This here blog has been languishing out here in cyberspace, first because I didn’t have anything to say, and then because I did not have anything to say that I wanted to be attributable to me. I had some major processing to do, and I know that I do that best in writing, so I started an anonymous blog that I have been turning to when I have felt a need for some writing time. To the best of my knowledge, the only regular readers of that blog are my therapist, when I ask her to read it, and me. But it has served its purpose well.
My needs have changed as far as blogging goes because I am willing to have my words read now by anyone who happens upon them, and I am happy to have them presented as my words. I have some things to say, and I want people to know that I am saying them. Let me give you a little bit of my reasoning for that.
I turned 40 about a month and a half ago. And I was worried about turning 40 because, if I consider myself to be the sum of some labels that I once assigned to myself, I am divorced, childless, in debt, and living in an apartment. I am overweight. I have an eating disorder. I struggle with compulsive shopping, and I have tiptoed over the pack rat line right into some hoarding. I spend a lot of time with my therapist, and I have been given flak in the past for discussing that openly. All these things together made me feel a little bit like I had not done enough for someone who was going to be 40.
And then I woke up on my 40th birthday, and I felt different than I had as a 39 year old, but it was a different that I did not expect. I felt good about being 40. And over the last month and a half, I have felt better and better about being 40. And my view of all those labels…they have been changing too.
I am divorced because I made a decision to put myself first when my marriage was no longer a viable option for me. I remain single, but I am happy to be single. I have tried to convince myself a couple of times that I wanted to start dating, but I don’t. Dating does not currently interest me at all. I don’t have children, but instead of being childless, I consider myself to be child-free. I am in debt, but with the support of some of the important people in my life, I have taken my credit card debt and enrolled it into a debt management plan, and I have paid off over 1/4 of that debt in less than a year. I live in an apartment, but I am hoping to buy a house next year. I am in treatment for binge eating disorder (which accounts for some of the therapy), and although I am overweight, I am also in recovery from my eating disorder, and I don’t know what I weigh, and I am unwilling to use my weight any longer as a way to keep my life small. I worked with a professional organizer to “de-hoard” a bit, and my apartment is much more bright and peaceful without all that “stuff” filling it up (and weighing me down). And I am not ashamed of the fact that I see a therapist. I refuse to buy into the stigma surrounding mental illness that exists in the US today, and I am willingly to speak candidly about what brought me to therapy and what keeps me there.
I have a favorite quote that sums up how I feel about turning 40. Like many of my favorite quotes, this one comes from Brené Brown: “Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Just stand your sacred ground.” And after some events that happened over the weekend in Orlando, when a mass shooting at a gay nightclub killed 49 innocent people and injured 53, I find myself wanting to stand my sacred ground more than ever.
I spent a lot of time in my 20s at a local gay bar (it was not fancy enough to be a nightclub and has since closed down), and I love many, many, many people who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community. What I have seen since Sunday on social media has been difficult to process, and I find myself filled with emotions that have had to be released. I have seen posts that share words of “Christians” who are celebrating the taking of these lives simply because they were gay. I have seen gun enthusiasts refuse to admit that the right to bear arms and the right to buy a semi-automatic weapon are not the same. And I have seen so much pain expressed by these people I love who are reading these words and maybe not having an opportunity to read words on the other side of the issue.
In the wake of this tragedy, I didn’t know what to say. I was so upset and angry to see the reactions I was seeing on my Facebook feed. And I tried to counterbalance them by sharing quotes and thoughts that made it clear that I did not agree with the hate that was being shared. I quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. I changed my cover photo and profile photo to symbols that were to memorialize those lost.
And then a friend showed me that what I was doing was not enough. When a friend is hurting, when a whole community of friends is hurting, quoting a human rights activist and posting a picture of a rainbow is not enough. Offering thoughts and prayers is not enough. Reminding our followers that Christians are taught to hate the sin but love the sinner (which still calls attention to the fact that Christians are supposed to consider members of the LGBTQIA+ to be sinners) is downright offensive.
Right now, I am listening to the Senate democrats finish up their twelfth hour of a filibuster of the Senate, demanding action to act on gun reform legislation to help prevent further tragedies like this one. And as I listen to these words, I know that the 40 year old me is not willing anymore to stay quiet in a way that will lead me to compromise myself and my beliefs in order to fit into any expected mold, whether that is an expectation of someone else or was an expectation of the 39 year old me. And 1100 words into the first post I have written on this blog in over nine months, I want to say this:
We DO need gun reform in this country. We need mental health reform. It is NOT okay that 49 innocent people were gunned down in a place where they should have been safe. Hate is not the answer. I am unwilling to let this be my story. I want my friends who are still or once again fearing for their safety and who are feeling let down by the lack of support they are feeling from the cis-gendered and/or heterosexual community to know that I am mourning along with them, and I am scared for what we are facing in this country. But I am on their side, and I am not willing to stand by and allow this to be the new normal in this country.
I am too important to have to edit my dialogue to make others more comfortable. And they are too important for me to stay silent on this issue.