Category Archives: Friendship

Bygones 

There was a time, fifteen or twenty years ago, when I took an average of 2000 photos a year. That might not be so impressive now, in the era of unlimited digital storage, but this was when we had to buy film, carry a camera, get it developed, and hope that the shot came out right. It was expensive, especially since I was paying for it with a minimum wage job while in high school and college. 

Since then, I have moved A LOT. Over and over, I’ve packed up albums and books and boxes of prints and taken them with me. All those boxes get heavy after a while, especially when those pictures don’t mean what they used to. 

They are a record of my life, and in that, they have value. I don’t think it’s accurate or fair to only keep the happy, or the current. But at what point do I stop carrying those photos with me? 

What do you do with photographs of family members who have chosen to no longer consider you family? Or of former best friends who betrayed that trust? Or of religious celebrations and milestones along the path towards what was eventually abuse and cruelty? These people and places are part of my story. I don’t think I need to memorialize them anymore. 

So, little by little, I toss them out. When I have a brave moment, I sift through them and, if I feel only loss, bitterness, or sorrow when I look at it, I put it in the garbage pile. I choose which parts of my story to carry with me to the next place. 

Today has been one of those days. As part of a larger effort to take charge of some projects I’m always meaning to do, I sorted another album today. I have another stack of photos to toss. It’s always a terribly complicated feeling. I’m sorrowful for the way things ended, for the hurt caused. 

This time, though, I’m also sorry for them because they missed out. Life is pretty good now, and they chose to step away, not knowing who I have become. They never saw me so thoroughly happy. They will never meet my fiance. They don’t get to be a part of the adventures ahead. 

That sounds a little arrogant, I guess, but at least it’s honest. Maybe a different person would be more comfortable keeping so many old pictures. Maybe some day, I will regret it. What is more likely, I’m pretty sure, is that I would continue to carry them around, to wince when I see them mixed in with happier memories, that some day, I will find myself having to explain who the stranger is. 
Today, I made more room for more photographs. Photos of my upcoming wedding, honeymoon, anniversaries, parties, graduations, Christmases, and cats. There is a lot to look forward to. Even if it requires taking a few painful moments to let old memories go. 

The trash pile

Allied Pride

Disclaimer: I know that Pride is not about me. This is not a way to appropriate something in a kind of white, straight, cisgender arrogance. It is, instead, written with humility and appreciation.

Yesterday, June 26, I was standing in the bathroom, swiping mascara on my lashes, when my boyfriend walked in, said “Happy Pride, baby!” kissed me, and left. I wished him a happy pride as well, and tied the rainbow ribbon in my hair. It’s too big, but I was wearing my marriage equality shirt from the Human Rights Campaign anyways, because it was Pride, and because it was the anniversary of the SCOTUS ruling legalizing marriage equality.

I love Pride. I understand that as a straight, cisgender woman, it is not about me, but I love Pride. I love that, in its pure form, it stands for courage and love, and celebrating true selves and diverse beauty. Whenever I have gone to a Pride celebration, the energy that radiates is breathtaking.

I love what Pride means for the people I love. I seem to have more non-straight friends than average, and I love that despite the trials they face, there is a time specifically set aside to celebrate.

I have no respect for the degradation that happens when narrow-minded and assholish straight people use Pride and gay bars to get sloppy and gawk at others. This isn’t about that sort of straight-person-at-Pride kind of experience.

Selfishly, I love Pride partly because even as a straight chick, it is one of the most welcoming and free spaces I encounter all year. When I’m there, a surrounded by color and positivity, I am at peace. I’ve been touched by the kindness I’ve experienced there, whether it is a stranger complimenting my hair ribbons or a hug after a good joke, or seeing someone take care of someone else who needs it.

For most of my life, I haven’t felt like I fit in, for one reason or another. I don’t think that is an uncommon feeling, but I never feel that way at Pride. When I was a pastor, the rest of the pastors in my denomination thought I was a lesbian, and because of that, many treated me differently. As a woman who has a diverse range of interests and skills, sometimes, I get crap about not being feminine enough or too feminine. Not that those are the same kind of experiences that LGBTQ people have, but it certainly has given me more than enough empathy to make a difference.

I love going to Pride to celebrate my friends. To be grateful to the community that has welcomed, accepted, and loved me, even though I am an outsider. I love being able to be an ally for great and beautiful people.

