Doing Good at Life, For Mandy, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Doing Good at Life

For Mandy

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

The willow sweeps the grass of leaves,

The autumn sends her more,

And so, she sways and tends the day,

Her life an open door.

 

The momma bear prepares her den,

Ambling through the deep,

Wide she yawns, until spring’s dawn

And hunkers down to sleep.

 

Her sleep will be the sleep of birth,

Her dreams of cubs so small,

And in that space, aglow with grace,

She sleeps and nurses all.

 

The willow shelters all who come,

Her garlands a cathedral make,

And with the wind she softly sings,

And gives instead of takes.

 

 

 


On My Third Birthday of Coming Out as Transgender, September 18, 2018, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

On My Third Birthday of Coming Out as Transgender

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Last year I wrote about the fears I had of the upcoming winter.  Fall and winter are often the worst times of year for me mentally.  Two years ago, I went to the hospital twice in the span of two months for suicidality. Last year, with medicine, a wonderful therapist, Kellie Brunton of Ambler, PA, friends, a loving community at Love in Action UCC in Hatboro, PA, my poetry, and spiritual life, I had the best winter I have yet to have as far as mental stability is concerned.  I am so grateful.

This fall is more foreboding.  I know I need an adjustment in my meds.  I feel myself sliding backwards (deeper?) into my mental illness.  Fleeting thoughts of suicide and self-harm travel through my mind on a daily basis.  And while they are passive thoughts—they are there more than they’ve been in a long time.

I begin this annual update on my trans-journey because it is, for me, part and parcel of my experience.  By that I do not mean to suggest that I am mentally ill as a result of being trans.  No.  Being transgender IS NOT a mental illness, and while coming out three years ago blew up my life and that certainly didn’t help my mental illnesses, bring trans is a gift—-it is not, in any way, a mental illness.

My mental illnesses are part and parcel of my trans experience because they exist side-by-side, or, better put, are interwoven. So, to read this update on my Coming-Out-Birthday is to read also about my mental health, or lack thereof.

All that said, it’s been an exciting year with regards to trans-activism.  I’m fortunate to have been featured on an episode on the Internationally famous, Liz Plank’s, Divided States of Women. The episode also featured my faith community, Love in Action UCC (LIA).  I was also featured in a front-page article in the Philadelphia Inquirer that also celebrated the wonderful work being done by LIA.  Most importantly, LIA and myself helped Hatboro, PA, pass a human rights ordinance to help protect people of the LGBTQIA community.  It was an honor to be able to speak before the major (the incredibly badass, Nancy Guenst) and the City Council.  I have also led LGBTQIA support groups at LIA, local libraries, marched in marches, written to political figures, given workshops on what it is to be trans, and will be performing in October for the important revue of This is My Brave—a national organization for helping end the stigma of mental illness. I was also honored to be the first ever representative of the LGBTQIA community at Glenside Elementary School’s Diversity Festival.

These many opportunities for activism in both trans-causes and helping to end the stigma of mental illness, have been rewarding and hopeful.  And I need to be careful.

The more I do, the more I run the risk of careening into mania and then depression.  It is still an evolving process of learning to navigate feeling joy and being manic.  At least I am aware that this is a danger.  That said, I am missing more of the signs of mental health relapse, which is why I know I need an adjustment in meds.  In addition to transient thoughts of self-harm, mania has been slowly encroaching on my life and I am struggling with some of the symptoms of my mania—compulsive spending, eating, grandiose thoughts, plans, and ideas, racing thoughts, sleepless nights, the struggle to try and slow down both mentally and physically—the drive to plough through life is intense, as well as a myriad of other manifestations.  All of this impacts my trans-experience by making dysphoria worse, by making the anxiety to leave my apartment even to just go shopping worse—alongside, paradoxically, the increased amount of publicity I am both seeking and being sought after for trans activism.

I don’t know where it’s all leading.  I am still unemployed.  I came close to getting a couple teaching jobs, but they both fell through.  I continue to joyously volunteer at LIA helping direct an LGBTQIA Center at LIA, and that goes a long way towards helping keep my mental illness in check.

My finances, thanks to being bipolar and being unemployed, are worse than ever.  I have to appear in debtors court in a couple weeks.  I am close to filing for bankruptcy, and I have no savings of any kind.

I’ve had to move yet again, and although I am now living in the most adorable apartment, it was a huge stress to move for the third time in two years.  I am hopeful this new space will be long-term.  I love it here.

I continue to have the love and support of my ex, and the kids.  We went on a family vacation for the first time in probably six years this summer.  We went to the Redwoods and Sequoias, and was the funnest time, for me, our family has ever had together.

Poetry is still my beloved friend.  Music too.

I continue to do healing where my sexual abuse traumas are concerned, and while that work is gut-wrenching, it is, of course, crucial, and ultimately transforming and liberating.

My father passed away last spring and that brought many challenges with family and the coming to terms with his not speaking with me the last nine months of his life.  I sent him pictures of myself and after that, all communication ceased.  I wasn’t permitted to go to his funeral because I’m trans, which was incredibly painful.  My brother, however, arranged a private viewing for me, and for that I am deeply grateful.  In addition, when he wrote the obituary, he referred to me as Jennifer.  I wept when I saw that.  He calls me Jennifer all the time now, and that means the world to me.

All-in-all, it’s been a challenging, rewarding, and busy year, and I am so glad I’m alive.  Being transgender—being a woman—is an evolution of transformation, wonder, and gratitude.  My transition has shifted a bit in my gender expression—I am comfortable now with some days not shaving, and I am presenting a little more non-binary, which is fine with me.  My definition of what it means to be “feminine,” is broadening, and that too, is fine with me—and important as well.  I have given up on dating–and by that I mean the complete lack thereof.  I am gradually accepting that a long-term relationship is simply not in the cards for me. Lastly, with regards to my physical transitioning, I am grateful to have had an orchiectomy, and that has gone a long way in being comfortable my own body.  Full gender affirmation surgery is probably not going to happen due to finances, and I am gradually surrendering to that.

