Sunday, November 20, 2016

Hello world! Layla Proudfoot is back.

  • Layla Proudfoot is back!  With a vengeance… a passion … a tired slogging forward into the next right thing.
That is probably it.  I am tired but I am slogging forward.  This is a distressing week.  I say distressing because devastating has been over used and sounds overly dramatic.  Depressing sounds defeated, so distressing it is. It is also all of those other things.
I am in the stages of grief over this election.  I haven’t reached acceptance.  I am putting distance between me and acceptance.  I am turning over chairs and tables and filing cabinets and small refrigerators in my path so it is harder for acceptance to catch me.  I don’t want to accept this.  I can’t let this ugliness become incorporated into my being.  I just can’t.
While some will cast doubt on our choice of candidates, I won’t do that either.  Did Hillary Clinton have baggage? Of course she did!  Anyone with 30, THIRTY years of experience will have baggage.  ANYONE.
But just a Bodiccia fell in the end, Hillary will have her day.  Maybe 2,000 years in the future with an epic movie showing our hopes and dreams going up in flames with her.  She will have her day.  Oh but Steven Hawking only gave us 1,000 years left.  I guess that won’t happen either.  Well, we have our memories of what almost was.
The big deal about Hillary losing her glam squad because she gave a speech in no make up, well that was just her way of saying, “Bitch, hold my earrings.”  She’s not done.  Not by a long shot.
She’s “not giving up and neither should we.”
I am not giving up my inability to accept the orange one as President.  I cannot accept his cabinet as a reflection of America.  This is not right even if it is to be. (That was not acceptance.  That was a hint of resignation.)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Getting Married at 47...

Almost a year later... we are still married and still happy.  :)  Here is the post I forgot to post...

After 5 solid years of discovering me, I am getting married to the woman I never dreamed.  I never dreamed her because I could not have possibly dreamed such an incredible person.  A modest person at that.  So I will not share her name, nor will I go on and on about all of her amazing qualities, nor will I go on and on about all that she brings to my life.  It's a lot.  A whole lot.

I will, however, go on and on about our wedding.  We are having one.  It is in our church.  A church with a 600 year tradition and when they say all are welcome, they actually do mean it.  We are living proof.  They opened their hearts and arms to our whole family.  The love us as a couple and our two boys as just regular kids.  Being a two mom household has never been an issue there.  Our kids are welcomed just as they are and so are we.

When our Priest gave his first sermon as the official Rector of our church, he said that the church as a whole has done a great disservice to our gay brothers and sisters, and while I had always felt like a member of the church, at that moment it felt like family.

So not only are we getting married, legally in our home state, we are also getting married in our church.  Two thing that neither of us thought would ever be possible in our lifetime.  So we are making it festive.   We are having a potluck and a snow-cone truck is coming.  There will be things to do with the kids and a DJ and everything.  We are having the worlds best cupcake diviner create our cupcakes and gluten free cake for my bride to be.

I have never planned a wedding.

It is in two weeks.

We sent out invitations.  Got some RSVPs.  People are bringing food.  Someone asked what if everyone brings beans?  I said, then we can have an impromptu bean tasting.  It will all be fine.  All I know is we will get married, some how there will be food.  Our boys will be there.  They are getting rings too.  They whole family is getting married.

We have both been married before.  I know I am nervous because I don't want our marriage to fall apart.  I don't want to fail again.  I have irrational dreams.  I know its just anxiety.  I know that it is because I love and care for her so deeply.  I know that not having this anxiety is worse than having it.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Back to it...

It has been a long time since I wrote a blog post.

I had to stop writing for awhile, mainly because I was grieving.  Grieving and writing, for me, don't go together.  I write, but its nothing to be consumed by readers. Its more of a primal scream that dissolves into a whimpering pity party.  It's never a surprise party -- at least to others.  Friends and family can see it coming for miles, and I can almost hear the chorus of, "Oh no, here she goes..."  Sometimes, probably every time, settling into a long rant of self-pity comes as a total shock to me.

I guess then it would be a shock party and not so much a surprise party.  A surprise party would involve balloons and maybe a cake; whereas, a shock party would probably have more of a SWAT team invasion/taser feel to it. When I am in the midst of it, I don't seem to realize that grief becomes self indulgent pretty much after the primal screaming has stopped.  The quiet sobbing that rises up at unexpected times -- or expected times like in the middle of the night when everyone else is asleep -- if I am lucky.  When I am unlucky, its the quiet sobbing that happens when I am alone in the apartment.   I am not sure when the process ends.  I have heard people say, "when it runs its course."  I am not sure I know what that means.  Who determines the course?  Is it like 18 holes of golf or more like the Iditarod?  Who gets to decide?   

Well, the grieving is over.  The digesting of the grieving is over.  The healing has taken place and the moving on as well.  In fact, my life is so completely different than this time last year that it is hardly recognizable.  The slogging through the darkness is done.  The living is richer and brighter and stronger and better.

This is a purposefully general post by the way.  There's no need to detail the grief.  Loss is loss whether it is physical, emotional, or spiritual.  Pain is pain and from my experience it all feels pretty much the same.  It hurts.  Fortunately, I am one of the lucky ones in that relief from pain has come.  That is not always so for people.  I am one of the lucky ones right now.