Pride is not about me. I’ve seen some articles floating around the internet lately that are pretty blunt about saying that Pride is not for straight people. I don’t disagree. But I do think that Pride can be, and is, a time for everyone to celebrate the far reaches of love and the advances made in equality and justice, and recognize that the work is not yet done. In reading that, it kind of sounds like a bad version of “all lives matter,” but that’s not what I mean. I mean that as a woman lucky enough to be included by a community, I am happy to celebrate as an ally and a friend.

I couldn’t make it to the Pride parade this year because we were leaving for vacation, but my heart was there. Every time I looked down at my shirt or saw the hair ribbon in my reflection, I was reminded of what should be celebrated. I can’t wait until next year, when I hope to be there again.

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In my Pride shirt and rainbow ribbon

Her Name is “Bitter.”

In the fall of 2010, I entered my second year of seminary and Mary entered her first. We had the same mentor and we sang in the vocal ensemble group together. She was one of the oldest cadets on campus, the mother of four, three of whom were with her and her husband on campus.

Galatians lists gentleness as “fruit of the Spirit,” but I hadn’t ever recognized it in anyone like did in Mary. Going back to school was intense, on top of raising her family, and what astounded me more than anything else was the gentleness she had throughout it all. It was a kindness and simplicity usually reserved for young or delicate children in literature, the sort of sweetness that never speaks ill of someone, bandages the broken wing of a song bird, etc. Until I met Mary, I wrote those characters off as being idealized and unrealistic.

That’s not to say Mary never had a bad or frustrating day, just that she handled it, and others, differently than I might have in the same circumstances. When my reaction would be to go to the mattresses, Mary responded with compassion and prayer. She worked for joy, even on bad days. When her heart was broken, it was often out of love for someone.

I haven’t seen Mary much since I finished seminary. Life pulls us in too many directions, but we stayed friends on Facebook. From afar, I saw pictures of her kids growing up, getting married, her first grandson, her youngest going off to school. We chatted now and then, but not as much as I wish.

I knew her health isn’t great, but one wretched day in December, she shared that she was moving to hospice care. It was the first thing I read that morning, and immediately, I sobbed. I don’t mean I got teary-eyed: I was almost heaving by the time I called my dad, who is the first one I call when the world cracks apart again.

“Mary” means “bitter,” but my dear friend has greeted this part of her journey with the same gentleness that she has always had. Her posts, though few, have been so full of the same grace that I saw years ago.

I miss my friend, am sorry I have not seen more of her, and I confess that I lack the gentleness she carries. The other day, during the Lutheran service in the activity room at work, they sang “The King of Love My Shepherd Is,” which is one of the songs Mary and I sang together in ensemble. At once, it broke my heart and made me smile to remember my friend:

1. The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am His,
And He is mine forever.

2. Where streams of living water flow
My ransomed soul He leadeth,
And, where the verdant pastures grow,
With food celestial feedeth.

3. Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love He sought me,
And on His shoulder gently laid,
And home rejoicing brought me.

4. In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
With Thee, dear Lord, beside me;
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy Cross before to guide me.

5. Thou spread’st a table in my sight;
Thy unction grace bestoweth;
And oh, what transport of delight
From Thy pure chalice floweth!

6. And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise
Within Thy house forever.

I don’t know where my faith is these days, but nevertheless, the song is comforting, at least when it comes to Mary. Someone posted a picture of her the other day, and while she looked weary, I was stunned by the grace and gentleness that still radiates from her. Her name may mean “bitter,” according to the baby name books, but not to me. Mary will forever be associated with overwhelming gentleness. I am so very lucky to get to call her my friend.

Three Little Birds

A few years ago now, I was driving my niece somewhere. Beats me what the destination was, but it was the drive that made it memorable. At some point, Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds came on, and not being a particularly big Marley fan, I wouldn’t have turned it up, were it not for Sarahberry. The sweetness of her voice singing “don’t worry about a thing; every little thing is gonna be alright,” made me want to sing along. It turned a nothing moment into one I desperately tried to prolong.

Earlier this week, I was working on music trivia questions for work and I came across one for Bob Marley. The associating memory of my niece made me smile, so I opened a tab and found a stream of YouTube videos and listened while I worked. When Three Little Birds came on, I closed my eyes, smiled, and sang while I let the memory wash over me. A lot of life has been lived since that day, and I thought about how often it felt like I couldn’t make it anymore.

