Saturday, June 29, 2013

Dear Bad Drag Queen: Thank You for Your Service

Spokane's Pride Parade is the best parade we've got.  The St. Patty's Day Parade is cold and just one long long advertisement for cement businesses. The Lilac Parade/Torchlight/Armed Services (it's got an identity issue) isn't about lilacs or light, it's about military military military and it starts after bed time. This leaves the Pride Parade which has little to no audience up until the last block or two and so it's kind of more political march than parade.  I love it because unlike some larger metropolitan area Pride Parades, it's a family friendly and fully covered parade (except for the guy wearing only chaps and a sling last year... my kids still bring it up in a slightly trauma-processing way).  I obviously wasn't going to march/parade in it this year. But I felt that I could maybe observe from the unpopulated early parts of the route. So we set up our lonely lawn chairs and watched.

And they loved us. They showered us with candy and appreciation as nearly the ONLY observers they'd yet observed. They pointed and waved at us and called out "YOU ARE CUTE!!"  Drag Queens and human rainbows posed for my photos. Tralalalala! The closest I've come to fun for some time.  And I posted some photos to Facebook captioning some queens mugging for my camera, "Everyone should be able to wear whatever they want whenever they want." I felt good about everyone.

The next day, the kids and I went to our neighborhood grocery store. I was struggling to function that day and I figured I could pick up what we needed if I brought along my new cane.

Some time ago, I had been prescribed a cane.  I couldn't quite get my mind around it.  A CANE?!  I'm not falling over.  I'm not blind. I'm not crippled.  I'm just off kilter and easily woozy and getting better. But it's because I've recovered some that I need it.  It's now time for me to bring my eyes up off the floor and start seeing the world around me again. Instead of using poor mental substitutes for a crutch to find and keep my balance, I should be using an actual crutch to keep myself up and moving.  It's a cane, not crutches, not a walker, not a wheel chair; just a cane.

I knew at the Pride Parade, if I was going to be able to walk in to the Pride Festival to find my daughter who marched with our church in the parade, I was going to need all the help I could get, so I finally picked up a cane at the drug store and headed in to the rainbow mayhem.  It was a revelation.  Suddenly my head had space. I could see things. I could hear things without going nuts. I felt horribly self conscious, but my mind also felt liberated to do some thing other than try to keep myself vertical... which was walk in and walk right back out.  But still, that's progress!

Back at the grocery store, I was struggling again to find peace with the cane. I felt awkward and conspicuous. And then, in walked our local person of drag. I can't tell if he is sincerely but inexpertly trying to be a she or if he is trying to look like a he sort of being a she; it's not a real thorough transformation. Plus, women who are 6 ft tall usually eschew 8 inch heels, so it's an unrealistic get-up. It is none of my business, I'm simply unsure what pronoun s/he would want me to use here.

On this day, it looked like maybe s/he hadn't changed for a few days.  Her butt pads were lumpy and her boobs were wandering in ways that reminded me of my 6th grade Halloween costume where I was a bubble gum machine with assorted balloon shapes contained in a clear plastic bag around my torso.  Her blond wig was tattered. And his usual cobalt blue mini dress was, as usual, making him/her really noticeable. S/he always stands out, partly because I've never seen a woman go grocery shopping in anything close to that outfit. For me personally, however fascinating and interesting a well done drag queen can be, I find badly executed drag unsettling, as I did on this particular day.

Accidental mother-daughter opposite-matching, with props
Coyote's mouth was completely open in shock (as were pretty much everyone else's).  And his eyes were big as dinner plates.  And I felt it would do no good for me to pretend we weren't all seeing the hot mess we were seeing. I had to say something. But what?! These are the issues we face in provincial little Spokane. What to do? What do say? It didn't seem honest to ignore the spectacle, which normally isn't much of a spectacle, but today she was really amazing.  I had massive internal dissonance.  On the one hand, you know, isn't it okay to hope that some care might be put in to ones appearance?  On the other hand, what was it that I'd posted on Facebook? "Everyone should be able to wear whatever they want whenever they want."  All we legally ask is that privates are covered, and they were.  Um... so who was I really?

I got down at Coyote's level, in front of his eyes, and said, "Remember, Everyone gets to wear whatever they want whenever they want.  And it's impolite to stare." 

I stood up. And I leaned on my cane, suddenly able to handle the store, the noise, the people, the music, the numbers and letters everywhere, for as much time as I needed to pick up the few items on our list, all thanks to my cane. 

And I realized that if S/he can wear slovenly drag, I get to use a cane.  And it's nobody's business if I do.  I can use a cane whenever I need to, or not.  I can use my cane whenever I want to, NEED or not.  I can use my cane for as long as I want, whenever I want, or not. I can use my cane for the rest of my life, if I feel like it, just for kicks.  I don't need to be "bad off enough" to justify it to anyone, even myself.  I love my cane.  It makes space in my brain for other things. And gives me a sense of security as I expand my horizons and test myself against new situations.  And that's the society you and I both want to live in, one where people get to make choices for themselves for what's right for them, and it's none of our damn business.  My brain.  My cane.  My right.

