I couldn’t be more grateful for those two numbers.
I ran around yesterday lovingly yelling, “I’m 47!” My family laughed. I’m still a child at heart so it was fitting.
My birthday—on 9/9—is supposed to be influenced by some massive cosmic astrological event. Sweet, right?! Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m happy about that, but I’m really happy that I’m still here to write this post. That I’m happy and loved unconditionally by those closest to me. And that I’m free from the drama of a narcissistic/sociopathic relationship.
We ordered Domino’s pizza, ran errands (read: bought trash bags), watched the movie Twilight with the kids (while Scott fell asleep), and we hung out in our dear friends’ hot tub for a few hours in the middle of the day.
Total jackpot birthday.
There was a time in my life I didn’t think I’d have any of this. And I know many women right now who are wondering if they’ll ever feel free and loved in all the ways any of us deserve to be.
“You will,” I tell them. When the time is right, and you’re ready/able to move on from an abusive relationship, you’ll do it. I know you will.
Yesterday, my agent started sending out my book proposal again after the literary industry took a summer hiatus. She picked the date without even knowing it was my birthday. I love when that kind of thing happens. I’m excited to see what’s around the bend regarding my stranger than fiction memoir.
I’m still yelling it because I believe in all week birthdays. Thankfully, so does my family.
And because I believe in celebrating every precious year that I am exactly where I’m meant to be.
Eating Domino’s pizza while watching Twilight with the loves of my life.
Sitting cross-legged in the door jamb to the outdoor balcony of my apartment had become my go-to place during a fight. As I carefully unwrapped a fresh pack of Virginia Slim menthols, I leaned forward to see if my neighbors were anywhere in sight. They weren’t, thank god. What I was about to do broke the apartment complex rules, so naturally, I had to see if anyone was looking as I lit the end of the cig and sharply inhaled. I began puffing away the pain. It was September 9, 2016. I was 43.
After two years of birthday fights, you’d think I’d be used to this by now. Every event or holiday that meant something to me was thrashed by the very man who said he loved me. It was a pattern even he noticed yet still perpetuated. His fighting was electric in every sense—he cut me to the core with the touch of his keyboard all the while igniting a flood of stress hormones into my system making me feel high. We weren’t even fighting in person because he was back East visiting his kids, but I still felt tethered to his rapid-fire assault. I couldn’t just let my phone be and walk away.
Carefully, I put out the last of the cig in a small water-filled cup and reached for another. Just then, my phone rang. It was Scott. Wiping tears from eyes, I cleared my throat before I answered his call.
“Happy Birthday, Kiersten.”
“Thank you. I appreciate that. Is everything okay with the kids?”
“Yeah, they’re both busy and good. I just wanted to see if I could drop off a little present for you. From Grace. And another little something.”
In that moment, I felt both happiness and dread. I didn’t even know it was possible to feel both emotions at the same time. I knew what would happen if he learned that Scott was popping by.
“Yes, of course, thank you.”
About twenty minutes later, there was a knock on my apartment door.
“Hey, so, happy birthday, again. I wanted to bring you a few things. One is from Grace. I know you’re seeing the kids for your birthday tomorrow but she asked me to bring it by.”
“That’s so sweet, come on in.”
We walked to living room area when I started choking up. “Hey, so can we run upstairs to the balcony for a second? I could really use a smoke.”
“You and your rebel ways,” he said grinning. “Of course…Wanna open these upstairs?”
We climbed the stairs to the smoking spot. Scott wasn’t a smoker although when he was in a play in his twenties, his character smoked. He could pick it up and put it down. I thought I was that way, too, until I wasn’t. I’d been living with a two-pack a day smoker for the last six months. One who thought it was okay to light up inside the apartment. Eventually, I gave in, too. I’d lost the battle in many ways.
