Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2016-10-21

You are Stronger Than You Think: Grief, Resilience and Capricorn Resistance

Last week I was shaving my newly adopted cat’s legs in an effort to mitigate his pee smell from peeing on his legs. “Shaving Day” was not a success and continues to be the official low point in our three week relationship. Lucky for me, it was a very consumptive process because I missed the texts from my mother when Grandmother went missing.

biscuitreynoldsHe’s so cute but the pee smell is so gross.

After I released Biscuit Reynolds to his 18 hours of post-shave sulking, I checked my phone. Mom’s series of texts were heart-wrenching, but I was already relieved to have read the most recent one. “I called Eisenhower and talked to Grandmother. She was in the hospital getting tests. She’s being released right now.” The first texts talked of asking me to join the hunt looking for Grandmother. She lives independently and doesn’t love her cell phone so we have to catch her at home in order to reach her. Mom hadn’t reached her in too long and got worried. On a whim she called Grandmother’s favorite hospital and asked for her room—and got her!

bevingrandmothermay2015Me and Grandmother in May 2015 on a visit from NYC. Being closer to her geographically was a big reason I wanted to move to LA.

I’ve been kind of wrapped up in my grief around Amanda’s suicide, so I was glad for a happy and swift resolution. Then I recounted the story to my partner Dara and started weeping. A coping strategy I have from my traumatic childhood is to be able to stay separate from my Feelings during crisis. I’m a complete rock star in crisis, I can solve shit, I can organize, I can motivate—I know how to stay safe and I know how to keep other people safe. This is a great skill but not great for emotional health and the Feelings always come. The weeping while I was telling Dara gave me the warning bell that I wasn’t done having these Feelings about Grandmother going missing.

Later that day I walked into Target and then started melting down. Have you ever sobbed at Target? It’s not cute. Part of what has been hardest for me with Amanda isn’t just the loss of her, it’s how much I identify with her and it’s scary. If the world was too hard for Amanda, will it be too hard for me? This thought often propels me to make the phone call even though I feel awkward talking about my Feelings in Target. I know I need to not isolate and I need to ask for help. So I called Bridget (she’s been so amazing this past month).

grandmotherbevinshermansMe and Grandmother at Sherman’s on Friday. When I asked the waitress for Shabbat candles for the table she was very confused.

I got through everything and then talked to Grandmother. Her test was a biopsy on a mass on her lung. She had gone to urgent care because she was coughing up blood and then they sent her right to the ER who admitted her to find the mass, do the biopsy. Grandmother didn’t call us because she doesn’t get a cell signal at the hospital and “didn’t know anyone’s numbers by heart.”

The fact that Grandmother might have cancer was a lot for me to take. Dara just celebrated two years out of cancer treatment in August. I, unfortunately, know a lot about cancer from supporting her through it. In spite of looming work deadlines, Dara offered to come with me to Grandmother’s the next morning to keep her company while she got the biopsy results from the doctor.

cancersurvivorpark1In May 2015 we did this photo shoot at the Cancer Survivor’s Park in Rancho Mirage, CA. We had NO idea Grandmother would have cancer–that’s the one thing that doesn’t really run in our family.

That night I was snuggling with Dara in “the nook.” My thoughts started floating to the grief places and I was crying. I realized I was soaking her shirt with my silent tears and I rolled over to my side. I felt like I was getting away with something. When you’re grieving sometimes you think your sadness, hurt, confusion, anger, depression is too much for your loved ones. Because often, it’s too much for you. Normally I spit in the face of anything that says I’m “too much” but I’m an independent Capricorn and sometimes I like to seem more together than I really am. Crying silently on my side of the bed felt like I could be more of a mess than Dara thought.

I instantly related to Grandmother. Like me and Dolly Parton, Grandmother is a Capricorn. So is my Great Grandmother and my Great Great Grandmother. An epic line of Capricorn women who in each past generation with deepened misogyny had to seem together and not lose it in front of anyone about grief and abuse and alcoholism and who knows what other trauma legacies are in there. Capricorns are the goat climbing the mountain. Persistent, ambitious, success-driven, not showing weakness. The cardinal Earth sign. The Keep It Together and Look Good Doing It sign.

