Forgive me for combining holidays here–but it’s only at Valentine’s Day that I’m able to reflect with the type of retrospective so common at the turn of the New Year. I’ve always been slow, thoughtful, deliberate, late. Though taking the two holidays together makes more sense in context. For 2009 was the year of love, or almost love, or not really love at all, or self-love perhaps. It was the first year of my life as Nick, and the first year my gender and body were no longer impassable obstacles to my becoming involved physically and emotionally with others. It’s no surprise that I spent the year in relationships, four of them to be exact, though “relationships” is a term I’m using in its broadest sense to include engagement with another in a serial (and for me) monogamous (though unintentional) fashion.
I met the first girl at the start of 2009, literally, midnight-ish on New Years. Re-met would be a more appropriate term since she used to hang out at my house years ago, flirt with my back in the day when I’d run away scared of anyone who wanted my clothes off. When I re-met this girl and she saw my room, she shook her head in disappointment. All I had was one map of the world. For the three years I’d lived there, it was the only thing that made me feel comfortable, a map with its millions of escape routes. I didn’t have a home. Home was something I couldn’t create inside my body and it was something I couldn’t create in my surroundings.
Shortly after we started hanging out, I asked this girl to make a decoration suggestion. “Curtains for your bay windows and a comfortable reading chair,” she replied. The chair is where I’m sitting as I write this, my windows framed by my handsome blue and gold curtains.
I didn’t get to ask the second person for room advice. We never spent an entire night together. But he showed me boundaries, the beauty of the queerest of bodies, helped landscape my internal home. The third suggested a duvet cover for my bed, and how her of her to have the perfect one, to give it to me and make a home for me to rest. The fourth picked out a plant, bringing life into my home.
I’m still feeling the fourth, enough to know it’s time to regroup, time to be alone inside this home I’ve created, time to watch the leaves on my new plant, the hair on my new body grow. I’m feeling her enough to know that today would be a special challenge, and oh, how I love challenges.
I had decided Rusty would be my Valentine long ago, looked forward to yoga today for all that I knew it would be and all that I didn’t. There’s something about his tone, part pleading, wisdom and command, the way he says, “Don’t miss this moment,” so that even if my legs are trembling, and I’m so uncomfortable I want to call it pain, I cannot help but think, “Do not miss this moment,” and that when I’m so beat I can’t see through the sweat in my eyes and he says, “I want this to be the most challenging part of your day. I want this to be the most challenging part of your week,” I know that I can hold sadness, loneliness, loss, and even more, that I don’t want to miss the moment.
The hardest part was towards the end, a two-minute meditation, stillness. Rusty challenged us here too, offered us a couple mantras and goaded us to try them. “I dare you,” he said. “For two minutes, I dare you to repeat to yourself: I am worthy of love. I am worthy of love.” I certainly believe it and I certainly tried, but let’s just say my mind wandered a little. How easy it is to give love to others, and how easy it is to receive love, but how very very hard it is for me to sit with my own love.
He ended class with words he’s said a lot since he opened his new studio though the meanings are infinite. “Welcome home,” he said
“Welcome home,” I said to myself.