Lighting cigs while sitting cross-legged near the open door, we took a few puffs off our menthol-flavored cancer sticks. Then Scott handed me two bags: one with Grace’s sweet homemade gift and the other with a bottle of gin, a Cosmopolitan magazine, and a happy birthday card.
Feeling the burning sensation in the back of my throat that would quickly be followed by a flood of tears, I tried to suck the emotion back down. It didn’t work.
The one I thought I loved was still assaulting me on text, although I hadn’t looked in the ten minutes Scott popped by. I could hear the faint alert that yet another dagger had arrived.
The one that loved me, whom I’d hurt so terribly two years prior, was sitting opposite me offering kindness and compassion. He knew what was happening. It wasn’t hard to decode yet he never said a word about it.
Instead, Scott made me laugh through tears, telling me about how he almost got kicked out of a Scottsdale karaoke bar for defending his date. When there was nothing left to chat about, he simply sat with me, cigarette dangling from between his fingers.
His kindness cloaked my weary, strung out body with a blanket of ease. The kind of ease that comes with eighteen years of marriage and two kids. The kind of ease that eventually helped save me from a lifetime of abuse.
Today, as I was thinking about my upcoming 47th birthday, I thought back to that day. To his kindness and unwavering faith in me that I’d eventually claw my way out of the abuse. To his willingness to just sit with me, smoke a terrible cigarette, and remind me that I was born to give and receive kindness…and be more than someone’s punching bag.
** I quit smoking after I got out of the abusive relationship in 2017, and reunited with Scott. It was easy to do since I wasn’t on the receiving end of verbal and emotional abuse anymore. If you’re dealing with narcissistic/sociopathic abuse, I hope you have someone like Scott in your life to remind you that love shouldn’t hurt.
More info about my upcoming book.
As a woman who has personally worked on trafficking and child murder cases involving pedophilia, I can say that most of the crap that is being spewed about pedophile rings is false.
Ricky Gervais is not a Trump operative working to take down the Hollywood pedophiles. He's an actor from England. Jimmy Kimmel (a dear friend to one of my best friends) and Tom Hanks are not pedophiles. Nor is Obama. It's insane what is being shared...and how many good people are championing the #savethechildren #saveourchildren cause.
I get it—kind, wonderful people care about kids; they don't want to see kids trafficked. They don't want kids to suffer. I don't either. It's why I volunteer my time (with law enforcement) as an intuitive medium.
(From the recent NY Times article, QAnon Followers Are Hijacking the #SaveTheChildren Movement)
"The truth about child sex trafficking, these experts told me, is much less salacious than QAnon would have you believe. Many victims are trafficked by relatives, teachers or other people they know. Trafficking usually doesn’t involve kidnapping or physically forcing minors into sex.
This is not happening in some secret cabal. It’s happening in every single community,” said Lori Cohen, the executive director of ECPAT-USA, an anti-trafficking organization. “But it’s easier to focus on public figures than to think about the reality that trafficking is happening in our midst, among people we know, to children we know.”
And from another great article on the subject: https://melmagazine.com/en-us/story/save-the-children-qanon-child-trafficking...
"I stumbled across one organization, dubbed Child Abuse Resistance Education (or “CARE”), that was apparently born in mid-July as the brainchild of two women in Orange County, California; their very first post notes their mission is “to tell the story the media refuses to cover.” They’re courting donations on PayPal despite no formal agenda and a completely unfinished website (including no projects under the “Projects” tab). And despite a superficial lack of conspiracy rhetoric on their image posts, you can find it right in the hashtags of a caption: “#LolitaExpress,” “#PedoClinton,” “#PedoEllen” and “#PedowoodIsReal.”
Elsewhere, I found another IG page called the “Save Our Children Initiative” that is fighting to “end sex trafficking” by… asking for sponsorships and selling a $35 T-shirt. The group claims that the revenue from the shirts will go to an unspecified “charitable organization” that is “supporting funding towards increasing the survivors [sic].” Their stated long-term goal is to create “rehabilitation centers” for victims. Again, the founders don’t appear to have any experience in child advocacy work; one is a Trump-supporting fitness and lifestyle influencer, while the other runs a custom apparel-printing shop."
