Nesting Doll Life
When I wake up in the morning, I look for the positive. Now granted, some days that's difficult to do at 4 am. As the day progresses, I dig deep to try and look for the points of light that make me smile and laugh. I search for glimpses of memories that have made me who I am, and remind me of who I've been.
I look back at all the groups I've identified myself as part of and how counting myself a member of that group, defined at least part of me. Sometimes I feel like an onion with many, many layers, or maybe one of those Russian nesting dolls. (I know, given the Helsinki Summit, this was probably a bad time to think about anything Russian.)
Each of those dolls houses a smaller doll within it. The core doll 'grows' one layer at a time. So, for this week, my PCT's-Positive CJ Thoughts, revolve around this skewed metaphor of the nesting doll.
Over the years of my life, I've been involved in may groups that have helped make up my identity, my many internal layers. As a child, I was part of a group of cul-de-sac kids. We rode our bikes everywhere and had many adventures on the streets of small town USA. For any of you who watched ET and remember the bike scenes where Elliot and his crew were riding all over the place? That was us.
Usually, we wound up at one of the many brick and vinyl split level ranch homes that made up our neighborhood for a snack or lunch. Each matriarch treating us all as one of her pack and feeding us even though she likely only gave birth to one of us.
I was a 'walker'. That meant I lived close enough to go to and from school, on foot or on my bicycle. My neighborhood was chalked full of kids my age and some older. This was a big change for me when we moved there from my family farm. I'd never had kids to play with day after day. We played whiffle ball and shot hoops. We took on roles from the 'Hole in the Wall' gang of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
The next day, it would be Star Wars characters.
As one of the only girls, (and a budding baby butch), the last thing I wanted to do was play the Princess that needed rescuing. I was not in favor of me being Princess Leia. I went for Boba Fett, awesome bounty hunter. Later as the next movies came out, I thought General Leia Organa was much cooler.
After elementary and junior high school, it was the journalism crew for me and
the few service clubs I tried to help with. As you know, high school is one of the most click-ish times in anyone's life. I tried to fit in where I could and for a kid who wasn't allowed to go to dances or be heavily involved, that was a tough sell. The breakfast club resonated with me so much. A group of odd puzzle pieces trying to fit together.
I took pride in my academics and the few things I was able to be involved with. I can honestly tell you it wasn't my favorite time in life and there was a great deal of pain involved on many levels.
…Add the next size nesting doll.
College, what do I say about that??? Let's just say I was discovering a few things when the thumb came off the spring. Let's let it go at that.
On to the next nesting doll layer.
Eventually, I found my niche and true calling in the emergency services. It was an entire community of first responders, a solid layer of armor around me.
I did everything in the field but the law enforcement side. I came close, but declined a chance at a Deputy Sheriff's position. I volunteered or held jobs as an Emergency Medical Technician on an ambulance.
I joined a volunteer fire department and became a firefighter. The fuse was lit and running in and out of burning buildings for free. became who I was for a very, very long time.
Eventually, I found work as a 911 Telecommunicator, working my way up to shift supervisor. Oh the stories I could tell just from answering the phone and being the side of the emergency services no one thinks about until the shit hits the fan.
Eventually, I landed exactly where I was always meant to be. A career firefighter in my hometown, taking care of people I'd known all my life. That's what's made up a large part of my life for the last twenty five years. I've climbed the ranks as far as I'm likely to go. I will be proud to say I've had a good career if I never have to go to one of my firefighter's houses and tell their significant other, "I'm sorry."
All these things, in reality, were other layers of the nesting doll I have come to be. They became the shells around a farm kid who grew up with a big imagination and a need for adventure. Each layer nestling one inside the other.
AND.... I was a budding lesbian, a new shell emerging to the surface to be painted in all the colors of the rainbow. That part of me was frightened at first. I was frightened of all the things being openly gay could cost me- my family for one, friends for another. It took years for that shell to be as brightly colored and as ingrained as it is now.
Some might say it's not a true layer because of my relationships before I settled into myself. I think that's unfair. Who is this decision maker that gets to say my journey hasn't been the one I was meant to travel? Given how I grew up, I don't know how I could have done anything but what was expected of me--- until I could make decisions on my own. I think we are too quick to judge each other in our community. When we do that, are we any better than the heterosexual groups that spew hate and condemnation against us? It's such an unfair assessment of how deep my colors and that of others go.
I know several older women that didn't come into themselves until they had conformed to societies wishes.
