I have a confession to make. I wasn't completely honest with my recent blog post about funky family stuff at the holidays.
After sitting with it for a few days, there was something unsettling about it for me. I figured, if it wasn't ringing true for me, it wasn't incredibly inspiring for anyone else.
I wrote half-truths of my feelings about being an orphan on Thanksgiving. There's another side to how I feel about being estranged from my family, despite my best efforts. And if I only share the part that reveals my acceptance of reality, the part I struggle daily to find and maintain, I deprive someone who needs help reconciling the difficult feelings on the way to finding relief.
Someone reminded me of this and encouraged me to step up and share more. My internal conflict is with the inner voice that says no one cares, no one's listening, no one really needs to hear more of my ongoing self-reflection and realizations.
That inner voice also tells me not to write a book about my past experiences, three decades worth of feelings about people, places and things that I've learned about, loved and/or lost, because no one cares. "No one wants to hear it," that voice says.
And I know it's not true. Someone wants to hear it. Someone NEEDS to hear it.
That inner voice also makes me want to shake my fist at people who behave the same way as me, people who hide from their personal spotlight, silence their inner truths and pare down their greatest passions to avoid the ever-present risk of rejection.
I want to hold these people by the shoulders. I want to tell them to drop the defense mechanisms and mind games and just give things a chance because life is too short to live in fear of being tossed to the curb for being imperfect. Instead of reactive rejection, the thing most people do with other people and their messiness, I've learned to only feel even more compassion for these folks. I know that when I accept and embrace the messy parts of others, I accept those parts in myself.
And that's what helped me get out of bed today and go for a run. It's what helps me do it every day, despite the difficulty of the past several years when things took a desperate turn. I drew a line in the sand, a definitive THIS IS WHO I AM and it came at a precious cost. More dear than I anticipated. It has rendered me more alone than I've ever felt before. The truth I'm coming to see is being alone isn't bad, especially when I'm there on my own terms. That adage of being alone for the right reasons being better that near someone for the wrong ones couldn't ring more true for me.
And I come in and out of that awareness and in and out of accepting it as my fate, as far as my family is concerned anyway. It isn't what I planned or predicted. I would much rather prefer to be chosen and wanted and hell, even celebrated, for who I am by my family of origin. I don't know why someone people get this and others don't. I haven't solved it but I guess it isn't more complicated that the most basic explanation: because people can only create space and embrace in us what they make space for and embrace about themselves.
I work hard. I keep a clean apartment. I do my laundry. I don't lie to people. I eat well and exercise and get copious amounts of sleep. I strive to be fair and honest and listen to people to spread more love and less fear. I've overcome the entrepreneurial odds to earn a good living working for myself, despite tremendous obstacles and setbacks. I put myself through grad school and funded my own gender transition and pay my student loans and somehow still have an excellent credit score.
We want those things to mean something. We want them to count. A part of me sometimes wants someone to call my family and say, hey, did you notice what Dillan is accomplishing? His self-empowerment has only helped him make peoples' lives better, I want someone to say. But, really, I don't want anyone to say anything. We develop profound inner strength from overcoming incredible challenges. There is nothing left for me but gratitude.
We all want to be enough. We all want to matter. We want to think that doing our best will get us what we want and need to thrive and be happy. We want to think that life will be fair if we play by the rules and justice will find those who don't.
But life isn't fair, so we do our best to make it go the best we can with the power we have.
And so, I work through the feelings that come up from within, the feelings and questions that have me questioning how much longer I can last within this difficult, often cruel, human experience. I sit with them and feel them fully. I don't things to escape, like drink in excess or smoke pot or take drugs or soothe myself with a sugar coma. I try not to react or repress thoughts or feelings. I do those things less and less each day because I learned they never bring relief that lasts. They prolong the escape. They reinforce the habits and muscles that perpetuate the suffering.
They reinforce the habits that perpetuate the suffering.
I've found that to be the best truth I know. So I strive to do something different. I eat greens. I exercise. I journal. I FEEL. I try to communicate with people the best I can and when I can't, I learn how to do it better. And I tried to write a blog post to be positive and inspiring on Thanksgiving when I felt like I should do that, it felt flat and inauthentic. Sure, people have all kinds of funky family shit on Thanksgiving and I tried to make that be enough of a message. But I didn't write about how horrible it feels to be rejected by my family for yet another year merely for being the person I am. I didn't write about how that feeling never goes away, no matter who adopts me for the day. I won't be naive and assign it merely to my gender identity. I'm sure my personality quirks play a part. But doesn't everyone have those? Don't other imperfect people still get to show up to holiday get-togethers and be their weird selves?
There's obviously something bigger going on in my family. I've done all I can do, I know that to be true. And that's what I tell myself when the holiday season rolls around and I hear stories and scroll through picture after picture of other people finding peace and comfort with the people who brought them into the world.
And then I think about people who don't have those people, not one of those people, for reasons far more tragic than mine. And I allow my experience to be equal to theirs, my suffering no less or greater. Instead of feeling isolated in my experience, I find community with everyone feeling weird, rejected, left-out or less than for whatever reason.
I try not to stuff it down. I try to feel neither guilt about my privilege nor crave pity for my present circumstances. I just allow it all, judging nothing and wanting nothing to change.
That fundamental acceptance, that radical relationship to reality, is what helps us. It helps me toss back the covers and put on my shoes and run and feel gratitude for my healthy body and the air in my lungs. And pretty soon the endorphins kick in and make me want to eat a good breakfast. The good nutrition fuels my brain and helps me think more clearly about my intentions for my day. The time passes as I read or write and check off to-do items and the productivity connects me to my purpose.
And the sun sets on another day of having made it.
And that's how relief happens.
And more people need access to this. More people need help finding relief.
And so, with this truth, I will retire to spend more time doing these things for myself to share them to be of benefit to others. I'm going offline for December, to turn my thoughts and attention to writing to silence that inner voice that says my book doesn't need to be written.
You and I both know, it isn't true. And I'm making the time to do it because our lives are a reflection of our actions. Our behavior speaks louder than our words.
And if I am telling other people to feel the fear and do it anyway, to risk the fear of failure and rejection and face the world boldly, I need to walk my own damn talk. More than I already am, each day.
Because, when we are living without limits, our work is never done.
See you in 2016.