I say lucky because I can't say blessed even though I feel blessed for where I am and who is there with me, but blessed implies that I somehow am more deserving than those who are not blessed.  For some reason, I was given relief while others are still suffering.  That somehow I deserved relief more.  I don't believe that is true.  I say lucky because there is no blame associated with luck.  Luck is a fickle friend it visits for awhile then disappears.  Everyone is lucky sometimes and sometimes everyone's luck runs out.

I guess blessings for me come with realizations.  Maybe I am blessed because I realized something that I hadn't known before.  When I was unlucky before, I slogged on.  I made it through when I wasn't sure that I could.  I know that I can trudge forward, should my luck find shelter with someone else in the future.  I guess that is where the blessing happens.  Whether I am lucky or not, now I know I can survive.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Monday, January 10, 2011

Searching for a Mama

Today a friend asked me how I knew, after all these years, that I am gay.  How do you get to be 42 and have no idea that you are gay? That is something I have been thinking a lot about.  Was it the first time I realized that sex with my husband wasn't working for me?  Was it all the comfortable shoes in my closet?  Was it my affinity for my Leatherman?  I guess they were good clues for my friends, but I never figured it out - at least not until five months ago.  I thought the sex problem was from being molested.  I thought the shoes were just good sense, and really, who doesn't love a good Leatherman?  

Truthfully, I don't think I was healthy enough mentally or spiritually until recently to really see the truth about me.  I got sober nearly six years ago.  I got diagnosed.  I got medicated.  I got therapy.  I got religion.  I got a Godmother.  Nothing ever filled that hole in my soul.  I always had a barrier between me and other people -- men and women.  I never felt particularly close to men and could never get close enough to women.  I have been trying to pin point that moment of revelation, and I am pretty certain I knew before I went down ... to the river to pray ... so to speak.

I have had a lot of women friends that were older.  They always seemed a bit motherly and a bit funny and a bit affectionate.  Hug me once and I would melt in your arms and follow you like a puppy chasing a cat with a steak tied to its tail.  It was pathetic, and I had no clue.  I thought I would always be lonely until I couldn't stand it anymore and then the only answer would be in a solid bit of lead.

I was saved from my loneliness by listening to a good friend.  A good friend of mine said to me, "Yeah, I had lots of older women friends... I always thought I was searching for a Mama.  I wasn't."  That was an aha moment for me.  I think that is when my stars aligned, and I finally crossed that threshold.  It is amazing how bright the light is in the hallway when you finally do come out of the closet -- especially when you had no idea that you were fumbling around in there in the first place.

My reaction was, "Thank God!  I thought I was crazy.  It turns out I am just gay!  Hallelujah!"  Its funny how solidly that bell rings and when they say, "you can't unring that bell."  They (who ever they are...) know what they are talking about.  But that is a story for another time...

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Free Toaster

It hasn't come yet, and let me say, I am disappointed.  Years ago a lesbian friend of mine told me that straight people thought that all gay people were out "recruiting" and if they turned one, they would get a free toaster.  Maybe it was a nebulous "they" that has me confused -- was it "they", the gay ones, turning the straight ones or was it the straight turned gay "they" to which she was referring?  If it was the latter and not the former, I haven't gotten my toaster yet.  If it was the former and not the latter, my partner, someday wife, hasn't gotten hers either.  It is a damned shame too because we need a toaster.  I am not good at broiling bread in the oven and she doesn't cook.  We could use that toaster.

What a funny idea anyway.  I am on a mission to turn all of the blue eyed people into brown eyed people.  I hear there's a free iron in it for me if I can.  I wish it were that easy -- this turning people into something else business.  If it were possible, I would turn my husband into a homosexual and then he wouldn't fight this divorce idea so much.  I would turn my sister into a lesbian just as a cruel joke -- she loves men -- her two previous and current husband will attest to that.  I would turn every evangelist and Bible thumping homophobe into lesbian or a homosexual just for kicks.

Mostly, I would do it so that they could know at least a little bit what it feels like -- what I feel like every day.  They could know what it feels like to finally feel right in your own body, but suddenly thrust out of the "rightness" of the mainstream.  It is one thing to feel wrong in yourself but going with the flow along with everyone else.  They would know that enduring all of that wrongness inside isn't worth fitting in on the outside.  When life is all wrong out in the world, you eventually get to return to the safety of your own home.  When life is all wrong on the inside, there is no escape.

When I first came out, I did it with a vengeance.  I told everyone.  I was so relieved.  I told strangers.  I would work it into a casual conversation.  For me it was a celebration.  I no longer felt like I was going to eventually die from all of the pain that I carried inside me.  I finally felt like I was going to live.  I had no idea how my life was changing.  I had no idea of the lives around me would erupt in turmoil just because I figured out the most central element to my being -- my sexuality.

