Where do I start? So much has happened. Like so many of you, we’re navigating big changes.
If you’re new here (hi!!!), here’s a little background. Five years ago, I was a happy solo mom of one kid living in Portland, Oregon, when I unexpectedly fell in love with my best friend in Canada. Things were messy, since this friend was married, and happened to be the mom of four kids. We made big tectonic shifts in our lives, as you do when true love shakes you by the scruff of your neck, and a couple of years later lo and behold we were married, coparenting our five kids together, squeezing all 7 of us into a minivan, and living in a suburban town in Canada. To make things even more interesting, during our courtship my beloved realized that though he’d been assigned female at birth and had given birth to four kids, he’d always known deep down that his true identity was male. But he’d wisely squashed that truth down right proper in order to survive, well, our world. So THEN, in his thirties, with an immense amount of courage, he transitioned, came out to the world as a transgender man, and we carried on with our lives.
Then this past year, we made a really raw, vulnerable, intimate documentary about it. —>>> You can watch it right here. 🎥🎥🎥
For years now, I have shared my heart with you kindred spirits in these weekly missives. And Nick and I have both been very open on the internet about many aspects of our lives. But sharing this film with the world is a whole new level of vulnerability.
(I mean, have you SEEN my hair in the weeks after Nick’s surgery?!?!? It’s like an evolving metaphor for how hard things were getting, tangling and snarling as I staggered along, just putting one foot in front of the other, navigating big changes and big challenges.)
When we shared the film online this week, we were braced for some hateful reactions, because that’s simply part of being queer and transgender in our world today.
But actually what’s happened instead is that we have been LIFTED AND CARRIED by this immense ocean of love and support coming from you all and from the beautiful people you’ve shared our story with.
And this extraordinary thing happened:
So THANK YOU. Oh mah gyah. If you think I’m cool and unfussed about this, I’m actually howling inside with glee and– there’s no elegant way to put this– vindication. (Oh the stories, friends. The stories I will tell you one day.)
But you know what’s even more amazing than winning an award????
We’ve had 7,000 views on our video and not one hateful comment. Do you know what a miracle that is?
YOU ALL ARE A MIRACLE TO US.
I think this is how we change the world, friends. By seeing each other’s stories, and reacting with compassion. By saying, “Yeah, it gets messy over here too, but I see the beauty in all your mess, and I see the beauty in my mess too.” And the funny thing is that we’re all much better at giving it to each other than we are to ourselves, especially when we’re in the midst of navigating big changes.
(Now listen, I’m not naive. We will quite likely encounter people along the way who don’t think our big queer blended family is as awesome as we think it is.
But that’s just radio static. And underneath it, I can feel your love; it’s like a groundswell, holding us up right now. I hope you can feel my love flowing back to all of you who have read these missives, whether you’ve been reading for years or this is your very first one.)
And this whole experience has made me realize– I have SO MANY MORE STORIES I want to tell you.
I want to keep sharing as vulnerably with you each week as we did in this film. I can feel mannnny, many new things brewing inside me, new wild dream seeds rooting their little green sprouts up in my mind and heart. I have a feeling we’re going to be navigating big changes for a few more seasons.
But here’s an odd thing. Big swells of energy, whether they seem good or bad on the surface, require for us to be really STEADY as we ride them.
I’ve heard from so many of you in the past few days who are riding big swells. You’re feeling really big energies move through your life this week (month, year, lifetime) and so I want to share the biggest thing that’s helped me as I navigated big changes in the past and that I’m leaning on right now, too.
(Because if you’re feeling like oh holy shit what is even going ON in the ether right now, you’re not alone. It’s been a big couple of weeks for the kindred spirits– life and death and rebirth, ashes and phoenix rising, endings and beginnings. Whew.)
So here it is, my love.
The MOST impactful thing you can do when you’re navigating big changes.
FIRST HAVE TENDER COMPASSION ON YOUR SWEET SELF.
Then, just kidding–
THEN THAT IS IT THAT IS THE END.
That’s the whole thing. It’s ridiculously, hilariously helpful.
Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, Well I already did that for like five whole minutes, PLUS I got a massage last week, so I already DID THAT and now it’s time to toughen up and get back out there.