Please do your own homework regarding QAnon and their mission to save the children before you share their posts on your social media feeds.
“They better not think they can get an operation to change genders on MY dime!”
“It’s not right. You are either born a girl or a boy.”
“It goes against what God wants.”
“My kid wanted to be a puppy when he was five. You think that’s OK, too?”
Sadly, I’ve heard all of these things and more over the last year and a half since Noah came to us with his realization. At that time, he realized he had been dealing with gender dysphoria for many years. Ten years, to be exact. Now, as my 21-year-old trans daughter, I’m proud to say that Noah, who has now chosen the name Natalie, bravely sought help to become the gender with whom she identifies. *Noah came to us after I published this to let us know she has chosen Nat, as in Natalie, as her name.
Through Natalie's journey, I’ve had the privilege to learn about gender in ways I never had before I turned 45.
First, let’s define gender dysphoria as “the psychological distress that many transgender people experience because their assigned gender doesn’t match the way they see themselves.” Dr. Murat Altinay, Cleveland Clinic)
Now, what should you consider if you know little to none about being transgender?
Here are 4 things I've learned that might help you:
1. Gender develops in the brain
From the Cleveland Clinic article, Research on the Transgender Brain: What You Should Know:
“When we look at the transgender brain, we see that the brain resembles the gender that the person identifies as,” Dr. Altinay of Cleveland Clinic says. For example, a person who is born with a penis but ends up identifying as a female often actually has some of the structural characteristics of a “female” brain.
Though these differences in brain structure and function are important markers for gender determination, it isn’t always as simple as male or female.
Some research shows the brains of transgender people are somewhere in between, sharing characteristics of both male and female brains, Dr. Altinay says.
This is consistent with the growing understanding that gender exists on a spectrum, with people identifying not only as male or female but also as genderqueer, genderfluid or nonbinary. These terms refer to gender identities that incorporate a variety of gender characteristics.”
2. Many kids who are transgender experience devastating anxiety and depression starting in puberty.
This was the case with Natalie. Debilitating generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and subsequent depression came on strong at age 10. In fact, we noticed sudden onset stuttering when Noah (now Natalie) was in 2nd grade which was a bi-product of the anxiety. In light of that, we did everything we could to help quell the anxiety, but nothing seemed to really make a dent in it. Some kids figure out they are dealing with gender dysphoria at a young age; others do not until later in life. Neither is right or wrong—it simply is.
3. Anyone considering changing genders, whether they are thinking about surgery or not, has to consult with a doctor in order to get access to hormone therapy. Care and surgery are NOT on anyone else’s dime.
In most cases, you need a “gender dysphoria” diagnosis in order to get insurance coverage for healthcare. In addition, talk therapy is highly recommended as well. There are a lot of hoops to jump through when you recognize you are transgender. Hormone therapy can take roughly two to three years to help change body chemistry to the gender with whom you identify.
4. Just because your religion tells you that being transgender is wrong doesn’t mean that it is true.
As mentioned above in number one, research is showing that gender develops in the brain. This is nothing new; many folks from generations past feared coming out as transgender due to the social climate of the time. Even today, hateful, shaming messages damning the transgender community are commonplace. From a spiritual perspective, as an intuitive medium who works with law enforcement officers helping solve murder and abduction cases, I can personally attest to the fact that those who have passed on are not judging those who change genders. Quite the opposite, actually. Those who are experiencing a transgender journey are highly evolved individuals who are shining a light on the need for more love of self and love of others, regardless of their gender/race/ethnicity, etc.
I sincerely hope what I've shared has given you insight into what to consider when you're pondering gender. I'm extremely grateful to have such an amazing teacher—one whom I'll continue learning from (and loving) for a lifetime, and beyond.