One Pulse

While at Utah Pride this year, I was able to spend time in an art piece/memorial to the victims of the Pulse shooting. It was a quiet tent in the midst of frenzied chaos, dark and narrow and filled with brown paper bags. 

On each of the bags, the artist had drawn the image of a beautiful queer person we lost that night. Fourty-nine bags in all, flickering from within by a tea light. 

I wrote a note (don’t remember what I said) to the victims, and I thought again about exactly where I was when I first heard about the tragedy in Orlando a year ago. All of the faces on paper bags in front of me had been people, once, people exactly like me. People who inhabited queer, gay, LGBTQ+/SAGA communities. People with families. People who loved dancing and going out on the weekends. 

I remember being terrified to go to a gay club after Pulse. The first open community safe space for me, a local gay dance club, was all I could picture as the news kept rolling in about Pulse. It wasn’t a queer nightclub in Orlando anymore, but it was MY queer nightclub with MY queer face on a brown paper bag or covered in someone else’s blood. 

My heart aches for the loss that each family experienced that night, and I also ache for the community I’m a part of. We have fought so hard for what little freedoms and safety we have, and every day there seems to be another reminder that we aren’t valued or protected. Pulse was a violent reminder, but one of hundreds of crimes committed against my friends, the queer community, every day. We face down hateful protestors whenever we appear en masse in public. So many members of the community are raped, assaulted, killed, and injured because of that hate. Hell, people used to be jailed for queerness like mine, and sadly still are in different parts of the world. 

I consider the Pulse shooting victims to be just as vital to our queer history as the Stonewall Riots. Deonka Drayton’s name carries on the same legacy as Marsha P. Johnson and Stormé DeLarverie. 

We. Will. Keep. Moving. No matter what. That’s what this means to me. We will keep fighting. We will keep loving. We will join hands with the dead in thanks for every step towards equality and acceptance. We will move forward and push forward and riot and march and protest and love until the world accepts what we’ve known all along: we are worthy of this life we have. We deserve to have our rights and livelihoods protected. We are worthy of love and acceptance no matter our sexuality or gender identifier, the color of our skin, the religion we choose to follow, the language we speak, or the country we were born in. 

And when the world pushes towards cloying nationalism and the power of hate, we will push back. We will claim our spaces. We will dance in the face of death. This is what it means to be part of this community: we will fight on, no matter the odds, for our rightful place to enjoy the freedoms of love, happiness, and acceptance.

Drinking Alone Is Kind of Sad

Whenever I’m drinking and it’s not to help myself get through an event with a lot of people, it feels wrong, like there should be someone there with me. I have lots of moments like that in my life, where I can’t tell if being alone is my vice or if I just haven’t figured out how to be happy when I’m alone. 

I used to know. As a child I was solitary and adventurous: my mind would explore worlds for hours and never once pause to think that it was lonely. I was passionate about reading, writing, and creating, all solitary hobbies. If I found myself in a class where I didn’t know anyone, I would just make friends. 

I don’t know how or when that changed. What is it about adulthood that makes you feel like you’re wasting it if you’re alone? Why is it that being single when you’re old starts to look like the worst possible outcome in life? 

Why do we lose our ability to thrive within the confines of our own bodies? 

If there’s anything I’ve learned from falling in and out of love, it’s that people are transitory. No matter how tightly we try to hold them, they will always leave. If your first thought was well that’s depressing, then I suggest you ask yourself why you think being alone is being lonely. Why are you putting your happiness in other people? 

I struggle with this constantly. When I fall in love, it’s head over heels and usually completely unexpected. Because of my place within the asexuality spectrum, there’s nothing to differentiate friends and lovers in the beginning aside from permission. 

I find myself connecting with one person more than another, and because I think we are friends I assume that my attachment is safe. They are the first person I want to talk to when I’m sad. I have to keep myself from constantly asking how they are, where they are, and what I can do for them. They get a place in my daily rituals and nightly ‘I love you’s’. When I’m at Target, I ask them what I can get for them. When I’m making myself dinner, I ask them if they’re hungry. When my mind starts to play with darkness, I check in with them first to make sure that they’re emotionally safe. 

I never realized how much like falling in love this is until a few days ago. This process of giving and sharing intimately with another person and putting their needs before your own is, plain and simple, the codependent nature of love. All of a sudden, my life is incomplete without another human being in it. And when that human being moves or starts dating someone new, and you realize that you’re #4 to your #1 priority, it all becomes heartbreak and betrayal. You realize that you’ve been giving more of yourself than you could or should, and it hurts. You realize that you put your heart into the hands of someone who didn’t know how to take care of it. You realize you’re in over your head, loving someone more than they love you, and the bitterness grows in the space between your shattered fantasy and reality. 

