#COVID-19 · Divorce and Separation

When Life Feels Good (During COVID and Divorce)

There are certain moments in life that feel right. The last few years those moments felt few and far between. Some one asked me recently if I missed my ex. Some one else asked me specifically what ended our relationship. Those are some loaded questions. People who know me know I am uncomfortably direct and honest with myself and others. I did some introspection and answered honestly.

I miss feeling not alone. I miss having some one who gives a shit as to why I’m running late at work or having some one who even knows when I work. I miss getting a checking in text from some one who cares how my day is going. The little things that people in pairs take for granted. That’s what I miss.

Do I miss our marriage and relationship? No. I don’t. Because toward the end we were both miserable. I would never go back to that. I do miss having some one. Between being a mom to twins and running a mental health practice I deal with a lot on a day to day basis. I essentially hold it all. I feel like I hold up everyone else and I have to just keep on holding myself up too. Because there’s no time or space to fall. I miss having some one who could catch me if I felt like I was falling. But somewhere in our relationship we lost that. So no. I do not miss the last year of our marriage.

What ended it? I answered “What ends a 13 year relationship? It wasn’t just one thing. It can’t be pared down to a pretty one liner. And honestly now it doesn’t matter. Because the end result is that it is over.”

A few weeks ago I walked into our new office space and two of my employees were there seeing clients, there was a client in the waiting room and I could hear our office manager on the phone with a client in the back office. We had our yoga music playing on the tv in the waiting area and all my gay books were on the coffee table staring happily at me. I stopped and took a breath and smiled. I thought here are all of these people employed because I built a business. Clients getting mental health treatment because I had a dream. Some times running a mental health practice is the least crazy part of my life. Ironic I know.

It felt right in that moment. Through my dad’s death, through COVID, through a divorce I’ve poured blood, sweat, and tears into that business. I’ve had weeks I couldn’t get paid. I’ve interviewed many, many, clinicians. I’m selective in who I’ve hired and I’ve been burned in many ways. I kept going.

To date we’ve provided services to over seven hundred clients and rough estimate is that half are Queer identifying. I walked down the hallway at our new suite of offices with the noise machines whirring, the music playing, and distant muffled voices of providers and patients. Then the not so distant voice of my admin as I went to shut her door as she now yelled at an insurance company. I felt pride. I did that. I made this happen. I fought through grief, hate, discrimination, a global pandemic that shut down in person visits for a year, and so much more to keep it going.

I take being an employer seriously. I never want my employees feeling like the way I’ve felt working at other agencies and hospital systems. It’s easy to devalue employees. I find it’s harder and more rewarding to support them. I still have hard conversations at times. We don’t always agree. But this weekend, I had them all with families in tow at my house by the pool. It was another one of those moments.

Smiling, laughing, swimming, and genuine enjoyment of each other and our families. It’s a beautiful thing to build a business that serves clients. It’s even more special to build a business that has employees who feel valued and happy to spend a Saturday hanging out with each other and our crazy kids and partners.

It was another moment that felt right. We all know we do hard work. When we walk out our office door it makes a difference to be surrounded by people who you want to work with. Who bring you up instead of pull you down. We have all been in bad work environments. Building a good one was just as much my mission as building a great practice. We are not all cookie cutter. Every one is a little weird and has stories and after seeing us all in swimsuits we mostly all have tattoos. But I like weird and backstories and tattoos. I am all of those things. So it works.

After a lot of bad moments since 2019, it feels good to know that through the bad I can still build good.

Of course I ended the day explaining to my sons at bedtime not to be scared of getting a new parent because all the sudden they realized that I could apparently get married again, give them a new parent, and in Declan’s words, “And it better not be a man Mama!” Wow. Judged by my 5 year old. I said, “No one’s lining up baby so don’t worry.” Then he got into bed muttering, “Well no one better line up, and not a man, Jackson imagine if Mama marries a man?” Those are stick my palms in my eyes moments and try and kiss them goodnight and run out of there.