I have done a lot of shitty things in my life.  This is not one of them although you would think by the reaction of others that I was a serial killer or bank robber or dare I say worse.  I have always known that being different is no picnic, but I never really knew until I felt it in other people's reactions.  I remember the first time I kissed my future wife in public.  We were walking on the boardwalk at the beach.  It was a Christmas lights festival and the whole town was out.  I was caught up in the excitement and kissed her right there in front of the bandstand.  In front of God, the townsfolk, the angel perched on the stable roof and everybody.  The angel did not fall off the roof.  My partner looked surprised (she has been out longer and endured much more prejudice than I have endured).  The old men on the boardwalk looked apoplectic, and suddenly I felt a little self conscious.  I hadn't even thought about it when I kissed her.  It seemed like the most natural thing in the world.  I must say that there were a lot of people there and a lot of people didn't even notice, but I became acutely aware of the ones who did.  I could almost feel the fire burning in their eyes as they glared at me -- at us.

Standing near the bonfire made me think of toasters in a whole new way -- especially when being burned at the stake vaguely crosses your mind as a possible ending to an otherwise pleasant evening.  Little did I know that a simple affectionate kiss between two women, no matter how innocent, can turn your whole life upside down.  I am slowly learning what a risk it can be to be a lesbian in a small southern city, but that's another story for another time....  

Posted by Layla Proudfoot at Friday, January 14, 2011 0 comments
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Seventeen Seconds to Homophobia ...

A friend asked me not to use that title.  She said it was too much like a phrase she said to herself regarding a similar experience.  Her phrase was seventeen seconds of Heaven.  I guess that is the difference between a heterosexual kiss and a homosexual kiss.
In AA you often hear about the “pink cloud” of new sobriety.  For some of the newly sober everything seems to be a euphoric experience.  “These are the greatest flip flops I have ever owned.  I mean I can really feel them on my feet.  You know what I mean?  I mean have you really ever just experienced the feeling of a good pair of flip flops?”  That’s just an example, but it seems to be a common phenomenon.  Then one day the newness wears off and you have to live with those flip flops even if its winter and they are still the only shoes you have.  That’s when the real work begins.  That’s when the real experience of a real life starts.
I guess until a few weeks ago, I was on a rainbow cloud of self discovery.  Every experience was new.  My brain felt whole for the first time.  I could love someone with my whole person.  I didn’t feel like someday I would probably just eat the business end of a .38.  Finally, the mystery was solved.  I finally knew the real reason I like the Logo channel, and that I love “The Big Gay Sketch Show” for more than just because it’s edgy like Saturday Night Live was in the ‘70s.
Even the bumps along the way have been fairly surmountable.  The first time I kissed my girlfriend in public – a little awkward, but nobody got killed over it.  My parents near death experiences and their “Jesus will not approve” speech was survivable.  They didn’t kick me out of the family, and I didn’t disown them.
I finally felt free.  When I got my haircut, I didn’t immediately wonder if someone might think I looked like a Lesbian.  I didn’t have to worry about what people thought about my pre-occupation with Xena and Wonder Woman reruns.  And when I put on my comfortable Keen’s to go to church to play my guitar, I could finally say.  “Damn it, I will wear what I want.  I am a Lesbian, and I can be comfortable without guilt.”  Besides they are tan and looked great with the khaki shorts… but I digress.
Until those fateful seventeen seconds, I didn’t quite understand that vigorous inhale my future wife seemed to hold in public.  She never could quite let out that cleansing breath and look relaxed.  The one day she did relax, she paid for it.  She is still punishing herself for love.  It is terrible to watch someone you love suffer because that person loves you.  It’s not quite a Ramona and Juliet story, but it is damn near close.
The place I work always felt like an island of causal liberalism in a vast sea of conservative tension.   Since I came out, my partner and I have been pretty open about our involvement.   Our colleagues seemed pretty supportive.  This whole lesbian thing was going to be cake!  We were in the right place at the right time and all would be well.  In fact, there are a lot of couples in our work place, and we would just blend in with the rest.  The joke that circulates among the employees has been that they don’t pay us enough to have hobbies, so we make our relationships our extracurricular activities.  It turns out its only partially true.  For some couples, seventeen seconds is heaven.  For others, it can be a ticket to hell, ridicule and possibly the unemployment line.
Anyway, here’s what happened:  It takes seventeen seconds for the staff elevator to travel between floors and to my knowledge; a lot of kissing can and has happened in between floors in that very elevator.  Some staff members don’t even seem to make it to the elevator.  On this particular day, a heterosexual couple was embracing and kissing in the staff hallway in front of the elevator.  It was after lunch and my partner and I were taking the elevator, and just as the door began to close, a colleague – nay – friend (or so we had assumed) jumped on with us.
My partner said, “Aw now we can’t make out!”  She feigned disappointment and said, “Well, we will just have to show him.”  She gave me a quick kiss on the lips.  She did this in a joking manner.  It was quick.  It was innocent.  It was meant to be a joke.  Our colleague said nothing, and I thought nothing more of it.  Even later when she was called to her supervisor’s office, and I was summoned to the conference room by mine, I still didn’t think about the elevator.
We both received reprimands.   We were both warned that our positions were in jeopardy.  Although it wasn’t until after my meeting, that I learned what this reprimand was truly about.   I was told that it was a PDA, public display of affection and that was as detailed as my offense was explained.
Interesting.…  As far as I knew, the heterosexual couple was still kissing in the hallway.
Both our reprimands were prefaced with the statement, “this isn’t a gender issue.”  Forgive me if I seem skeptical.  The director has kissed her husband right out in the public area in front of everyone.  Another couple had been spotted on the bike path, and the hetero-couple were still kissing, hugging or hitting each other like third graders in the hall.
After our seventeen second decent into homophobia, I finally understood why my future wife never seems to breathe in public.  She spent several days berating herself for letting her guard down.  I spent several days contemplating a drink or suicide or both because I felt crushed under the jackboot of hatred.  (Yes, I can be a drama queen, and yes, I do devastate easily).
In seventeen seconds, my rainbow bliss faded into a cold, wintery, monochromatic gray.  Clearly, I have not developed the thick hide of a seasoned, tested, been around the block, dyke or is it dike?   I will have to look it up.  It will take me a lot longer than seventeen seconds to get used to being different to people I thought I knew and I thought knew me.  I am still me.  I am just more me than I used to be, but that’s for another time…