Last week, I talked to a former mentor, catching up on things. She was happy to hear that most of life is going well for me, or at least a lot better than it had for a few years. It feels strange to be on the other side of things, but I like it.

It was only three songs later in the playlist that I heard devastating news about a friend. A dear one, one who was unquestionably there for me during everything. Suddenly, the light hearted afternoon had betrayed me. I was stuck for words.

I got up and began my rounds of corralling people for the afternoon activity and as I walked up the stairs, I wanted to cry for my friend. “You have some explaining to do,” I arrogantly said to God as I stomped up the last few steps, knowing good and well that God doesn’t answer to me at all. God should have known that my friend doesn’t deserve this; I could have pointed God in the direction of a few people who are due for some retributive karma if I had known that this crapstorm was about to fall on someone.

I still don’t know what to say to my friend. I hate not being able to fix things. The line that keeps running through my head is what circled around me when my grandmother died: sometimes, the cruelest thing is that the world keeps spinning anyways.

Eventually, I think Marley is right. It has taken a long time to get to where I am, where more things feel right than wrong. The hard part is the “mean time,” when everything feels shattered and messy and irreparable. My friend was there for me, and all I can do is be there for my friend. Even if I don’t know how.

Sweet Annie

“Sweet Annie
Can I stay with you a while
‘Cause this road’s been putting miles on my heart, sweetheart…
But one day lightning will strike
And my bark will lose its bite
But don’t give up on me,
Sweet Annie.”
From Sweet Annie by Zac Brown Band

An occupational hazard of my job is that the people I see every day are more likely to die than a lot of the rest of the population. Today was a first for me: the first time a resident died since I began working there. It was entirely unexpected. One minute, she was on the phone, and the next, gone.

I love my residents. I love the blind man who sits in the hall and makes silly little comments during bingo or Jeopardy. I love the smart-assed little ladies who make slightly inappropriate jokes when they think no one is listening. I love the old eastern European woman who smiles all day.

Selfishly, I love that I work with a bunch of people who cheer me up and cheer me on. They compliment me on a good hair day, ask about my dad when he is sick, and occasionally tell me I’m doing a good job. Who wouldn’t love that? I love when I have a free handful of minutes and can sit and talk with them. They are good for my soul.

Like most old people, they love to talk. They don’t know it, but they are a constant reminder for me to check my perspective. They remind me to take the time to do the things I love and see the people I love. They remind me to be happy. When I am weary, they are a place to rest.

They also remind me that life is fragile. When my funny Polish lady is missing from morning activities and I stop in and find her weak and resting, sore from a poor, sleepless night, I can’t help but worry a little. Another woman scrunches up her face and looks at me with an odd expression as she pushes a walker that she didn’t need until she had a “small stroke” a couple weeks ago, making my heart break a little.

And then there are those like A, who went so suddenly today. She is my reminder to smile while I still can, and to  try to leave a gentle impression.

Bits and Pieces

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who found herself floating between worlds. Without any control over it, she wandered between homes, between patchwork families who all meant so much to her. These families lived all over the Midwest, and inevitably, when she was with one, as happy as she was, and as loved as she was, she missed the others. As she grew, so did the scope of her families. Fellow choir singers, college buddies, seminary partners, and assorted strays wandered in and sat down for a while. Life has a way of continuing to move onward, shifting shape as soon as she figured part of it out. As the shape of life changed, so did her heart.

Most people seem to experience this evolution as growth; hearts get bigger when there are more people to love. For this meandering fool, it is precisely the opposite.

E. E. Cummings famously wrote “i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart).” It’s a lovely poem, but the truer truth, for me, would be the inverse: “you carry my heart (you carry it in your heart).” Over time, I have come to realize that my heart does not primarily beat within my own chest. Instead, it has been willingly parcelled out into the care of people who love a piece of it. My heart beats within the hearts of so many others. If I were solely responsible for the care of my own heart, I would no doubt break it irreparably before sundown.

This means that my heart often beats in places far away from me. My life, my soul, my broken little brain all long for the times that I am reunited with these bits and pieces. I know no other way to describe how it is that to encounter some people is to also reconnect with a bit of myself.