So why is it then that some of us seem to only spiral further with each new heartbreak? Why is it that me, an introvert who gains energy and wisdom by being alone, can’t drink alone without feeling lonely? Why is it that with each fresh failure, I merely find someone else to latch onto, a new soulmate for the moment, a new heart to care for better than I care for my own?

I’ve been trying to think this through for a while now. Why am I so codependent and yet fiercely independent by nature? Why don’t I enjoy being alone anymore? When did it start to hurt so much when I gave love to someone who couldn’t give it back?

For me (and I don’t necessarily believe this to be a universal truth), it’s because my worth as a human being rests on others. One of my anxiety fixations is my body because I grew up believing (thanks to popular media, religious sex/marriage values, and my own inability to connect easily with others) that my body was an object to be desired. I saw each flaw as something that made me unworthy of love and affection, so when I gave my heart to someone who couldn’t hold it, it became my body’s fault, my flaw’s fault. It grew to become my mental illnesses’ faults as I grew more aware of them and how they kept me from connection. I felt like Medusa; just looking at my face would cause pain for others. No one could ever love me when my presence turned them to cold stone. 

It was a lack of usefulness as an object that made others love me less, in my head. If I couldn’t take care of them and be beautiful for them and have emotional stability for them, what was the point of my existence? Why would anyone even bother to love me?
I still slog through this every day. Now it’s my sexual orientation, on top of my scars and my nose and my anxiety and my depression, that keep people from loving me. It’s because I don’t naturally think of sex with others that I’m disconnected from humanity. It’s because I’m afraid of the experience because I lack the instincts for it that no one wants to date me. It’s why I cut my hair short every five years: I can sense this deep fissure of what I look like from a distance (blond, capable, emotionally mature, fun) and who I feel I really am (ugly/flawed, mentally ill, needy, self-absorbed) and it frightens me so much that I have to bare it all to the world so that when someone approached me, they would know exactly what type of person I was. 

In a different light, it drove me to quit hiding behind my mask and start looking like who I really am: not a sex object, not unerringly kind, not someone with their life together, but just a human who struggles and loves deeply and can’t quite make things fit all the time. For whatever reason, cutting my hair short has come to symbolize embracing my personhood, and I’m sad to say that I only get around to it every five years or so. 

This is a daily fight for me now. How can I be alone without feeling lonely today? How can I remain whole when I feel like my friends don’t care for me as much as they used to? How can I tell myself that I’m lovable even when I’m sad or worried? How can I respect and love my body through an outfit that makes me uncomfortable or hormonal breakouts on my face?

Knowing that it’s about my relationship with me, not my relationships with others, helps tremendously. I guess that somewhere along the way, I internalized the idea that being alone meant “antisocial” and having scars meant “unlovable” and taking care of myself meant “selfish”. I’m glad that I have the opportunity, at 25, to unlearn these things and start fresh. 

Loving others when I love myself first now looks a lot more like respect and strength than it used to. I still give my heart away often, but I don’t give a piece of my soul with it. The people who remain in my life have earned it by loving and respecting me back. My body, no matter how ugly I find it to be sometimes, is a finely-tuned instrument that I love and take care of as best I can. My mind, as sensitive and prone to madness as it is, is also a beautiful place that I have come to respect. I can look up at the stars and feel centuries of humanity because of this mind. I can put myself in the shoes of others in order to love them better with this mind. I can find joy in the innocence of animals because of this mind. 

Do I still get lonely when I’m alone? Sometimes. Sometimes the anxiety fights back or my brain is too dull to argue or I’m having a really bad day where all I can see are my flaws. I wish I could say that I have somehow figured out how to love myself and others perfectly, but I haven’t. I still get lonely. I still get codependent. I still let my heart rest for too long in hands that don’t deserve it. 

But I can also take myself on a date and read a book in the park. I can buy a nail polish when I’m at Target because it’s what I need to feel a little better. I can cook meals for myself with foods that I love, because my body is important to me and I like making myself happy. I can wear clothes that make me uncomfortable because they show my flaws, and remember that I’m defined by what I allow to take precedence. If I show my scars, then I will become one of the fearless women I admire who love their bodies even on bad days. I will be the spark of self-love for someone else. I will rewrite my narrative and be able to drink alone because I am whole within myself, not because it makes a pretty picture. 

Crann Bethadh: A Book of Poetry

Reminder: I am not a poet. But I also have no idea what else to call myself, when things like this pour out at random moments. Enjoy some unedited (I don’t have the patience to edit poetry) thoughts on identity.

i: roots

as a child, the only things
I thought that mattered about me
were the ways I could be

a minor character
in someone else’s story.

