When I was eight years old, I wrote my first poem. I remember the moment the words came to me. I was lying in bed at night, the lines rattling through my brain, startling sleep away. I turned on my pencil-shaped bedside lamp, grabbed my pink diary and huddled up underneath the little roses on my wallpaper to scribble the words down before they were lost to me forever. I re-read them over and over, letting them seep into my mind as I drifted off to sleep, so full of mystery and fascination at this new craft that had opened up to me.
The next day, I showed the poem to my mother. It was a love poem, and the only thing she said was, “Why is this written to a woman?”
I didn’t know.
In high school, I also didn’t know why I enjoyed turning around in psychology class to chat with the girl with the cool beaded purse who sat behind me. I didn’t get it why I was so tongue tied around the girl in college with the mousy brown hair and soft floral skirts. After graduation, I still didn’t understand why the scrawny girl with facial piercing who I worked with at the coffeeshop held such a deep place in my heart that I’d give anything to make her smile.
The day I nervously confessed to my parents that I no longer wanted to be in the Church of Christ, the religion they’d raised me in, and that I’d been going to an Episcopal church, they laughed in relief.
“We were worried you were going to tell us you were a lesbian,” they said, wiping tears of joy from their eyes.
It never occurred to me that I could be a lesbian because I was attracted to guys. I didn’t realize that bisexuality was a thing. It wasn’t until 2016 that I started to face the truth about myself. After the attack on the Pulse nightclub, I felt deeply and inexplicably unsafe, and after months of soul searching, I came to realize it was because the people who had been attacked, the LGBT men and women, I was part of their community. They were me. I was LGBT.
As part of my journey, I was asked to exhibit my art at the Pierce County AIDS Foundation. I wanted to share something that was representative of the LGBT community, and that’s how my Affectionate Animal series was born. I chose vintage photos as my source images because I loved the nostalgic feeling they evoked. I wanted to offer the feeling that being gay was a normal thing.
The funny thing is: when I painted these first nine couples, I didn’t yet realize my own truth.
Coming out to myself was about self acceptance. When I told Matt, he asked me what this meant for our marriage. I said it meant nothing: instead of choosing him over half the world population, it meant I chose him over all of the world population. But when Matt left me (for other reasons), some of my close friends whom I’d trusted with my secret blamed me for him leaving. “He’s been through a lot,” they said.
I was scared to tell anyone. For a long time I only told people who were gay, and I spent a lot of time online, on tumblr, living an invisible life, coming to terms with what my sexuality meant.
That’s where I met my first girlfriend. She flew cross country to visit me and I flew cross country to visit her. We fell in love with each other and each other’s kids, and I was going to fly out with the girls to spend Christmas with her, until she broke up with me suddenly and then blocked my phone number before ever explaining why everything was ending.
They say your first heartbreak after a divorce is the worst. When you get divorced, there’s too much other stuff in the way that inhibits the grieving process, so when your first heartbreak after divorce hits you, all that pent up grief rears its ugly head and devastates you. In short, that’s what happened to me. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I kept throwing up for weeks. I lashed out at people, then became disgusted with myself for acting like such a monster and fell into a pit of despair. My body felt like knives were stabbing me, raking my arms from the inside out. My chest felt cavernous. I felt beyond gutted. I felt like I was in tatters.
God bless my therapist, because she texted with me through the worst of it, assuring me that this is what grief felt like. I’d tell her I was scared of the depression. She said I was strong enough to weather a little depression. I took comfort in that. Deep down I knew she was right.
I started cleaning my house. It wasn’t much, but a little every day gave me a sense of normalcy. I signed up for the Motivated Moms checklist so that I wouldn’t have to think about what I was supposed to do. I could just do it.
On Friday, my checklist said to spend time on a craft or hobby. I spent more time scratching my head trying to figure out what I was interested in than I did playing my guitar once I finally remembered I liked to sing. On Sunday I was paralyzed by the suggestion to pamper myself. How does someone pamper themselves? I googled it and read dozens of suggestions before I felt inspired by the suggestion to give myself flowers.
I’d always thought that, when I was with my girlfriend for Valentine’s Day, we’d do some sappy romantic thing, and I’d post sappy pictures & let people draw whatever conclusions they wanted to about our relationship. Now that I’m single again, I guess I’m coming out of the closet anyways. I’m not doing it for another person. I’m doing it for myself. Because, at the end of the day, lovers come and go, but there is one person who will love me for my entire life, and that person is me. And it doesn’t take a parent or a husband or a girlfriend to validate my loveliness. I am loved. I am darling. And I am complete, just as I am.
I don’t know why God made me this way, but this is the way I am. I don’t fall in love with people because of what’s in their pants, but because of what’s in their heart. So, in closing, I’d like to share with you the poem I wrote when I was eight years old, long before I knew what the depths of my heartache might bring:
Your eyes sparkle in the moonlight,
Your legs tremble fast,
Your voice can sing the wonders,
And your ears can hear me laugh,
Your nose smells the flowers that I bring to you in prize,
Your legs can run freely,
And your hands can hold my thighs.
But you’re the one in my mind,
The wonders that I dream,
For you are so beautiful,
The wonders of my dreams.