I understood Grandmother’s reticence to ask for help when she got swept away to the hospital, to sit in a bed by herself and not call her kids or grandchildren. Just to do it on her own and not bother anyone. Getting away with not seeming like a mess or like she needed anything.

cancersurvivor2

I felt glad to relate to her and understand her motivation to isolate. I understand it with love and not judgment. I was also glad to be forcing myself on her to support her through the diagnosis the next day. I was sure she didn’t need someone to be there. She is always so happy and grateful when I come to visit I knew it wasn’t an imposition.

Dara caught on to me crying eventually and got me tissues and was her rock star supportive self. She drove two hours with me into the desert to Grandmother’s house in Rancho Mirage. She sat at the table with me and Grandmother googling the diagnosis, a mass on her lung but possibly a type of adrenal cancer or maybe lung cancer I still don’t know. She showed Grandmother her chemo karaoke video from her cancer vlog “Cancer Can Be Cool” and talked Grandmother through her experience with cancer treatment and how Dara insisted on positivity from everyone in her life.

daragrandmotherchemokaraokeDara worked so hard on that Chemo Karaoke video–she filmed it on her birthday during a chemo infusion at the Memorial Sloan Kettering chemo center where she got her treatment.

My idea was to go out to Sherman’s, our family’s favorite restaurant, a Jewish deli. (Better than most places I’ve been to in NYC—there I said it.) I wanted us to have a celebration for Grandmother’s cancer survival and success. I believe in the power of positive thinking more so than just about anything in my faith arsenal. If you’re going to go for a positive attitude might as well celebrate and have fun.

celebrationfood

We’re in the day by day diagnosis phase right now, where we wait for the next test result, next doctor referral. It’s maddening to a Capricorn like me who wants to plan and know what’s happening. But that’s not how the world works and I have to keep using lots of tools to be cool with it. I’m on my second listen to the just-released audio book The Universe Has Your Back by Gabby Bernstein and it’s got a lot of tools for working with the flow of the Universe, womanifestating and for finding serenity.

I told Grandmother that part of my vision for being a rich lesbian is having a big ol’ compound where she would be able to live in her own space in our house, hold court with my friends (who all love her or will love her, she’s so charming) and she won’t have to deal with telling the gardeners they are not doing a good job she can just tell my house manager. But since I’m not yet a rich lesbian I need her to hold on a lot longer. We gotta beat this.

cancersurvivorpark2The Cancer Survivor Park in Rancho Mirage is really great. Worth a visit if you are in Palm Springs.

There’s a lot to worry about, both me and her. She’s older than she looks and that means she gets a lot of ageism when people look at her chart instead of her whole picture of human health. I can certainly relate to doctors looking at weight and not the whole picture of human health. She is always concerned that she won’t get to live independently anymore. I want to be able to be there a lot for her treatment but we just adopted this cat and he stressed out with us gone for one night that he started pooping blood. I just recommitted myself to finishing the memoir I shelved during Dara’s cancer treatment.

I get that worry is a misuse of imagination. I’d rather focus on how fun it will be to make art projects and adventures out of her cancer treatment. We almost convinced her to sing a Dolly song for an instagram video to help me promote Dollypalooza LA on October 29th! She’s got cute stories about being almost famous early in her life, about being constantly mistaken for a celebrity while living in Beverly Hills and now I think everyone thinks of her as an older celebrity while she’s tooling around Palm Springs. We are hopeful she’ll consent to being part of Dara’s cancer vlog. Grandmother is basically a gay icon waiting to happen.

daragrandmotherwalkingHeart emoji. Literally every time I write a gratitude list Dara is at the top.