Posted by Layla Proudfoot at Wednesday, January 19, 2011 2 comments
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Friday, January 28, 2011

The Tug of War…

I sit and wait for my two boys to go to sleep.  I hold up in my room and he holds up in his.  It’s a standoff to nowhere.  We wait for the other to blink I guess.  My heart hurts to be with my children, yet I sit in my room.  When he is around the tension is too great to leave it.  The silence is palpable.  I want to take the boys with me to visit my friend.  He, of course, forbids it.  When did I get to be so afraid of this man I loved for 15 years?  When did that start?
Maybe when I began to realize that his agreement was the key to having my children. That he has a lot of power over me still.
My friend says to me in angry moments, “he’s not your daddy.  You don’t need his permission.”
When it comes to my children, I do need his permission -- especially in this conservative, small, southern city.  If I want to have a chance at joint custody, I do.  My boys are divided.  My youngest wants to go visit and spend the night.  My oldest says he doesn’t want a step-mother.  My shrink says these are age appropriate responses.
Life right now feels like powerless chaos.  I am the rope in the tug of war.  I just made myself the helpless victim.  That is not good.  The truth is, if I were to tell myself the truth, I started it, and I can finish it.  When I got sober, I prayed for self-knowledge (and nobody said God doesn’t have a sense of humor).  I wanted to get at the source of my awkward, uncomfortable core.  I wanted to know why, the big “Why” of me.   I have uncovered a lot of things.  I think my higher power revealed my sexuality to me when I was ready.  I am a slow learner.
If I am the rope, I am the rope that tied around this man whose dreams were appealing.  He was kind and gentle and seemed reasonable, and I didn’t distrust him like I did all the other men I have known.  He had damage from his own life.  Our damage was very compatible.  If I am the rope, I intertwined with his strands, and we strengthen each other in some ways, strangled each other in different ways.   I think the choking got to be more unbearable than the strength could hold.  I am not innocent and neither is he.  We are both perpetrators and victims of our own making.  It’s time to cut the rope and let the strands spin and fray and fall where they may.
There are two ends in a tug of war.  The other end is held by two loving and wounded hands -- hands that are strong but give way when she needs to wipe away tears.  Hands that have pushed back a lot of anger and fear and down-right terror.  I know some of what those hands have felt.  I also know there are experiences I can’t ever know.  That’s the way life works as I understand it. Those are the hands that tug toward the future, but they have to let go of the rope.
If this blog is to be of any worth, it has to be written in truth.  This is the truth as I have understood it.  I can’t be the rope anymore.  I can’t allow those hands to pick me up off the floor anymore.  If I am to join my hands with hers someday in marriage, I can’t be the rope.  I have to transform myself and pick myself up.  I need to know what it feels like to be this new me in the world.  I have to walk in that new world.  I am a lesbian. – not a Lesbian – because that is not all that I am.  I have to know how that weaves my life anew.  I have to be a partner -- not a victim or a weakling or a ward that needs care.  I need to stand equal with my hands in hers and hers in mine.   That is really the only way to do this.
This is a bleak one – this entry.  I have no celebrations or triumphs to report.  I am at an emotional bottom.  I know that I have many limitations and many challenges to overcome.  I have to let go of the fear.  I have to let go of the illusion of being controlled or even being in control.  I can choose.  Right now I keep telling myself to take it slow.  I have to be in relationship with my children.  I have to let go of the past and forgive and ask forgiveness.  I have to look at the future with blurred vision.  I cannot know what is around the corner.  I cannot hold so tightly to the dream of the future that I crush it.  I cannot break those hands that have so lovingly held me.  One day at a time is a good motto in this situation as well as many others.  So today, it is going to be about today.  And all I can handle is the right now.
Posted by Layla Proudfoot at Friday, January 28, 2011 2 comments
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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The contents of the backpack.