To all my people who keep showing up for me and for my sons, with wine, sushi, zucchinis, folding laundry, helping me move my office, and continuing to invite me places even though I’m the third wheel now…Thank-you. I would not have survived the last year without you. Life isn’t perfect. Life is change.

Divorce and Separation · homophobia · lesbian mom

Happy Pride & Why it’s Important to Me

Pride month.

An administration that recognizes Pride month. Amaze-balls.

Why is Pride month a big deal? Why do we need Pride month? Why can’t you have heterosexual day or month? Blah blah blah. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We literally live in closets. For one month we can be in public spaces and not be scared to hold hands with partners. We can be at parades where we see and are seen. We can be unequivocally and unapologetically who we are. We get one month to be comfortably out. The rest of the year there are not many spaces we can all be comfortably out. Visibility is important.

Let me tell you some stories. I have a trans client whose Mom has been intermittently transphobic and had a hard time coming to terms with her son’s transition. It brought tears to both our eyes as they recounted their Mom at the NYC Pride parade, wearing a t-shirt that said, “I love my trans son” and a random trans female walking out of their spot in the parade. Beelining straight for my clients Mom and asking for a hug who enthusiastically gave her one. That moment still brings tears to my eyes. I wasn’t even there.

Pride allows us these moments.

I have many clients who first saw other people like them at Pride events. “I didn’t even know people like me existed, then I went to my first Pride parade and was like wow. I want to be them.”

I know people who were physically assaulted when they came out to family. I know people who were sexually assaulted and physically assaulted for just existing as they are. Pride allows all of us a place to find love, acceptance, peace, and most of all hope.

Have you ever been physically or sexually assaulted because you identify as heterosexual? Likely not. You can exist in any space without fear of being victimized because of your sexual orientation and gender identity. That’s why you don’t get a month. Because you get every freaking day.

I saw a guy for a few dates. At the second date he 1. expected I would have sex with him. 2. Wanted to know when we could have a threesome. 3. Was annoyed and perplexed when I declined both options and told him where he could stick it. He made a lot of assumptions based on the fact I had been with a woman: he thought I would hop into bed. He also thought I would want to hop into bed with both genders. Obviously. He didn’t get a third date. Would he have acted that way with a heterosexual woman? My guess is no.

The best part of Pride month for me this year is my practice. I spent June 1st in my brand spanking new office. It was built for us. There are four offices, a waiting area, kitchen area, and bathroom. The Landlord designed it with me, tolerated my multiple significantly more expensive demands, and now we all have windows. We all have sheetrock ceilings and heavy doors and the more expensive soundproofed sheetrock. We also have excessive numbers of outlets, dimmers on all the lights, and a thermostat for each individual office.

I commissioned an artist to make a “super classy, super Queer, not stupid, no unicorns, but obviously gay, massive painting” for a wall in the waiting area. She laughed when I said not stupid. She said, “I actually know exactly what you mean. It can get excessive fast with the rainbows.”

It feels amazing to own a space, make it mine, to have built a practice of people who are on board with the super Queer mission of the practice. One of my employees was there decorating and said she didn’t buy a print because she thought maybe it would be too much in terms of too gay. I told her if any one thinks it’s too gay friendly they are not meant to be at this practice. She agreed.

I want my practice to embody Pride month. I want that energy of hope and acceptance to be oozing out of my group. It’s incredibly freeing to be able to pursue this without any boundaries or people trying to hold me back.

I’m surrounded by Queer people. Which means I have been touched by homophobia and have witnessed transphobia firsthand. I hear about it all second hand also. My best friend and my sister are both lesbians. My ex is obviously a lesbian. I’m pleasantly curved. I have other Queer folks in my family and many many more in my friends. Then there’s my clients. I looked at my day recently and 8 out of 12 were Queer in some way. I remember smiling. I built it. They came. I love it. Pride month brings visibility but it also brings up the dark side. It brings up Stonewall. It brings up all the LGBTQ individuals who have been victims of hate. It reminds me of my sister sinking two foul shots at our state finals as the opposing crowd chanted “DYKE DYKE”. It reminds me of countless restaurant experiences of being stared at and talked about sometimes quite overtly. It reminds me that my sons have never met their grandparents on my ex’s side.

