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We Are Family

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Please forgive me, I’m about to be both blunt and politically incorrect. But this is sort of a love note; and at such times, you want to ensure your missive gets to it’s intended recipient.

Gay men of Denver, I love you. Adore you. Couldn’t live without you. I want to take you home (not like that), be your new best friend. I want for you to be my one and only passenger.

Denver is an up and coming city, in an up and coming economy. A housing market that has increased over 20% per year for more than 5 years means only the (financially) strong survive here. Weed money means there are more entrepreneurs per square mile than anywhere else in the US. So Denver is particularly intellectual, successful, worldly, well-heeled and well-traveled.

Denver is (forgive me) a bit jaded, a little too BTDT for a girl who spent years on a farm and makes a practice of wearing her heart on her sleeve. Who doesn’t really get (or do) small talk. I’m too earnest, too awkward, too granola-crunchy/earth mama. So the wall goes up each night, always hoping for a chance to let it down, but always mindful of meeting my passengers where they are. Always seeing to their comfort above all else, because let’s face it, they’ve already had a long night or they wouldn’t be calling me.

But I noticed something months ago. Gay men are often the ones who will stop and just connect before they leave. Not, let me chatter at you nervously as I gather my stuff, I mean really connect. I’ve gotten my things, I’m ready to go, now I’m going to stop for a minute and see you, because you aren’t just a driver, you’re a person. It’s an uncommon experience in a world where we all kind of go around following the script.

“Take care, honey!” “You be safe out there tonight, okay?”.”Drive safe, angel!”. “Hey, thanks for the safe ride home, sweetness, you’re the best!”. Before Uber’s much needed and long-overdue zero tolerance hands-off policy, these were often accompanied by kisses and or a hug. Often many hugs. That stopped the instant the policy changed (not gonna lie, I miss that). Always looking at me, not out the door, but at me.

Connection.

Even now, thinking about it has me verklempt.

This job is not for the faint of heart. It’s fly by the seat of your pants financially (especially in Denver). It’s stressful, often harrowing (especially if you’re a perfectionist who cuts yourself little, if any, slack). You’re risking a lot just to do it. But it’s flexible, and for me, it is something that allows me to work around multiple barriers. And since my ultimate goal is to (finally) return to school and pursue a career, being able to dictate my own hours on the fly means I can maximize my time and earnings while finishing my long delayed education.

These passengers aren’t just my favorites, they are the air I breathe at times. My life has never been what one would call easy, and the last year has been brutal, on multiple counts. Not without it’s perks, don’t get me wrong, some things have gone blissfully right. But it’s only in those moments of having someone take care of me for once, as simple as that may sound, that I realize just how heavy my burdens have become.

Having someone take a minute out of their already very busy day to help me shoulder my burdens just levels me. And sometimes, is the thing that gives me the strength to go on just a little while longer. It’s the thing that has been slowly filling my broken heart with joy again, stitching it back together, one ride at a time.

Truly, from the bottom of my once shattered heart, thank you.

I Say A Little Prayer For You

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I think one of the reasons some passengers have such an impact on me is because I love differently than some people.

I was never one of those people who knew what career I wanted to pursue. I’m not sure I had any concept of myself as someone who had choices in that realm. But I loved science and became fascinated with heritability when a high school psychology teacher sparked an interest in Psychology Today.

Eventually a family friend who is a physician made the old joke about “What’s the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist? About $75/hr!”. I started to research medical school and the more I learned, the more enamored I became.

One fear I had was that admonition about not getting attached. I wasn’t sure that was something I could pull off. Another family friend was a nurse, and she wasn’t someone who embraced the “don’t get attached” advice. Patients often became a part of her non-work life. And as patients sometimes do, they would occasionally exit the mortal world.

I asked her once, how did she get through that? She said she went to the chapel and she cried and prayed and grieved, and then new patients came in needing care. They needed her to care for them just as openly, with just as much concern.

That helped me make peace with the idea of working in a clinical setting and dealing with the losses that every physician faces. While I never got to put the idea to the test, it definitely impacted how I approached being a foster parent. The one thing I was very clear about, is each child deserved to belong, to be fully loved, to have a parent (in the day to day sense). No qualifiers. Their experience should not be impacted by my fear of losing someone I had come to love. So I put my heart on the line with every child, and when they left I prayed for the best, did my best to demonstrate confidence in the plan the state had developed for their future, and sent them off with a wish for a wonderful future. I cried, and I grieved, and then more kids came needing love and someone to embrace them (and at times, their parents).