Before Amanda died, the phrase “You are stronger than you think” kept popping into my head. I didn’t realize it then but that was the Universe telling me I am ready and resilient, even as I don’t really feel either just yet.

cancersurvivorpark3

2016-01-27

How We Found Our House in LA

As soon as we decided to move to LA I insisted I would only move into a house. They have all of these houses out here that are 2 bedroom, 1 bath bungalows, with little yards and washer/dryers and no walls sharing with anyone else. I’ve never lived in a stand alone house as an adult.

A huge part of why I was so ready for a departure from NYC was to live in an area that had less population density. Not that LA is a small place but it is more spread out. My apartment building was a huge pre-war beauty, with a Flintstones meets Camelot style grand lobby and truly the biggest two bedroom apartment of anyone I knew. But it was also a box in a building full of boxes, with people surrounding me at all times.

As I’ve developed my woo, I am realizing how much space I need, physical, emotional, spiritual. It’s helpful for me to get recharged in places where all I can see in one direction is what (in my belief) the Goddess made. Nature. The beach. The forest. The rolling Smokey Mountains. The desert. It’s also really exciting for me to get to live in a climate where my seasonal depression will be more low key.

When deciding to move to LA, here’s all of the factors that swayed me back to the left coast (I grew up in the Bay Area):

10% Seeing Grandmother more frequently
10% Seeing my Aunt/Godmother of choice more frequently
15% Developing a closer relationship with my family (who are all really funny and awesome)
25% Lessening/eliminating my seasonal depression
20% Living in a house
20% Further developing my spiritual and artistic gifts

Anyway, I knew having a house would be instrumental to all of that. (For more about our process, read this post.) When we visited LA last May, it was my intention to wander the city, get to know it and decide where we were going to live. Dara was just glad to be coming back to LA, she left it up to me to decide our neighborhood. (Obviously she still had veto power.)

grandmotheranddaracancersurvivorparkGrandmother and Dara at the Rancho Mirage Cancer Survivor’s park. (Dara survived cancer, Grandmother has thankfully not had cancer.)

I considered a pretty wide stretch of spaces. My Grandmother is in Rancho Mirage (two towns over from Palm Springs, I’d call it a low-key ritzy retirement area). The area has great developing professional industry. Which is good for me because I have to start my day job career over again. It’s two hours from LA proper, though, and it’s even farther from the beaches. But it’s 15 minutes to the mountains and the desert from Grandmother’s house.

My beloved Aunt/Godmother of choice is in Camarillo, so are two of my cousins and their kids. My family immigrated there from Canada when my mom and her siblings were pre-teens. It’s a magical place with a lot of energy for me. I know a bunch of awesome queers in the next town over, Ventura, which is a gorgeous sleepy beach town that I adore.

I have some awesome friends in Long Beach and considered that for cheaper rent and access to the beach. We stayed there for a couple of days during that May trip and got a feel for it.

We stayed a couple of nights on “the Westside” as I’m hearing folks call it, the area of LA by the airport and the beaches. We were in LA proper at a hotel (Dara had a work conference, I was “conference wife” in the fancy hotel room) and seconds from Marina Del Rey, a gorgeous beach town. Not far from Santa Monica and Venice, both totally captured my heart I loved them. I really thought I might want to live out there.

But then we visited my friends in the Northeast section of LA (Highland Park, specifically) and there were wild parrots flying overhead, it’s nestled into these amazing hills with huge regional parks with hikes and views of the sunset and an abundance of those 2 bed 1 bath bungalows with detached garage art studio spaces and yards. And then we went to a party at another one of those houses with a bunch of awesome queers and I realized it reminded me of the best parts of living in Brooklyn. It was going to ease my transition to start in a neighborhood where I knew folks who were easy to get to.

sunteaMy first pot of sun tea. The first thrift store we went to on Sunday had this beauty and two matching glasses for only $5! The first brew I’m doing is my reiki infused tea “calm” blend because me and Dara need to find our chill during these unsettling house taken care of times.