I like to think that, maybe, the woman I’d written it for was, in fact, myself.
If you like the words that I write or the art that I paint and you want me to create more, please buy something from my shop and support me on Patreon. Thank you.
Paintings in this blog post are:
- Thicket, Watercolor and Ink on 8×10 inch hot press watercolor paper. Purchase original paintings & art prints in my shop.
- I’m Gay, Watercolor and Ink on 8×10 inch hot press watercolor paper, not yet released for sale.
I’m sitting here with tears flowing down my face. For all the good reasons one may be filled with tears. I wish you a life filled with goodness and love, of being whole, of being who you are meant to be, of loving and living in your truth. Of loving yourself.
It really moved me to read your words… what an amazing first comment to read on a post that I labored over for so long before bringing my truth to light. Thank you for sticking by me over the years. It means a lot.
You brave beautiful woman..for knowing your truth and sharing it with us.
😉 Truth is worth fighting for. xo
I love that you still had the poem from childhood and I laughed and had to read it again trying to figure out why it was assumed to be written about a woman…. I love you and your girls and I hope this is a turning point in your life. There is no one path life must travel and I hope those who don’t support your journey will cut to a different path and the blackberry bushes and thorns in front of you can thin out a bit. Big hugs warrior mama!
Thanks Judy! You’re not the first person to wonder why the poem was so obviously to a woman. I will say that I definitely ad a woman in mind when I wrote it… but it was more like the archetype of a woman, not a specific person that I knew. For years I changed the initial metnion of “thighs” to “sides” because I was ashamed at how intimate “thighs” was.
This is beautiful and you are beautiful, Erin Darling. I’m so happy for you and the truth you’ve found for yourself. xoxo
Thanks Jen 🙂 And thanks for your support while I’ve been going throuh this journey!
You ARE strong, beautiful and a fabulous mommy. Continue on your life journey, it will be great.
🙂 Thanks Aunt Carol. Your support means the world to the three of us.
You are a wonder. A glorious, brave, loving wonder. I am so proud to be your friend and to share in the creative, courageous, tender spirit that is Erin. Thank you for gracing my life with your vulnerability, your authenticity, and your integrity. You and your girls are in good hands. Your hands. Be gentle with yourself in these days of coming out. You deserve all the goodness life has to offer and i offer you my love and support.
I was so excited to come out to you, in particular, because I knew the fierce joy it would bring you. PS: You have the best hugs!
I love you. Your open wonder at this world and the spirit of things is marvellous to witness.
🙂 Thanks for being such a sweet friend over the years.
PS: I still need to send you back your babywearing wrap!!! omg!!!! I’m the worst!!!!!!
Thank you, Erin, for bringing so much love into this world! Wishing you and your girls all the happiness and more that you give to the lives of others.
I am amazed at how much of my art you’ve purchased over the years. Thanks so much for all your support. It means the world to me. xoxo
Dear Erin, you are strong, pure and perfect just the way you are! Beautiful post! Thank you for your brave heart! Thank you for being authentic! Big hug! Alina
Thanks Alina 🙂 I hope we can all find courage to be our truest selves.
Erin, you are someone special. What wonders reside inside your heart and soul!….and pour out upon your pen and brush to share for all the world. Vulnerability is the greatest gift we can share.
Self love should always be your first love, and I’m happy that you have found that ❤️
I’m so glad that we met! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your beautiful spirit with me, as well!
You’re so brave and so lovely. Coming out is *such* a scary thing! (At least it has been for me.) I think it’s wonderul that you did it just for you.
Doesn’t it feel great to fully accept that part of you?!
Yes! It does feel great to have that sense of self-acceptance! I think it’s a relief to show myself how much I am loved, not by any other person, but by my own mind and heart and spirit and body. It’s such a healing experience… even if it is also terrifying to move forward in that growth.
You’re amazing You have a beautiful life! You are beautiful. Thanks especially for the words about being afraid of your depression, and sharing that you know you are strong enough to weather it. I get so scared of depression and sadness and grief and anger. I push against them so they linger for a long time. When I finally allow myself to just feel them, the burden goes away or is at least lighter. I need to be reminded of this every time. So thank you
Yes! Exactly! I have found meditation to be especially helpful with this. I’ve been using the headspace app and I apreciate the reminder that feelings are like seasons or like the weather… but the core of who we are remains deeper and truer than that.
“And it doesn’t take a parent or a husband or a girlfriend to validate my loveliness. I am loved. I am darling. And I am complete, just as I am.“ and that your little baby self wrote such beautiful words to the woman you would become… ahh. This moved me. ❤️
It felt amazing to see this experience come full circle in my own life. Makes you wonder about the true nature of time, and whether there is something outside of time that holds the deepest truth of our identities.
This is so beautiful. *YOU* are so beautiful. Thank you for sharing
😉 It takes one to know one.
This is so beautiful-thank you for sharing this with the world.
Aw thanks 🙂 thanks for reading and sharing in my story
Thank you, Erin. I’m so glad for our new friendship, and for the blossoming love relationship you have with your own dear, darling being.
Thanks Joanna! I’m glad for our new friendship, as well. xoxo