Over the last several months, my backpack has gotten heavier and heavier.  I usually have a book and some extra medicine and of course my purse (I am a purse carrying lesbian).  Later, I added a tooth brush, my makeup (would that would make me a lipstick lesbian?), some “smellant” repellant… these things alone are light, but cumulatively they would cost me extra on a flight to anywhere.   Then there’s my coffee cup and water bottle each has its own mesh side pouch, and they swing and sway with each step I take like saddle bags on a pack mule.  Later, I added the extra set of clothes  and then the pajamas.  Then I put in the valuables and keepsakes -- the things I was afraid would disappear from the house in my absence.  I looked like a walking tinker’s wagon except instead of fixing things along my way, I was tearing them down – me included.
I think there is a lot of tearing down that one has to do when searching for one’s authentic self.  I told my counselor once that I wished I could be a Vulcan, like Spock on Star Trek, no emotion just pure sensible logic.  I would be set.  I might even understand the eleven uses of the comma that in 42 years and two master’s degrees later still somehow escape me.  I used to tear myself down with the constant berating I would give myself.  If I treated my friends the way I treated myself, I would probably be in jail.  Self-hatred is a common hobby among women I think, but my skills are professional.  My drinking was to drown that inner voice that told me how ugly and stupid and useless I was, but that inner tyrant is a good swimmer with a good microphone.   At first, my sobriety only amplified that voice – loud and shrill and mean.
I found out that that my depression was anger turned inward and my anxiety was self-centered fear.  If the Universe did revolve around me in my angry self-centeredness, then I was a black hole where misery stood still and festered.  I am not that person anymore.  That tyrant may not be dead, but she is in a vegetative state.  I do not mourn her loss.   
I know that as I have gotten older I have had to mourn death.  I have mourned the death s of two grandmothers, the deaths of classmates, the deaths of old lovers but it has been in sobriety the last few years that I have begun to mourn other deaths.   I have finally mourned the death of that person I thought I would become.  I thought I would have been successful by now, but professional and financial success has eluded me.  I had the luxury once of tasting what wealth might be like.  Years ago, my husband and I made nearly thirty thousand dollars in one month.   I immediately did the calculations in my head and assumed that by the end of the year we would be well on our way to being millionaires.  Security, luxury, ease would be ours.  I would be happy joyous and free, but that was not exactly the feeling I experienced.  I just wanted to drink more.  I wasn’t happier.  I wasn’t fulfilled.  I was just able to buy more expensive drinks.
That month of illusionary wealth left me in a “now what?” state of wondering.  The next month our business fell apart, and we were left owing thousands in taxes as we had neglected our quarterly responsibilities.  It took nearly seven years to pay off the taxes.
At least that was one hurdle I don’t have to lunge over.  I know what I would feel like without the burden of debt.  It left me realizing that it was the inside that needed comforting not the outside.  I wish money could buy happiness.  I would have had the best month ever.  For me, it can’t.  At least that is one shadow I don’t have to chase anymore.   I couldn’t pay off the inner tyrant to be silent and chasing money was only a distraction, so if I couldn’t buy her off, I would have to get rid of her in another way.
I also had to face the death of professional achievement.  As I mentioned, I have two master’s degrees yet have failed to put them to use.  I remember with my first degree thinking that once that was accomplished I would feel smarter and that would make me feel better.  When my diploma came in the mail all framed and matted with the gold school seal embedded in the mat, I remember feeling like an utter fraud.  So in all my wisdom, I thought maybe a different degree would do the trick. The very next semester, I was in another program at another school pursuing a new dream.
My husband was in the program to be an underwater archaeologist.  It looked like fun.  It seemed like an adventure, and I, being as learned as I am, had done a lot of research about marriage and education, and I decided that if we had the same degree, we would keep similar interests and thus maintain a rock solid marriage.  That didn’t work out either.  I guess I didn’t count on the alcoholism, the bi-polar II-disorder and the discovering I am gay.  I was looking outward and covering my –isms with distractions and alcohol – anything I thought would make me feel better not be better.
One of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott wrote that, "Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die."  That goes for self-forgiveness as well as forgiving others.  My marriage has failed maybe because our relationship didn’t growing in ways that we did.  I forgive us.  There are people in my life who are disappointed, angry, disgusted, devastated… and feelings I am sure I haven’t identified yet, but they feel these things because I am a lesbian.  I forgive us -- them because they can’t yet accept who I am and me because I did not know who I am.
Self-discovery is an essential ingredient to a meaningful life, of that, I am convinced.  I had no idea how difficult and wonderfully painful a journey it is.  I am discovering that I am not such a terrible person after all.  This girl who was awkward and strange trying to do the straight thing is not all that awkward and strange as the lesbian God made me.
Although, I have this backpack with my stuff in it, it can only get so heavy as there is only so much room in it.  My stuff consists mostly of things I need to function properly in this society.  The other bits are pieces of my past and mementos of my history that are somehow also clues to my future.  They don’t have to be the baggage anymore, just items that fit in my backpack, and when my backpack gets too heavy, I can put it down, I can silence that inner tyrant and I can rest.
Posted by Layla Proudfoot at Tuesday, February 01, 2011 0 comments
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Monday, February 14, 2011

The Other Side

I saw flashes of light burst through the water out of the corner of my eye. When I looked down into the tank they were gone. When I looked away, there were more flashes. I thought I was having a stroke or something. Luckily, I figured it out before I called 911. The little bursts of light were flashes from visitor's camera's who were taking pictures of the sharks. They were on the lower level of the aquarium looking in, and I was standing above them.

There is twenty-three feet of water and 8 inches of acrylic between me and the aquarium visitors, but still at the end of the day when the lights are dimming and the visitors are thinning, it can be a creepy walk from the dive locker office to the hallway. I was tired and my mind was elsewhere, but the flashes of light brought me back to myself. The flashes were little fireworks of cameras from visitor's twenty-three feet below on the other side of the aquarium acrylic. They were dry and warm. My hair was still wet from the two dives I had just completed and no amount of hot water from the shower could penetrate the coldness that had settled in my core.