Hate drives homophobia and transphobia. The opposite of hate isn’t love. In this case it’s acceptance.

Nothing prepared me to date men again and realize after the first date why it felt so different. It wasn’t because it was a man. It was because I didn’t have the constant worry and hyper-vigilance that comes with a same-sex relationship. I was relaxed. I didn’t think the waiter or the people on the street or at the restaurant would come after us. I could let my guard down. The external minority stress was absent. I remember feeling relief. But also such deep sadness and grief. That stress was there every time I went out with my ex. It was such a part of us that I wasn’t even aware of it until it was gone. Minority couples do not go through less stress. They go through more. Because on top of normal couple stuff we have to worry about being targeted every time we step out the door.

Pride month is important because it’s the antithesis of every other day of our lives.

Be you. Love you. Happy Pride Month!

Divorce and Separation · Mental Health Stigma Suicide

What Not to Say to a Queer Woman on a Date

My therapist is closing his practice. Ugh. Took me nine months to find him. Because let me tell you how hard it is to find a therapist when you work in psychiatry in a small state. I share clients with far too many therapists.

I have until the first week in July and I told him we have until then to cure me. Because lord I don’t want to find another therapist. Then I was having coffee with a therapist so we could meet; and it was AMAZING to meet another human adult person in person without fear of dying of COVID. Thank-you vaccines. It was literally the first time I’ve done something that I used to do pre-COVID. Meet with a therapist who I share a lot of clients with. I suppose it’s considered networking but also generally common courtesy just so we can get a feel for one another. Not actually feel one another. Get your mind out of the gutter;)

So I was having coffee with him and I told him how my therapist is leaving. Sigh. And he started trying to fix it and name therapists for me, and I’m like wow. I can’t. It’s too soon. I haven’t broken up with my current therapist yet.

So let’s talk about online dating as a former lesbian. I know I’m not a lesbian. Any one who knew me before my wife knows I’m not a lesbian. But apparently having an ex who is female, as a female, makes men assume I am 1. a former lesbian who had a “phase” 2. Into threesomes 3. In need of “dick”…?

So let me provide some education here. If you ever date some one who used to date some one of the same gender or opposite gender or whatever; don’t say stupid shit.

When I train therapists and APRNs who ask for supervision related to seeing transgender clients I say the number one thing to know is “DON’T BE A DOUCHE”. I don’t yell it. But I repeat it a few times. Now I say the same thing to men trying to date a woman who used to date/be married to a woman. Don’t be a douche.

Don’t assume my sex life was lacking for the last decade I was with a woman. Because it wasn’t. Don’t assume I have not been with a man. Don’t assume I need a dick. Cuz yeah. There’s been toys around for a long time friends. No one actually needs a penis. Well except men I suppose. But even that’s debatable.

I learned quickly not to disclose my ex’s gender when chatting with prospective dates. I didn’t even disclose on a couple first dates because of disastrous responses. If there was a second date. Which there weren’t many. Then I would say her gender. Then I would still be asked pretty horrendous and invasive questions. I would also be fetishized in this creepy way. Imagine telling some one you have an ex then having them ask you how you had sex (because apparently some men don’t know how two women have sex?!), how you conceived your children (whose sperm and how it got into my uterus were common themes), and everything else you could possibly imagine being asked.

If you’re purely straight you have not had to deal with this. Because straight people generally know how a female becomes pregnant and they wouldn’t want to know about your previous sex life. I’ve been working on a presentation about LGBTQ mental health and I’ve read several articles that detail how bisexual individuals have the highest depression and suicide rates among the L’s and the G’s. I kinda get it. I mean I’m not suicidal. And I’m not depressed. But for some one more fragile and less secure entering the dating scene having been with both genders sucks. The discrimination is real.