Thank you for your continued support, encouragement, love, and care.  I am so blessed with so many wonderful friends.  I humbly request your prayers for where my mental health is concerned, and I ask you to continue writing to politicians, schools, places of worship advocating for the rights of LGBTQIA people, to coming with us to marches and protests, to keep sharing with your families, friends, and communities that LGBTQIA people are as deserving of human rights as anyone else.

Peace, my friends, I love you all.

Jenn

 

   

 


 


 


Because You Never Know, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Because You Never Know

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

When the welcoming angel

Will spirit you away into the folds

Of the other world,

Who exactly you are becoming,

Why you love sunsets and stars,

What compassion grows in you

For the secret sorrows that haunt

Another’s heart, like lost echoes

In a cavern of lakes and rivers,

Where your reverence leads

And how it gets there,

How your cells build one atop

The other while you walk

Without spilling you to the ground.

 

It’s best to just go about your days

Singing, breathing with your whole body,

And adventuring into the questions

Until the word never finally falls away, like

The paper and string of an unexpected gift

Opened by a child who finds inside

What they’ve always wanted.

 

 

 

 

 


 



Eucharist, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Eucharist

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

The bread blooms on the tongue,

The wine rivers through the body,

These provisions are more than enough

Until the other unimaginable communion takes place,

Believe the slow road outwards, leads

Inevitably inwards into His arms,

We needn’t worry about who we are

Or the shadows we trail behind,

Everyone—no matter what they have done

Or what they have failed to do

Is welcome, and everyone, no matter who they are

Approaches that table, trembling, like a bride.

 

 

 

 


 




I Think So, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

I Think So

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

It’s possible, isn’t it?

To walk through the dark field,

Brushing your hands over the tops

Of the barley, under the stars

And the patient moon;

To let go, while at the same time

Hold on for dear life,

As thoughts flood,

And fear lifts you

Out of your body

To a safer place

Among the trees;

To hear the owl’s question

And to answer in the affirmative,

Declaring you rightfully exist

Among the fireflies, the crickets,

And the turning world;

To see the falling star

And to wish nothing more

Than for the owl to find food;

To step into the river, without

Succumbing to the cold,

And to reach down, lifting water

Over your head and say:

“This is my beloved child,

With whom I am well pleased.”

 

 

 

 


 




Reflections of Summer Ghosts, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Reflections of Summer Ghosts

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

I.

I know there is

So much

To be grateful for—

I know.

 

And yet, this

Nothingness hangs

In the humidity, like

Cicada song,

And I drift through

The day, lost

As the wind.

 

 

II.

Cicada song swells and thins

Through the wide sky,

Sunflowers turn their faces

To the ground,

Wheat awaits the approaching windrower,

Summer turns in her gauzy shift

Towards the shimmering horizon,

Trees gradually light their lamps,

And somewhere, below, a ghost moves

Looking exactly like me.

 

 

 

 


 

 





What to Do, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

What to Do

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

What is time but a delaying of eternity?

Make friends with the animals within you

Before they’re gone.  After all,

Who will be there when the door appears

And the Word comes?

 

Turn away from the pride of intelligence,

Turn away from caring what anyone else thinks

About how you’re following the long trail

Of hooves and padded feet–

 

Walk, or be carried, just keep watching

Where the animals’ dark eyes are looking

With all the wild devotion of those

Aching to be touched by the one

Who understands.

 

 

 

 


 




Why the Lifting? By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Why the Lifting?

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

 

Because it’s there—

The chilled withering,

The drying out of leaves

And petals, the detachment

And the lifting into spiraling

Winds, the wishing it would

Never end, the laughing

At that wish, the seeing

Gold and yellow, and all shades

Of red torching across the hillside

And over the rooftops,

Because it’s there—the golden

Boats in the slowing creek—

Because it’s there—the apples

Blooming from where every blossom

Bloomed—the cinnamon and the clove,

The orange peel, and the nutmeg—

Because one must let the sweetness

Of the end warm the insides against

The cold outside—because the hearth

Must be kindly again, because it will

End, because winter unfurls, engulfs,

Encloses—because, of course, we know

Spring sleeps and will rise again—

In this moment—however and nevertheless—

It’s there—the detachment and lifting

Into the spiraling wind.

 

 

 

 

 


 



The Other Rose, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

The Other Rose

by

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Unravel the fragrant mass carefully.

Open it, like an orange, letting the petals fall

In a heap in your hands.  Remember this moment

Forever.  The secret of secrets

Is not in the pages of holy books.

It is not in places of worship.

The center of the rose is nearer to the thorns

Than to the blossom.  Nearer to the effort

Than to the bliss.  Nearer to the heart

of your devotions than to the goal.

And never will you find it

In the other rose.

 

 

 

 


 





Untitled, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Untitled

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Deep in the drapery of the day lily

A dead bee lies curled in a pool of nectar.

Why did it die in such a sapid sacristy

Enshrined in golden silk?

 

Perhaps it will be the same for us

As we amble down the tunneled curtains of our lives,

Past the honeyed stalks of desire,

Searching for a numinous center?

 

Will our pouches grow heavy with the precious dust we collect?

Will we too begin stumbling through the drooping folds

As the sides of the amphitheater start to close?

Will we be so dazzled and drunk by the prospects of more

That we don’t notice we are slipping away from ourselves,

Drowning in sweetness, unable to turn back?