These past few days are a blur and I am baffled. Mostly in a good way.
Sunday we stayed in, mostly, and at the end of the evening we played Dixit and Truth-or-Truth For Newbies. Before I left Topaz printed my 188 questions out (by request) and I invented an easier way for people to play. On first play almost everyone finds it difficult to decide who to ask and difficult to come up with a question, so I randomized those choices. I also created a possibility for a point system because Topaz says it's not a real game without one, but everyone opted out of that so I'm gonna discard it I think. I think I might turn ToTfN into a physical game I can carry, by making the questions into color-coded cards and buying a dedicated set of dice and making number cards. But that's a load of work, so maybe not. Anyway, we played them and everyone really enjoyed both games. And, to my surprise, my gparent V and parent M both participated and gave it their best. V actually said today that playing the games was their favorite time so far this visit. I felt really pleased that it went over so well and I'm looking forward to playing again!
I looked up local Champion Trees and found a nature tour that showed off a bunch of old live oaks (my - AND cousin E's - favorite tree) and the state champion red cedar (among other things) and told everyone about it and asked if they wanted to go. They did, so we got up early on Monday to go. The tour was great except that it was scorching hot and the group kept scattering and we moved pretty fast around things, all of which kept me from being able to truly tune in. But we came by this one Loblolly pine that I just fell in love with and really want to go see again. I felt such a connection with it, but it was near the end and everyone was so tired and hot and hungry that I didn't want to hold them up, so I just marveled for a moment and took a quick photo for memory and that was it.
Then we went to a restaurant which was a mess of disorganization - M wanted Golden Corral, everyone else wanted mexican food, we were in two cars and got separated without a shared destination address and then there was a horrid speakerphone call where everyone was saying something different and finally E hung up and I just texted them telling them we decided on the simplest plan. Pibling L was super stressed out by this and so was Ace, which I found interesting and bizarre, as it annoyed me but didn't stress me out. I tried to ask why it was stressful and didn't get much of an answer but I think it has to do with wanting to make everyone happy? If it was my friends having a squabble and not talking out the plan in a kind and respectful manner I probably would have been bothered by it but I think i would have reacted the same way, by making the practical choice for myself and letting them deal or not as they would. I think I only care about making people happy while they are willing to try and help. If they're just going to dig in their heels and shout, I no longer care if I make them happy right now.
Later that day we were going to go to the beach but it started raining right as we headed there, and thundering meant no one else wanted to go. So we sat by the pool and watched the sky until it was no longer thundering, but then everyone just wanted to be at the pool. It was sprinkling lightly for a while and then there was a gorgeous double rainbow! Also E asked me about my ex-spouse and I told them that story, including the years I was working through childhood sexual abuse while my ex-spouse supported me. I also briefly explained poly. And we talked about E and their person, and churches. I told them about my experience with Liberty and how that informed my requirements for future choices. I talked about the Quaker meeting I like and they said they want to go with me sometime.
Later it was just me, P, E, and Ace after everyone went to bed, and we played two rounds of Blockus which was fun and I realized that E is a determined creature, because they were almost completely blocked off but they refused a free move and figured their way out. I would have been despairing of my choices in their position.
Today I woke up to the sounds of an argument about immigration. I hoped it was over before I came out but it was not, so I waded in by explaining the extreme poverty associated with being undocumented and how creating monetary requirements for citizenship (including in the form of fines plus amnesty) is never a solution. Then I mentioned widespread poverty in the US and exploitation of the poor and Ace went off about welfare 'abuses' (from buying alcohol or a car to shopping at a gas station) and I just couldn't get them to understand that them seeing it 20 times or even 100 times doesn't make it true of the average person on welfare. M was certain that welfare makes people lazy and I refuted that with the Mincome experiment and various other countries very successful systems with social safety nets. M then refused to believe in the existence of these things and demanded that I show sources. I told them no, you don't get to put more stringent requirements on my arguments than on your own, and you have shown no sources for your statements. That was the end of it because other people got impatient with the conversation.
