30 August 2015

Confidence in cooking

Tonight I made myself broiled tilapia from the freezer, with a cucumber-tomato salad that I made up on the spot. I even put it on a slightly-nicer-than-routine plate in anticipation of photographing it to share on social media. Then I devoured it before taking the opportunity. I may know a thing or two about cooking, contrary to what I've been told.

My ex is a very good cook. I have to give him that. I spent four years in his kitchen, listening to him provide soundbite instructions and tidbits about how flavor works. I always wanted to help. When I offered, he suddenly became too involved in what he was doing to talk about it, and I couldn't intuit what needed to be done. The result was that he always cooked by himself. When we had a small kitchen, my habit was to "get out of the way."

Having admitted early on that I didn't know much about cooking, that truth became magnified over the course of our relationship. It grew from a lack of experience and basic knowledge to a complete inability to cook anything without disaster. The tiniest mistakes were used as evidence of my ineptitude. Rather than teach me, he chose to become the sole chef in our shared kitchen. My culinary efforts were limited to baking pies, which was a demonstrated skill. Once our roles were established, he berated me for not sharing enough of the household duties.

Tonight while I cooked, I reminded myself of little lessons I picked up. I drizzled the tilapia in olive oil and seasoned it with salt, black pepper, white pepper, and paprika. Always season your meat--and leave this simple so it doesn't clash with the vegetables. While that broiled, I sliced the cucumber and grape tomatoes as thin as I could, then added a tiny spoon of minced garlic and some diced white onion. There was no seasoning in the salad except salt, because salt is a flavor enhancer and it draws fluid out, which added juice to the salad and made it more dressing-like. When the cooking time suggested by the tilapia package passed, I checked the fish and found that it was not yet cooked in the middle, so I let it go. Even without a timer, I knew when the fish was thoroughly cooked.

I need to rebuild my confidence by doing the things he told me I couldn't do.  I can recognize and accept that some of the things I learned from him were positive. I know way more about cooking now than I did when we got together.

22 August 2015

Published ambivalence

Yesterday, I received an unexpected package. It was stamped MEDIA MAIL and had the unique shape and character of a single paperback book. I didn't recognize the mailing address--who do I know in New Mexico? Why are they sending me a book?

When I opened it, I found my copy of the anthology I was recently accepted to: writings by partners of trans* people. I submitted a piece that I wrote for a local trans* monologue event almost 2 years ago. Bittersweet pangs shot through my veins when I looked at the cover.

This is the first book that has ever contained my writing, and I didn't want it. I felt anger and disgust just holding it. My life has changed so much since I wrote that piece--even just since I revised my biography.  That relationship...I wish I could say it were over. What's truer is that we don't interact anymore, except in occasional wordless passive-aggression. I knew well before the final edits were made. I gave the editor this mailing address so many months ago I forgot the book was coming. I considered pulling the piece, and I chose not to. There is still truth in it: the truth of what I was experiencing at the time. Maybe some other young femme with a trans* partner will read those words and feel connected, like she is not alone in her experience. I want to share that truth.

I talked with my therapist recently (highly recommend therapy. Go, at least a couple times. You probably need it), and I said, "If you leave out the abusive sociopath part, it's a great story." She replied, "Or if you leave it in." That might be an even more important truth to tell. The truth is, LGBTQ folks are at higher risk of experiencing domestic abuse, and fewer of us talk about it. It would be nice if a young femme with a trans* partner felt better about her relationship after reading about mine. It could be lifesaving if a young queer person living with an abusive partner escaped their relationship after reading about mine.

I have a lot of writing to do.

13 August 2015

brief update:

it was time for some new colors.

12 August 2015

Good weather days

Today was a perfect weather day in Pittsburgh. Sunny, upper 70s, low humidity. I decided early on not to take those for granted. In college, that translated to a lot of time spent outside. I remember when S* and I used to read on Schenley Plaza and watch dads play with their kids.

The last few days have all been relatively good, for weather, and I have spent most of my time inside. By choice. The truth is, today was a perfect weather day, and while that made it pleasant for being outside, it also made it enjoyable to be in my living room. The afternoon sun streamed in the back window, with an occasional breeze blowing through. The thermostat peaked at 80 degrees (low, since June). I wanted to be in my home. I even wanted to be in my kitchen! (I made hummus with a potato masher. It wasn't bad, for my first go at making hummus! Now I know how easy it is and how I want to season it.) I did spend some time sitting out on the fire escape, wearing sunglasses and drinking a beer.

Even though I didn't spend much time outside,  I'm sure I didn't take this good weather day for granted. I enjoyed being in my home. I felt safe and comfortable in my nest. It feels good to be here. That is important time to have.

11 August 2015

returning to a softer world

I hadn't let A Softer World kick me in the gut in a long time.


there's an entire story here that begins in a Moe's restaurant in upstate new york in june of 2014
so many subplots with so many significant events and so many associated feelings.