For a few years now, one piece has been tucked away in Istanbul, safely held by my cousin, Vince. We were not particularly close growing up, and still, now, we don’t communicate like we should, but nonetheless, there is a bond. I worry for him like I do very few people. He is a mix of a tender spirit, an intense resilience, and quiet intelligence that I admire. He is the one who holds the title for Best Hug of my Lifetime, given on the Easter when I first saw him after his first tour in Iraq. With him, my anxious self is comforted and doesn’t fear vulnerability. It seems like our own experiences, though very different, seem to give us a slightly different understanding of both fragility and strength.

Tonight, I got to see him for the first time in several years. We did some catching up and then moved on to theology, able to discuss our churches and faiths like I seldom get to do. I wish we had had more time. He invited me to visit him in Istanbul, and now, I’m trying to figure out how to make that happen.

I am always bewildered whenever anyone seems willing to care for a piece of my heart, but I’m grateful that they do. It’s a relief to know that he holds onto a bit of it. When he said, as he was leaving, to make sure I talk to him if things get hard, I could have cried. I know without a doubt that he meant it. I know that, should (when) things darken, he will listen and remind me that all is not in peril because he carries a bit of my heart(he carries it in his heart).

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Love Shows Up

I went somewhere fairly unexpected today: CFOT (the pseudo-seminary I went to). I never intended to go back. I was certain that if I did, I would be either met with pitchforks, torches, and holy water, or would have a massive heart attack upon entering. The universe has other ideas, though, and I found myself saying to a friend yesterday, “I’ll be there tomorrow.”

My friend needed help. I had the day off. Every molecule in my body demanded that I go, so I woke up, used my coupon for free donuts, and drove the few hours to get there. The traffic was gross, but I didn’t mind it. It was when traffic cleared up and I was a few blocks away that things got wobbly. My hands felt a little lighter. My shoulders tensed. My mind raced: pitchforks or heart attack, which will it be? What horrifying circumstance would undo me?

Whether it was one or the other, I was afraid of one message being received again: I don’t belong here. It was a message I heard a lot when I was in The Salvation Army. I saw myself being greeted by one of the officers who was sure to not want me there and having to explain why I was on campus. I thought of all the scathing things I would say and all the potential reactions. The one that brought me the most hypothetical satisfaction was the simplest: Because love shows up. When people need help, love shows up. In my mind, not only would this be simple, but it was also a little gratifying and pompous.

In order to get to the entrance, you have to drive around three sides of the campus. As I drove, I didn’t know what would happen. What monster was I going to meet? Three right turns and I saw the monster I didn’t plan for: my friend Steve.

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Me and Steve, a Godzilla of love

If I’ve never wanted to jump out of a car I was driving before, I did then.

Steve is the best kind of monster. Steve is, for lack of a better descriptor, a Godzilla of love. Fierce, funny, unapologetic love for everyone, just stomping around this planet, daring anyone to prove themselves unlovable.

Cindy, listen to yourself sometimes: when people need help, love shows up.

I parked and called his name. He hugged me and in seconds, I was laughing. He walked me inside and I waited in his office for a bit. I didn’t feel like I didn’t belong anymore. I don’t know where he was coming from, or where he was headed, but through serendipitous circumstances, he was there.

I went and helped my friends for a while, and while I was helping, a few others showed up throughout my day: Heather came by and helped (I’ve known her since we were nine), and then I ran into her husband Xav, and my former instructors, Beth and Sandy. Dennis, whom I knew as a teenager and now as a young man. Hugs and happy faces. It was a mini “This is Your Life.”

Love shows up.

I was also excited to see my friend Brian, who works there. He’s been good to me over the years I’ve known him. He listens and and asks good questions. We sat and talked for a while before he had to leave and I drove home.

I wish I could have done more to help my friends, but I left knowing they have more help coming, other friends whom I love dearly are going to show up.

Love shows up.

There are times when I am still a little raw about the hurt some people caused. But the deepest part of my soul knows that when life is desperate, when my panic sets in and I need it, love shows up somehow, and often from the friends I have gained through my time in The Salvation Army. It’s not the place for me anymore, but thank God for the people who do get it right. Some are active members and some formers, but we all try to be Godzillas of love.

Because love shows up. When people need help, love shows up.

Family Picture

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Mrs. Weasley and I

It was nice out this week, for the most part, and Wednesday included a very long walk for my 13 1/2 year old dog, Mrs. Weasley. She’s really the best dog in the world. We walked around the neighborhood for about a half hour before coming home. She’s usually camera shy, but didn’t mind this picture. There are many faults I can find with myself – I was just taking the dog for a walk, not going out to be “presentable.” But I kind of like this picture in spite of myself. It was a lovely day and a good walk in the company of the best dog… And besides, who cares how I look when she is so clearly happy?