I thought I was
a photograph on a billboard
or a painting in a museum.

Manic Pixie Dream Girl
Punk Fuck-up in Black
Studious Religious Girl

I learned from books and films
that I was a trope
and a box to be filled

although less filled than others could be.

My blond hair,
shining in the sunlight,
would launch a thousand ships.

My mouth,
pink and small from disuse,
would only open in compliments and reassurances.

My eyes,
dark green and gold like trees,
would learn to only see spots for me to stand

so my hair would shine a little brighter
my mouth soothe a little louder

my feet roots
my foliage jewels
my bark soft
my flowers fragrant

alone
at the edge of the driveway
to be passed by
or chopped down

to be useful
and beautiful

and ignored.

 

 

ii: seeds

when a seedling falls
in a crack in the concrete
and builds roots beneath
Impossible
and
Inconsiderate

does it deserve to grow?

when you see a tree
whose roots have made
cracks in the concrete
and it stands above
Rigid
and
Breakable

do you chop it down?

or

do you touch its fallen leaves
and breathe the air it purifies
and thank Heaven
that a seedling
had the audacity
to grow?

 

 

iii: book of the olive tree

I am not for you.

Get thee
an Handmaiden
the Lord has blessed

one with birthing hips
watering eyes
silence

And she will bear thee
a Son
beneath His watchful, Holy gaze

beneath the olive tree
with twisted branches
behind the house.
I am not for you.

The Lord thy God
hath Commanded thee
to be Obedient

but I will not hide
my fearful and wonderful
and brilliant

For He is thy Father
and Thou art His Child
and must needs be Obedient

I bear olives
my branches are twisted
my fruit falls

and my shade protects
the woman you use
as a tool for your own purification.
You will not use my oil
to anoint your head.

You will set fire to my grove
and call my fruit rancid

because I am not for you

I am for me
I am fearful and wonderful
and wholy

Holy

pure without you.

 

 

iv: daphne

“a heavy numbness seized her limbs, thin bark closed over her breasts, her hair turned into leaves, her arms into branches, her feet so swift a moment ago stuck fast in slow-growing roots, her face was lost in the canopy. Only her shining beauty was left.”

you act like people are just animals
to be hunted
and wrestled with
and trained
and killed so you can eat and wear them.

you thrill in the chase.
you are cunning
and seductive
and coy
and work human interaction like a silversmith.

you hate me a little bit
even in your love for me.
I stand
I grow
I shine like silver but am untouchable to you.

does it hurt you
that this womanly body
turns to tree bark
beneath your gaze?

that my roots
grow farther down
than you can dig?

that all you can do
is kiss my leaves and sigh
because you never learned how
to turn the tree
human again?

hunter, I feel your gaze.
spare me the chase.
find my human heart
and speak to it

and you may find flesh to touch
and lips to kiss
and love to fill us both.

for as long as you see
human beings as animals
to be tamed
I will stand beside you an unmovable laurel tree.

 

 

v: family tree

a willow tree
and a small trailer
beside the irrigation ditch
are my only memories of my grandfather.

within the bowels
of the trailer
was a man with hissing cords
and glassy eyes that had nothing left to say.

it was throat cancer
i think
that laid him out like that
and made me see a monster in a man who made my father
who made me.

when i smoke, i think of him.
i think of the feelings he hid
(a true cowboy)
behind nicotine, tobacco, and alcohol.

i think of the way
he divorced my grandmother
and the way I’ve inherited
his deep sense of restlessness.

or maybe, a deep sense of grief.

he:
a boy during the Great Depression
who would walk along railroad tracks
to pick up fallen coal.

me:
a girl with great depression
who memorized the way the sidewalk looked
when she walked it alone at night.

he:
sheep rancher,
farmer,
truck driver,
abuser.

me:
nonprofit worker,
writer,
volunteer,

there’s a golden place in my mind
for cigarette smoke and willow trees.

 

 

vi: shinrin-yoku

I make a home anywhere there is a tree
for my heart is a forest
each tree, old love
made new
leaves
made green
breath ignited and, shifting,
I reach my arms up further
to become one with a mighty whole: shinrin-yoku.

 

 

 

© Dain Broadbent, 2017

Queer For a Year

As Pride (one of my favorite cultural celebrations) rolls around once again, I’m taking some time to reflect on my very recent journey into my queer self and my local queer community.

I’ve been queer for a year, y’all. Or, rather, I’ve known and accepted the title of “queer” for a year. The more that I think of my past as a closeted, unknowing queer, the more I can see how it was spilling out of me when I wasn’t even aware of it. Continue reading

Vulnerability 101

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

-Dr. Brene Brown

Simply put: if it’s frightening and painful, you’re doing it right.

Continue reading