family

Surviving another Solo Christmas

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  Last Christmas, I shared a blog post about waking up alone on Christmas and it was pretty popular. I heard from friends, colleagues and even complete strangers and it felt great to write something that helped so many people.

I shared that story from five years ago because I couldn’t post what was actually happening last year. I was spending Christmas solo, despite the fact that I was in a long-term relationship, and it was just too painful to write about.

This year, because I know people are solo for so many reasons and could use some help, I'll share what happened last year. We can’t help people if we merely allude to it but aren’t actually sharing from our lives, I've really learned that this past year.

And so, I’m sharing what a difference a year made in my life. It began with surviving another solo Christmas last year. If you’re in a similar situation this year, see if anything I did helps you, too.

 

“Where are you Christmas

Why can't I find you

Why have you gone away

Where is the laughter

You used to bring me

Why can't I hear music play…”

 

This time last year, it was clear that the relationship I was in for the past five years wasn’t working, despite my best efforts. Granted, the start of my business and then my transition and the loss of my family led to many stressful times, but all couples experience stress. It's called life. The person I had chosen was ambivalent about committing to a partnership from the day we met ten years prior and I just refused to accept it and move on. Without safety and security, love cannot thrive and by last Christmas, things had deteriorated so badly that I chose to spend the week alone and house-sit for a friend.

I packed a bag and drove across the city. Even though it wasn’t the first time I’d be doing this, it was certainly more difficult. I went from anger to sadness to pure and total confusion and back again. Was I doing the right thing? Was I just spiting myself or was this really a good call? How would I feel waking up alone again, only this time in a stranger’s house?

I sat with those questions and eventually the feeling that I was doing something incredibly right for myself, claiming some self-respect where I had lost it so many times over the past few years, overrode most everything else. I’d drawn a boundary and claimed much-needed space for the holiday experience I wanted to create for myself.

 

“My world is changing

I'm rearranging

Does that mean Christmas changes too…?”

 

Christmas eve at three in the afternoon found me standing in the aisle of Whole Foods completely numb. The little green basket dangled from my hand as people passed all around me. I gradually made my way around, feeling grateful for the many years I spent working and shopping in health food stores; it felt like the home I needed. As I picked up the essentials of what I’d need for the week, I muttered to myself about the excess of food sitting back at my “home”. I bought a few cookies as a treat. This wasn’t a time for deprivation. It was Christmas, after all.

As I began to cook, my mood instantly lifted and the knot in my stomach loosened. I played Christmas music and sang along. The therapeutic process of self-care began to work its magic. When my confidence faltered, some writing and phone calls to my best friends helped restore it.

With each hour that passed, I realized my own strength and resilience. It takes tremendous courage to powerfully choose solitude and consciously embrace loneliness any day but especially around the holidays. I was doing it for the second time in my life. There is so much hype telling us that we need someone or something, either the perfect family or the perfect partner or perfectly-wrapped material items to feel included in “the spirit of the season” or make our lives complete. It isn’t true. I witness so many people talking about rushing around and being stressed out, it seems to miss the point of things.

I think that all we need is ourselves and whatever makes us happy.

I went to bed and slept well but when I woke up Christmas morning alone, I cried. I cried for my childhood that had been filled with stockings and piles of presents. I cried for a family I never see or hear from. And then, I cried for the time and energy I’d invested in a relationship that wasn’t working. I cried because I couldn’t understand and it wasn’t fair. I got it all out.

And then I made coffee and a couple of eggs and I might have had some chocolate, too. I got to make the rules that morning.

And then I realized that I got to make the rules for the rest of my life. I was done settling or feasting on scraps in any way. That decision led to many more I've made this year and, as a result, my life is rich and full of everything I want and need.

A year later, I am celebrating this Christmas as a triumph over last year. It was a rock bottom for me, as I hid out in a friend’s house and published an article that wasn’t telling the whole story of what I was enduring. I no longer feel like a fraud for posting pictures or mincing words to belie the reality of my life.

 

There's no tree this year.

No stocking.

Few presents to give or receive.

But I don't feel alone or deprived in any way. Actually, learning to adjust my expectations has allowed greater freedom and appreciation for what I do receive. I have an invitation to Christmas dinner. Two friends made me homemade goodies.

I feel happy and content with everything I've been given in the past and will receive in the future.

 

“I feel you Christmas

I know I've found you

You never fade away

The joy of Christmas

Stays here inside us

Fills each and every heart with love”

 

Whether you’re dealing with loss of family from death or estrangement, an unworkable relationship or something else, surviving a solo Christmas isn’t about surviving at all. It’s about finding strength in being alone or embracing the pain we feel from a loss somewhere in our lives. It's about remembering that things aren’t always what they appear in the lives of others. It’s about sitting with things as they are. It's about cherishing old memories and dreaming of ones you'll make in years to come and finding tremendous freedom and power in that future!

 

*lyrics to Christmas, Why Can’t I Find You? co-written by James Horner and Will Jennings and sung by Faith Hill

How to Let Your Parents (and yourself) Off the Hook

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Last week, I reunited with my mom for the first time in 5 years.

 

5 years.

 

That's a long time to go without seeing your mom's face and get a hug from her. Too long for me, that's for sure.

It was really taking a toll on me, physically, mentally and emotionally. I tried to pretend it was cool and it didn't bother me but it wasn't. Not one bit.

