Last night I saw the movie “Beatriz at Dinner” with my fiancee’. I did not expect it to move me as profoundly as it did. I don’t want to give anything away because it’s something you have to experience. Beatriz is a woman who has had pain in her childhood and throughout her life and has never been able to truly let it go. She has love and she does what she can to heal others. The problem is that she sees all the pain all around her and it feels so big. The pain and the felt need to fix that pain is all consuming for her. I related all too well.
I’m exhausted. Writing about pain and the trials and hurdles is exhausting. Composing blogs about bad laws and comments from United Methodist ministers and rude waitresses and always having to be on guard as an advocate, especially in this administration, is exhausting. Compound that with the pain of my own transition from being a minister to trying to navigate the secular life along with my own traumas and it feels too big.
Beatriz was a mirror and as beautiful and compassionate a person as she was, there were some things I did not like in that reflection. I sat in the parking lot with the woman who has brought light into my life in ways I never thought possible and just talked. She listened.
I have somewhere between 30 or 40 years left on this earth most likely. I feel I wasted the first half being upset too often. I’d like to spend the rest of it with some joy and a lot of that comes from perspective. I’m going to share some of that perspective now and I hope you read on. I’m about to ignore everything the SEO and readability metrics say and go with the heart.
I have an amazing kid. I often get down on myself, but I’m really proud of the parenting part. But for all the things I contributed to raising him, he’s had to do the heavy lifting and become the person he is. He’s pretty amazing.
From the time he was a toddler he has been in love with art. You give him a sketch pad and it is full within days. He has a drawing tablet for his computer and I am pretty sure he needs an external hard drive to hold all his digital work. Art started when he was 2 or 3. One day he had drawn on the walls. I was not much of a disciplinarian and I did not want to discourage imagination. So his “punishment” was to draw on a pad of paper I gave him while I cleaned up the mess.
He’s never really stopped drawing, he just does it in appropriate places. And he is good. Heck, when I left the ministry I drove a taxi and one of my regulars was a retired artist. Through me, they would exchange drawings. They never met, but they knew each other through their art.
Another thing I think of is his ardent defense of his friends. The first signs of that was in the fourth grade. One student was bullying a friend of his and he stood between them and told the bully he would have to go through him to hurt his friend. He got pushed that day, but he has never stopped standing up for his friends and those he cares about. I wish he would stand up for himself in the same manner, but a lot of us struggle with that.
Not too long after the bully event he saw the new Karate Kid movie. Of course I had to introduce him to the original movie. That spawned an interest in martial arts. A few years later I was at the ceremony where he got his black belt in Taekwondo. The path to that black belt included commitment, medals, trophies, and some amazing memories.
He has this wry and sardonic sense of humor that will catch you off guard. It shows you that he sees the world through a different lens. It also shows us all that even when life is hard, a slightly twisted imagination can make it funny and you can smile.
His smile can light up a room. He’s an honors AP student. He’s never been in trouble for anything more serious than blowing off a homework assignment or not doing the dishes. He is compassionate and kind and curious and good. He is so good. His self esteem has taken a few hits over the years and as much light and life that he gives to the world, he does not give himself enough credit for the person he is and the things he has achieved.
To know my son is to love my son. He is not defined by his being transgender, he is defined by the things I described above and so very much more. I am lucky to have him as my son. He is more than bathroom laws and pronouns and so forth.
I love how much he loves Giselle, my fiancee. They get along amazingly and he confides in her and trusts her with some things he does not with anyone else. I’m so grateful for that relationship. My dating life since my divorce has been less than stellar. To have met someone as amazing as she is makes me grateful.
She snuck up on me. We met at a charity art show and it turned out one my son’s former teachers in grade school was one of her best friends from high school. She was one of the coordinators for the event and helped us get booths, which were pretty much right next to each other. We became fast friends and that friendship unexpectedly blossomed into passion and then into love.
I don’t even know where to begin with her. She is one of the most intuitive, compassionate, and real person I know. Authenticity exudes from her. As does this unique and quirky personality. Her hair, her dress, her mannerisms are beyond my ability to describe.
I can tell you this about her. When you talk, you know you are heard. She sees the good in everyone even when I cannot. My goodness, she accepts me for all that I am but is not afraid to call BS when I am full of it. Her art will delight and move you and her smile will melt the coldest of hearts. She is smart, a better writer than I am, insightful, and accepting.
There have been times when I have been present with her and she has cried tears of joy because we are a we. After a lifetime of feeling invisible, to be seen as I am and loved for that as I love her for all she is…that is wonder. She has awakened not only things in me I thought were gone, but also things I did not know existed. I am better for having her in my life.
I have all of these wonderful things and people in my life. But I have fears. My mom has stage four cancer of the mouth. I’m angry with her for that. I feel badly about that because she is in so much pain every day and there isn’t a thing I can do to help her or make this go away.
I also struggle with wondering how I am going to make this new life with Giselle happen. We do not live together yet because I’m not going to bring her into where I live now. It’s a crummy run down condo in a sketchy neighborhood where you cannot get pizza delivered after dark. This was fine when I was single, but not now.
The quest for a place is hard because her last marriage screwed her credit up and she cannot work full time due to a disability. It took her years to get disability benefits and anyone who reads the news knows that is something always at risk of going away.
Additionally, free market capitalism is not something I have done well in since leaving the ministry. I get relegated to these crummy sales jobs that I have no passion for.
As a minister, I started a youth outreach that helped kids get GED’s, overcome past traumas from rape, molestation, and abuse. The LGBTQIA kids had a safe space in an unsafe community. We fought together to get a GSA in the school and won. I helped spearhead a resource center that is still going strong. It’s first year helped 51 families with resources and monies they needed to get over humps. I did all of this with an associates degree from a questionably accredited Bible College who’s science class taught me the earth was 6,000 years old and other creative lies.
Despite that experience on managing, and starting, multiple organizations simultaneously, I cannot get a leg up or be recognized for my talents in this market and this secular world. I do not regret my change in beliefs and deconstruction of faith, but being relegated to entry level sales positions while my car falls apart is hard. To be honest, I don’t even like door to door and b2b sales most days.
I understand why so many ministers who have deconverted stay in the ministry. The transition is rough. You leave one world taking arrows in the back from your former tribe and you enter another one that doesn’t understand you and they don’t provide a tour guide to secular living.
All I want is to be able to live in a safe area with this wonderful woman and have enough room for my kid to come over and have his own space. I want to earn my keep and have my keep be enough to sustain. I’m not talking the glamorous life here, but getting Chinese or pizza at night and taking out the trash after dark without worry would be awesome.
I do not think that is too much to ask of life. I have played the martyr for leaving ministry and christianity far too long. I’m done with that.
I do photography and art on the side and I’m good at it. I enjoy it as I enjoy most of my life too. It’s funny. I used to have everything and appreciate nothing. Now I have nothing and appreciate everything, but if I am being honest, I don’t have enough. This is not avarice speaking, this is just reality.
So there it is. I am a dad. A friend. A lover. Loved. A little scared of some things and seeking opportunity with all that I am. No matter what I make or do not make, regardless of where I live, I am determined to not be that angry progressive in pain anymore. It’s old and I’m tired and I want to live. I will not be defined by pain and frustration. It’ll likely change the tenor of this blog, and that is fine. Like my son, like Giselle, I am more.