2020: The Antagonist to my Life and Why I Finally Learned to Listen

I’ve started and stopped writing a blog post many times recently. Some times the grief from losing my Dad still catches me unaware and I start writing about something funny that happened on my son’s birthday and end up devolving into a sobbing mess writing about missing my Dad. I trash those posts. But it’s like a train wreck. I can’t stop writing them once I start them; it all pours out at warp speed.

Then I step away for a few days and come back. 2020 brought a lot. You know that because you’ve been through a lot too. Most of what I’ve been through has taught me life lessons and I’ll be better off having gone through most of 2020 than not. Up until November I kept thinking 2020 still wasn’t as bad as 2019 when my Dad died. But I hit my wall in November and have decided now that it’s as bad as 2019.

But I’m not going into the train wreck today. I have to reframe and remember that much of 2020 experiences will be so much better for me personally and professionally in the long run. They are painful experiences. Hurtful and I feel raw. But I feel hopeful. I don’t feel like I’m starting over because I’m not. I’m starting from the middle of my story and I’m at that part when the protagonist feels lost, beat, and hopeless because all the stuff they were trying to prevent through the whole first half of the book happened anyway. Thank-you 2020.

The protagonists of my favorite stories come out the other side a little darker, a little stronger, and ready to kick some ass.

That’s about where I waffle between….deep dark loss of hope and looking ahead ready to kick some ass.

It doesn’t go well when I try to write blog posts in the dark moments.

I have to take my own advice though and listen to what I tell my clients going through major life stressors.

I never say, “This too shall pass” because that saying generally irritates me. Everything passes. Even super constipated people eventually poop. Still can hurt like hell.

I do say things to clients like, “You are strong. You are resilient. Look at what you are surviving and thriving through. You have an inner strength that impacts people around you. You are empathic and that’s not a weakness when you learn how to harness it. It’s okay to let go of toxic people and relationships. Learn from your relationships. Learn what needs of yours were being met even if it was toxic or abusive. You stayed for a reason, and this isn’t meant to shame you at all, it’s meant to allow yourself to examine it more objectively so you don’t repeat the same pattern. Allow yourself time to heal. Allow yourself to define and examine what your needs are….”

Not all of these apply to my 2020 but a lot of them do.

When you have kids and twins it was easy to lose sight of my needs and my feelings because I became so entangled with theirs. But they turned five this November. We survived five years of twin boys. My practice survived three years. I’ve survived one year and seven months without my Dad.

I think what’s important as I reflect back on the events of this year is that I conducted myself with poise. I never disparaged any one, as I sorely and dearly wanted to in multiple instances, and I like to think that I acted in a way that will be a good example to my sons. They will encounter hard times with hard people and I want them to act in a way that maintains their integrity. I swear a lot. But I’m honest as fuck. Swearing is my one vice. I don’t even smoke pot. I’m that person.

I certainly won’t come out of 2020 unscathed. But I have learned so much about my friendships and placing my trust in the right people. I’ve learned how important the professional relationships I’ve built over the years are to maintain a successful practice. I’ve appreciated more than once this year how I’ve never burned a bridge before when leaving an employer. I’ve learned that I have a tendency to ignore red flags and it’s something I need to work on. It sounds so easy and stupid. But it’s impacted me in many ways.

I think most important of all is that I have learned to listen. I work in a listening profession but even in my own work I have to remind myself to shut up and listen (I say this to myself internally during sessions not externally). It’s easy to want to immediately respond either with an affirmation or a question to further clarify….or whatever; it’s harder to sit in silence and truly hear another person and swallow my initial response to try and answer more thoughtfully.

I’ve been listening more to my friends, to therapists I work with, and to clients. I’ve also been trying to listen to my kids more. One of my sons was having epic anger outbursts and instead of going head to head I’ve been trying to listen and not immediately respond. It’s been mostly working. We’ve had one epic meltdown since I started this new tactic but one in a few months is better than the almost weekly that were happening.

I think we all want to be heard. I don’t think I was listening enough to others and to myself.

I’ve worked on listening to myself. Listening to my gut. Listening to my basic emotional responses. It’s led to a lot of very heart wrenching decisions. But decisions that will be better for me in the long run.

I feel that protagonist in the novel who has lost so much- family, friends, and most importantly the security that she knew what the future would bring- I feel that on a visceral level. 2020 still has roughly forty days left. I’m sure it will be like nothing I have imagined. But I will lean into those last forty days feeling a little darker, a little stronger, and ready to kick some 2020 ass.

