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 I’ve been working with badass Bradley on revisions for The Complicated Geography of Alice and I just cut the following chapter from the manuscript. It’s always wrenching to tear stuff out, so I’m sharing it here to soothing my psyche. Honestly, it’s more about my general distaste for the carrot and stick method of providing services to needy people than it is about Alice. Still, there are little bits of her – of us – in here that still make me giggle. 

 

Grandma Jo has been trying. I’ll give her that. A couple of months ago, she let me drag her to a PFLAG meeting where Alice’s support group leader Elizabeth spoke on transgender awareness. It was basic stuff, and I’d hoped it would be enlightening. Mostly though, my mum sat and stewed about a man in the group who had been rude to her in some other venue. She is trying to change her language to appease us, but it’s becoming clear that she has no interest in changing her mind. This is just a phase that her grandson is going through and she’s going to wait it out patiently, pretending all along that it’s no big deal.

For this reason, I’m surprised when she invites Alice and I to join her for High Tea at a local homeless shelter. The event is a benefit for the women’s program at the shelter, which provides temporary housing, healthcare and education opportunities along with financial and spiritual advising. The thought of making food and shelter conditional upon the acceptance of spiritual advising makes me queasy, but I try to set that aside because Alice is excited to have been invited to such a gloriously girlie event. Especially by Grandma Jo.

When she arrives to pick us up, Alice has just finished applying her thirteenth layer of lipgloss and I’m still struggling to run a comb through my hair.

“You both look so nice,” Grandma Jo says as Alice dashes past her towards the car.

“SHOTGUN!” she shouts, diving into the passenger seat, leaving me to climb into the back. On the ride to the bad side of town, my mother explains everything as she is prone to do.

“Now there’s going to be tea, sandwiches and desserts, and then a fashion show. Do you remember the women in my bible study group? We’ve got a whole table to ourselves.”

We arrive at the mission, disembark and meet our little circle of ladies in the parking lot. My mother’s Bible Study Lady Friends are the kind of women who arrange casserole duty for grieving families, send encouraging little notes to one another with bible verses written in them, and structure the bulk of their gossip in the approved “prayer request” manner. They’re nice enough, some more so than others, but a generally congenial group.

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SpriteA few years ago, I gave my father a fat stack of stories that I’d written about our family, hoping to connect with him by sharing a bit of myself. What I didn’t know for years after was the stories hurt him deeply, each one feeling like a condemnation when I had written them as love letters. This is one of those stories:

 

There’s this tiny alcove at the mechanic’s shop, with a garish gold recliner and a soggy box of National Geographics. I am actually delighted with the room and curled now into the recliner with both feet tucked beneath me while the mechanic changes my tires. His sweet, smelly golden retriever has been following me around since I arrived fifteen minutes ago, and now, he sits beside me like a fuzzy end table, mumbling an ancient tennis ball and practically purring while I scratch his head.

This is one of those moments when I am most my father’s daughter, content amid the wrenches, oil filters and battery cables. Read the rest of this entry »

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Last week, I was scouring the library for resource books on Memoir. I didn't come up with much beyond the handful I'd already dug through, but later the same night, while re-shelving my own books in our new office, I tripped over Tristine Rainer's “Your Life as Story; Discovering the New Autobiography and Writing Memoir as Literature”.

It's one of the books I bought while researching my thesis on Therapeutic Writing a decade ago and the spine is familiar as any other on my shelf, but I haven't cracked it since September of 2002. I picked up the book, flipped through it and laughed. If I'd found it in the library, I'd have declared it “Exactly what I was looking for!” and clutched it to my chest while running for the check-out line. Instead, it was waiting casually to be remembered and rescued from deep shelves five feet from where I sleep.

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On writing “Revelations”

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To say that I just wrote this chapter is a bit of Creative License a lie. I actually wrote the first draft of it in February of 2008, within a day or two of the actual events taking place. I wasn't trying to craft some larger narrative or thinking about tone and audience. I was doing what I should always be doing – journaling. In fact, there's probably a copy of the original somewhere here since I uploaded the "My Other Blog Is A Pinto" archives a while back.

A dear friend messaged me last night to say that she thought I was brave to have written this piece. My response to that was " there's nothing brave in writing/talking about the moments you got RIGHT. It's writing/talking about the moments you get WRONG that takes chutzpah." and I can tell you without a doubt that I'm going to need a lot of chutzpah going forward, but this chapter, this moment that it captures is absofuckinglutely one of those moments I got right. Out of luck perhaps or shock or the blessing of knowing more transgender people than most parents faced with similar situations. 

 

 

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Good days happen. I'm still working on letting that be ok. I don't set out to make them happen. I don't trust the world enough yet for that, but when they accidentally or organically present themselves, I'm getting better at giving myself permission to enjoy them.

I spent the better part of 12 hours writing on Monday and finished the rough draft of “Twitch”. I woke up with some kind of frenetic energy on Tuesday, perhaps because it was my birthday or maybe “just because” but in a life where for too long everything has gone wrong, days where everything kinda goes right are rare and unexpected. I often find it hard to trust the simple niceness of them.

Yesterday, I posted the draft of “Twitch” here and there, and got some kind feedback. The feeling of being listened to (not just heard casually but actively LISTENED TO) is priceless. The therapeutic writing teacher in me always tries to encourage people to speak up – share their truth – make their voices heard and yet, when I do so I am still occasionally amazed at how that feels.