I’ve talked to my therapist about it. A lot. Then I deleted the dating apps. Solved the problem. That was not his advice at all. But it worked for me.

I didn’t ever think dating would be this complicated. But I guess not every one has as fluid an understanding of sexuality as I do.

To clarify: Just because I’ve been married to a woman and am now dating men does not mean I want to have a threesome. It also does not mean I have been yearning and or significantly missing penis in my sex life. It also does not mean I had a phase. It means I fell in love with some one and then fell out of love with them; to diminish a decade of my life including a marriage and children to a phase is demeaning and insulting.

I think I’ll just send a link to this post to any prospective dates. lol. Not kidding though.

Overall life is good. My sons are good. My divorce is progressing. My business is growing. And the dating thing…well I know what I’m not looking for.

#COVID-19 · Divorce and Separation · homophobia

“Yeah It’s Been a Little Rough”. 2021.

I feel like 2021 is just a wicked continuation of 2020. It’s been an emotional roller coaster for me. Watching the Derek Chauvin trial has been horrific. Death doesn’t frighten me. I’m intimately acquainted with death of all kind. Traumatic, planned, old, young…personally and professionally I’ve known death of all kinds. George Floyd’s death gets to me. It was so preventable. It was traumatic.

You ever watch Bad Boys II Marcus- “This has got to be the worst most emotional cop week of my life.” Mike- “Yeah it’s been a lil’ rough”. If you are familiar with Marcus and Mike you know that is the expected reaction of each to a horrible week of people being murdered and trying to crack the biggest case of their career.

I feel that. I feel Marcus’ drama and Mike’s calm acceptance. I feel like a constant mix of those two. I watched a documentary about systemic racism told by a white man who was descended from slave owners. He said, “Doing nothing was not option,” very softly and humbly but looking directly into the camera as he explained why he was making this documentary. It’s his reckoning with his families relationship with slavery and human trafficking. Parallel to his story is the narrative of a Black man who imparts such wisdom about white supremacy and the system that exists. I couldn’t look away when he spoke and I replayed his scenes several times to really hear him.

One of his quotes that hit me is below:

“Something has to happen in your mind for you to look at a person or child and say well that’s gonna be sold to Mr so and so and you never look at them as human and that’s what this country is built on. The Indians were treated that way…we want it and we have a right to take it. So you gotta do something in your mind to treat people; humans that way. You make them heathens, so you can treat them any way you want.”

I never learned about the Tulsa massacre in 1921 and it angers me. I hold a deep anger at the white education I received and I fear the white education my sons will receive and know I will have to provide them extra curriculum. Why didn’t I learn about Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with a young female slave? She was a child. She had his children. Because it doesn’t suit white people to educate white people in a way that paints Black people as victims and survivors. They don’t get to be the heroes of their own stories.

Why did I not learn about the violence that white people have perpetrated against Black people since the days we first landed in America? Has it escaped no one that if perhaps any of these white police officers had any education about systemic racism that maybe they would not have killed innocent Black people? Why did it take until 2021 to hold a white police officer accountable for the death of a Black man?

I treat police officers. I treat young Black men. I treat young Black boys. It’s been a little rough.

Add in some of the toughest most anti-trans legislation in at least 33 states. I treat transgender clients. I am Queer. I can’t possibly describe the disgust, fear, pain, visceral pain that I feel when I see these bills becoming laws. The law in Arkansas targets children. Children with higher risks of suicide. Children across the country are seeing these laws pass. Children with transphobic parents are being pushed further into the closet. Or closer to running away and being homeless.

The mass shootings. Suddenly are rampant. In the town where my practice is located there was an active and armed shooter.

The environmental and cultural stress happening right now is indescribable.

Add in divorce, online dating, mom of twins, and owner of mental health practice during a global pandemic…yeah. 2021. I feel like I’ve been punk’d.