10 August 2015

A Precious Human Life

Think every day as you wake up:
Today I am fortunate to have woken up.
I am alive. I have a precious human life
And I am not going to waste it.
I am going to use
All of my energies to develop myself,
To expand my heart out to others,
To achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings.
I am going to have kind thoughts towards others.
I am not going to get angry or think badly about others.
I am going to benefit others as much as I can.
--H.H. the XIVth Dalai Lama

This prayer hangs on the wall of the room where I stayed when I left.
I started praying it every day, and I keep the habit still.
The most thoughtful gift anyone has ever given me came from the woman I dated for four months who remembered that I mentioned it one time and found a copy of the scroll as a housewarming gift, so I could hang it on my own wall.

Its beginning has grabbed me differently these past two days.

Many days, using all of my energy to develop myself becomes a reminder to rest.
I cannot benefit others if I do not take care of myself.

Most days, when I reach the lines about kind thoughts, anger, bad thoughts, and benefit,
I think of specific people or situations.
If I am being good, it is early enough in the day that I can set those intentions for any interactions that may follow.

09 August 2015

disorganized overshare

I need my community today.

Not being on facebook, there's a lot that I miss. People assume that everyone sees everything, and I am very often forgotten. Yesterday, two different people--one of them my ex-husband, who does not communicate with me--sent text messages to inform me of a community member's passing.

I had not been close with this person over the last many months. I don't know if I would say that we were ever close, but we definitely had a relationship. The news of her death struck me, and I'm not sure yet how to respond.

Each death is different. All grief is the same, but each time we encounter grief we must experience it in the way appropriate to the situation. (Appropriate for each of us as individuals! I certainly don't mean to suggest that there are right or wrong ways to express grief.) This is the first time I've had to process a loss of this kind since my life turned over.

How do I talk about that, even? I mean, I'm going to need some specific, brief way to refer to the chain of events that comprised the year I was 27, still continues, and changed everything forever. My life collapsed. Now I am rebuilding it. I have a more solid foundation than I knew. 

I loved Nancy's energy. She brought such great enthusiasm to everything she did, and she had so many great ideas. She was truly dedicated to bettering our community using her skills and her resources. Nancy saw that everyone had a story, and she wanted to share queer and trans stories with as many people as she could.  I am honored that she filmed and published the piece I read at TransPride 2014. To even say that in the same paragraph feels selfish. 

Everything I experience is colored by the influence that he had on my life. I am frustrated by it now. Everywhere I go, something pops up that reminds me of him. I reached into a pocket of a bag I brought to my parents' house and found a pair of his leather cuffs. Everywhere I go, he is there. I am trying to remind myself that this is not because he still has control over me. It is because we spent four years of our life together. We built a history, and then we separated a household. Things shuffle and get lost and found in that process. 

Anyway, I don't want to become a person who takes death and makes it all about myself. There are others who were much closer to Nancy who are grieving harder than I am, and my role is to feel my own feelings while supporting those people in any way that I can. How do I make myself available to those people? Where are they? What can I do? Who can I feed?

08 August 2015

homecoming, number whichever

I'm trying to go to sleep, but sleep eludes me. My schedule has been all messed up over vacation. I slept for 12 hours a night, plus a nap most days. Then three hours the night before we left. I let Dad drive most of that trip.

My mind is racing, and I don't know where to direct it. I want to direct it to calm down, to go to sleep, because it's bedtime and we can do that right now. It disagrees. I went to sleep around 11:00 last night and woke up about 9:30 this morning, the last time. I am developing new motor patterns for this keyboard. It's smaller than most of the ones I have used, and some of the hotkeys/key combinations are different. Most of them are. There are fewer keys.

I need something I can tell to stop default capitalizing. I might not want capital letters right now.

I try to go to sleep and I start thinking about C, and work, and my students, and women…. Lately I've been thinking about more of C's stories and wondering how much was true. Some of them were plausible. The problem was that all of them were plausible, for far too long.

I'm sure there was plenty to process from vacation. I don't know that I'll want to take a trip like that again. It was kind of….stressful. And could have been at least 2 days shorter than it was. I worry sometimes that because my parents were, or always seemed to be, looking for ways to spend more time with their families on vacation, that they are hurt when I don't. or that they are hurt just because they're my parents and they love me.

I really do need to be here. I need to be on my own. Pittsburgh is where I've found home. I was so excited to come home today. My neighbor Sam said he heard me when I got in saying something about it, don't know if I was talking to the cats or the door or what. The best part about leaving Pittsburgh really is coming back. I drove all the way around the city today, even though I didn't have to. I wanted to see it, to see Downtown gleaming in the sunset from every angle. I came through right after the Pirates game started, so traffic was moving at mostly fun paces. I went around a curve over the North Shore and the smell of hotdogs filled my car. I turned my head and saw the boats in the river, hoping to catch a ball that got hit out of the park. The city smelled like baseball, and I loved it like new again.

I miss you, small but loyal blog circle. I've been quite out of the habit. Hopefully I'll have more for you soon, given the improved computer situation. I'm enjoying this little thing so far. I transcribed some voice notes I'd recorded into my phone a while back, so maybe some of that will turn into writing, and some scraps might make their way here. Remember that every time I say I should write about something, I don't.

I am rediscovering myself, and I have changed. It will be necessary for my sanity that I continue to sort out my thoughts this way.

On another note, at B's recommendation I am reading On the Move, Oliver Sacks's autobiography. I haven't finished it yet, and I am thoroughly enjoying it so far.