Gender Nonconforming

It’s odd that it took a Facebook update for me to find this one.  I was scrolling through lists of the available options in the new “custom” gender box when I saw it.  Gender Nonconforming.  Well, what the heck is that, I thought?  Once I went and looked it up, I realized that once again I had discovered a label for myself that I didn’t even know existed, yet which somehow fills a void.

A little background for those still learning about these terms, from my understanding of them:  Sex is the biological and/or physical sex of a person.  Genitalia and genetics are the determining factors here. Gender is more of a social construct, and encompasses how a person thinks of themselves and how they express themselves to others.  A person can have one physical sex but feel they have a different gender, making them transgendered.

Facebook’s new gender options are much bigger than this, of course.  They include terms like cisgendered, where a person’s internal gender matches their physical sex, intersex for those who feel in between or whose bodies are not clearly defined, androgynous and agender for those who feel their internal gender is not clearly defined, and many more.  I’ve been hearing and learning about these terms for years, but I imagine the influx of options might be confusing to some.

Then there’s me.  My sex is female, from my head to my toes.  My gender is also female.  I love being a woman, physically.  I feel at home in my body, with all its luscious curves, and I revel in its sexuality and power.  I have loved the ability to give birth and nurse my babies, and I wish I could do it more.  There is no dysphoria here whatsoever.

Social expectations are another matter entirely.  I have felt disjointed and disconnected from other women since I was a teenager, maybe longer.  I see “American woman” as this thing that I just don’t understand or identify with.  Major plot points in movies and books that revolve around typical female behavior are a source of frustration.  I could offer some pretty superficial examples, such as not getting the concept of name-brand purses and matching shoes, not being interested in painful clothing and footwear for the sake of fashion (or, really, the whole concept of “fashionable”).  It goes beyond that, though.  It gets into the way I feel more comfortable around boys and men, in general, than I do around women.  The way I would prefer to build visible muscles than try to sculpt away visible fat.  The way I feel more comfortable in a frakking topless bar than I do at a Tupperware party.  The way I am more likely to identify with butch and tomboy characters in film and literature than the femme ones.  The way all-female groups tend to violently reject me, as though I am some kind of infectious virus in their midst.

I’ve toyed with the idea of identifying as butch in the past, but ultimately I don’t think that’s where I belong, either.  I have too much swish.  I love long hair and softness and long skirts.  I may prefer using pockets to a purse, but I’m always thinking of ways to attach those pockets to a skirt instead of relying on jeans.  I may prefer boots or sneakers to heels and ballet slippers, but I tend to pair them with skirts and tunics and ruffles.  I’m more likely to be submissive than dominant in any given relationship (and boy does that make things interesting when I get paired up with another sub!).

Then along comes this new (to me) term: Nonconforming.  That’s what I’m looking for!  It’s like being handed the term bisexual was when I was 22 years old.  There’s a name for that? Wow!  It gives me a nice little bench to sit on, where I don’t have to be boxed in with anybody I don’t fully identify with.  It gives me a little esteem boost, takes away some of that “I don’t belong anywhere” feeling.  It neatly encapsulates the way I am a female, the way I feel comfortable physically as a woman, but I don’t always feel comfortable with other women.  Nonconforming.

Know Thyself, Redux

I got a prompting to re-examine myself in the light of recent events.  Specifically things surrounding Chris, but also things having to do with Kender and my religious community.  I need to take a step back, take a breath, and reconsider who I am in relation to promises and commitments I want to make.  I need to gather myself and focus on living true to myself and where I want to be.  Do I want to be Chris? No, I merely see things in her that I admire and would like to emulate.  Am I a religious leader? No, I don’t think so, but I do have a place there.

I am that one on the edges, the one who flirts with many paths, the one who takes unconventional steps toward my goals.  I am the one who yearns to learn and hungers to share my knowledge with others, to open their eyes to possibilities they might not have considered or realized were there.  Part of me longs to be just a molecule of water flowing along the river with everybody else, but part of me knows that I am also the rock in the middle of the water, breaking the flow, creating a hazard to travel, making waves, the thing that others watch out for.

