Change the course of Februaries

Last Sunday, I think I dipped to my lowest low. A week ago I had conviction for dying in a way I hadn’t before. I won’t go into it in any more detail than that. But it was a wild day. I cannot believe it was only a week ago.

Since that Sunday, I’ve felt pretty great. Of the 168 hours that have passed since last Sunday, I was probably only suffering for 24 of them total. What joy! This is compared to a 160/168 hours of suffering ratio that I’ve had pretty consistently since like October or so. Twenty-four is a dream.

Now that I’m (cautiously) feeling optimistic about the future of my mood and my mortality, it’s time to catch up. It’s time to clean up all the spilled milk of the last three months. Now that I’m capable, it’s time for unabashed self-care, and one of the ways is to prepare for the month of February, it its entirety.

If you love me and your birthday is in February–fear not. I am happy you exist. But the month itself is a black hole, no offense.

As you’ve heard time and time again, two of my friends died in the same month in the same year from suicide. One of those people was a trans brother, a dear friend from high school. Both friends were shining lights of the universe, and now they’ve both ceased to exist in my world. February brings very difficult anniversaries and memories.

It’s not just suicide; it’s about how February is the shortest month of the year and yet perseveres as the longest-feeling month of the year. In Minnesota it is dark and dreary–there are typically few days of temperatures over a solid 15 degrees. It’s a time for vitamin D3-deprived Minnesotans to walk around like hungry zombies, for single-and-also-miserable people to cry on the 14th, for rent to be the same amount but fewer days are lived in your space. It’s basically just a bogus 4 weeks, tbh.

On the 20th, the anniversary of the day my trans brother took his life, it hits the heart too much. Last year around that time I was just starting to date my current girlfriend. I texted like six of my friends and asked them to hang out with me so I wouldn’t be alone on the arguably worst day of the year for me. All six, for reasons that are probably very innocent, bailed. My now-girlfriend came over and held me close and it held me together.

In the past couple of years I’ve just kind of braced myself for the month but done little to try to actually set myself up for success. This year I want to do it differently.

Just because these lives ended in this month doesn’t mean mine has to.

I mean that figuratively and literally both. I don’t have to stop in my tracks and dive so far into sadness. Being sad won’t bring him back–it won’t even bring me closer to him, unless I’m trying to just connect with his final hours. Fuck that. I’ve always seen so much of myself in him, but I am not the same. Sometimes it takes a lot of reminders. But I gotta show up for myself, you know?

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s normal and healthy (in moderation) to be sad about the deaths of those we have loved dearly. As long as I’m moving forward, whether it’s a downward slope or upward slope, sadness is appropriate. What gets dicey is feeling like my world is ending just because it ended for someone else.

For February version 2017, I made two very intentional, thoughtful goals for myself (taken from that linked post):

  • Do something for Aidan. February 20th is my friend Aidan’s anniversary of his passing and I happen to have the day off from work for President’s Day (??). I think that’s a good opportunity to try and volunteer or at least write about him. Something like that.
  • Express daily gratitude in some way. I want to do something like make a FB post or write a blog or send a grateful message to someone every single day in February. It’s the shortest month of the year, so I think I can manage.

How can I turn this grief into something productive–not in the capitalistic sense but in the sense that I must turn this energy into something that will not destroy me. I must take extra care of myself. What am I going to do for him? I don’t know yet. But it will be something I prioritize.

As for the second goal, I think this might be hard since this isn’t my normal habit, to intentionally express gratitude this way (my current version is pretty intermittent), but I hope I make this a thing. I hope I realize even in the bowels of February that this is good for me, and I can only benefit from that kind of act. Maybe if I make a clever hashtag out of it, it will work.

(That was simultaneously a jab at myself, a facetious statement and also a stroke of inspiration. We’ll see what happens).

PREPARE for February. I once wrote this poem about Februaries, which is the inspiration for this blog post’s title. It’s from my first little book of poems, and even though I wrote it “so long ago” I still think it’s among my favorite I’ve written:

 

Februaries

we’d write poems with shoulders touching
with long hair we didn’t want
it’d be years before we’d cut it
in another life.

the last word you said to me was indeed
I’d made vague plans to meet you in three weekends
your invitation declined
in favor of getting laid in St. Paul
I said I was sick and I was.

under a February moon
someone told me of your ended life
and later they asked if I wanted to know
how you did it–
and I said no.

if forgiveness is found in a casket let me know
if I had just said yes
if I had come when you said come
I could have changed the course of Februaries.

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30 chest hairs and how to be OK with changing slowly

This morning my girlfriend inspected my facial hair progression as she often does, and she said a corner mustache hair was much more red than the other hairs. I said, “They don’t call me Redbeard for nothing!” (These are the jokes I always make. I’m so sorry to everyone who knows me).

Since we met, she’s been pointing out my changes and it makes this frustratingly long journey to beard fulfillment a little more bearable. It just occurs to her to check out my chin and make delightful comments like, “This is grown in so much since we met! Do you remember when you just had a tiny patch right here?”

She’s truly a gem among us.

I spend a lot less time looking at my chest. I think the critical need for top surgery makes it difficult to look down and then look back up again. But today, I’m feeling good, and I decided to actually count those chest hairs.

It seemed forEVER there were about 16 of them. But lately I’ve noticed a little growth spurt, and I was not wrong–there are 30 now. I realize many men have hundreds, thousands of chest hairs. But like, this is my slow progression and it’s okay.

Note: I also have two back hairs, and that’s only what I can see over my shoulder. We won’t focus on this.