I’m breathing a sigh of relief because I didn’t start sobbing during this writing. We are going to talk about the super messy and unpredictable intensity of grief in my next post. Cuz damn.

#COVID-19 · homophobia · politics

Why I’m Grateful for #45

These last few weeks have been turbulent. I went to sleep on election day thinking I would wake to a repeat of 2016. Then I woke up at midnight. 2 AM. 4 AM. 5:30 AM. Nothing was called. What a long week. Waiting to catch COVID. Waiting to see who would be elected President. Never giving up hope on PA and GA.

In that time I saw my small little Republican heavy town voted for Trump by about 100 votes. They did a recount. I found out today my town voted for Biden by 33 votes. 33. Our population is about 7,000. Roughly 5,000 people voted. If my town can go blue it’s possible anywhere.

I cried most of the day Saturday after it was called. Sunday I scrolled through social media and cried seeing the posts about Kamala and the projected appointees to their cabinet. They are Black. Women. Thank God.

I spoke to some one today at work who fears a Biden presidency. I don’t get it. I tried to. But I don’t. I have lived in fear for the past four years. I feel a weight lifted. I’ve been seeing Biden’s appointees for the COVID task force and there are scientists.

Not family members.

Scientists. Not family members.

Scientists on a pandemic task force should not be a novelty. It should be the expectation.

Black women in a cabinet should not be a novelty. It should be an expectation.

I don’t believe there was voter fraud. I believe in our democracy.

I told some one recently I never ended a friendship or relationship because some one voted for Bush. I never felt unsafe around a Republican until this administration. The hate and the lies are overwhelming. I’m not ready to mend those relationships that I have lost. But I’m glad we have elected a President who is a better than I am.

Some one told me we should be grateful for #45. I am grateful. I am grateful to have the most caustic homophobic and transphobic administration come to power in a time when I had the ability to do something to create change. Without #45 I would never have opened my own practice. I would never have decorated my business website in rainbows. I would never have discharged clients for being overtly racist. I would never have started this blog. I would never have taken a stand for what is right.

I am grateful for #45 because his administration showed me how much hatred and discrimination still exists in our country. He made me examine my whiteness in ways I never have before. He made me have hard talks with myself and with my friends and family members. He made me understand white supremacy in ways I never could before. He made me research, read, learn, and grow in ways I never would have been challenged to under a Democratic Presidency.

Could I have done without him? Sure. But the silver lining of his presidency has been the activism, education, and awareness that erupted in response to him.

Except in Florida apparently. Seriously. Parkland and Pulse…you all seriously couldn’t turn blue after being the site of two mass murders??? The work is not done.

But as I scrolled social media and saw all the pictures of all the children of all my friends watching Biden and Kamala’s speeches on Saturday I thought yes. For the first time in four years there are people we can allow our children to watch because they speak with respect and unity.

I am grateful to #45 for showing me exactly the man I don’t want my son’s to become.

I am grateful to see my niece’s face as she watched Kamala’s speech and think that she will grow up in a world where women can Become.

Mostly I am grateful because while I have seen true hatred in the last four years and pure prejudice I have also seen true bravery. True courage. I am grateful because I have the privilege of attending to the mental health of the Queer community in a time when they are most vulnerable.

In the face of hatred and murder transgender individuals still went forward with transitioning. I have seen Queer people come out to their Trump loving family members. They were terrified but they did it anyway because it was more important that they Become who they needed to be than to give in to the fear of hate. I am grateful to bear witness to some of the most courageous quietly stalwart individuals as they took stands for who they are and who they would be.

#45 I am grateful for your hate because it showed me the bravest most loving souls.

#45 I am grateful for your lies because out of them came monumental truths for so many in my life personally and professionally.

#45 I am grateful for your chatter because out of the chatter came a silent majority.

#45 I am grateful for your division because out of it I was able to feel total unity with my Queer community.

#45 I am grateful for your racism because it revealed to me my own engagement with a white supremacist system and allowed me to start taking steps to dismantle it.

#45 I am grateful to all the family members and friends of the 200,000+ lives lost to this pandemic for calling you out. I am grateful for this disease because it showed the lengths you would go, the lives you would sacrifice, to cling to your backward belief system where you come first and the lives of “your” people are disposable.

#45 on a personal note, I’m grateful to your homophobia for showing me the people in my life who understood, without me saying a word, that the Queer community needed allies and that I specifically needed allies. I am grateful for all my friends and family members who not only flipped you the bird in order to stand by my side, but also stood up to their own family members and friends for minorities. If ever I had doubts of how well supported I was the last four years have shown me I am not alone. For that I am eternally humbled and grateful.