I’m getting ready to launch my coaching business, and I wrote a thing for that new website (which will be launching soon). You get a sneak peek.
This morning I was sitting on the floor in the living room, surrounded by Lego. I was reassembling a set that had taken too many toddler-assisted falls. It was a good morning – the kids are with their mom, and I had coffee and affection and this beautiful life I’m building – but I was overwhelmed with wave after wave of heavy emotions.
Because this story is not the story I thought I would be telling now, at 35.
And this is not the first time the story has changed.
And every time the story changes, there is grief, and loss, and guilt.
Once upon a time, I was straight. I was monogamous. I was a woman. I was married. I was going to grow old having chili bake-offs with my husband, inviting family over to taste-test, both of us winning. Every year we would go to the boutique gift shop for beautiful Christmas ornaments, to be given in wooden boxes we had designed and built and stained together. We would go to Croatia to meet his family someday. We would go to Norway to meet mine. We had three dogs. We had a new house. But I’m not straight. And I’m not a woman. And I’m no longer married.
Once upon a time, I was a dog trainer. I specialized in working with fearful and aggressive dogs. I was really good at it. I was APDT and CAPPDT certified, I took courses at the San Francisco Academy for Dog Trainers. I ran my own business. I was going to be an expert in the field. I would speak at APDT, I would host conferences, I would be sought out for interviews, I would publish books. But the economy tanked, and I went to university, and I love dogs but I no longer train them.
There are other once upon a times. Stories that felt like my forever story, fundamental to my being, that I am no longer in. The story where my soul mate and I grow old living together, he a lawyer and me a gender studies professor. The story where my anchor partner and I grow old living together, them at their video game console and me organizing events for the bisexual and trans communities, doing activism, being an activist. The story where I’m a famous author at 25. The story where I never have kids. The story where I work in my dad’s bookstore until he retires and then I become the manager. The story where I’m straight. The story where I’m cisgender. The story where I’m able-bodied. The story where depression is overcome, forever, and I am triumphant over my mind. The story where I’m inherently and eternally broken (that one was so hard to let go of).
Does it make me sound flighty, all these stories?
But I am not the only one who has lived in many books.
I am not the only one who has felt my identity sink solidly and safely into a narrative, only to have someone in the distance shout, or whisper, “plot twist!” and to feel the ink of my identity fading on the page, new words forming, words I do not know, or know how to inhabit.
These plot twist moments can be traumatic. They are moments of “identity threat” – times when our sense of self, and who we are, and how we are in the world and in relationships and in each other’s eyes, when it all shifts.
When we come out. When we divorce. When we lose a job, or a friend, or a partner, or a parent. When we gain a job, or a partner, or another partner, or a new name or a new body or a new baby. When we transition to polyamory. When we discover our kinks. When we tell our lover. When our lover tells us. When we hear that voice, stage left, “plot twist!”
Or, sometimes, when we feel the slow twist of a knife long buried. Microaggressions. Erasures. Moments of invisibility and coercive passing. When we are read by those around us as something we are not, and we see reflections of ourselves in others’ eyes that do not feel right. When stereotypes or biases against us start to eat away at our own sense of self and wholeness.
Illness. Wellness. Brokenness. Wholeness. Togetherness. Aloneness.
When we move from one state of being into another. When we find ourselves lost, and find ourselves, and lose ourselves.
Lego can be fixed. I can go back to the book, find all the missing pieces (or most of them, anyway), reassemble it and it will look almost like it did when I first built it.
Life is not like that. I cannot find the booklet and all the missing pieces to reassemble those old stories, those old lives.
But my life is like Lego in another way, endlessly adaptable. A smashed house can become a truck can become a dragon can become another house. There is hope, and new wholeness, and new stories, and there is healing possible. I have learned to sit with the grief, and the loss, and the sadness, and the hope, and the joy, and the excitement. I have learned to let the plot twist, to trust myself to be present in whatever story comes next. To know myself, and love myself (in action if not in emotion, and in intention if not in action, and always reaching towards a more wholehearted love), and care for myself. I have learned how to breathe in to the moments of change, and trust that even when my identity feels threatened, feeling or fearing a thing doesn’t make it real. Whatever comes, comes. I can find a way to exist within it.
Moments of identity threat can be incredibly challenging. We often feel guilty when the narrative changes, because we know it isn’t just us that’s impacted. And we want the people around us to be happy, we want them to like us, we want them to know us. It’s hard to find a solid sense of self in the plot twist moments.
That’s what I’m here for.
If you feel like you are losing yourself, or have lost yourself, and the narrative is getting away from you and everything feels scary and overwhelming and you don’t know what your story is anymore, I can help.
Self-care, self-discovery, self-expression.
I can help you find the story that lets you move forward.
I had a rough morning, feeling the weight of old stories heavy on me.
I remembered The Fool, my heart-card.
I wrote it out.
I feel better.