I’ve been trying to write for the last few weeks with very little success, obviously, because nothing seems right. I have ideas I want to discuss but, as the words flow onto the screen, I lose rhythm. I lose the point. So I have about a dozen half-written posts with ideas that just lay there, dying. What do I want to talk about? The struggle I’m witnessing in my family and friends? The panic I see arising in people’s eyes as they accidentally use the wrong pronoun or name? The weight of being the only non-binary person in their lives and having to answer questions that even I barely understand at times? The struggle with dating, attraction, and sexuality that is tied to being non-binary but not mutually exclusive? Do I want to talk about my mental health issues, and how they don’t relate, yet still have impact upon my identity? Does this blog have to be about being androgynous or, like me, can it just be about living honestly and fully, and how those adventures weave in and out of being non-binary?
I don’t have the answer right now. But I do have a story.
It was about two Fridays ago. roughly. It was a beautiful day in New York, with the sun shining in one of those blue skies that, try as you might, you can never truly replicate the depth of the color. The air was clean and richly warm, cut from time to time with a cool breeze that exists thanks to geography of the area. To the east the unseen wide expanse of the Atlantic, and to the west old mountains that don’t reach the height of the Rockies, but still break apart the horizon when your eyes shift lazily across the landscape. I was working, driving through small cities and towns, making deliveries and hoping to finish early enough that I would be sent home to enjoy the rest of this beautiful day. But, as all stories subject to Murphy’s law, my last delivery of the day was difficult, and I found myself hauling my truck over Bear Mountain, NY to West Point, to deliver to an alternative location.
I felt the frustration of my journey begin to seep into my bones as I pulled into the town, my eyes taking in familiar sights of the streets and businesses surrounding the academy. I had spent many of a Friday or Saturday at West Point, either for track meets or school field trips. While the shine of the area has long faded into familiarity and youthful disregard of what the area means, I still couldn’t pull the slight smile off my lips at how pretty everything seemed. I remember thinking that it was just the weather giving everything a healthy shine. But I was still frustrated at having to come so far off course. I made my delivery and plotted my course back to my job. While getting into West Point was easy, the main route back to my job had been clogged with bumper to bumper traffic (per usual), so I adjusted my GPS to avoid the highways and toll roads and went on my way. It would take longer, navigating the steep and winding mountain roads but, in my mind, that would be better than the rage-inducing bumper to bumper traffic coming down off the mountain.
One of my favorite pastimes is driving along roads just lined with forest, rivers, ocean and mountains. I may hate living in New York, but those kind of drives reminds me so much of why poets write, and songs are sung, about the beauty of this land. With my hat off, the window down, and sunglasses firmly perched, I navigated the unwieldy truck along the unfamiliar mountain lanes. It was one of those drives that your mind takes off on, your body automatically taking over so your mind has a chance for freedom. for contemplation. The sun broke through the trees overhanging the road, warming spots on my arm as it hung out the window, my hand surfing along the wind as I sped around turns and willed the truck up near vertical hills.
I was relaxed, my mind free of the noise that has been wreaking havoc over my lifetime. So, one can understand the striking feeling, when your entire being is relaxed and a little checked-out of reality, to be jarred back into reality. However, this reality check wasn’t due to an emergency or some fear-striking occurrence. As I mentioned, I had never taken this route before, so I wasn’t fully prepared for what was to happen as I rounded a blind turn on this unknown road.
The road opened up along a deeply rich, green lined lake that bounced the sky off its surface. Dark, leaf rich trees lined the opposite side of the road, the branches sprawling towards the sky as the tall, pale green grass swayed gently in the wind that kissed across the surface, creating stars in the water that shine brightly in the afternoon sun. A small, mountain lake devoid of any touches of humanity, save the road that was painted alongside of it that disappeared into the woods that curved its way away from the lake.
I have driven across this country several times. I’ve stood on both coasts and loved the vast horizon of the oceans. I have seen the wonders of the plains during sunrise, and sunset. I’ve climbed through moss-covered mountains and stared down at the wonders of this Earth from thousands of feet in the air. I have stood atop an ancient fort in Ireland, and gazed out over the world from its cliffs. I have cried before, at the chance to bear witness to the wonders of this planet, grateful to have taken the moment to acknowledge what I was allowed to see.
Yet, as the truck moved alongside this small lake, I couldn’t stop the burning of my throat as tears rolled unchallenged down my face. I could feel the stitching along the steering wheel, rough against my hands, as a sob tore through my lips and a singular thought blasted through my mind, “You would have never seen this.”
I would have lost out on the contented sighs of a well-fed, hodgepodge of friends that found family in each other’s broken pieces, gluing each other back together with each laughter and extra long hug.
I would have missed meeting a new friend who showed me love and loyalty without any second thought. I would have missed seeing her growth into someone she was always meant to be, but didn’t have the space to do so.
I would have lost the chance to meet a woman whose eyes shine with the universe in them and a mischief smile. Who hides so much, but is open all the same.
I would have missed the pride in my therapists eyes when I realized that I meant what I was saying to her, about loving life and hating the struggle, but not wanting to quit.
I would have been gone. My heart would no longer be beating. No one but the dead knows what happens after death, but if I was dead I would not have been on that road, at that lake with the crystal blue sky shining above me and the warmth of the sun on my skin. I would not have witnessed such a beautiful scene, on a random road on the mountain. I would have been gone, either ash or buried in the ground. I had almost died 4 times, and I would have lost that moment.
I would have missed the universe meant to be seen by my eyes.
I cried, furiously scrubbing at my eyes behind my sunglasses as I journeyed past the lake towards the world again. I swallowed hard against the lump in my throat, and took deep breaths to calm myself as I finally arrived back to my workplace. I kept my sunglasses on to hide my eyes, but for once…for once I didn’t have to plaster a smile on my face. I could still feel the tears on the edge of my eyes, but if I could even begin to explain the relief in my chest. The understanding that, even if it is only for one more day, I will be around to see this world. To see its beauty and love it.
It won’t always be peaceful. My mind isn’t an easy place to be, and I struggle. God, how I struggle. I struggle to balance my world; to obtain that happy medium between emotion and logic. To know my purpose, to seek it, and be something worthy of this world. I know I am not the only one. Not the only person who struggles each day just to put one more foot forward; to fit into a world that is in constant flux. Self-hatred has left me with a broken body, and enough scars to last a lifetime. But I’m still moving. Still breathing. Still living.
Even if it is only for one more day, I am still here. And I am me, truly and fully. Others may struggle to understand who I am, and for all the stars in the sky, that is okay. Because in the end nothing else matters. The giggle from a friend when you tickle them. A bright smile of a friend when you surprise them during a game. A thank you text for listening. The smile when you kiss a hand. A child’s laughter as you lift them to the sky. The excited licks from a dog you just met. Watching sleepy smiles around a fire. The feel of fingertips gently tracing scars. The beauty in their existence.
A shining mountain lake, on a crystal blue Friday afternoon. Tears and a smile.
These moments. This existence. This is all that matters.