I think some of that shapes my experience with some passengers. When I sense that someone needs a compassionate ear, I’m not afraid to offer whatever they may need, to open up my heart. I know that separation is nothing to fear, and I hope to model, even for a brief time, a depth of connection not everyone has experienced. I’m not a platitudes and superficial smile kind of person.

Recently I saw a Facebook post from Glennon Doyle about her “love letter“, in a somewhat non traditional sense. I had to laugh because it was exactly how I conceptualized this blog. These were my “love letters” to the passengers I connected with, shared surprisingly intimate moments with, and came to care for in a shockingly small amount of time. I felt those connections deserved to be honored in some way, and my wish for a wonderful future for people I so admired needed to be set free to come to fruition somehow. As always, for me, the way to breathe life into those visions for the future and resolution of the past is through the written word. It’s how I so often process the complexities of life.

If in the process I could inform, entertain, or inspire others… well, even better

I Will Try To Fix You

There are moments when I look at all the incredible women in our group and I feel so confused. I’m not sure why they are single. If I were a man, there really isn’t a one I wouldn’t find remarkable and want to get to know better, so why? Why are there so many men who just sit on the sidelines?

In those more jaded moments I’ve joked that I should create an app called trophy wife rehab. Maybe all we need is a man with the means and a high novelty seeking quotient to get us back on track. We’re badass, cute as hell, maybe a little nip/tuck, a personal trainer and a chef to come in a couple of times a week to shop and prep healthy meals, and we’d be set. And if the guy moves onto the next woman, who cares! We’re already right where we want to be.

Yes, it’s ridiculous and a little sexist and highly offensive. But I’d probably jump at it (or better yet, a marriage proposal from a nice Canadian gentleman, because appropriate health care is really all I’m after). Every woman I’ve mentioned it to laughs and says “sign me up!”.

It lifts my spirits in the moment. It’s always good for a laugh.

But there’s an undercurrent there that I’m very uncomfortable with, and terribly confused by.

I wonder, in a world where all anyone wants is to be loved just for who they are, why do we chase such superficial relationships?

Why do we demand for ourselves what we refuse to offer to others?

Am I the only person flummoxed by this dichotomy?

She’s Got The Magic Touch

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“I’m a bitch, you know that, right?”

“Duly noted” I grinned at her; a little too adoringly.

Most of the time I can’t stand drama, pot-stirrers or other nonsense. I’m a little too earnest, a little too loving, and a little too free with my heart; so my only defense is to keep people who might abuse the privilege at, well, much more than arm’s length. Like, maybe a football field.

She’s the one exception. I love her, one might say worship. One wouldn’t be overstating things.. Maybe because she is who she is, and she doesn’t hide, lie, manipulate or play games. She’s completely comfortable with who and what she is, and she feels no need to pretend otherwise. No fucks given at all about your opinion. Ever.

But she’s fun and brash and has a rapier wit that she wields masterfully without being overtly mean. She walks that oh-so-fine line with precision and skill. She’s drop-dead-gorgeous which doesn’t hurt, and she has a voice like melted chocolate, a laugh like a room full of crystal during a toast, and this delicious accent that makes you wish she’d just keep talking. About anything. Weather, sports, beheadings, you don’t really care, you just don’t want her to stop.

This group is so jam-packed with extraordinary people that I could write a hundred love letters before ever feeling the need to write a “Dear John”, but when you walk into a room and she’s there, you know things just got magnitudes better.

There is no crappy week that can overpower her many charms.

‘Cause I’m Broken

Sometimes, realizing the magnitude to which you are imperfect can be the most freeing experience.

I have struggled with my weight since puberty, a progressive issue that grew worse every year, no matter what I did.

At a young age I struggled with cognitive issues that also grew worse.

It wasn’t until my 30s I had an explanation for those two (seemingly) disparate issues.

I spent so many years feeling ashamed of the ways I was different, like a failure for not being able to be less different, afraid of the price I might pay for my failure to conform.

Once I knew that these issues weren’t my fault, and that I could positively impact, but never remediate them, I was almost instantly freed from so many burdens they brought along for the ride.

I speak so often, and in such glowing terms, of the many women I admire. I always longed to be more like them. Learning why I struggled the way I did set me free to learn to be fierce in my own way. I no longer had to keep trying to live to someone else’s standard, I was free to be the best me I could be.