I know that’s what you’re thinking because that’s what I always hear inside my own head too.
And maybe in this particular moment what’s required of you is less tenderness, more fierceness. We do indeed have moments that require us to get big, bigger, then BIGGER. And you know how much I love my inner bitch, that great warrior ally inside myself.
But more and more lately, I am practicing with the idea of staying BIG and SOFT.
This is something that came home to me so sweetly and powerfully when I was leading a beloved private client in a horse whispering retreat last week. (This is when we go do deep gentle energy work together in a round pen with some beautiful horses and we repattern old things in a way that is hard to describe without using the word ‘magical.’ And even though the whole experience is set up for the client’s benefit, part of the work is that I show up authentic and vulnerable too, because sometimes it’s easier to see patterns in other people than in ourselves.)
There with the horses, I realized (for like the fortyhundredth time) that I know how to Effort Most Bigly With Great Panicked Force, and I know how to curl up so tight in the safe harbor of my own heart that I almost disappear. But the sweet spot– my edge, my growth curve, my practice– is to be big AND soft. And if it sounds like I’m always wrestling with paradoxes (fierce and tender, practical and magical, beauty and grit, heathen and mystic, tell the truth but don’t quit) that’s because goddess knows, I absolutely always am. Because life is a mystery. And never boring.
I am wobblingly learning to stay in that sweet spot. When I can stay cathedral big, expansive, present, and engaged– but also relaxed, soft, open, curious, grounded– OHHHHH, that’s the sweet spot.
It still takes a lot of big deep belly breaths and squinty toddler-like concentration for me to stay there. I can’t hold it for hours yet; instead I slip often into sharp clutchy anxious pushing, or slide into passive jelly-like checking out and hiding. But I am trying to just come back. Because let me be clear: I’m not bad or awful when I slip into those old modes– those modes were viable ways of navigating big changes in a confusing world and helped me get where I am today– but I am ready to grow into something bigger. Softer. More tender. And infinitely more powerful.
We all have times when we feel strong and amazing and like we can take on the world. Everyone around us would really like it if we could just always be in that place and maybe just also do all the hard things that need doing (thanks, that’d be great). But that’s not real. Anyone who says they always live in that place??? I just don’t believe them. Because we all have times when we feel tender and scared and shaky. That doesn’t mean that you’re doing anything wrong. It just means you’re human. And it also probably means that you’re trying new things, navigating big changes, you’re making shifts, you’re doing brave things even when they scare you.
So if you’re in that place of OH THIS A LOT, whether it’s mild swells of change or great big waves taking you somewhere utterly new, try bringing immense tender compassion to your own experience. Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a scared kid (because you are, you’re talking to the scared little ones inside you). Hey, sweetheart, I’ve got you, this is scary, hunh? But you’re safe, I’ll be right here with you no matter what happens.
Tender compassion, FOR YOURSELF, is a radical and powerful act of healing. Of revolution. Of transformation. It’s an outright refusal to abandon yourself or to heap blame on an already-scary situation.
And you know what’s hilarious?
What’s a paradox, in fact?
When you bring that immense tenderness to your own heart, your heart breathes a sigh of relief, takes a deep breath, and then rises up blinking her phoenix eyes at you and says, Ok, I’m ready now. Let’s go.
Your heart? When you’re tender with her? It turns out that she is really, really fucking fierce.
So go be tender, go be fierce, stay with it. We’ve got you. We’ve all got you.
P.S. I want to do a special extra thank you to all the amazing photographers who’ve shared their images so generously with us; the pic at the top is by Kate Madden, the award/wedding photo is by Dana Pugh, and the poster photo is by Tara Whitney. Jen Downer contributed so many gorgeous images and Josh Solar let us use his archival footage with immense generosity. We are beyond grateful! And if you want beautiful photos of your own family, go find them!
Want to learn more about the documentary and our family’s journey? That’s RIGHT HERE.
P.P.S. As always, thank you– THANK YOU– for your love and support and comments and shares. They mean the world to us. And thank you for your patience as we try to catch all our notifications!! You can find us on facebook here and here, or on Instagram I’m here and Nick is here.