From the ashes

My close friends and family know that I grew up in a pretty non-traditional household. When I was nine, my mom came out. Within a year my mom partnered with a woman, and I, in my mind, became the kid with the weirdest family of all. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I did all I could to avoid that awkward conversation with friends. “This is my mom’s friend,” I would tell them. “She lives with you?” they’d ask. “Yes,” I’d answer, and quickly change the subject: “Wanna see my new nail polish that changes colour in the sun?”

As a pre-teen, I often flipped through the copies of Ms. magazine that floated around the house–not really understanding what the words inside meant, but for some reason knowing they were important. Once I hit my teen years, however, I forgot all about Ms., wrapped up in new love and all the questions that a teen girl in North America faces. Am I pretty enough? Am I skinny enough? Am I desirable enough? These questions consumed me.

After my first love ended, I was still asking myself those questions. I sought the answers via sex, drugs, and–at the risk of sounding cliché–rock and roll. I slept around, not because I was reclaiming my sexuality, but because that’s the only way I knew myself to be valuable to men. I smoked a lot of marijuana, not because it helped me reach a higher state of consciousness, but because I believed that people only enjoyed my company when I was high. I listened to heavy metal, not because it was a musical genre I really connected with, but because liking it made me the “cool girl”, the one who could just be one of the guys, but who would also drop her clothes if you stuck around long enough.

After several years searching like this, in a dark, damp pit of depressions, I found–or so I thought I found–the answers to my questions. I am not pretty enough. I am not skinny enough. I am not desirable enough. And to top it off, I found the answers to questions I hadn’t even thought I cared about: I’m not smart enough; I’m not funny enough; I’m not good enough.

Fortunately, thanks to endless support from my mom and dad, my friends, paid professionals, and my own true grit, I clawed my way out of that pit. Not one day of that journey was easy. Not even the good days–because I knew they were fleeting. On a particularly bad day, when all I could do was sit on the couch and watch TV, I had to remind myself of those good days, remind myself that this feeling, too, would pass, because when you’re depressed, you believe that it’s forever.

But little by little, inch by inch, I experienced more frequent moments of happiness. I had fewer mood swings. And though I did not consider myself to be happy, I had learned mechanisms for coping, mechanisms that allowed me to function as a “normal” human being. And for several years, that was enough.

But lately, it hasn’t been enough. With these coping mechanisms secured in my emotional tool belt, I had patched up the holes, I’d reinforced the structure, I’d ensured I was working with a solid foundation. But now, this tool belt that once was so crucial to my everyday living is weighing me down. Slowly, I’m laying down these tools, confident that they’ll be there for me if I need them again. And as I lay each one down, I feel lighter, I feel freer, and I feel more myself. Perhaps not surprisingly, what I’m also starting to feel is a need to contribute, to use my talents for a greater good.

Not to toot my own horn, but I know that I have the ability to connect with people through words. I’ve written hundreds of blog posts and articles, both for my own sites and for others’, and I have to say, the posts I am most pleased with are not the ones with the carefully edited photos nor the ones with multiple study citations; they are the ones where I bare my soul, where I show my vulnerability. As such, these are types of pieces I hope to write more of. They may be more politically charged; they may use words that some people look down upon, such as feminist; they may draw from that feeling of importance I got when I flipped through Ms. magazine so many years ago; and yes, they may totally ruffle some feathers. But I encourage you to read them with an open mind, and also to comment and share your perspective, because I’m just beginning to understand what it means to be human, and I can’t do it without your help.


8 thoughts on “From the ashes

  1. What a great post, Amy 🙂 Honest and heartfelt blog posts are always enjoyable and a breath of fresh air from the manicured “look how awesome my life/bedroom/vacation is” type of posts that everyone seems to enjoy putting out. Because that’s not real. Looking forward to more of these.

  2. Oh my darling girl….you’re breaking my heart!! I hope you know how much I – we – love you; . Did we let you down in your times of crisis? Yes, you and Simon had a tough go of it – you are both remarkable human beings and it is amazing that you have come through as well as you have. I only wish we could have done more to help you. Forgive us if we were not there for you. Love forever. Mama Bett xoxo

    1. Oh, no! This was not meant as a commentary on how hard my life has been–it’s a celebration of all that I have ahead of me! Throughout all the years, I’ve always known you–and all my family–were there for me. This was a personal transformation that I needed to go through, and I feel I’m a more compassionate, loving, and even interesting person because of it! I love you so, so much; you–and so many others–have been my rocks, and I’m so thankful to have you in my life.


      1. Yes my love, you have matured into a wonderful, kinder, gentler person. Even when you do tease me!! I love you more for that. It’s such a blessing to me that we are able to talk to each other as we do. It took a lot of guts for you to open yourself up in this way – you are far, far braver than I am – or ever will be. Love you. .Oh, and don’t forget – you have offered to ‘do’ Christmas this year. LOL!

  3. Amy, you are an amazing writer and even better friend. I love being a part of your life and journey, so excited for all the great things you will do and have already become! Thanks for sharing. xoxo.

  4. Well, my apologies darling for the belated and very screwed up post. You know, the original thoughts I had posted were very thought-filled, heartfelt, inspirational, and, of course, extremely witty (because we all know you get at least half your sense of humor from moi). Then poof, the internet ate them up!! So I will try to recapture the heart of it…

    As you report in your blog, I indeed did come out of the closet as a lesbian at 28’ish. Because of this, both you and your brother also had to come out of the closet, but in a very different way. I thrust this journey on you, not because this was how I wanted to raise you, but because it was the only way I knew how to live a full and meaningful life. It was the only way I knew how to teach you to embrace yourself fully, in all your perfect–and imperfect–glories. Some days I believe I succeeded, some days I still question my convictions. You see, I am not as steeped in feminist dogma as you think…I, too, grew up with nail polish and Barbie dolls.

    I do believe we are all called to step into a life that speaks deeply to us, but more often than not, we allow circumstances to define us. I believe what we do with the hand dealt us matters far more than the hand dealt. I can still so clearly hear you saying “wanna see my nail polish that glows in the dark?” My response then was to wave, discreetly (and sometimes not so discreetly) Ms. Magazine around… only to hear teenage-knee-jerk-response: “Ya-NO-Ma”… Seventeen Magazine always trumped. Until now.

    And so, ironically, you, too, are coming out of the closet. But as a full-fledged self identified feminist!

    As you grow, stepping more fully into who you are meant to become, you will notice a continued shedding of various and more subtle version of “wanna see my nail polish that glows in the dark?”. I am still surprised at how much learning I am still doing, more maybe, than ever before. Life is such a delightful gift in that way. My wishes for you are to always hold tight your convictions and be true to yourself. I will always, no matter what, even if you are a closeted Seventeen Magazine reader, be proud of you! And I would stake my life on it: you still indulge and have a healthy supply of nail polish that glows in the dark…

    Yay!!! My baby girly-girl is no longer a closeted feminist!!!

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