Double Starbucks

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a double Starbucks day, but today is one. In fact, today might be the first double Starbucks day I have had since I resigned from professional ministry. Last night, I worked until 11, and then had to be back at work at 6 a.m., which doesn’t sound all that awful until I factor in the half-hour drive each way, the fact that I am never actually out on time, and still had to eat dinner when I got home and shower when I got up, and, perhaps more significantly, my brain is more likely to misbehave when I’ve not slept well. My first cup was a venti dark roast I picked up on my way in to work. When I got to work, the place was full of customers. Men just standing there, talking about nothing and drinking their coffees. I think I may have grumbled a hello as I stalked through them to get to the office.

I did not feel very pastor-y today. I didn’t want to have to see or interact with people. I didn’t want to listen to anyone’s problems. And for the love of everything holy, I did not have it in me to be gracious to other crabby people.

As a pastor, I should have known better: people seem to know when I feel least pastor-y, and that’s when they demand it. 

My first shifter got a running start on pushing my buttons. She refuses to take on any responsibility, but wants to do all the management tasks that make her feel like she has authority. She has been in the store longer than anyone else, so she feels like she can do whatever she wants. She is forever telling me what she thinks I should be doing and is frequently disrespectful, particularly when she has an audience. It wasn’t even 7 a.m. when I was venting in my office, via my cell phone, to my sister.

I needed to be gracious in how I dealt with her. But oh my God, why today? Couldn’t she have waited until tomorrow to be in such a spectacularly awful mood?

I spent more than an hour trying to deal with a vendor whose delivery was every kind of messed up you can imagine: wrong products, wrong quantities, wrong prices. We scanned and counted and crossed things off of lists, and still, we got nowhere. There was no combination of things that got us to the right ending.

I needed to be patient. Of all the days to demand patience, today was hardly the best choice, but there we stood, reviewing stacks of Monster energy drinks and trying to sort out $3000 worth of beverages clogging up the hallway.

As a pastor, I should have known better: the universe knows when I can’t handle one more thing, and that’s when it throws its best curve balls. 

My two favorite people to work with are Carol and Abby.* Abby works at the sandwich counter in the store, is barely nineteen, with a pixie face and her dark hair up in twin pom poms that look like Minnie Mouse ears. Last night, we were talking about tattoos, and I told her that the verse written in Hebrew on my right wrist reminds me that no matter what is happening, God’s character is constant. She told me about her tattoos, from the matching bow tattoos she shares with an aunt to the flower on her arm “just because it’s pretty.” Her grandmother, Carol, works on my side of the store. She’s in her mid-fifties, with bottle-blonde hair, pink iridescent lipstick, and a voice that tells you that she has had a wild life. She’s shamelessly herself, chatty, funny, caring, loud, and has the ability to make people feel like they are the light of her world, just by being on the other side of the counter. She’s always talking about her dream of owning a food truck, making good, reasonable food for people in an environment where she can cook, hang out, and live the life she loves. Sometimes, despite the fact that I know she doesn’t have much of an income, she will make a bunch of food and bring dinner for everyone at work just to let us know she cares. I adore her. Last night, I got to work with both Abby and Carol, and it was really great.

When Carol came in today, she looked at me and said “Honey, you look so tired, and a little depressed. Hard day? is everything OK?” I said that I was pretty tired, and that it had been a hard day, but that I was otherwise OK. She asked about how things are going with a guy that I’ve been seeing, and I filled her in on the latest. She was, as usual, glad to hear that things are going well.

“I’ve had a hard day, too,” she finally said. “You know I went to that [lung] specialist today, and that asbestos disease that they talk about on TV? Well, I don’t have that, but it’s almost the same thing. My lungs are all folded up and full of shit and there’s no treatment or anything. I’m gonna get a second opinion, but if it’s this disease, I didn’t do nothing to cause it, but then it’s like, six months and I’m gone.” She wiped under her eye. “Don’t tell nobody. I’m not saying anything until I get a second opinion, and if I talk about it, I’m gonna cry again. So don’t tell nobody, OK?”