It changed my life for the better. It granted me such peace of mind. It gave me the drive to serve others in any way I could manage.

Thing is, I know I’m not the only person to have this experience. So it begs the question, why do people feel such intense pressure to be something they aren’t? Why aren’t we encouraged to accept and love ourselves as we are? I know some of it is marketing, some of it is old ghosts, some of it is peer pressure. But many of those are influences we can avoid if we wish, and certainly we are capable of ignoring them.

Why don’t we?

Why do we buy the lie that we aren’t ok? Aren’t good enough? Aren’t worthy?

And how do we stop the madness?

Why You Look So Sad?

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My cousin held me tighter as we hugged and whispered “you look so sad”.

She’s right, I do, I thought later. The decades of a dysfunctional marriage had taken a toll, but the three and a half years trying to salvage it were a whole new level of destructive. By the time I saw her during a Denver vacation last summer I barely looked alive. There was no light left in my eyes, I looked as burdened as I felt. It’s a phenomenon that gets endlessly discussed on various support groups I participate in. Before and after pictures are often shared, hope for those still finding their way out, proof of progress for those who have a more distant perspective.

I couldn’t deny the reality of what she said but it still came as somewhat of a shock. I hadn’t seen her in years. I thought I did a better job of hiding it. I was grateful she said something, knowing that I have three pairs of eyes watching all the time, learning both how to be a partner and what to expect from one. If I didn’t find the courage to face the truth and value myself and my contributions, I was running the risk of them meeting the same fate. Knowing I was still building the path that would in some ways shape their future gave me the courage to advocate for myself, to ask for what I needed, and to not compromise my own welfare.

Over the last few months I’ve made it a point to try and look my best, to find the joy in nurturing myself again. I love playing with colors, even if I’m not always comfortable with it. So coloring my hair, indulging in the occasional mani/pedi, and a budding makeup addiction have been a way to invest in myself. Those investments had a measurable impact on my earnings (for the better), and garnered endless comments from my loved ones about how much happier I look.

I spent so many years convincing myself that spending anything on me was frivolous and essentially stealing from my kids. Of course, I was also unaware what the true root of our financial problems were. I believed what I was told, that it was all my fault and if I just sacrificed more and more everything would be fine. It became a way of life, and I have to admit, it’s uncomfortable still to spend money on myself. My first instinct is always to sacrifice what I want and need for the welfare of my family.

It’s another one of those unhealthy patterns I’d like to break. I’m hoping to learn to model better and more consistent self-respect for my boys. I need to remember the risk of feeling the need to ask them why they’re so broken someday is very real.

Godess On A Mountaintop

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She walks into the room of singles and the world tilts. Not like that (exactly). But she has that… bearing about her, and you know immediately she is different. And over the night that hunch is proven correct. She’s educated and successful and accomplished and talented and knowledgable and fierce. Ever so fierce. And beautiful. Breathtakingly, jaw-droppingly, with a mane of curly hair that makes me want to weep with envy.

Some women might find the admiration awkward, but she doesn’t, we spar and play over it, and it’s a blast. She’s not vain about my fondness for her, she’s just badass enough to accept it for what it is.

She is seemingly effortlessly what so many women wish to be, what I will never be, but can appreciate freely. How can you not appreciate art? Beauty?

Life is dark enough. I don’t want to nitpick someone’s imperfections, I’d rather revel in the perfection of who they truly are.

My Christmas Dreaming

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Christmas has always been a treasured holiday for me. It hasn’t always been a happy one. My parent’s split on Christmas, my Mom and I almost never celebrated it, but I love it all the same.

I was a choir girl; and for choir kids, Christmas starts in the fall, in preparation for winter concerts. So I love the music, but also the baking, the lights, the magic, the pageantry. It fills that part of my heart that longs for dreams, romance and beauty.

As an adult, I’ve often hopped in the car to drive while listening to music. Singing at the top of my lungs as the dark road stretches ahead does me a world of good. It’s therapeutic. Cathartic. There is little that cheers me more than a travel mug full of something steamy, a container full of homemade Christmas cookies, and a collection of my favorite holiday music. It’s something that became a family tradition (one that sadly waned when we lived on our farm).

So when my first son was due on Christmas eve, I couldn’t be more excited. I felt like he was the most precious gift I’d ever receive (turns out he was one of three of the most precious gifts ever).