People's reactions to my cane have been almost universally great, probably the bad drag queen can't say that. Not much gawking. Customer service is prompt. People make way for me in a crowd. I feel less need to explain the confused words that sometimes come out of my mouth.  Only once, rounding a corner at the store, was it awkward. This woman and I almost collided and instead of exchanging mumbled "excuse me's" she screamed, "AAAHHH! Oh MY GOD. I'M SO SORRY.  Oh please forgive me. OH MY GOD.  I can't believe myself!!! AUGHH!!!"   I half expected her to thank me for my service.  In such a military town, it's a common enough phrase to anyone in fatigues or with a crutch. But, as a friend recently suggested, perhaps that's what I'll say next time I see our neighborhood drag queen: "Thank you for your service,  and thank you for the sacrifices you have made for my sense of freedom."

Monday, June 10, 2013

Three Little Birds Singin': Every Little Thing Is Gonna Be Alright


It was three minutes.  Three whole glorious minutes.  I was pumping gas.  John Cougar Melencamp was booming over the speakers... and music, damn music has driven me mad.  Music in the grocery store, music at the gas station, just so much noise, so much waste of air space, scratchy, muffled "music" pumped in to every effing second, for what? for why? To clutter my feeble brain? I've had earplugs in for months. Imagine this: every synapse of your brain is like a hiker who crosses an abyss on a bridge.  Many of my bridges got wiped out, so for nearly 7 months, my hiker has had to hike around the entire canyon to complete a thought.  It is exhausting work.  And every sensory addition is like adding 10#s to her backpack.  She may not make it at all.  But over the past several months, with lots of help, we've been building new bridges.  Postmortem dissections show that these new bridges can't go in the same places as the old bridges, but go in next to the old location.  Plus, in some parts, we may not be making new bridges at all, but employing Evel Kneivel type tactics to make it across.  In some places all the walls of the canyon have collapsed and we just need to find a whole new route across.  It's been difficult, grueling work.  And then, this one glorious afternoon, it all came together for three whole goddam, mudder cluckin' minutes.  Holy Holy Holy.
Blue took some lovely photos of her brother's haircut-torture

There was this rush: I will get better. I will be different, but I will be whole again.

And then this deeper rush.  I am alive!  I was never in danger of dying.  But I was in danger, since the beginning of time, of not existing.  Such a long, sacredly random twisting of events has brought me here.  Going back innumerable generations, just the right people getting it on at just the right time.  And the long long evolution of humans, the geological evolution of earth, and planets and suns.  The whole thing, miraculously lucky again and again and again.

It wasn't just the fact of being.  It was the fact of being me, that was the rush.  Throughout this journey, I have gone very deeply, very intensely into the realm of self-worth.  Every day, I faced the fact that I was crappy at every single thing I am and do.  Mother, wife, friend, conversationalist, lunch maker, grocery shopper, driver, all, every single thing, I could either not do it at all or if I tried I did it real shitty-like.  And that is when my Faith kicked in.

The first UU principle: the inherent worth and dignity of every person.  And among them, me.  I understood, and felt, what I intellectually trust: there is nothing I can do or say that could possibly increase my value as a person, or decrease it.  No matter how crappy I am at every single thing I do.  No matter how little I do.  No matter if I'm CEO of some company, or remain a stay-at-home mom for the rest of my life.  No matter what.  No matter if I steal your truck or kill your kid or save your life or give you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it, every single time.  It Matters what I do and what I don't do, yes. But it never will increase my worth as a person.  That is being.  That is our birthright.  Just for being born, I have value. You have value and all the things and recognition we work for could all disappear tomorrow and we would still have value. The universe consciously or unconsciously put in a lot of work to get you and me here. And I respect that work and believe it was worth it.

In over 8 years of cutting his hair, this one turned out the worst, BY FAR
And after this long, scary journey, after fully understanding my worth, what happened in those three moments of healing is that I understood how incredibly awesome it is to be me (you too FYI!).  I felt like I'd been born again and in that moment understood the crazy incredible thing that I have: life and being me.  And here I am again, after all this time.  Here I am!  Being alive!  It's incomprehensibly cool to BE.  I want everyone to feel this, to know this joy of existance.

And these thoughts, these feelings, were beaming through my brain with absolute clarity, like a new pair of glasses, a new prescription, where the forest suddenly has trees and the trees all have leaves.  And that is when I understand some thing else:  I have really been through something.  The thoughts, if completed at all, have been like swimming through molasses.  The losses of self and self-concept and companionship and goals and dreams and the losses of those around me, Huck's loss of his partner, the kids' loss of a competent mother.  I saw that this thing, this head injury, is no trifling matter.  I felt a deep respect for those who have stayed in my life, for those caught up in this tidal wave, for myself and for the work I have done and for looking this all in the face and curiously turning my injury over and over, inspecting the spiritual and physical and psychological aspects from many fuzzy angles.

Blue's Window Comic "Book"
And then I slid back into the mud.  And I kept sliding until I was in a fetal position for nearly a week. It turns out, I had a small rupture on an internal thingy and there was pain and pain medication and scans and all that.  And I was grateful that I did not have chronic pain with my head injury.  But then they told me I might have chronic pain forever.  And then I felt my number was up here.  It was an absurdity of dog-piling ailments and snowballing symptoms, but that's chaos for you ... sometimes you flip 20 tails in a row. That sacred random that made me, can also take me out.  But then the pain abated and I am fine for now, although a recurrence is likely.  And there was backsliding on months of recovery work, as it all got buried under pain and medications.  And I have to work hard on word recall again. But I know that those three minutes are out there. They are there and I will likely me mine again.  But for now, it is enough to remember them, to remember me, to remember being myself with clarity and strength. And to look forward; it's coming.  I'm coming back.  I'm going to be me, a different me, but me nonetheless, and it's going to be epic.

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