There are moments that make me remember I am just a Mom and life feels chaotic in a normal type of way. Like when I was talking to one of my employees about a rather serious case, and one of my sons started screaming as if he were dying, and came running in, still screaming to the degree that I thought there would be a bone sticking out somewhere…but he showed me his shoulder. Which now sported a bite mark. I had to hang up on my employee because 1. he was screaming 2. I had to deal with one of my sons biting my other son because as I would find out the biter didn’t want the bite-y to take the pair of Spiderman in the Memory game they were playing together.

Another day I was on the phone with a therapist collaborating on a different tough case and I ran around the house trying to get the boys ready to leave for school, and I’d intermittently hit the mute button so I could yell, “GET YOUR SOCKS ON” Son- “WHY ARE YOU YELLING???” Me-“BECAUSE I ASKED YOU NICELY FIVE TIMES AND NOW I’M ANNOYED!!!!” un-mute, “uh huh, yes I totally agree” in my most professional voice.

I literally should be a reality show.

I was crying watching the phone call with Biden with George Floyd’s family. Because he sounded sincere and because it took their son being publicly murdered for the President to speak with them. It just all sucks.

I hug my sons. I try and teach them right from wrong. I try and teach them not to be colorblind but to see color because diversity is a strength. I mean right now we are working on not biting and handling losing at Memory…so baby steps.

Don’t look away. Don’t bury your head. It’s so hard. So painful. But we can’t pretend it’s not happening. Racism. Transphobia. It’s all happening. Don’t look away. And 2021…just keep bringing it. I’m still here.

Divorce and Separation

Silver Sequins

About twelve years ago I went to Lilith Fair. Back when we could gather in large crowds and not fear catching a life ending disease. Back before kids. Before my master’s program. Before marriage. And definitely before divorce. I attended with my sister, her now ex-wife, and several of her now ex-friends, and my soon to be ex-wife not even wife then. Simpler times.

It was before I finally admitted to myself that I can live the rest of my life without a live concert unless it’s in a theater with wine or champagne at intermission. Yes. I’ve become a snob. But 23 year old me was not a snob yet. I was okay tail-gating on a hot day. Sweating. Dancing in the sun. Using port-a-potties and drinking too much beer. We sat on the lawn and watched as the great and beautiful Sara McLaughlan came on stage. She was so far away I couldn’t see her face except when I looked at the large screen.

She has a quiet grace and confidence that spoke to me. She never compromised her art to be popular. I feel that. She’s an Aquarius like me. I feel she and I would understand each other. It’s an Aquarius thing.

I remember she wore a top with silver sequins and she was probably in her 40’s and me in my 20’s had no idea what she meant when she sat down and tried to explain the song she was about to sing. She smiled and with a freedom I understand now, but not then, she said something to the effect of, “It’s about where I was,” and she paused and smiled and said softly, “And I’m so glad to not be there anymore.” So simple. So pure and honest.

At the time I know she had separated from her partner and they would subsequently divorce. I was entering into a relationship then. I was just starting my career. I was naive and happy and dumb. I don’t regret that moment sitting on the grass pleasantly buzzed with friends, family, and my girlfriend. It was a great day and a great night and it captured what you feel as you stand on the precipice of life.

I’m glad I remember her silver sequins and how I thought I want to look like that when I’m 40. And I’m glad I remember the peace and calm that she emanated as she told a crowd of hundreds of strangers how happy she was then. How she had been through something. She survived. She thrived.

I’ve thought about that moment many times over the past decade. But more in the last five months since we separated. There are so many people who feel sad for you when you say you are going through a divorce. Or who assume I am unhappy or who assume this is a bad thing.

I just think of Sara in her silver sequins. Smiling. On the other side of whatever she had been through saying she was grateful for being through it. I’ve felt grief. I’ve felt sad. I’ve felt hurt. I’ve felt anger. But I’ve also felt peace. I haven’t worn silver sequins. But I have worn jeans. Actual jeans. That fit. If you’ve been living in the COVID world for the last year you understand why that’s a big deal. I’ve also worn new underwear. Because sometimes you have to start with your underwear to feel like a true new beginning.