My mom and me.

“Will you send that to me? It’s one of the best pictures of me since I don’t remember when.” 

My mom said this today. This is us smiling. She came to visit me for the first time since I moved back home to New Jersey a year ago today. It’s one of two pictures we’ve taken together in almost a decade. It was a great day.

For most of my life, my mom and I had a very difficult relationship. I never understood why but she said today, “we are more alike than different, I think that’s why we butt heads.” She’s probably quite right. Our sensitivity and empathy run deep as does our impatience. It’s the Irish maybe. 

My father left her with my sister, who was a toddler about to turn 3 years old, and me when I was 3 months old. He left his wedding ring in the dresser during a business trip. My mom found it and called him out while home alone with us. Then he left for good. My mother never went to college. She didn’t have a safe or comfortable home life. She hauled us both in her car and got food stamps until she could figure out another plan. That is her version of the story. I’m sure my dad has his. I may never hear it because he’s been pretty M.I.A. except for a few years when he really was great.

My mom is the one who fought through her pain and confusion and grief to make peace with my decision to transition my gender identity in 2012. It’s taken us six years to be able to hang out and smile like this together. Six years and a lot of work and growth on both sides. During brunch today, I saw my mother as a completely new and different person for the first time in my 40 years on this planet. It felt like time stopped.

This post is a short version of the long story of my mom and me.

This picture exposes the tenacious love and compassion we have for ourselves and each other. All I am I learned from this woman. I’m the mirror that reflects her. She’s so afraid of life but she’s a warrior. She’s the inspiration for all I do in my own life, leaving nothing unexplored and being brave beyond all limits. She conquered a big fear coming to visit me today. I’m fearless from her example.

This is my mom and I’m who I am because she’s who she is. Perfectly her.

The Hips Don't Lie

I went to my first NIA class last night, taught at the Yoga and Nia for Life Studio in Concord, MA by my beautiful friend, Allison Wright.

Let me tell you, this is some pretty powerful stuff.

The title of today's post was inspired by two big revelations that came from participating in this class last night.

Since this blog is by a LGBTQ person for the education of anyone reading it (and really, I mean everyone), I am going to spell it out clearly and simply.

1) my hips don't move like those of a girl---why? because I don't identify as one. Next thought: wow, what does that even mean?

2) my hips were stiff and tight. why? because I haven't been exercising and stretching enough.

SOLUTION to 1: Rethink and redefine pretty.

Nia is a practice of dance and martial arts movements. I felt that a lot of the dancing of Nia looks "pretty"--sweeping, swirling, graceful movements that I associate (with my gender binary socialized-mind) with femininity and womanhood. This class revealed to me that I have some work to do to open these hips of mine, embrace them and move freely in and with them---but it doesn't have to be "pretty" to be good or "right". Moreover, it seems I have some work to do in redefining what "pretty" means--particularly for me. Maybe we all do.

Everything about Allison's words and actions during the class affirm every body shape and every individual's movement style and pace. She went on to tell me about the creator of the routine we danced to, and how that man (who identifies as heterosexual) taught her something about gender norms and how we perceive and define them. If ever a person was meant to teach a class for those struggling with inner beauty and strength, Allison is that person. For those living in or near Boston, MA---please experience Allison for yourself--the studio is accessible on the Commuter rail.

SOLUTION to 2: Start a stretching routine each day.

I have a DVD that I don't use enough. It lasts about 30 minutes and I am not using it enough to open the hips and live more gracefully and fully. I can feel the tension. I can feel how "tight" my energy is around that area of my body. I can open and expand this area (and the areas of mind associated with it) with good, regular and gentle stretching exercises. That is my small but attainable goal for the next two weeks.

Namaste to you all and blessings sent to my beautiful friend, Allison, for her gentle encouragement and generous invitation to join her class one chilly Tuesday evening.

It was a brilliant use of my time and a profound learning experience. My hips told me precious truths I needed to hear.

Gentle changes make a profound difference.