We visioned hard for the house we wanted. We wanted to be able to see the sunset every day while I drank iced tea. We wanted a porch, a yard for Macy, a garden for me, at least two bedrooms plus a sunroom/office. Abundant closet space, a nice bathtub, a great kitchen, on site laundry, and no shared walls. A driveway. I also loved my joke about having an avocado tree. My friend James Leander (in Ventura) had an avocado tree and said they got “bathtubs” of guacamole. My rent in Brooklyn included NO guacamole.

Every time we Craigslist researched the neighborhoods we were interested in living in, we always saw listings for bungalows for $1800 a month. One time we saw a place with a FRIGGIN’ COMMUNITY POOL for that much. I immediately imagined teaching a fatty and allies aqua jog classes in the pool.

night1intilehouseFirst night in our new house!

But when we got to actually looking for our house, we weren’t finding much of anything. We cut our road trip short in New Orleans after I got sick and wasn’t getting better on the road, heading straight for Tuscon and then Dara’s mom’s place in Vegas. We had intended to spend a week with her mom getting our stuff sorted to head to LA to look for houses. We started looking and things were bleak. Here are the websites we looked at:

Craigslist
Westside Rentals (free to search, $60 for the contact info for each rental)
The Rental Girl (not a ton of inventory)
Padmapper (GREAT for apartments, not great for houses)
Lee’s List (you have to get invited by an industry person and it costs to be a member, but there are listings there in NYC and LA, really great for short term rentals, house swaps and furniture, too)

Here are the neighborhoods we looked at (for my friends who are in the process of moving to LA), these were all within about 10 minutes of someone we know:
Lincoln Heights
Cypress Park
Highland Park
Atwater
Silver Lake
Los Feliz (Dara used to live there)
West Hollywood
Echo Park
Eagle Rock

Among all of those we found five possible contenders for houses, and getting a response was really difficult. Among our first round of reach outs was this quirky looking place with blurry photos but great tile work. “The house with the great tile” wasn’t going to be ready to see until after the weekend, which was great timing for us.

housewithtileThe front walk is all fancy tile from the 1960s. Having never remodeled a home I had no idea how expensive nice tile is.

We kept looking every day at the rentals and found maybe five other places that could work. Several were snatched up before we even heard back from landlords. Dara’s persistent, so she reached out to folks to express continued interest when we didn’t hear back.

The house with the great tile scheduled a go-see with us on Tuesday for Wednesday, so we had to last minute pack up the car and find a place to stay in LA. Grandmother came through so we arrived at her place at midnight. We left extra extra early the next day to make sure we wouldn’t hit traffic and miss the showing of the house.

Once we got there I did a snapchat video saying, “Are you our new house?” because I love snapchat and thought this could be a funny ongoing series while we looked at houses. There was another couple visiting the house, too, and the landlady showed all of us. She didn’t realize we weren’t all looking at the house as one big group, even though Dara was actively trying to cock block the other couple because she already loved the house.

It’s a quirky place. The backyard area is shared with the rear house and is cobblestone. The house is basically original from 1920. Almost 100 years old. The rear area has a shared garage space that is full of storage. There’s a cellar with a washer/dryer hook-up. The landlady is an antique tile dealer and she took great pride telling us all about the fucking gorgeous tile backsplash throughout the kitchen. There is a breakfast nook that gets morning sun. AKA A SUNROOM. There’s a built-in BBQ from the 1920s that would be a great open flame grilling situation and/or a fire pit for parties.

There are two bedrooms and the bathroom is a “Jack and Jill” bathroom (with breathtaking antique tiles, natch). The Jack door to the bathroom is totally fatphobic, I have to turn sideways to get in. The master bedroom isn’t huge but it has a door to the side yard where our landlady built a fountain. When I read fountain in the Craigslist listing, I thought it was a like a standard fountain but it’s a five tiered cement trough left over from watering animals she thinks. Now it is a fountain that trickles below the master bedroom window. The side yard is a private yard that has great shade for plants that don’t need full sun and maybe room for a hammock. And oh, yeah, a really tall avocado tree. When I saw that, that’s when I started really thinking this house could be a contender.

