Our Selves

Late blooming flowers
beneath spreading trees
dipping virgin roots into the river
Warm waters, softened by sunlight –
She sits and dreams.

Deep in the green
Wild things, heavy with Life
Freedom as much as blood
empowering them –
They dance around her
under the shade of the canopy
watching with eyes on other things.
She reaches, but they are as untouchable
as the sunlight.

“But I feel you,”
she says to the sky,
to the golden shafts which blanket her in warmth.
“I feel you – as I feel them –
somewhere deeper than the soul –
If an eagle could fly from me
it would stir me no less than this.
Why was I brought here?
A witness – never to touch the evidence?
Is it a crime to love?
A child’s wanderings – or not?
Why was I brought here
to this that I love
only to reach, and face denial…”

The wind blows,
and in it, softly singing,
she hears her love and weeps.
“A world of beauty wasted,”
she sighs, and closes tired eyes.
She sits and dreams,
and her soul dies.

I wrote this poem twenty years ago, when I was on the cusp of twenty and trying very hard to find my place at a local liberal arts college. I lived off-campus, so would arrive for my morning classes then spend the day at the school, passing a great deal of time between classes in the main building’s rotunda, sitting on a particular bench, watching the other students cross the space as they moved from room to room. It was there I jot down the basic words to this poem.

In those days I couldn’t allow myself to be a lesbian. Sure, a certain girl kept piquing my interest in English, but I was not going to be gay. Besides, I was having a lot more feelings for a lot of other things, for stories and characters spinning in my head, and deep-seated reactions to particular faces, particular eyes. The woods were still my most sacred space. I still tingled – and wrote even more poetry – when gazing up at the Dipper and Orion.

But day to day, I sat in the rotunda and watched the other students cross the space. Teachers, too. It’s a strange kind of isolation that comes with never seeing yourself reflected in the world around you. In high school, I had been an oddball but had made friends; in college, I could not locate anyone like me, and more than ever I was drowning in the images that told me I was wrong: the petite, pretty girls with their short skirts and makeup, the loud, crass boys who wore the same clothing I did. There was one girl who always wore a ponytail and jeans, who shouted across rooms and loved to party. She was openly gay, but she still wasn’t anything like me.

I did well enough in classes but I couldn’t stay. I just couldn’t stay, and after two years of trying I let go of a full scholarship and left college. I don’t recommend this to anyone. Please stay in school and get that degree if possible. It’s very hard to go back and finish later. It’s something I deeply regret, that English Lit degree that slipped through my fingers because my soul was just dying, just dying in that place.

We are told throughout our lives to “Be Yourself!” It sings out in children’s songs and is gently spoken by Mr. Rogers. It decorates posters and Tumblr posts. Electric guitars blare the message in Coca-Cola commercials. We’re inundated with images of hip young people of various colors, their dancing elders joining in, a world of diversity and inclusion distributed to every speaker and screen. But that isn’t the real world. All that well-meaning wishing isn’t the real world.

Being yourself isn’t always possible. Being yourself isn’t possible when being gay isn’t safe. Being yourself isn’t possible when wearing men’s clothes or finding women attractive isn’t accepted. Being yourself isn’t possible when a Christian will take you by the collar and demand you read the Bible when you say you don’t go to church. Being yourself isn’t possible when you see no one around you existing the way you do – the way you want to – and living a free and happy life.

So we get used to being afraid and we call it anxiety. We get used to being sad and we call it depression. We get used to hiding and we call it introversion. We come to hate all the things we loved because those things hold us back from ever being ourselves the way so many seem to be themselves, dancing on TV, walking through the rotunda from class to class.

We are left sitting and dreaming and dying inside.

I tried very hard to be myself, as so many well-meaning people told me to be. But I was convinced it wasn’t possible, it wasn’t safe, and so I decided I would be something other. I would be helpful, first and foremost; I would be funny. I would be talented, generous, and accepting of everyone. I would tolerate the jokes. I would be cool. I would be an atheist. I would be an easy-going dyke, lol. I would be masculine; I would be rational. I would be no problem for anyone at all.

I would make a self that was safe to be.

Somewhere, deep in the green, she sits and dreams.

It was only when I was faced with idea of having to alter my physical body to sustain this false self that I realized how much harm had been done internally, how far I had traveled from who and what I really was. I sat for days in grief acknowledging that yes, it is fucking hard to be a lesbian. It is fucking hard to live in defiance of femininity and patriarchy. It is fucking hard to feel and love and experience the world so differently than the vast majority of people out there who want everything to be so inclusive and positive and easy. It is fucking hard to be myself.

I started this blog in January of this year, settling into this soft space to explore the lost pieces of myself and figure out how I could fit in this world. I have been so blessed to have learned and read and interacted with so many brave, insightful, inspiring people through this space, to have found acceptance and friendship and so many deep thoughts to consider, so many journeys to honor. All of this strengthened me to step more and more into myself in my daily life, and watch all the facades from the last twenty years crumble around me. Difficult, but an unavoidable result of living as someone other than who I am. Somewhere in all the rubble and reconstruction I found myself. Then a book opened and finally – finally – had words for what I was:

A woman’s whose occupation it is to spin participates in the whirling movement of creation. She who has chosen her Self, who defines her Self, by choice, nether in relation to children nor to men, who is Self-identified, is a Spinster, a whirling dervish, spinning in a new time/space.

Spinster, Hag, Fury or Chrone as Mary Daly defines them in Gyn/Ecology, but I will tend always towards “a woman who has chosen her Self, who defines her Self, by choice, neither in relation to children nor to men.” At those words, deep in the green, she raises her head and stops dreaming. At those words, she rises to create again.

I will leave this space for those who seek it, and I hope it engenders softness around them, the same kind of comfort and safety to explore themselves as I have needed. At very least it’s another story for those who like stories, and another experience that will hopefully make someone feel a little less alone. I will always keep tabs on new comments and any searchers who find themselves here looking for guidance.

It’s time for me now to create a new space, to fill not with the restrictions I’m casting off or the identities I’m trying on, but with the simplicity of my Self just as it is, at last recovered. I will let you know where that space is once I create it.

But I leave any readers of these writings with this message: Your self, your true self, your sacred self held in the innermost parts of you, that sings when you love and weeps for the beauty of the world, can be revealed and embraced and recovered. Even if it isn’t safe to be yourself. Even if it seems impossible. You can wipe away the dust and debris and hold that jewel, every beautiful facet, and know without doubt that no one, nothing, will ever make you abandon it again.