Do you want to know why I hardly ever send out thank you notes for anything?  When I was younger, it wasn’t that I was ungrateful.  I just forgot, and forgot, and forgot, and then I was too embarrassed to do it when I finally remembered.  Over the years, that became the grand theme of it: too embarrassed to send thank you cards this year when I forgot all the years before.  My brain turns that into a general disregard for commercial cards and formal things, but there’s the root of it.  I’m just embarrassed of being a loser at the game of social niceties. But I’m not ungrateful.

Do you want to know why you hardly ever see me donating to charity or doing volunteer work?  Because I don’t like to be seen.  I’m afraid of being noticed.  I don’t know why.  There’s nothing to be embarrassed about there, but that’s how I feel.  I’m the one who wants to sneak an offering into a donation box when nobody is looking, rather than put it openly in the plate as it’s passed.  I’m the one who sends cash in unmarked envelopes.  I’m the one who leaves things on porches and hopes they’re found.  I drop things off without leaving my name.  I make anonymous tips.  I don’t sign my donations.  I don’t want to be noticed.  I’m just more comfortable in the shadows and on the edges, but I am always there for a friend.

As of this writing, my first post about Chris’ death has gotten 945 hits.  That number blows my mind.  I never expected it to circulate that far.  It was just me talking to my own quiet little corner of the net, thinking I was still hiding in the shadows, and suddenly a searchlight lit me up.  I think my consciously not posting everything here to Facebook since then may have been a reaction to that, my own way of slinking back into the shadows.

I want to live in harmony with the earth, self-sufficient as much as possible.  This is a genuine desire, rooted in myself, one that has been there for a very, very long time.  It is a desire that I saw reflected in Chris, and I saw her take steps toward it that I had not, and I want to move along down that path that she took before me.

I want to do more for and with my kids, and I don’t want it to be about buying them things.  Again, I saw that reflected in Chris, and she took steps that I haven’t yet.

I want to continue my personal growth journey through my religion and my faith because I want to find my happy place.  I want to find out how to stand on that piling no matter what birds shit on my head, no matter what ferry slams into me while docking, no matter what hurricane tries to blow me down.  I want to find that place in myself where I can know myself and be confident in that, and act from it.

Dreams

I wanted to share my dream diary today because it was such a long series of strong images that stuck in my mind after waking up.  Before reading on, note that I watched Alphas last night before bed, along with reading Analog, and some of that most likely crept its way in here.  The Alphas show was about a drug that made the body indestructible.  Stories in Analog talked of nanobugs that would do the same.  One story combined nanobugs and digging for fossils.