Once their children were grown or the husbands died, they could live for themselves for the very first time. To have been gay might likely have cost them their lives. It did for many during the Holocaust. Why would we consider them lesser under any circumstances? I'll be honest, when I hear someone talk about being a 'gold star lesbian', I can't understand the need to climb to the top of the heap on the backs of others who came into their own truth, albeit later.
We constantly talk about inclusion and equality, but this terminology in itself is elitism and reeks of exclusivity.
I've got my own story and it's a winding path to get to where I am now. I will never look down on someone for the path they've taken. One of my favorite nesting doll- layers fell around me when I became a wife to a wonderful woman.
A woman who is my equal as she wraps me in love and security.
(How many people do you know take their wedding pictures on a tractor)
Let's just say, "I married the farmer's daughter".
We created a shell that is our relationship and love for each other. It's the brightest of all my shells, a deep and shiny candy apple red.
My newest nesting doll is that of lesbian fiction author. I love to write and create characters that my readers fall in love with, root for, and remember long after the words 'the end'. I know it's not always a pretty. Many authors have had a tough time breaking through. I've been fortunate to have landed with Desert Palm Press.
I'm proud of my fellow authors no matter with who or how they publish. Each one creating a bright and shiny shell that they show the world as they put their heart and soul on the line. Understand this, each and every line in their book came pouring out of their own life blood. Be thankful they did. I'm proud of wearing that shell with the title-author. I hope others are too.
The one shell that we all have, is that at our very core. We are human beings. Flawed, dinged up, and yes- even damaged at times. We have scars and lines from our past creating character. We are different people because of it. We protect that fragile inner self with all the other layers we wrap around it. We are all EXACTLY the same on the inside, flesh and blood. A blood that I might add, is red, no matter what color that outside layer is. We all need food, water and a safe place to lay our head at night.
You see, regardless of our differences, regardless of our painted layers, under it all, we are exactly the same. It's all the outside pressure and negativity that eats into us like a cancer, that we let reach into that most elemental level, that separates us. Sometimes it's the cancer with in our own group that erodes and weakens us. To me, this pressure more damaging than the outside pressure. When you look to someone expecting to see understanding and recognition and instead get a hand held in your face, that is damaging and extremely hurtful. It serves no purpose.
If we can just remember, that under out outward shell, we all bleed red. We all feel pain. If we can see people around us as living human beings with the same desire to remain that way, then we can find a way to some common ground. We must not be the one to inflict that pain among those who wear that same rainbow mantle around their shoulders.
Another problem is when someone wants to strip away one of those inside nesting dolls because they disagree with what it stands for or that it doesn't necessarily fit in one hundred percent with our own belief. Sometimes, with even a small layer removed, things just don't fit right. Things are loose and there are gaps that rub and wear. Grooves get cross threaded and off track, causing the layers we add later, to be off and ill fitting. We are who we are because of each experience or path that we've taken. It's how we grow.
As lesbians we are a group. We need to work hard at remembering at our most elemental level, we are still just the human being wearing numerous shells that are part of us, just like skin. May we all find that each of those shells fit together like the different sizes of the nesting dolls, one fitting right in side the other to form a whole. A whole society that needs to pull together more now than ever and use that experience and knowledge to hold onto the strides we have made and push for new ones. Knowledge, data, and experiences that arm us against the days long gone and way lay ahead in the long days before us. Find that hand and reach out to hold it. Build a long chain so that when the other side sends...'Rover On Over'...they cannot break it. (Come on now, you know you played Red Rover as a kid.)
May we respect each other and make the world a little brighter, a little more inclusive instead of exclusive.
I am delighted to say I've been in contact with Lee Fitzsimmons at Desert Palm Press, my publisher, who says my recent Goldie Award for Debut Novel-'frame by frame' is on it's cross country journey. I'm still totally in shock and humbled by the award. Maybe it will seem real when I hold it in my hands.
I'm also pleased to say that my editor is weeding through 'The Bucket List' and tells me she's enjoying the story line. I'm well aware that she's got her red pen out (which I expected.) Hopefully, together we can fine tune it into another page turning novel that you will enjoy reading. Heads up that it's focus isn't a romance but more of an adventure that will take you across country and to some pretty amazing places.
I'll keep you updated as I try to add another layer, two-time published novelist. Until then you can still get 'frame by frame' at your favorite retail outlets.
I'll be hard at work on my next novel, tentatively titled, "Chance Meeting". For some time, I've had numerous people say, given my years of experience, I'm missing a calling in writing stories about women in uniform. So…that's what I've decided to focus on next. Stay tuned!