Toronto
3 min

Changing on the inside

Stella! Stel-la!

Stella, the newest, smallest member of my increasingly queer family, arrived last month with bright red hair, pinched little nostrils and two mums — one of whom is my sister-in-law.

Little Stella is born a year after our daughter Gracie touched down in our lives, wreaked havoc, forced new growth and completely changed our understanding of love. Stella is fair, chubby and calm next to Gracie’s dark eyelashes, restless nature and easy tan. Stella was born into a roomful of family and friends, video camera buzzing, while Gracie was born more quietly, more simply. Each had her own journey, a universe of change inside a nine-month span in the womb. The epitome of “you can’t step in the same river twice.”

I have been wanting to be born again.

My sister got engaged last weekend. She’s marrying a man, finally fulfilling my mother’s dream for a big, straight (Italian) wedding, although not in a Catholic church as once planned. When my sister told me she said, “I won’t be married in an institution that doesn’t accept everyone, or reflect me and Adam and the values we share.”

I think she would have got there with or without her queer older sister, but the miracle came in her telling our mom and having her respond, “So you don’t get married in a church. Fine.” She admitted to having begun to question the Church’s teachings herself, like the notion of God as a father (her own being a lovable tyrant) and to offer that maybe there’s room for both male and female in her understanding of God.

Mum has come a mile since crying tears of non-joy at City Hall when I got married to Andrea in 2005. The progress has been slow but looking back it seems like another case of nine months and a universe of growth.

I tend to throw out the baby with the bathwater. It isn’t a healthy (or practical) habit, but it’s one related to my OCD in that the minute something starts to look messy I want to forget it ever happened. Situations, relationships, circumstances should be neat, pretty, clearly defined, but they almost never are.

I wrote last month about trying to reinvent myself — uprooting myself from the soil that has supported my growth in all the wrong directions — through the overhauling of friends, job, habits, etc. Sometimes it feels like everyone around me is doing new things, moving forward, being born, getting married. I already have the big decisions in my life set right where I want them, but it’s the internal change I am waiting to see, which takes way longer than nine months and requires a lot more patience.

Someone articulated that I am suffering the dilemma of trying to change everything while staying in the exact same place. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am still me — it doesn’t matter who my friends aren’t anymore, where I don’t work, what my hair used to look like. Some of the changes I’ve made have not been well thought out, forced, so I can feel that I’ve changed something while my internal self plugs away at the same old insecurities, same old issues. New people can’t see the old me, so through them I can pretend she never existed, doesn’t still exist as an amalgamation of experience, some of which might actually be valuable if I don’t ignore it or try to wash it away. The baby with the bathwater.

One of my old friends wrote me to ask if I’d ejected her from my life via my last article. She is someone who has seen me at my worst, struggling with self-esteem, depression, ego. Being much more sure now about who I am, I’ve been wanting to void my life of reminders of that struggle, make everything clean again. So I let our friendship lapse, was willing to give away someone who has been unconditionally loving and accepting, who has always showered me with praise and encouragement, especially when I didn’t feel I deserved it. All of the arguments I gave last month don’t erase the fact that I was who I was, that she saw it and that history will continue as one amid a hundred other things in both of our minds whether or not we stay friends. As I continue to remove people from my life I am removing any evidence that I can be loved “warts and all.” And Lord knows one thing that definitely has to change is that I need to believe I can be loved — no, need to believe I deserve to be loved — no matter what I’ve done or who I was. Warts and all.

So I found an old friend again. One less friend request, one more real friend. What she helped me realize is that everyone needs a couple of bridges between old and new. Stella has a belly button. My sister is putting a new ring on an old finger. I am not sure I want an entirely clean slate anymore or, rather, as it’s impossible, it’s better to embrace the old, the new, the borrowed, the blue. I am more complicated than my OCD would like.