Regardless of the work polo I was wearing, I was immediately in “pastor mode” again. I listened, and told her that I wouldn’t talk about it with anyone in the store (given the fact that none of you know her/where I work and names are changed, I figure this isn’t violating her privacy). I was stunned. She has been in and out of emergency rooms for her breathing, and her condition was generally overlooked by the staff at the income-dependent medical clinic that she went to for far too long.

She’s too young. Too nice.
She doesn’t deserve it. I mean, how many people do you know who, when given a six-month sentence, go to work a few hours later and are first concerned about how their raggedy boss is doing?

I’m glad she feels like she can tell me these things. She’s part of my little unofficial mini flock, now that I am in a different kind of ministry. I doubt she thinks of me as her pastor, but she does think of me as a friend, and that’s a privilege I don’t take lightly.

As her friend, I’m devastated, heartbroken. I am so very angry that it is happening to her.

I’m helpless. My years of pastoring taught me well that I cannot fix anything. I can guide, love, teach, pray. but I cannot fix things, and that is the cruelest reality for pastors. Every pastor I know wants to fix things, and not one of us can. I’m reminded, again, by the verse on my arm that God didn’t change from one minute to the next. God is still God, diagnosis or not. No matter how hard that is to comprehend today.

So I do what I can do: I can love. Listen. Grieve. Pray. Be a friend. And drink this tea at Starbucks while I brainstorm how to do those things better.

*Names are changed.

Dancing Fool

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The super dark, sole picture of Brandon and me from last night.

Brandon was trying to point out a guy who was behind me, just off the corner of the lit up dance floor. He spun me once, twice, and then whoosh, I had spun maybe half a dozen times, as fast as my feet could go. My pink skirt flared out and I’m sure more of my thighs were visible than have been in years. My eyes were shut tightly after the first spin and finally my glittery shoes found a place on the floor again, my arms flung around his neck as I laughed and tried to find a steadiness again. The strobe lights made his face look like a stop motion picture while he laughed.

And we kept dancing. One of my oldest and closest friends, he doesn’t care that I can’t dance. I mean really can’t dance.

I’ve mentioned a few (hundred) times that I feel weird about my body, having shrunk quite a lot in the last eighteen months. I’ve always been clumsy and uncoordinated, covered in bruises and Band-Aids and more than a few Ace bandages. It’s little surprise that I haven’t exactly spent a lifetime on the dance floor. I am uncertain, anxious, and almost unbearably self conscious about dancing in public.

Last night was a friend’s birthday party. We had dinner at the best pizza place in the world and then headed to the gay bar that he and his friends have gone to for years. While I know that gay bars aren’t exactly intended to host us straight people, no one has seemed to mind me tagging along. For a straight woman with anxiety, it is easier to be somewhere where I feel like I can totally be myself without worrying about impressing anyone. These friends are as unashamedly themselves as it comes, and they beg me to be as honest, too. There is no room for bullshit with them.

Admittedly, it takes me a drink or two before I let Brandon drag me onto the dance floor. The other guys we go with don’t dance, it seems, so it’s me and Brandon. While I think I can tally my lifetime of dancing hours on my fingers and toes, he has spent decades working on mastering how his body moves. A state-winning athlete as a kid, and then years dancing and in the gym and… Yeah, it’s safe to say that he doesn’t look like the fool I am on my two left feet.

He dances with me anyways. And I’m slowly getting to where I am not as terrified to go dance. I mean, I still am pretty awkward. I am still convinced that everyone else is judging me cruelly when I dance. I fear knowing how many people see my fat jiggle and the sweat start to collect at the roots of my hair, and how pink my cheeks get. I tense up and am certain that everyone else is wondering why on earth my hands are on his hips or his arms on my shoulders, given the fact that it’s a gay bar and we aren’t the most likely of couples on the floor.

There were a couple times last night when anxiety peaked and I thought, “Oh man, I have to stop. Someone find me a corner and a beer,” but then the song would change and he would be excited to keep dancing to the next one. Or I would check myself and remember that most people were ignoring me as much as I was ignoring them. Or, at least once, I thought “screw it, I’m having fun, even if I look like I’m seizing.”

Altogether, it was a really fun night. A few birthday shots, a few beers, a few kisses, a ton of laughter. It was precisely what I needed after a long and miserable week at work. It was another mark of progress, too, since there was a time when no amount of alcohol, or smiles from Brandon, or any promise of fame or fortune could have gotten me to dance.

I did dance, though, and had fun doing it. I was brave, in my own way. And if anyone was hating or judging, they can shove it up their heinies.