I spent many weeks before his birth driving around while listening to music and looking at lights, dreaming of the day I’d finally hold him in my arms, feeling a certain kindred spirit with Mary. I battled fear and confusion and insecurity my whole pregnancy, knowing that learning to be a good parent would be an uphill battle for me. Those drives brought me peace, and gave me a measure of courage to face what lay ahead.

And they provided enough inspiration to help me dive into the whole parenting experience.

Whenever I go on these holiday drives now, there’s always a part of me that remembers the joy, the intense love, the overwhelming protectiveness…I look back fondly, and  smile with immense pride at the young man that wee babe has become.

He exceeded my wildest dreams so effortlessly.

This Girl Is On Fire

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Tonight I’m celebrating the birthday of a new friend. I adore her. Everyone adores her. That really isn’t the story.

Every so often you run into those people who make you realize that whatever you’re prideful about, you really aren’t all that. You know that commercial with Rod Stewart and Rachel Hunter where she’s building a house and doing all this other amazing stuff?

That’s her. She’s equal parts Pink and Mary and MacGuyver. I always thought I was a good wife and mother but I am not even in the same universe as her.

And she does it all with a smile on her face, a hug for every soul who needs one, making friends and having fun and breathing life into every moment.

I really don’t have words to express how phenomenal she is, or how grateful I am to have her in my life.

Happy Birthday love. And thank you for helping my battered soul find a smile and a whole lot of peace.

 

And As The Years Go By

We are the unlikeliest of friends. I’m not the only (or first) person to make that comment. It’s undeniable on the surface.

He’s the classic BMOC, he’s smart (brilliant actually in a Will Hunting sort of way, although it’s not the first thing you notice about him); successful, he has a smile that lights up any room. He’s the center of any crowd; he’s the glue that holds many diverse personalities together. More than that, he’s the secret ingredient that makes them all blend harmoniously. He’s the definition of gracious, in spite of his frequent reminders that he has no filter. He can say things nobody else would ever get away with because you see his heart, it’s right there on his sleeve. He can be a mischievous imp, but he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He’s also the man in our singles group who tends to have many eyes following him. Not that he notices.

I am not the see or be seen type. In fact, if there’s a plant to hide behind, a dog to pet, or a child to chat with, I’m happier than a pig in, well, you know. I’m a social introvert. I’ve been accused of being an ambivert, but that’s not quite true. I love people. I enjoy getting to know them, I love nothing more than talking to someone, and trying in little snippets of time to heal their wounds, to see the things other people miss, I think people are for the most part heartbreakingly beautiful; but I have my peopleing limits and it doesn’t take me long to reach them; and then I need to retreat to a cold, dark room and pretend the outside world doesn’t exist for a while. Kind of an odd trait for a person who loves being a rideshare driver, right? Yeah, I haven’t quite figured that out myself.

So not exactly two people who would seem like they’d become great friends, right?

I’ll sum it up for you in just a handful of letters.

ENFP/INFP

We met on the heels of similar personal disasters. I’m not particularly skilled or gifted or successful at anything, but the one thing I say I do well is love. And I am good, I guess, at reframing things. For helping people connect dots they might not otherwise see. We’ve all been hit by that hurricane relationship that leaves you breathless by the side of the road wondering what the hell just happened; and when you’ve landed in another country and you don’t speak the language, your odds of piecing together where you are and how to get back to where you were (if that’s even possible, which, it isn’t) are slim to none. For months we talked almost every day. In part because I was able to help him figure out where he was, and since going back wasn’t a desirable (or available) option, how to go home again.

He’s courageous in a way few people are. In an odd way, some of that is fear. Who wants to keep hurting when you’ve just been mortally wounded. It’s an evolutionary imperative to stop the bleeding. But few people have the courage to turn in the face of such assaults, draw that line in the sand and stand there saying “cross it one more time…”. So we wandered that path together, both of us unafraid to look pain in the face, because continuing to hurt like this was not an option.

You can’t share that kind of experience and not forge a rare bond. The fact that we’re both a little empathic, both lean towards the live and let live side, the fact that my barely there filter sometimes rivals his nonexistent one. I could go on, but the moral of the story is your mother was right when she told you never to judge a book by it’s cover.

We’ve become friends. Maybe even family. I’m not sure I have a label that can really encompass the place he has in my heart and my life, but can say I have few friendships I cherish as much as this one.

The fact that on the heels of tragedy comes the most beautiful of blessings is one of the reasons I haven’t become hardened. The beauty is always there, if you stay open to seeing it.

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