Later we went to the beach, which was fun but not really worth it to me - I guess I got spoiled by the trip with Topaz to that pristine bay beach last year. This water felt like human soup - it was still fun to be in the waves but it wasn't a serene experience where I could connect with nature. It felt polluted and overwhelmed, and it was so salty that it stung my eyes from the barest of splashes. But I think that was also the time of day, and I want to try going again around 7p to get softer light and fewer people. I got to share my boogie board and goggles with people, which made me super happy.
After two hours we came back and went to the pool. Ace and E and I hung out for a while talking about sexuality and racism, and E's stories of their person getting stopped for driving while black and then E getting thrown to the ground for videoing it made way more of an impact on Ace than anything I ever said. So I felt like a failure, and also vindicated and also like I need to memorize some stories because damn, don't nobody take macro-level facts seriously.
I asked E what they wanted to get out of the trip and they said they wanted to build relationships that would be more than talking while on vacation. I asked Ace and they said they wanted to be able to relax and build up some strength and confidence. Then E asked me and I said that I wanted to feel able to be myself. L joined us somewhere during this and asked if I felt I hadn't been myself. I said no, I hadn't, because I didn't correct people and people assumed things about me that weren't true of me. I used the example of someone asking me if I have a boyfriend - if I just say no, I'm not being myself because that assumption left unchallenged makes it seem like I'm straight. They seemed to understand that and feel sad for me that I had not felt able to be myself. I mentioned that getting to know Topaz' family made me realize that maybe my family could handle the real me and I should give them a chance to. Somewhere in this conversation I talked about being trans and (in response to E's question) mentioned that I want to change my voice and facial hair.
E asked me how I first knew I was trans, and I told the story in a better way than I had last time someone asked me that, explaining that I felt pieces of it for a long time but it wasn't until I had a mild breakdown that I realized that it wasn't just a set of feelings, but part of my identity. L had a hard time understanding what exactly I meant by genderfree/agender, partly because they hang out with mainstream gay people who are all binary. They couldn't imagine sex outside the hetero script (since even their gay friends use it) or relationships outside of gender and I had no idea how to explain. It's hard to explain because there are no cultural references to non-binary people. How do you even explain an absence of something? My identity with gender is actually not a presence of something but the absence of it. If I were bigender it would be easier to explain, I feel, and easier to accept. I got lost and felt blathery. E took it in and without missing a damn beat started using gender-neutral pronouns. Holy fuckin shit y'all, I hadn't even asked for them. I was so impressed.
L and E exclaimed when I mentioned that being 'ladies'd bothered me and I hastily assured them that I wasn't upset by them and that I hadn't mentioned it because I figured one step at a time, that I know it's tough to absorb. E was appreciative of that and I think L was relieved. I also said that it's okay to call me stuff like 'girl' if you do that with literally all kinds of people.
Later I ended up in a conversation with M and P about homelessness, veterans, and the intimacy of facing death and trauma together. It was fairly on-topic and not too horribly full of wrongness (M made one comment about personal choice to which I said "I'm not going to talk about that"), and it lead to a moment of what felt like real vunerability from M. I was saying that lots of the people who go to war have no experience with real emotional intimacy, and then they go into an intensely intimate experience with others where they share responsibility for each others' lives as well as living space and work - coming back, part of the trauma is loss of that intimacy with no tools available to them to get it back. Nobody teaches intimacy in a meaningful way except in therapy and even then it's iffy, and men especially are taught by society to avoid intimacy with each other, so not even the people who were there with you and came back are available to you when you get back. I said that this was just my guess, and asked for M's thoughts on it. They said it was true, and mentioned their own loss. Something interrupted, and they said that they needed to go lay down and walked into the other room. They did this same abrupt ending last night so I didn't think anything of it at the time but now I'm a little worried I may have stepped on a very sore place.