I remember a building with elevators that were different and exciting.  Instead of going straight all the way up and down, the elevators would only go two floors at a time, and they did that really fast.  So going down from a tall building, it would be like riding a roller coaster.  You’d get in a whoosh down to the next floor, then wait for another elevator to open and whoosh to the next floor, until you got where you were going. I was riding these with one of my daughters in a big office building, and nobody else seemed to care about the cool new elevators. I think it might have been a medical office building.  I was trying to do some business there, but they wouldn’t let me or weren’t interested.
I left the office building and went to a park with the kids.  It was a wooded park with cedar trees and a circular amphitheater with wooden benches, like a park in Texas. There were cacti in box planters scattered along the benches.  The place was fairly abandoned, with the benches popping boards and belongings scattered everywhere.  I remembered coming there with my kids and another family of friends when they were younger. I found coats and toys, and everything I found was something we had had before and lost.  I started fixing the place up, dreaming of having people visit it again for nature talks or something. I was replacing boards, nailing down nails, driving large bolts that were sticking up out of the ground back into it so they wouldn’t hurt anybody. I realized that the ground was sandy, and in the middle of the circles was a sand pit with a few sand diggers buried so only bits peeked out.  I started pulling them out and uncovering them, like digging for fossils.  Every time I unearthed something, I would see some more peeking behind.  I started uncovering toys, not just sand toys, but other toys that looked like they’d been buried.  Again, everything was something that I recognized as having belonged to us before.
I started gathering things and going through the coats and clothing we’d found, and somehow there was a baby that we’d found. The baby was tiny, a premature baby with translucent skin and barely formed features.  I don’t know if it was a boy or a girl, because I remember how the clitoris would stick out at that age and almost look like a penis.  The baby was wrapped in a white cloth and may have been crying.  I thought of offering it a breast, even though I was dried up, maybe the baby would be able to coax new milk to come out. I needed to get the baby a diaper, and somehow I found one to fit it in my supplies. As I opened its coverings to change it, it pooped, a lot, newborn poop. I had to go find a rag somewhere to wipe it up, and I couldn’t find anything.  The baby was laying on the ground, and a young Liam almost stepped on it.  Suddenly we were indoors, because I needed a paper towel.  I needed something I could get wet and wipe the baby with.  I found diaper wipes somewhere, leftover from Kender I guess. I wiped up the baby and gave it a new diaper and went to wrap up the old one, but somehow the baby was still in the old diaper and I accidentally folded it up with the diaper. I opened up the diaper to rescue the baby, and folded the baby up in the new diaper and the white cloth with its head sticking out. I cradled the baby and remembered that I needed to keep it warm, so I kept it close to me, in my arms.
Next thing I remember, I was in a doctor’s office reading lab reports. I’d been involved in some kind of experimental treatments with this doctor, and they were running reports on how I was doing. The labs showed that I had a high level of some linalool compound, and that the baby was mine, and its condition was related to the drugs, and I must never take those drugs again for the rest of my life.  Then the report started to descend into gibberish, reading like rap lyrics or like it was written in ebonics or something, and then it got so I couldn’t understand it at all. I was trying to read it to Brian, and we were cracking up because it sounded so awful. I asked the office staff if I could please see the doctor himself so he could explain the results.  The doctor came, then said we needed to wait, pulled back a curtain to check on something, and left. The curtain revealed another room behind mine, where there were three bodies lying on stretchers and covered with sheets of wax paper.  One by one, their eyes opened, they sat up, removed the paper, and starting getting up and getting dressed, laughing and talking the whole time until they were gone.  I don’t remember this as scary, I just was bewildered.  The doctor came back and reminded me that the baby was mine, but because it was premature they wouldn’t help care for it, I was on my own. I started thinking of miracle preemies before the NICU era who survived in shoeboxes next to the fire, or being skin-to-skin, and I started trying to figure out how I was going to save this baby, who somehow seemed to be getting smaller all the time.  My belly started hurting, and we went to leave, and I found I was in the same office building I’d been in earlier, with the strange new elevators.  The parking lot of the building was turning into a campground, with the park and amphitheater across the way, and my mother was coming in with somebody else driving her trailer for her. Brian was saying we needed to deck out the van like some of the other RVs, and I said we just needed to get a trailer of our own if we wanted that. My mom asked about how the doctor visit went, and how long I’d been hurting, and I realized I’d been hurting since we were in the doctor’s office, and I wondered if I were having an ectopic pregnancy in addition to the strange preemie child.
After I woke up to see Brenden off to school, I laid back down and had even more strong dreams.  Images of being at a camping function and getting caught out in the rain with Brian, multiple times.  Having dinner at a friend’s house with guests I didn’t know, eating fancy food at a fancy table when I just wanted to put my feet up and eat with my fingers.
All of these images are still stuck in my head, hours later, making me wonder what on earth my brain has been up to.

