Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Sea-Change

Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change,
into something rich and strange
Here I am, restarting my blog after a half-year hiatus of illnesses, fire, and moving. I missed blogging, but sometimes one simply has to let oneself roll under, the better to rise again. This is my rollup.
Ariel: aptly, on the move

So, I’ve moved. Physically, that is. To a place with better schools, closer to the spouse’s university. For the last few months, I’ve done little else but packing and unpacking our physical possessions, throwing out all I could, furling pictures and dusting frames. Helping our young ones adjust.

Packing is always a reflective process for me. Not only touching and considering the physical things, but hearing the echoes of the thoughts I had when I packed a few years ago. 2010 was the last time I moved. We had one computer each. Laptops. Now we reflect the fact that the average U.S. household has at least four devices. E-readers and tablets, handheld gaming devices, chromebooks. Smartphones instead of flip phones. Heck, even my dildos plug in. A lot has changed, technologically, in the last five years. I didn’t realize how much, until I began packing.

In 2010, I had one child, 18 months old. We were moving so he wouldn’t have to grow up in a crib in our office. Now I have two children, the oldest nearly six. This move, we gave away their cribs and built an adult-sized bunk bed. In choosing where the furniture would go, I realized that we’ve grown out of a home arranged for a toddler—everything out of reach—to accessibility for young hands. And I’ve changed: from an ageist, cluelessly flailing new mom to a badass parent who doesn’t mind the title or the responsibilities, even if many of those expectations are heavily gendered. I take them laying down, my friends—leather jacket on, sipping mango rum.

When we moved in 2010, my spouse and I both had depression. We were on medication. I’d had panic disorder with agoraphobia for more than a decade, a companion dog named Lily. I hadn’t held an in-house editing job, and was still trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life. Could I hold a traditional job at all? Or ought I accept the fact that I was permanently disabled? I read some old diary entries from those times, the 2010 move. They ran like the wheels of an overturned bike, dented, glinting, going nowhere.

Lily on my legs, her favorite spot.
Yet somehow, in those few years, from that move to this one, I changed. I went back to school. I got an in-house editing job, revved up my freelance business to a sustainable level, and started going to events in my field. My panic attacks stopped, I defeated agoraphobia (mostly), and I went off my drugs—to no ill effect. This was despite having a second unplanned baby, dealing with my spouse’s dissertation, euthanizing my companion dog, and going through the deaths of my grandmother, Lois, and our friend Jason at 29. Was there massive grief? Yes. Did we have the worst fights of our marriage? Yes. Did I somehow kick my disability’s ass anyway? Hell yes. 

No longer agoraphobic, my politics had to change too. I got to meet people, you see. Lots of them. And I, conservative Republican feminist (yeah, they exist) from Indiana, could not reconcile some of my ideals with real life in our African American neighborhood in suburban Baltimore. I could not sit back and take the same economically conservative stance when we, like so many others, got tied into student loan debt, treading water with poverty. Applying for WIC. It’s easy to see your luck then, your privilege. I started saying I was moderate a few years into our 2010 move, and once you do that—once you can see both sides so easily—there is nothing holding you from changing your mind once, twice, or many times. That is a good thing. This year, especially after Ferguson, I realized I’d probably be considered liberal by most people, but I usually go with moderate as a term. It makes less people defensive, and leaves me with nothing to prove, no membership dues to anything except my conscience.

Foxes are most comfortable when between things
Oi, that conscience. Pals with self-identity, which was in crisis in 2010, as it had been for much of my life. I always knew there was something “wrong” with me, snug as I was between butch and foppish, never fully happy with feminine or masculine, always doing the double-take dysphoria in my mirror. Wondering if transitioning would help me reach a middle ground—searching for an in-between, mushroom-ring place. I had been constantly butting up against the conservative Christian ideal female, always hating its demure little smile, its special little church days, standing always just behind the leader of the household, the male. Having a child had thrown me far into that feminine camp, and it chafed, it troubled me. I knew, before anything else, that I was Not That. I just needed the words to help me define what I was. You’d think someone who had studied gender history, who’d married a gender historian who was himself genderqueer, would have grasped it sooner. But I didn’t say anything publicly until last year, at Mary and Tempest’s Writing the Other workshop, where I finally felt comfortable talking about it, where I knew I’d be accepted in my otherness. Now it seems sad and strange that I once felt guilty for wanting my sons to call me sir, for feeling so out of place on Easter Sunday, hugging a leather jacket over my dress.

2010 to 2015. Only five years. And yet, in that time, I went from a jobless drugged-up agoraphobic conservative mom to a genderqueer liberal editor stay-at-home parent. A sea-change I didn’t expect, but which seemed slow and natural at the time. It’s only now, packing and unpacking, when I handle the fragments of what I once was, and realize they aren’t me anymore. The shape of myself is there, but it has transformed, bone into coral.

I wonder what I’ll be, the next time I move.

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