It made sense, in a way. I got it. I came out as transgender and my mom had a hard time with it. She freaked. She withdrew. She didn't say things like, "oh honey, you have my 100% support."

Somehow, along the way, I forgot my mom wasn't perfect. And then I got mad and hurt because I forgot I am not perfect, either.

With all the Pema Chodron listening I do, you would think I would have remembered this. You would guess that I would have brought my enlightenment to this situation and be like, "hey mom, no problem." But it wasn't time for me to do that until recently. Which was the perfect time, really, because that's when it happened. It's really that simple.

You see what I did right there? I just let myself off the hook. I gave myself a break for going through something hard and being a bit imperfect and impatient and ungraceful during that process. 

And just like that, POOF! I was able to do the same for my mom.

Over the past six months, I have gradually reached out to her more and more because I knew she was struggling to understand and accept this new me. I think pretty soon she will come around to realize it isn't really a new me, but just a more complete version. Some better, sexy, updated packaging, you might say. Now the outside has integrity to the inside. She knows what I was like as a kid, she knows that she raised me to straddle the lines of life and not let anyone tell me where to draw them.

But there are new pronouns to practice. A new name. My face looks different (although some of that is just me getting on in years) but she sees my smile is still the same.

This all started when I followed my heart. When we are able to let ourselves do what we need to, we can make that space for others. I've known a lot of people who do this some of the time. I know many people who barely give themselves space to breathe, and I see what they do to the people in their lives, in their country and in the world.

We can only love and accept people to the extent that we love and forgive and accept ourselves. It's a process. It takes a long time. It takes practice. It all starts with the intention to let ourselves, and others, off the hook. 

When we embrace that we are really imperfect beings, we can relax. OMG, the pressure is off. The curtain is pulled away.  The secret is out. We aren't perfect and we won't ever be. AND, at the same time--we are completely whole and perfect in that imperfection. The more we relax and accept it, the better life gets.

During our whole lunch together, we kept expressing how good it felt---even if it felt a little weird. We just let the weird be there.

And the day after, my mom sent a text that was all I've needed to hear for the past 5 years, "I love you and I missed you very much."

 

Let yourself off the hook.

Let your parents off the hook. They did their darn best, otherwise they would have done more if they had it available to them.

Just like you're doing right now.

Seriously.

 

Now go give them a call.

One Year Later: Overcoming My Fear of Reaching Out to My Family

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Last week I celebrated the one year anniversary of "going under the knife" to change my physical form as part of my transition to male.

I promised to post a video showing footage from my "unveiling" as well as results one year later and you can see that below. But rather than lead with that, instead I want to share a bigger transformation with you.

You may have noticed (or not) that over the past four years, I've barely mentioned my family. I've hardly spoken of them because I was estranged from them. I know this happens for all sorts of reasons in many families, and this began before my transition but you can guess that it wasn't exactly something that would bring a family together, even in the best of circumstances. It can happen, but didn't for me.

I went through this entire process without contact from everyone except my mother. She and I had minimal, strained interactions prior to surgery and after, it got even more difficult. One reason for this, I can see after the fact, was my focus on myself and my process. Summoning courage to make this leap meant I had to be a little selfish for a while, especially when it was clear my family wasn't in a space to support me. And I am 100% totally ok with that, because it's what happened.

A few weeks ago, I shared on facebook that I emailed my father for the first time in four years. It got tons of likes and quite a long list of comments, most of them from my loyal and incredible cisgender* following. It was clear to me that everyone can relate to family estrangement and the courage and fear inherent in trying to bridge those distances.

The reconnection is slow-going. Such is the nature of change.

Communication with my mother, however, is moving along more swiftly. I'm sharing this now because I want to inspire from a place of real self-awareness. I haven't shared much about my family in the past because I was still seeing myself as the abandoned, the forgotten, the deserted.

That wasn't . I was simply not able to hold space for their process of losing the person I had formerly been. I was terrified of what they would say, and hurt by things that had already been said--before transition and once I mentioned it--so I made the decision to take time away until I felt stronger.

I knew it wasn't easy for them, but it wasn't easy for me, either.

It was easier for my friends, though I can guess it hasn't been a walk in the park.

It was easier for my partner, who has known me for 9 years and we both sort of always knew this transition was inevitable.

It was easier for strangers, most of whom have no idea I am even transgender.

It wasn't so easy for people who had known me since birth. And a certain kind of guilt prevented me from being able to listen to their experience. Silenced grief goes unprocessed, in my experience, and prevents true healing.

One year after my surgery, I am celebrating a tremendous transformation, both inside and out. I took steps to do what was needed for my own health and happiness and now I am able to overcome my fears and extend compassion and a listening ear to how it has affected my family, namely my mother. Bearing witness to her grief is only possible because I first did it for myself. Extending compassion and understanding to her process is only possible now because I showed that love for myself, first. As a result, we have plans to reunite next week--for the first time in almost 4 or 5 years. It pains me that it's been so long that I forget exactly how long.

This video shows before and after images of my physical body, but the true transformation that I'm celebrating one year later is that of becoming the person I really want to be: kinder, honest, compassionate and able to listen with love to bring about true healing and acceptance.

Have you broken a mold of some sort or lived outside the lines in some way?

What was the impact of that on those around you?

How can you accept and affirm your decisions and still make space to help others heal?

Please share your stories below.

If you want to join me on this fearless journey I'm on, you probably want to join my pay-what-you-can Fearless Living virtual program. Check it out: http://dillandigi.com/fearless-living-the-remix/