I had really been visioning for a version of our friends Madeline and Kristen’s gorgeous house, so when this didn’t look like it right away I didn’t see it. But then when I was able to really take in the quirks of it, I could see this was so much of what we had visioned for. And sometimes when things don’t look right away like what you wanted you don’t notice it.

We hung out long past the other couple (they were gone in 10 minutes) and I noticed that the sun was starting to set–and we could watch it from the front porch. I could easily make sun tea on that porch with the afternoon sun.

But the best and quirkiest part of the house was the weird staircase ladder to the stand-up attic that runs the length of the house. As soon as I got up there I saw that it was a prime place for me to put in a Mariah Carey closet.

atticphase1I have already borrowed my uncle’s shop vac to start working on my closet build out.

Ever since I saw Mariah Carey on Cribs she’s been my closet idol. Like, her closet situation is on point. I love my clothes, they have taken up roughly half of the footprint of my bedroom in my past several apartments. I knew it would be a challenge to cohabitate with Dara and my clothing. When I’m a rich lesbian I will have an entire suite as my closet. With a circular shoe chair.

circularsofaI saw this at a furniture clearance sale in Mid-Wilshire today.

Anyway, the amazing tile house had a ton of applications, but the landlord didn’t like anyone who had seen it. I mentioned casually my FAVORITE piece of small talk, “I don’t know if you’re an astrology person, but, it’s Mercury Retrograde, it’s not a great time for contracts or communication.” That’s how you have to intro it–“I don’t know if you’re an astrology person, but…” and it will open up spiritual convo if the person is into it. Usually they are.

Turns out, in addition to dealing antique tiles she’s been a tarot reader for 35 years and does energy cleansings and house cleansings. The houses energy was clean (I could feel that) and you know how many energy clearings were included in my rent in Brooklyn? None.

We paid the $30 application fee for the credit check, went back to Rancho Mirage and spent forever on the application, emailing it that night. The next day, when our landlady emailed us to say we got the house, we were in the living room of my Grandmother’s jumping up and down all three of us hugging.

Grandmother was a real estate agent in Beverly Hills for years and said, “Remember this feeling,” before she gave us lots of rental advice of taking photos of everything so we get our deposit back.

We had to quickly drive back to LA to sign the lease and put down the deposit on Thursday (remember we saw the place Wednesday), moved in on Saturday even though the floors were still tacky from the refinishing. We had to do a lot of cleaning and I have a huge task of cleaning out the attic and building out my closet.

But you know what I have? The house I visioned for. I believe in thinking positive and dreaming big. As someone who struggles with depression, thinking positive is a big piece of my self care. I can easily slide into the vortex of thinking there’s no house available for me and I have to settle. But I kept on believing for it and I worked for it (we spent SO much time looking at places and A LOT of time on our emails to landlords and the rental app). I really believe in the “ask, believe, receive” idea of the universe (Notes from the Universe is my jam), and we really went for it.

Dara kept saying that we were cutting our road trip short because our dream house was waiting for us. And I kept praying to have the house hunt be easy on us. And even though there’s a ton of stress when you don’t know what’s waiting for you on the other end of the unknown, I find it worth it to lean into it and try to have fun along the way.

Also, the house happens to be in the exact middle of all the neighborhoods we were looking at. And we’re 9 minutes from Chase and Taylor, 9 minutes from Kristen and Madeline, 13 minutes from my awesome cousin Sooz and her GF Masa. Every time I look someone up it’s so fast to get to their place!

