Creating a Peaceful Queendom

I found a tick on my neck this morning. Gross. The good news is it was crawling, not burrowing, and I was able to pluck it off and flush it down the toilet. We know lyme is no joke, and it’s become such an epidemic here in the northeast. Especially now with a pup in the house, we’ll be extra extra careful.

Somehow I am managing to work, but I’m telling you, this little doggy is distracting! I keep joking that she’s going to get arrested, since isn’t it against the law to be that cute? She’s smart and stubborn and wrinkly and rumply and funny and affectionate. She hops like a little bunny when she’s excited, grunts like a piggy when she’s sleeping, and her little belly hangs almost to the floor while she’s gobbling up her food.

She had her very first playdate today, with a patient Australian shepherd. Bulldogs tend to play pretty rough with each other, and other dogs are not shy to point out that that’s not universally ok in the canine order, so she did get gently put in her place a couple of times. Would that we all had such good teachers.

I just ate some salad. I’m ambitiously wearing running clothes (I find that if I wear running clothes, I have a 50/50 chance of actually running, as opposed to a zero chance when I don’t).

* * *

Chalupa has been with us for five days and she already has a dozen or so nicknames. Aviva has taken to calling her Grumpus Rumpus. Fluffernutter Rumpelstiltskin has come out of my mouth more than once, as has Little Miss Muffet. Most I call her Chupa or Chuppers (with an “ooo” sound in the middle).

Every day, I delete friend requests from fake men. Usually they are pictured wearing military uniforms. They live in places like Afghanistan, Germany, Russia, the Czech Republic, and sometimes India. Today someone “poked” me on Facebook. Delete, delete.

Spring is fully here after such a long, cold April. I noticed this morning, as I poured my coffee, that the trees have greened up. The birds have discovered the two little feeders we suctioned to the kitchen windows, and it is thrilling to see a nuthatch, a mourning dove, a finch with a seed in its mouth, before it darts off to tell the others.

I joked to Mani the other day, it’s the peaceful kingdom I’ve always dreamed of. Well, ok, not exactly, but I think I really am happiest when there are kids and animals and open windows and green growing things around.

* * *

The other night, we had a great conversation about how to come up with new things to write about. Mani was saying she can’t imagine *not* having new things to write about. With 24 hours of new experience every day, how could there ever be a shortage?

It really got me thinking about imagination, curiosity, discipline, and ways of seeing. We can be such creatures of routine, habit, status quo, and same old same old. And while some of that may serve us — me — well, it can also have a dulling quality.

But staying open, remembering that we are always changing and growing, that while our days may look alike, every moment is actually brand new, this comes as good news.

* * *

So here I am, this woman in her mid-40s. I spent the first half or so of my adulthood trying to contort myself to fit the image of what I thought my life should look like. (Hint: I coveted other women’s mudrooms and breadwinning husbands, among other things.) Coming out, not fitting in, basically forced me to also have to reexamine the ways I’d previously hoped to be taken care of.

I was terrified about losing my kids, and helped by the fact that their dad was committed to co-parenting rather than taking out his grief and anger on them, and by the fact that I was a middle-class white woman living in Burlington, Vermont, where being a single gay mom was hardly unusual.

Later, after I remarried and my wife was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, I left my job at a private college in order to care for her full-time. My considerable privilege — social currency and credibility from years of writing and having an online presence, two degrees thanks in no small part to parents with the means to contribute to my education as a young adult, and the knowledge of how to navigate professional transitions borne of class privilege — no doubt greatly helped when it came to making that jump. I did not just pull myself up by my bootstraps.

I worked my ass off, navigating Mani’s complicated medical situation, caring for my kids, and starting a business that would be our sole source of income. And while no one else could have filled my shoes and done any of these things for me, it would be a very incomplete story to say I did it alone.

These things are intricately connected: Choosing and nurturing a new kind of family, writing about real life, staying aware of my own privilege without sliding into shame or guilt, amplifying the voices of women of color, honoring my own lived experience, not silencing myself, weaning myself from the story that I need a man or authority figure — a father, a husband, a boss — in order to feel secure in this world, learning to rely on myself in ways I didn’t know I could, and being an advocate for trans kids and kick-ass teenagers who are changing the world but still need rides everywhere.

* * *

These are the new stories. These are the old stories and the new stories crashing together, alchemizing into something we never imagined.

And if there’s anything we desperately need more than ever, it’s individual and collective imagination. It’s a willingness to have been completely wrong, and the fortitude to learn and grow together in new ways.

* * *

When I came out, these line from “The Second Coming” by W.B. Yeats coursed through my veins:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Today, I hear them again. The old centers cannot — must not — hold. The old stories can be put to rest. We need to use our passion, conviction, and intensity wisely. Watch for ticks, give a good belly rub to your nearest pup, and be true to who you are.  This may be the way to create a truly peaceful king– ahem — queendom.

2 thoughts on “Creating a Peaceful Queendom

  1. Pamela Hunt Cloyd says:

    This is so beautiful Jena. This is one of my favorite poems and one that has been knocking in my veins as well.



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