I had to stop the vacuum, sit down on the steps and let myself cry for a moment. I let myself feel what I had been running from all morning. I stopped trying to escape and just sat there with it all. In my mind, I wrapped my arms around the emotions and myself. When I did that I realized that it wasn't just sadness that I was feeling. It was such a mix of happiness and sadness and homesickness and gratitude and all the feelings.

I sat there on the steps with tears rolling down my cheeks counting all of the blessings in my life.
  1. I have a group of the most amazing people in my life, both family and friends.
  2. I have an abundance of love, the size of which I've never before felt.
  3. I have a real sense of belonging and home that I've never before felt.
  4. I live in a world where there is beauty that stops me in my tracks and brings tears to my eyes.
  5. I am healthy and getting stronger every day.
  6. I am so much more connected to my body, my soul and my mind than I've ever been before.
The self growth I've done over these past few years has brought so much peace, confidence and friendship with myself. I am amazed at the amount of growth that I've experienced, in awe and am so incredibly proud of myself.

It really is true that happiness begins within yourself. I have become my own best friend, my own companion and my own confidant and there is absolutely nothing sad about that. It's reason to celebrate. The level of trust I have in myself to be completely open and authentic and real with those around me has skyrocketed.

Never before have I ever known myself so well, been so in touch with and connected to my soul and what it wants and needs.

Never before has my heart felt so completely open to life and love and happiness. This...THIS is what it feels like to live, to be fully present with myself and the world around and inside of me. This is what it feels like to be able to sit with the good and the hard feelings and emotions and to come out on the other side of them a better me. A more compassionate, understanding and loving me.

This life is amazing and full of adventure. My heart is so full of gratitude and love.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Ye Olde Barber Shoppe

I've been living here in Ipswich, MA for the last year and a half and have been walking by the barber shop that's on the same street that I live on for just about as long. Every time I've passed it I've thought to myself, "I should stop in and see if they'd be willing to give me my usual cut." The next few thoughts after that would usually be of fear and I would talk myself out of even just stopping in to ask. After all, barber shops are a part of the "good ol' boys network", right?

Well, today I finally gathered up the nerve to stop in and ask. I've been using my own clippers at home and doing the basic 1" all around cut ever since I moved here and got rid of my car. It works out fine but every now and then I just need that boost that a butch gets with a freshly buzzed fade. Always start with a #1 blade.

Stepping into the shop was like stepping back in time. Old posters and signs lined the walls and the furnishings in the waiting area were old wooden chairs. The barber chairs were the old fashioned kind, too. When I walked in there was a customer in the chair already and a woman barber so I took a seat in one of the old wooden chairs. Fox News was on the television in the corner and when I tuned into the conversation, I realized how conservative it was. But, I didn't feel like it was so conservative that I needed to leave. Thankfully.

When the other customer left I asked the barber if she would be up for giving me a men's fade cut starting with a #1 and, thankfully, she didn't even bat an eye. We chatted a bit about the town after introducing ourselves to each other and in the end, I came out with one of the best fades I've had in a while. I think I'll go back again at least once before I move home.

Not bad for 46, eh?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Thoughts About My Life As A US Marine

I've been participating in a challenge that's been going around on Instagram and other social media and it's got me thinking about my own time spent in the USMC. The challenge is to do 22 push ups for 22 days to raise awareness for veteran's suffering from PTSD. Among our nation's veterans there are, on average, 22 suicides a day. Mental injuries are real.

Thankfully, I was spared being deployed during war time. I was called back for Desert Storm but spent my time "re-training" in North Carolina. By the time I was done the conflict was over. It wasn't easy being pulled away from my son, who was only 9 months old at the time, but I am grateful that I never made it into a combat area. I can't imagine how my 21 year old self would have handled a situation like that.

I enlisted in the Marine Corps because I was looking for a place in the world where I felt a sense of belonging. The idea of the camaraderie that comes with being in the military was very attractive to me at the time. Also, my family has a history of it's men being Marine's and I was most likely looking for approval and acceptance from them, as well.