It is funny what being on the other side of things can do for you. I remember once when I had visited the aquarium wanting to be a part of things there. I wanted to dive with the sharks and the eels, but I never thought they would want someone like me. At the time, I didn't really know what “like me” meant. I think it was just a way of lumping others into my self-hatred. Thinking “like me” was less stinging I think because that would imply that there were people in the world similar to me, and if we all met somewhere for coffee, at least we would have each other to hang out with and commiserate our misery. Thinking they wouldn't want “me” is a far lonelier scale of low self-esteem. But now I am on the other side of the glass. I don't stand out front and just take pictures. I can take pictures from inside or outside of the tank.

The flash of the camera's reminded me of a night off shore when I was on a night dive. I remember looking up and seeing the flash of lightning from an on coming storm. The flashes played on the surface that was beginning to swell and surge. I remember the boat lurched up and down against its mooring as I ascended the anchor line. The water heaved me up and pulled me back as I tried to climb the swim ladder. I maneuvered one foot on each rung and locked my knees as the boat lunged up and then flexed as it crashed back onto the surface of the water. I slid halfway across the deck before I got my gear off and secured it against the rail. One by one wide eyed divers flopped on to the deck and locked in their tanks. I had been paired up with another single diver who didn't know a soul on board. I made sure she was on deck, and then I wrapped my hand several times with some deck line. I knew if I fell overboard that no one would notice until they did the final head count at the dock. I didn't fall overboard. I did find out that a thunderstorm is much more pleasant under the surface than on a rocking, salt sprayed, vomit covered, boat heading back to port.

There is the surface of things and the depths of things. There are at least two-sides to everything. Life is very three dimensional or maybe even multidimensional if you count the past and the future. At lunch the other day someone tucked in the shirt tag of a co-worker.

She said, “was my fag tag sticking out.”

I remember that was a saying some twenty years ago (give or take). I remember saying it often.

I said, “geez we have tags to worry about too!”

I was joking around but suddenly something in my brain sparked to life. I was on the other side of things. I was listening with my newly discovered lesbian ears. That old phrase took on new meaning. It was a calling out of a group that I never knew I belonged. There really are others like me.

It sounds silly I know. We all have tags and labels, but some of them carry more weight than others. I am a diver, a woman, a mom, an estranged wife, a girlfriend, a lesbian, a friend, a would be writer. Only one of those sticks out with any stigma – possibly two – how many times have I heard my boys call each other “girl” to insult each other? Its been countless if you want to know the truth. I tell them if you are a girl then being a girl is a pretty good thing. Being whomever you are is a pretty good thing – no matter what label you choose to carry and what label you choose to reject. It matters that we see ourselves and, for that matter, each other from different sides and angles no matter from which side you are looking, there is always another one to be considered. If there is a surface there is always depth. If there is an inside there is an outside. I am not totally convinced however that there is a completely right side and a completely wrong side about a lot of things. I guess that kind of pondering is for another time.
Posted by Layla Proudfoot at Monday, February 14, 2011 0 comments
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Grandmother’s China