I’m super excited to blog about the process of fixing up the house. Right now it’s like we’re camping–the house is drafty as fuck and it’s 42 degrees at night, we’re sleeping on an air mattress, our landlady still hasn’t gotten us a fridge so we’re eating out of a cooler. (Perhaps most awesome is being just 6 minutes from Dara’s bestie TR, who lives in a legit log cabin on a hill in Echo Park with a gorgeous view–being so close has been pretty crucial for us in these times with no fridge because we’re keeping Macy’s homemade dog food in TR’s freezer.) But we’re also making a home and I look forward to our house being comfortable and even more the place of our dreams.

viewfromTRporchThe view from the legit log cabin where I am writing this blog post because our house doesn’t have electricity right now because of the former tenant’s delinquent bill and LADWP bureaucracy. I feel like Megan Draper up in this hill because her house on Mad Men was nestled in a hill like this.

2015-11-25

How I Use A Positive Outlook as an Activist to Cope When the World Seems Terrible

Yesterday my therapist said something pretty surprising to me. “I saw this Barbara Walters special with Donald Trump. I can’t believe she would give him that level of publicity, and I am so sad that he is going to win the presidency.”

My therapist is a pretty positive person and generally very supportive of my positive outlook on life, so her certainty of the fate of a Trump presidency was shocking to me.

That sentiment, that resigned idea that the world is a terrible place, is hard to avoid right now. It’s hard to stay resilient against that idea. The terror attacks on Paris and Beirut. The media and social portrayal of support for Paris but ignoring Beirut, reminding us how the media devalues brown bodies.

The fact that Obama wants to let in only 10,000 Syrian refugees (and the amount of displaced Syrians is in the millions). Yet the House voting to block Syrian refugees even though refugees in the US are vetted for years and it would be extremely difficult to actually get away with terrorism as a refugee in this country.

The last few weeks have been jarring with the amount of hatred, fear, lack of humanity that is making the news. But at the same time, we’re in a time of deep unrest and outrage. I think it’s tantamount to the sentiment that you have to see the dirt in order to clean your house. I think we’re seeing the dirt.

My world view is not for everyone. If anyone out there would rather give up, see the world as a terrible place and resign themselves to the Trump presidency and live in fear, I think that is totally fine. But for me, I need to stay positive to stay alive, and I’m going to stay alive, so I can keep encouraging people to love themselves.

My therapist talked about moving to Canada. I remember many folks talked about moving North when George W. Bush was running for president and I don’t know that many people who actually did.

But that’s not my ethic. I’m not going to run away. I’m going to stay put, stay present, stay outraged and stay loving. I am going to believe for the best in people, I am going to believe that Trump will not win the presidency, and I am going to believe in the inherent good of the world so long as people like me stay compassionate and positive. And, let’s be honest, being president is a lot of work and I don’t actually believe he’s interested in doing the work.

Tomorrow in the US we celebrate Thanksgiving. Last night I was trying to think of ways to acknowledge at the meal I will be attending that the holiday ignores the mass genocide of the Native Americans with whom White settlers were supposed to be making peace, while still being socially appropriate. I think that comes from maybe leading a grace that names it, honoring those who died outrageous and unfair deaths, the legacy of colonialism that continues to affect Native Americans and other POC in this country. It comes from feeling genuine gratitude for what we have, and vowing to use what we have to uplift people affected by that legacy.

I leave this with a quote from Grace Lee Boggs, an incredible activist who lived to be 100 years old and passed away on October 5, 2015. Her tenacity and positive outlook resonates with me, and inspires me to continue to use my belief that we can continue to do better and do our work on an individual level to affect the higher good. (I highly recommend renting the documentary about her life and work, American Revolutionary: The Evolution Of Grace Lee Boggs.)

gracel-lee-boggs_robin_hollandPhoto of Grace Lee Boggs by Robin Holland.

“Love isn’t just something you feel. It’s something you do every day when you go out and pick up the papers and bottles scattered the night before on the corner, when you stop and talk to a neighbor, when you argue passionately for what you believe in with whoever will listen, when you call a friend to see how they’re doing, when you write a letter to the newspaper, when you give a speech and give ’em hell, when you never stop believing that we can all be more than we are. In other words, Love isn’t about what we did yesterday; it’s about what we do today tomorrow and the day after.” – Grace Lee Boggs, The Next American Revolution

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