Not fully knowing what I was getting into, I signed up for the 6 year plan. The advantages this gave me was the option to actually choose my MOS (my job) and I was guaranteed to graduate basic training as an E-2. I choose to be a basic diesel mechanic and after doing so well in basic training, I began my military career in the fleet as an E-3, a Lance Corporal. As a matter of fact, I graduated basic training as the #1 graduate out of about 100 women, or two platoons. That is the one thing I am most proud of in this experience.

I was one of those weird people who actually enjoyed boot camp. Well, after the anxiety and nerves cleared away, of course, which took a little bit. Getting used to being screamed at almost constantly is a bit of a challenge but at some point I finally saw the big picture and just started rolling with it. I am an observer and this was the trait that helped me the most because I would watch others make mistakes and I learned quickly from them.

That camaraderie I was looking for happened for me in boot camp. We were a team. All 50 of us worked together, helped each other, motivated each other and looked after each other. It was one of the most challenging and awesome experiences I've ever had in my life and I don't regret one single moment of it.

Sadly for me, the camaraderie ended when boot camp ended. When I got out into the fleet it was every Marine for her/himself. I attended basic mechanics school in North Carolina. It was myself and about 49 other guys. I worked hard, understood it all fairly easily and graduated #3 in that class. From there, I was stationed at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California.

I was sent to the First Maintenance Battalion and looked forward to getting my hands dirty and driving some Humvees. Those things are beasts. I loved learning to drive them through the muck, the mud and the water. Yes, the water. There was about 6 inches of water on the floor board of the one I drove at one point and it didn't even hiccup. Beasts. I loved these machines and couldn't wait to work on them.

Unfortunately, I would never get that chance. As soon as I arrived at the offices of the First Maintenance Battalion to check in, I was directed to a desk with a phone and a computer. Thinking it was just a matter of time before I got to the motor pool, I did what I was told. Several months later, which included several weeks of KP duty (kitchen prep/cleaning at the chow hall) I asked my CO for a meeting. In that meeting I told him about my desire to actually be in the motor pool working on the trucks, in my MOS. I explained how well I did in training and that I was ready.

What he said to me has stuck in my mind all these years. It was the first big disappointment with the military and I was clearly shown where my place was in it. His response to me was, "You don't want to work in the motor pool with all of those guys." I told him that with all due respect if I didn't I wouldn't have trained for it. It went in one ear and out the other.

My idea of the military was shattered. I gave up inside and just did what I needed to do. I ended up choosing to be honorably discharged when I became pregnant with my son. At that point, the thought of leaving him to do a year long tour overseas was just too unbearable and that's exactly what I was facing.

The month spent apart from him when he was 9 months old was heart wrenching. I remember calling home and talking to my then husband (nope, I'm not a gold star), listening to him tell me about my son waiting for me at the front window, clutching my robe. The tears poured down my cheeks. I hated every moment of it. But, I did it.

I'm thankful I had this experience in life. It taught me a lot of things not only about life but about myself. I'm also thankful I didn't have to endure any combat or dangerous situations. I have family members that have. My Grandfather served in World War II and Korea. He was a Marine paratrooper. My other Grandfather was a cook in the Marines. My uncle served 3 tours in Vietnam. I can't even begin to, nor would I want to even try to, understand what it was like for them. Growing up, I watched them try to deal with the aftermath. I heard stories of attempted suicide. One of them involved my toddler self walking in on one of them holding a gun to themselves. Thankfully, I have no recollection of it.

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is a real thing. Mental injuries are real and our veterans suffer from them day in and day out. Not only are our veterans suffering from it, their families and communities are suffering. It's only been recently that the US Government has finally begun to accept this fact. I wish they could have done it sooner before so many lives were lost.

Please, go check out the challenge and the program that started it all go to Join in on the challenge, as well.

Semper Fi.