I have a friend who identifies as a minimalist, and another who lives in a tiny house up in the mountains. I am a big believer in minimalism and I know that it definitely serves my spirit. Whenever I’m in a hotel room, I always secretly wish that I lived there, surrounded only by the things I am actively using with lots of empty space.
My one-bedroom apartment in Minneapolis had almost no furniture. I had a single mattress on the floor where I practiced somersaults while I was writing my dissertation (great for turning your thinking upside down and seeing things from a different perspective—as well as giggly fun for my inner kid). I had a desk in the dining room where I wrote my dissertation. Eventually I inherited a couch so guests could stop sitting on the carpeted floor. And each room had an altar representing an area of life according to the feng shui principles of my space.
I am very positive that I’ve had multiple past lives in the monastery because a life of austerity surrounded by books and immersed in contemplation comes very naturally to me. Though I now lean more toward hedonism, prior to going on hormones I had strong ascetic tendencies, prone to regular fasting not only of food but of anything that brought pleasure or threatened to distract me from my spiritual path.
Despite my appreciation for simplicity and inner leanings towards minimalism, my everyday life often tends toward the opposite. Those of you who know me know that my inner and outer life is always filled to the brim with complexity. Decades in the academic world taught me to deeply unpack the intellectual and political underpinnings of any aspect of life. My 3 spiritual paths help me to perceive the emotional and energetic dimensions of life unnoticed by most people. And my polyamorous romantic orientation has taken me through complex negotiations and explorations many folks find baffling, even abhorrent.
Once I care for somebody, I tend to keep them in my life, despite challenges presented by geography and change, so my life is abundantly full of relationships. And my home space is still cluttered with boxes brought home from my office when I left my position at CU, my socks and underwear living downstairs in our meditation room closet because my bedroom closet is piled high with teaching materials I am currently using for my Transgender Wisdom book project.
My schedule is perpetually filled beyond the limits of human capacity—solved in grad school, in the absence of available cloning technologies, by only sleeping every other night. Since leaving teaching, my professional offerings have multiplied such that, when listening to one of my favorite gospel songs and the preacher exclaims “Somebody is getting ready to start a business, a practice, write a book, score a hymn,” I find myself saying yes, yes, yes, YES to all of the above. On any given day, it is hard to know what to prioritize because I am living multiple lives simultaneously.
I realized when I was living in Missouri that this is just how I do life as a trans person, multiply. In Missouri I had an office and responsibilities in multiple university departments, and most of the time I lived there I also maintained an apartment, sang in a choir, and participated in a spiritual community in Minneapolis. It is how I got together with my Beloved so I don’t regret it for a moment. Living this way has been a rich learning experience—double the lessons, double the work, but double the rewards.
However, recently I have been in a season of extreme clearing out. Spirit is helping me clean house and has been pretty ruthless. After a summer of intense challenges and loss, I breathed a huge sigh of relief as the weather turned towards fall, the semester started, and astrologically we finally moved out of the ass kicking summer cycle of confronting and shedding our programming. I made it! I survived! I was prematurely overjoyed and proud of myself. Little did I know that the season of challenge and loss was only beginning for me, the summer merely a warm up for some of the most intense circumstances of my life.
An hour before my first day of class I learned that my mom was on her way to the hospital. While I was in California with my mom, my partner of 12 years asked me for a separation. When I returned, my housemate was diagnosed with breast cancer and, on the day she was diagnosed, my partner—my Beloved soul mate with whom I’d planned to share the remainder of my life journey—broke up with me.
My mom has Parkinson’s so I knew at some point she would have a health crisis, but the loss of my Beloved was something I never anticipated. In my whole life, she was the only thing I ever felt 100% certain about—I never doubted whether I was meant to be with her. And never spent a single moment contemplating life without her. So it has been a major adjustment to my whole story of my life—past, present, and future.
I have been practicing letting go and letting go, accepting, trusting the process of life, trusting that everything that happens is for my highest good, even if I can’t see it. I’ve felt inclined to reach out to those who are suffering more than me—and to use what I’m learning from my own suffering to help the world. That feels like the best path forward.
Despite the losses, there have been incredible gifts! My mom, my housemate, and I have been supporting one another in making healthful life changes, finally mastering the fundamentals of self-care that the 3 of us never quite learned—all of us facing some pretty severe consequences if we aren’t able to get a better handle on it. It has really been key for each of us to not be trying to do it alone and I have felt a new depth of partnership with both of them, as my life partner moves out of that spot.
And there have been dramatic, life changing, miraculous healings with my mom. My relationship with my mom has been my most challenging relationship over my whole life. I’ve spent most of my life running away from her, trying to stay clear so that I could feel safe. But since my recent time with her, I’ve come close and we’ve shifted to a daily relationship. She got out of the hospital last week and I am out in California with her again, ensuring that she gets off to a good start in the transition back home.
The Parkinson’s has forced her to slow down, which has allowed her to be more present and I am finding myself surprisingly nourished by our everyday connection—not something I even would have imagined possible—and she is really thriving in the consistent contact. We now have the kind of easy friendship I have with many people in my life, enjoying one another’s company and readily sharing back and forth, including her apologies and regret about the disconnection in our past. Truly miraculous!
The departure of my partner has also allowed the consolidation of my energy and focus which has led to a blossoming of my creative work. Over my whole adult life, I have mostly focused on relationships—that’s where I have given the bulk of my life energy, oftentimes to the detriment of my work in the world. Since I’m not being allowed to do that right now—since I’ve been freed from that—my life energy has been focused on my writing, pushing me forward like catching a wave when you are sea kayaking.
Despite being suddenly and unexpectedly single, I don’t really feel fearful about my future. I’m sensing this might be a season in life where I am meant to be unpartnered so that I can give myself fully to my work in the world. It was a huge gift that I did have such an ideal partnership for 12 wonderful years, one that lovingly held my testosterone journey and all the upheaval it caused, and—since I have never been single for more than a few months in my whole life—I’m a little excited to see what learning that might hold for me. And the deeper sense of partnership I might feel with myself as a result.
So now I am cultivating more of a life path of minimalism. Over the last couple years everything non-essential has been steadily removed so that I can touch my core and life force energy more directly. I’m starting to enjoy the new simplicity in my life. It is easier to focus. There is space for energy to move. Without all the clutter, I can see myself—and my path—much more clearly.
I’ve always been afraid of change because I was so afraid of loss, so this purifying process has lifted that deep fear from my heart so it no longer has power over me in the same way. That has been liberating—almost exhilarating. And it has made me even more determined to love.
I have a feeling I may eventually look back on this time in my life with tremendous gratitude, as a destiny changing turning point that was one of the greatest gifts of my life.