When I was in my early twenties and just out of college, my grandmother flatly declared, “You might as well have the china. You will never find a man to suit you.  You will never get married.”
It had always been her intention to give her china to the grandchild who married last. We always knew that the last one to marry (in later years it was refined to the last one to marry for the first time) would get “The China.”  I am four years younger than the next youngest cousin, so by age alone, I was probably the most likely candidate, but I don’t think any of us were holding off nuptials in order to win the prize.
However, as each relative fell one by one to wedded bliss, someone would inevitably say, “Well, it looks like you aren’t going to get the china.”
I had only seen the china a few times in my life.  My father had only dined on the china once in his life to his recollection.  We had heard about the china more than we had seen it.  Who would get it, how she got it and how it doubled in the thirties.  My grandmother lived in coal country in Pennsylvania.  There we a lot of immigrants there and she was surrounded by diversity.   As with many families in the 1930s, her neighbor, Russian immigrant who attended the Eastern Orthodox Church, met with hard times and reluctantly had to part with her china, which miraculously was the same pattern as my grandmother’s.
I could only imagine the Shashlyk and Pelmeni and Borsht that had once covered those plates.  I close my eyes and almost taste the Borsht (which I learned to make and consequently love). I sometimes look at the stacks of dishes in my china cabinet and wonder which ones would have held Russian fare.     Because of the Russian lady’s misfortune; my grandmother’s china became service for 16.  She also acquired all the accouterments of table ware that go along with fine dining and civilized living.  If the Queen or Governor or president of the mine came to dinner,  she could set an elegant table.
Did I mention that my grandmother didn’t cook?  When she made her declaration and passed the china to me, it was in pristine condition – it still is.  In keeping with family tradition, I have never used it.
After doing some research, I found out that the china was made in 1921, and it’s Noritake.  The pattern name is Sheridan.  It has a delicate pattern of little flowers with a light blue checked border and a gold rim.  It is definitely not microwave safe, and I wouldn’t dare put it in the dishwasher.  It is very dainty and delicate – a fitting pattern for my grandmother.
They say men look like their dogs; well maybe women resemble their china patterns.   She was delicate and dainty at 5 foot nothing and maybe a hundred pounds soaking wet.  Until she started to speak, then she seemed a lot bigger.  She was pretty feisty with a big attitude.  She was fond of saying, “lips that touch wine will never touch mine.”  Little did she know that when the men in the family gathered in the trailer, they were not catching up on each other’s lives but hiding out and drinking beer.    
She was a teetotaler and coincidently, she liked tea.  She had a tea cup collection – china cups and their matching saucers were a prominent display on her china cabinet.   That is not where she kept “the china”.  It was buried far back in the kitchen cabinets in the place no one could ever reach.  It was safe from everyday selection or accidental use.  It the china came out it was completely intentional.
After I gained possession of the china, I threatened once to bring it out for Thanksgiving dinner when my parents drove the 394 miles to stay with us for the holiday.  My father said he had never eaten turkey off of those plates and wasn’t about to start now.  That day I vowed to myself that I would keep the family tradition; I would never cover those delicate flowers with mashed potatoes and gravy.  In fact, to this day, I have never eaten off of those plates.
I started thinking about the china and what it meant to me and my past just the other day.  I have been obsessing over it lately wondering if I would have to sell it to survive this separation and inevitable divorce.   The china had nothing to do with my marriage.  In fact, my grandmother never met my husband.  As far as she knew, she was right about me until the day she died.   She died safe in the knowledge that I would never marry.
I was thinking of this the other day as I packed the dishes in a cat food bucket.  It seemed the safest way to transport those dishes from the house to the apartment.  It occurred to me that my grandmother may have been acknowledging something in me way back then that I never truly knew but warily suspected was there.
You see my grandmother’s best friend’s daughter is a lesbian.  She and her partner of nearly 40 years were “roommates” as far as my grandmother was concerned.  She had known these women for many years; they took her on their vacations with them to their cabin on the lake during the summers.  They would play cards at night and traverse the lake in a paddle boat by day.  One of my favorite pictures is of my grandmother, her friend and the “friends” is of them sitting in the paddle boat, wearing big brimmed hats and large sunglasses. They all had happy, carefree smiles.  She loved those women dearly.  In fact, the daughter and her brother are both ministers, and they both preached my grandmother’s funeral.  They loved my grandmother too.
I suspect the gift of the china was a way of giving me what she thought I would never have.  In her world, a lesbian couldn’t marry her “friend”, so there would be no occasion for china.  Maybe that was her way of giving me what she knew no one else would.  Maybe she knew long before I ever did.  Maybe she saw in me what she had seen in her best friend’s daughter.   Maybe...  Of course, I will never know in this lifetime, but I do know this, when I marry my wife to be, because somewhere in my world that is possible.  When we marry, we will be eating on that china after the wedding.  I may have to do some convincing to serve Russian food at the reception, but we are going to break that family tradition.
We are going to break a lot of family traditions… but that is another story for another time.
Posted by Layla Proudfoot at Thursday, February 17, 2011 1 comments
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Friday, March 11, 2011

And silence fell over the blog…

I haven’t been very insightful lately thus no blog from me.  The process of divorce is very difficult.  It is easy to get swept away with emotion.  I stood by friends and family during their ugly divorces.  I tried to be faithful to them throughout the process.  I went through to some degree the ups and downs, triumphs and setbacks, righteous indignations, depression, fear … .  It is funny to see who will reciprocate and who will not.  It is interesting to see the mettle of those close to you.  You learn the character of others.  You learn whose love is unconditional and whose is not.
Lately, I feel stripped down to just bare feeling.  I know now why forgiveness is essential when you are hurt.  If you can’t forgive or won’t forgive, your hurt leads you to uncharacteristic actions and you begin to do mean things to others because you feel justified.  Then you start to do mean things because it becomes a habit of being.  I see why forgiveness is essential.  I am observing that those who won’t forgive start to become asses.
My partner and I went to see the priest about how to wade through this difficult time with some self-respect and dignity.  He reinforced that being vindictive is a sure way to lose the respect of your children.   It is easy to fall into the trap of vindictiveness.  It is not so easy to be mindful enough to stay out of the trap.  The trap gets ever so enticing the first time you realize the locks have been changed, and you are literally locked out of the lives of your children.  It is hard not to want to be vindictive.  It is hard not to throw a brick through the front window.  But it is good not to.  It is really, really good not to do it.
I try to hold onto the idea that in the end love is the most important thing.  I will try to love those who aren’t acting very lovable right now.  I try to remember that because people don’t agree with me doesn’t mean that they are intrinsically bad or wrong.   When I am feeling defensive, it is easy to feel that they are bad or wrong.
For a long time I lived to try to please others.  It drove me crazy and made me sick.  Now, I try to be the person God made me.  I am much happier being an openly gay person.  I am happier not lying to myself.  Trying to make others happy is just one way of living a lie.  Being who you are will not make everyone happy.  Making everyone happy is clearly not being who you are.  Even Jesus pissed off a lot of people just by being who he was.  I guess if we are to strive to live a Christ-like life, then pissing people off comes with the territory.
My partner and I have acknowledged that we didn’t do things the right way and in the right order.  It seems to me that in asking for forgiveness we are not only trying to get it but also to accept it.  Even though we have asked and some have refused to grant it, we have still put that acknowledgement of doing the wrong thing at the wrong time out there.  We have said we are sorry.  We have done our part.
We have also forgiven ourselves and each other.  The priest welcomed us to the human race.  Even though we have hurt others, we have been honest about it.  We have tried to live rightly from here on out.  We fall away from love as many times as we return to it.   We try.  The upside of screwing up is that we know what it is like to need forgiveness.  There is no room for righteous indignation in a tarnished life.  There is only room for compassion and love even for those who don't even know us but still choose to hate us.
I still find it incredulous that there are those people in the world who hate us because of who we love.  I still find it crazy that you can watch a thousand different ways to kill someone on prime time TV but show a woman kissing another woman and people start protesting the station.  I guess the only way for me to do this is to try to live openly and honestly and with dignity.  I will try to do the next right thing.  What I won’t do is wallow in my mistakes and failings though there are those who wish that I would.  Hair shirts do nothing for my complexion.   I suppose this is an inelegant and rambling entry, but some days are like that.
Anyway, its been a bad couple of weeks.  The details aren’t important.  It’s just been a bad time.  I continue to pray for healing for everyone.  As always, thanks for reading.