Tonight, I’ve been playing around in my Poems folder, and I re-read those five poems I was telling you about yesterday. It was a disappointing exercise. First of all, there aren’t even five poems, there are four. And I had to delete one because it was so bad. So now I have three poems and I don’t really love any of them.

I went to try and make some initial edits and I just had to quit. It feels like I’ve completely forgotten how to write. Poems aren’t even something you can measure, except maybe the number of them, or the number of lines or whatever. But even through the subjectivity there is this expectation I’m holding over myself, that I have to be improving or performing always, that I have to either be the best I can possibly be, or be moving quickly to get there.

One of the biggest obstacles that holds me back sometimes is that I am a little bit bad about practicing self-care. The classic example is that I probably took 1/3 of my T shots I was supposed to in 2015-early 2016. That may even be generous.

If confused all the medical professionals–don’t you WANT to be taking T? Should we get you off of it? Are you actually trans? Why aren’t you taking this thing you’ve fought so hard for?

When in actuality, it had nothing to do with the ~legitimacy~ of my trans-ness. It was just that I put off some things that are good for me.

And it has contributed to my very slow hair growth. My own actions kinda made this happen. How is that supposed to make me feel?

I’ve been thinking about moving slowly for a couple weeks. Since I started #180to180, I have been making very small decisions, just a handful every day, to better my health and habits. I don’t deprive myself of simple pleasures so much as just be more conscientious of what’s happening with my actions. It’s an ongoing project. I’ve lost five pounds so far.

I think if this were a couple of years ago, I’d be frustrated it wasn’t 10 pounds. I’d be constantly re-evaluating to see if I’m actually a failure after all. But I am really proud of these five little pounds. I feel like the slowness of the project is helping make it more of a life change than a phase.

I am learning to be more patient. And still, the beard grows, the beard grows.

(and the poems simmer)

(and the back hairs thicken)

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There’s Trump, and then there’s focus on personal projects for survival

In honor of “President” Trump, I really needed to focus on something I can do right now. Part of why I made this blog in November is because the election happened and I felt powerless. I felt there was no hope. I still feel that way, tbh, but there’s also this duty in which I MUST persevere.

One of the best ways I feel better during hard times (when I’m not also overcome by debilitating mental illness) is to focus on a project. That’s why I created #180to180, and that’s why for January I made a goal to start a new writing project.

  • Kick off a new writing project. I haven’t written a poem in a while. I think it’s time to end this break and get going again.

The outcomes are unclear, but I know there will be a good one. Do I want to do the exact same thing I’ve done three times—make and self-publish a chapbook? Do I want to try and get my work published by someone else? Do I want to write a full-length book and spend three years editing it? Not sure yet.

But I’ve started writing poems again. I have a folder called Old Stuff and my previous projects are in it. My Poems folder has five new poems. Are they good? Not yet. But we are on our way, people! It feels good.

I will work on this project becoming my default when I have nothing to do in the evenings (right now my default is eating too many snacks and going to bed). I want this thing to be on my mind at least once a day, becoming part of me as I navigate spaces and interact with others. I want to be writing poems on napkins again—interrupting people’s stories (including my own) to say, “Sorry, I gotta write that down.” I want to be frustrated when I’m doing something because I’d rather be writing instead. I miss that shit.

I don’t know if five poems counts as a ~started project~ but I’m calling the shots in my own life and this is what I’m doing. I am starting a project.

I’ve been pretty good this week. From Monday night to Thursday night I was actually supreme. I wasn’t high or manic or anything, but it felt ENLIVENING to be legitimately present again. Everything from my relationship to my bowling scores benefited.

Then Thursday night I took a bit of a turn. Friday morning I remained sad. By the afternoon, I felt a whole lot better. It’s a bummer I was a bummer, but this bounce-back action I’m witnessing is much more important to me than three days of mental peace. Yes, I still experience the downfalls of humanity. Trump is indeed President (for example). I may even dive because of them. But I’m able to not dive so deep, and I’m able to bounce back into normalcy after a little time-out and a little self-care. This was not possible 4, 2 or even 1 week ago. I don’t care what they say—just because chocolate or exercise exists does not mean it cures you from your own mind.

This upswing and upcoming mood balance has been brought to you by magnesium glycinate, Lamictal, 10,000 IU of vitamin D3, and a whole lot of tireless love from J, B, A, M, and M. (and others) (I’m going to start referring to my care team as JBAMM)

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New Chest’s Eve

Tomorrow is the day I meet with a plastic surgeon to have my first consultation for top surgery. This is a meeting I’ve canceled before, in part because of insurance uncertainties and in part because of cold feet.

I rescheduled a month or more ago, and now it’s tomorrow. It’s kind of surreal. I feel shy.

Because most of you had something to do with the ability to pursue this (many of you gave money to my GoFundMe or you shared my post or you looked me in the eyes and said you were excited for me), I want to keep you posted on how it’s going. I feel like it’s the least I can do.

Tonight I feel kind of nervous, like tomorrow I’m going to a job interview and I have to choose what I should wear. Do I need to impress her? Do I need to prove how badly I want this? How can I prove the tissue closest to my heart needs to go?

Here’s a poem from my latest chapbook. I don’t have a lot of words right now, but maybe this will do:

Chest

the first time you suggested we shower together
I placed a hand over my chest
bound to my lungs with spandex.
you undressed in front of me
smiling and kissing me between
each garment.

I sat on the toilet lid fully clothed
while water plummeted your nakedness
behind a curtain.
I don’t know if you saw me
but I got up several times,
pulled an arm through the sleeve,
put it back out,
sat back down,
put my head in my hands
combed my hair back with my fingers
pulled–

you told me I didn’t have to join
but after standing up several times
just to sit back,
I walked out of the bathroom
let the steam go.

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