Fighting Perfectionism in Paganism

A friend of mine posted this blog this morning about the mommy wars.  To sum up, the author points out that feelings of inadequacy tend to prompt tired, stressed moms to lash out against each other over trivial differences in lifestyle and parenting. She then goes on to lead with her Christian faith, reminding that Jesus accepts her as she is and loves her even when she is imperfect, and that she can walk away from the mommy wars with that strength behind her.

It got me thinking.  Christians do have that default of “Jesus loves me” no matter what.  In this, they find forgiveness for mistakes and acceptance of imperfection.  In fact, sometimes it seems that Christianity revels in humanity’s imperfection, always stressing that only God and Jesus are perfect.  I can see how this is a very helpful belief to have in daily life, a very useful belief for fighting perfectionism and feelings of failure.

What do we have? Christians certainly don’t have a lock on being perfectionists.  How many of us feel the need for the perfect spell, the perfect ritual, the perfect and complete knowledge of All The Magickal Things?  How many of us have allowed our spiritual practice to fall by the roadside, victim of our perfectionism, our feelings that if we can’t do it “right” all the time, we just shouldn’t bother? How many of us are actually afraid to attend festivals or public rituals, much less give our own workshops and perform our own rituals, afraid that we’re not doing it “right”, that our contribution is worthless if it doesn’t measure up to some standard?

How many of us are afraid that we will ruin our children if we don’t raise them absolutely right, spiritually or otherwise?

How do you fight your perfectionism within the framework of your pagan spirituality?

Release

Last fall, I participated in a ritual that led me to renounce my ties to the past.  My reason was that they were holding me back, binding me, keeping me from evolving and moving forward. My thought at the time was about my ties to Texas.  I felt I needed to let go of those so that I could move forward with the family that I had found here in Michigan.  Although I still say things like, “back home in Texas,” and I probably always will, I think I have done a good job of this.  This place, here and now, is my home.  Of course I will always hope to move “back home,” especially since it will mean being back with family and probably being in much less pain, but it is no longer the first thing in my thoughts.

Since this spring, I have been following Loki’s charge to find myself and my place in the community.  This is looking like a neverending path, with lots of twists and turns, nooks and crannies, interesting glades and steep mountains. I made some progress…and then I got stuck.  It is as though I was following this path, and suddenly my way was blocked by a spiderweb made up of ties leading back behind me.  In order to go forward, I have to figure out how to get past this obstacle.  I can’t just cut those ties, because my life blood flows through them, the blood of my family.

Suddenly, I got another call: Find the old contract you made with yourself, one which no longer serves you, and end it.  I started having dream themes that I hadn’t seen since my first children were born, dreams of piloting a plane, dreams of passing by ripe food to chase after something I can’t even remember.  Instead of dreaming of highways and road trips as I often do, I kept dreaming of being stuck in enclosed spaces, always trying to find my way out and yet always coming back in, like living in a tesseract.

This morning, I think I found my contract, the source of my bonds.  It is the one I made when the triplets were born.  I felt so guilty about becoming a stay-at-home mom, even though that had always been the plan and there wasn’t much choice with triplets.  I felt so guilty about no longer bringing in money, and I remember the day when I struck this bargain.  The triplets were still in hospital, and I found myself ironing shirts for Brian and scrubbing the kitchen. I had decided that this was my job.  The house was my job, my way of earning my keep. I would be the mother and housekeeper, the housewife, and cook and clean and care for the babies.

Right then, it started getting in the way of mothering, because it kept me away from the babies in the NICU while I finished up laundry and things around the house before heading up to the hospital.  It has kept me from peacefully relaxing at the end of a day, while I worry about the house not being clean, or not having made lunch for Brian to take to work.  It has kept me from enjoying the fruits of my garden, as I worry about picking up or finishing lessons instead of harvesting while the produce is ripe.  It has kept me from enjoying my babies as they grow, while I worry about whether all the assignments are done and the budget is balanced.

