At 12:30 AM on Thursday, October 16, 2014, I cast my ballot for the November 4 General Election.
That is, I filled out my ballot at home, sealed it in a privacy envelope, placed it in my mailbox, and raised the red plastic flag. Tomorrow, or the next day we receive mail, the postal carrier will take the ballot and it will be delivered to the Elections office to be counted with all the others.
I love Oregon’s vote-by-mail system. I get to sit down with my iPad and read through the issues with my ballot in hand. I can dwell over the ballot without worry others in line behind me will be upset. I can vote in the middle of the night and don’t have to dress appropriately. I don’t have to worry about whether I will be allowed time off to vote during a narrow time window (a significant justice issue for many people who aren’t given the time, my issue is not with work but with disability that makes activity on a particular day difficult). Most importantly, I can ignore the political ads that are only going to get worse over the next three months.
I’m not at all comfortable with this, but I’ve kicked rocks in motion toward applying for more VA Disability Compensation and to start on Social Security Disability.
On the one hand, I am disabled. These programs are designed to help disabled persons. My situation is why the system exists. I need more structure and income. This will provide the needed income.
On the other hand, I am disabled and I hate it. I say it, but I don’t admit or confess it. I’m still trying to prove my worth by producing with my own two hands. If I admit I am disabled and not proving my identity by the work of my hands, what identity do I have left?
One year ago today, I came out as gender questioning. I confessed I had struggled with gender since I was four years old, still struggled with what gender meant in general and for me, and asked friends for patience and assistance. Here are a few thoughts one year later.
I’m still questioning. In settings where labels are important, I use “genderqueer” and/or “gender non-conforming.” The first is a catch-all label for anyone who isn’t comfortable with their assigned-at-birth gender based on physical, sexual characteristics. Gender non-conforming is a little more specific. In my case, it means two things.
If God really is God, that is, the ultimate creator of the universe who is both in all and above all, then nothing I say or do can damage or change God. If you hold this view of God, then there is no reason to worry if I ask questions or posit responses about God outside of your belief or doctrinal system. My process will not harm your God.
If there is no God, then there is likewise no reason for concern if I ask questions and posit responses about God. I do not have the ability to create an ultimate power for the universe with my keyboard alone.
If it turns out God is a God that I can modify or destroy by my questions, then the God I have destroyed was no God at all. That is not to say there is no ultimate God, but that the thing I destroyed was not it.
For forty years, I have uncritically accepted the beliefs of the community that raised me. Within that belief system, I have questioned many of the doctrines, teachings, and practices. I have questioned the big metaphors of sin, salvation, atonement, and nature of God. I have questioned the contents, but I have never questioned the box. I have never questioned God and it is seriously biting me in the ass.
I hit puberty, fell in love with the Big Gulp, and got fat all at the same time. I’m guessing they were related. Since then, I’ve only been not-fat twice. I was in college the first time. Fitting in and being accepted were the two most important things to me, even if it required a form of anorexia to make my body into something I didn’t have to be ashamed of. It didn’t work. I had a 30 inch waist, but was still ashamed.
The second time started in 2008. I don’t know what happened. I steadily lost a couple pounds a week until I had dropped 60 pounds. I gained a few of those back when I went back to school, but I maintained a weight around 180 for a few years. I loved it. I was working through the shame under-girding the eating disorder, so the body shame was being taken care of the right way. I liked the way clothes looked on me. And I liked the way I looked without clothes. Mostly, I liked the way I felt.
In late 2011, my psychiatrist put me on Depakote for bipolar disorder. I expected to gain some weight – everyone gains five or ten pounds with it – so I wasn’t worried when I was 5 pounds heavier at my next check in. The medication was working and that was more important. I didn’t like the second five pounds, but I could handle 190 and I didn’t need to buy new clothes, so I stuck it out. Everyone gains five or ten pounds, but those lucky few keep gaining and gaining and gaining. By the time I stopped taking the Depakote at the end of 2012, I had gained 65 pounds. In just over one year, I went from comfortably fitting into size M clothing to barely squeezing into size XL.
I just received a picture of Timber on the beach with his new family. He’s a mess from swimming in the salt water and running around the wet sand. He looks play-all-day tired and at home with his new people.
It’s been three-weeks since I handed him over and it’s been harder than I’ve let on. I don’t pine for him day and night. I’m not in a major depressive funk. But there are moments I wonder what the hell I did giving away such a great dog like that. Because he really is a great dog.
I have to remind myself that it’s not about great dog. It’s about fit. Timber needs an active family. He needs kids to grow up with. Timber needs lots of relationships. I need the sort of dog who only has eyes for me. I need a dog who prefers to stay by my side. I need a service dog who isn’t so interested in everyone else that he forgets about me. Different needs is all.