Connecting

A few weeks ago I found myself on stage sharing a story about my mother’s death. I had been wanting to conjure the courage to do so because sharing stories is so important to me and my soul. I wish more people would share theirs. I want to really know and connect with the humans around me.

I feel as if often we really don’t even know one another. Not really. It’s only with feeling safe and opening up about one’s life that we can truly connect. Think about how many people you actually know in your workplace or your place of worship. Do they know your origin story? About your family or home life? Your challenges? Your hopes and dreams? I know for me most of the people I work with do not.

My favorite part of connecting with coworkers is sharing those more personal parts of ourselves. I feel like that’s when we actually transition from coworker to friend. And I’m grateful that over the last 11 years working for the same employer that I have several people in my life who have gone from one role to that next more connected role.

Today marks six years since my mother passed away. It was a traumatic moment in my life but one that I do not regret. Because my mother has been on my mind, I took a leap of courage and threw my name into a can at a local Salt Lake City storytelling event (The Bee, sort of like the Moth). The rules were that the story had to be true, had to be no longer than five minutes (but many go over), you couldn’t have notes, and it had to be on theme.

The theme that night was Adulting. Ten people were randomly selected throughout the night with only a five minutes heads up before they went to the stage. Oh, and it was lovingly competitive so there were three sets of judges to score the performance. Yeah, I know. No BFD or anything. Why the fuck would someone want to do this again?!

Whelp, this shy introvert with a burning raw story to tell entered his name that particular night. And for first-timers they put your name in twice. It was like Russian roulette but with two bullets in the gun.

I, of course, drank three adult beverages and probably would have had even more but my lovely saved me from my anxious self.

After I put my name in the can, which they call a hat, I was sweating profusely. Thank the universe my lovely was by my side to comfort me. She was proud of me and I was proud of myself.

I was the fourth name called up. And to my surprise I actually went up to the stage. I’m sure the adult beverages helped. ;P

But I think the internal need to share this story did as well. This need defied my personality and my usual clinginess to my comfort zone. It propelled me to let go of fear.

I got on that stage. I shared my story. I did it. And surprisingly it was fucking awesome! People laughed. Some even cried. After I told my story, audience members came up to me and thanked me for sharing it. Some even hugged me. It was surreal.

Thebee

Connecting

On the Outside

I have spent much of my life as an outlaw in my own family and my own body.

My entire existence growing up was one act of defiance after another. From a failed attempt at being the lookout during the Candy Bar Heist when I was 7, to when I stole a hacky sack when I was 8 (and couldn’t even look at it!), to when I prayed to God at 10 that he made a mistake and that I really was a boy, to later when I was 14 and left my family. 

I was taught you’re never supposed to leave your family behind but I did. I traded them in for a future.

I was supposed to lie, cheat, and steal like my country kin. I was supposed to have a 3-page rap sheet like my parents and my siblings. I was supposed to grow up to be an addict and spend my adult life in and out of prison like they did.

But hurting people always weighed too heavily on my sensitive soul. And that makes for a pretty shitty criminal.

As far as being an addict and why I didn’t go down that path either, well, I chalk that up to my innate ability to learn from the mistakes of others. (Oh, and fear too. That definitely played a huge role.) I personally witnessed the people I love turn into Zombies. They are either the Walking Dead still or they are simply just dead. 

My mom died in 2011 after 25+ years of heroin and meth abuse. This goody-two-shoes betazoid who carries the burdens of my family and who always feels too much, TOO FUCKING MUCH, had a front row seat to my mom’s slow, tragic demise. 

I didn’t know until then that all of the hardship and trauma I had experienced in my life had strengthened my foundation so that I could endure this moment. I had taken comfort in riding the line and picking my battles as an adult for the most part. But if you treat a loved one of mine like shit, then you better Watch. The Fuck. Out! I totally released the Kracken in the hospital those weeks my mom was there. 

I had family members who didn’t really care about my mother until she was tragically dying in a hospital bed. Then they swooped in like death vultures to basically snuff her out. Even the staff asked me to block them because they were just that horrible. One of these relatives said this notable gem, “What kind of life will your mom have? Just a junkie in a nursing home waiting for a fix.”

A Junkie. That’s all my mom was to them and to many in this world. But not to me. I had never seen someone so strong and I had no idea I got my twisted sense of humor from my mom until I saw her fight for her life in that hospital. 

As my siblings were high or incarcerated, I remained an anchor at my mom’s deathbed, voicing her last wishes. When she wanted to live, I fought for that. When she wanted to die, I fought for that too. The latter defied every bone in my body but I did it. For her. I gave her the power the world took away from her. 

My mom literally died in my arms. I held her for two hours as she let go. Her death, and several other deaths in my life, have helped me now fight for my own life. 

This year I finally came out as trans* and am transforming into who I always was on the inside: a beautiful, fucking, manly butterfly.  

(Thanks, mom!)

On the Outside