I started out with this ideal of the 50’s housewife.  I always wanted to be a mother, but I made this impossible contract with myself to be in charge of the clean house, the nutritious cooking, the perfect housewifely duties.  I don’t know what made me think that was part of my destiny.  I’ve never been a clean, neat person.  My room growing up always looked like a tornado hit it.  But I got this idea of “housewife” being my job stuck in my head, and then proceeded to feel inadequate.  I’ve felt inadequate over it for the last 14 years.  When people compliment me, tell me they don’t know how I do it, tell me how amazing I am, I feel like a fraud.

It’s time to let that contract go.  Nobody else expected this duty I assigned myself.  Nobody else ever told me I wasn’t doing enough. Nobody else ever demanded that I earn my keep or be abandoned. Nobody else ever told me my worth was determined by how clean my house was.  Nobody but me.  And I can change that.  I’m the one who formed this barrier, made up of my bonds to my family and blood.  I can change it, from a barrier to a stream, a flow, an energy source to push me forward, fill my sails, support me, help me float, move along with me.

Find Your Boundaries

Today, my mind is full and scattered, wandering and looking for a path, chaos surrounded by chaos.

At the end of a fairly stressful Monday filled with more nuisances, annoyances, and breakages than a whole month should have, my altar candle burned itself out.  It was a 2-week pillar candle, which usually lasts at least a week in the too-large glass pillar I have it in, and I had just lit it that morning.  For some reason, it flared up, melting so deep and fast that it completely buried itself.  I couldn’t even dig out the wick.  This morning, I tried lighting it anyway, but all I succeeded in doing was melting more wax and burying it deeper, until eventually the tip of the long match fell off, still burning, lodging itself in the red pool of melted wax.  That tip is still there hours later, still burning, like a substitute wick, a little off center, but functioning just like the real wick would, melting the rest of the wax to create a flat surface to start over from.

Part of me is a little afraid that something huge is going to happen to shake my life up further, to completely divorce me from my old patterns and set me on a new course.  I know a new course is coming.  I keep trying to force it, to seek it out, but I think it’s just going to land on me.  I’m a little scared.

Yesterday, as I pondered the catastrophe that was Monday, I received a new prompting:  Find Your Boundaries.  I’ve been claimed by a boundary crosser as my patron god.  Now it’s time to further delve into His place in my life.  Is this a preparatory step toward finding a Great Work?  It could be.  Time will tell.

The other night, I had a bizarre dream that my High Priestess just suddenly stopped coming to rituals and refused to talk to me.  Very bizarre, since she is one of my best friends, not just my priestess.  Last night, I had one of those long, convoluted dreams that included: a roller coaster that swirled around the roof of a building and was used as an escape route to keep away from some kind of boogey-man; living in a skyscraper with businesses and an underground shopping complex, like Crystal City, and setting myself up as a temp with a law firm in the building; an impromptu make-out session with another mom in the abandoned hallway of a school; driving a bus; and making cinnamon rolls for the needy.  Um…brain?  What the heck?

Boundaries…What are my contradictions in life?  What points me out?  I am a genius who has chosen to be a stay-at-home mom rather than pursue a hotshot career in something money-making.  I am a thick woman who is healthy (apart from constant pain) and strong, and willing to fight anybody who thinks my size or anybody else’s size is a problem.  I am a happily married woman approaching my 20th wedding anniversary with my high-school sweetheart, but I am neither heterosexual nor monogamous.  I was raised southern Baptist, and I am now a Wiccan priestess.  I am a pagan with many children.  I am a homeschooler, but I am not Christian.  I am a crunchy mom who smokes and drinks.  I am an attachment parenting free-range mom.

A story I told my daughter this morning…When I was a kid, whenever we would go out to eat for breakfast, to Denny’s or IHOP or someplace similar, I would always get something off the lunch or dinner menu.  Because I could.  That was the only reason.  Everybody else was getting breakfast, but there was another option, and so I took it.  I followed the path less traveled.  And got constant complaints about how the smell of my food was ruining the taste of everybody else’s.