Posted by Layla Proudfoot at Friday, March 11, 2011 0 comments
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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sometimes, You Just Need A Good Walk In The Woods

This week we will experience our first wave of court proceedings.  Divorce isn't for the faint of heart.  I received volumes of paper in the mail yesterday forwarded from my estranged's lawyer.  There are lots of invasive financial, personal and sexual questions I have to answer.  Since I have been forthright about everything I have done and who I am, I don't know why this is a necessary part of the process.  It feels like intentional cruelty to me.  It feels like a bright light interrogation.  It feels like a tactic to waste the retainer I have until I run out of resources for court.  I will do what it takes to get to be with my children.  I have to find people who will vouch that I am a good parent.  It is interesting because I never said that he wasn't a good parent.  I never asked for more than joint custody.  My children need both of us in their lives.  It just hurts so damn much.  I miss them.  I love them more than anything.

There are people who have said to me that it was my choice to leave.  Yes, it was my choice  to leave the marriage.  It was never my choice to leave my children.  My elder son is very angry.  I hope one day he can forgive me, but I will never stop fighting for him and his brother to be with me.  I have and always will want them in my life.  I still have some things that are rightfully mine that I can sell.  I will.  I don't care about stuff.  I don't care about property anymore than I want to continue to be someone else's property.

I will never live a life that tells my children, "You don't matter.  You have to do everything for everyone else always.  It doesn't matter if you are miserable, sad, depressed, fill in the blank...  because you don't matter..."  I want my children to know that they matter and that whatever their choices or discoveries are, I will be there behind them.  I want them to know that that is really unconditional love.  Its not the ones who use you for a sounding board or an emotional crutch or even a maid.  Real unconditional love says, "I got your back."  I may be across town, but I got their back.  I didn't drag them into the unknown with me.  I didn't traumatize them by just taking them against their father's wishes.  I have a place for them just has he has kept a place for them.

We have to take pictures for court to prove we have a nice home for the boys.  We did.  We have a nice home.  It is clean and uncluttered.  It is a home.  I have to prove that to strangers.  I will.

Anger disguises itself as so many noble causes.  "I am 'protecting' the children," is sometimes just code for I am going to use them to punish you.  The absence of them will cut a deep pain in your heart just like you have cut in mine.  "I don't agree with your lifestyle, so I am turning away even if you are my own."  That is fear, embarrassment, shame, blame or upset expectations.  "You are having a mid-life crisis, and I reject this about you." I used to believe in the mid-life crisis crutch maybe until I had one?  I don't know... Maybe until I finally came to find myself?  I will never again judge someone because they finally found a direction that is fulfilling or at the very least less miserable.  It is funny that sometimes you come to yourself and like what you see finally and then you turn around and see that people around have discovered that they hate you.  Then you look at all of the others who are loving and accepting...

I don't want my children to live life for me.  I want them to discover themselves and live the life God made them to live.  A friend of mine couldn't be more opposite than me.  He doesn't get it, agree with it or comprehend it, but he still gave me money for a consultation with a lawyer.  He still loaned me the initial fee.  He said it was "because that is what real friends do."  It is good to have good friends.  Sometimes, it is good to have good friends with two-hundred dollars.  (I will pay you back buddy ... I promise).

My partner and I went walking on the beach this morning.  We took the dog with us.  We walked and cried and walk some more.  We made our way to the river.  We talked about how the boys would love it there.  We cried some more.  We then visited a historic cemetery and discovered that things could be worse.  We could be staying there instead of just visiting.  I thought about the pain and shame and blame and sadness and sorrow covering all those souls like so much dirt holding them in place.  I don't think life should hold you in place.  I think it should push you along to a better you -regardless of what other think about it.
One tombstone read, "I'd rather be riding my Harley."  I thought, "sing it brother!  I would too."  Maybe someday soon I will.

Posted by Layla Proudfoot at Sunday, March 20, 2011 0 comments
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