I know I’m strange, but I’m not the only one. I take comfort in this. Though I’m not uncomfortable being strange. My wife gives me sideways glances a lot. “You’re weird,” she states, as if she’s just now noticed after 12 years. “Do you know that you’re weird?”
And I’m not doing anything all that odd when she declares my strangeness as if it’s something to be examined. I hold my coffee mug with two hands. She says I look like a turn-of-the-century poor child begging for soup in the cobbled streets of England. I say that’s a bit of a stretch.
Speaking of stretching, I do yoga moves while almost anywhere in the house, especially while our children are falling asleep. “What are you doing?” she inquires with a sigh when she walks in and sees me lying on my stomach, back arched, holding my feet up in the air. “Um, yoga, of course.” Seriously, how strange is it to not want to waste time faking sleep while our 4-year-old twins fight sleep like it’s the worst thing on earth. (But I can’t leave them or they won’t stay in their beds and be absolutely silent. They’ll dare each other to run down the hall in their underwear, while the other one collapses from a ridiculously cute fit of the giggles. It’s a lose/lose situation, really. Hence, the yoga.)
I have terms for things that no one seems to have heard of, like floppy cheese for prepackaged sandwich cheese, and, elbow and knee pits for the back of the knees and the fronts of your elbows. These make sense, people. You know it. I know it. Go ahead and add it to your vernacular.
So maybe I am strange. Supposedly, I yawn horribly loud, according to the wifey, but she has that sound disorder where every little noise drives her up the wall. Love has a way of bringing opposites together.
One day in 2010, I dubbed myself Princess Frida Lemongrass for the simple fact that I saw lemongrass in our fridge and declared it to be one of the loveliest words I’d ever heard. And I shall like it to be my name. Frida suited it perfectly—I’ve loved Frida Kahlo’s art for a long time. And don’t even think of shaming me for wanting me to be a princess. We all bought that fairy tale shit hook, line and sinker.
I’ve never quite fit in to any group of people. When I was reeling from recurrent sexual trauma back in my teens and early ‘20s, I did all right as a rebel, what with all the unseemly recreational activities in which I partook. But the social aspect was a bit harder for me since I wasn’t actually a hardened soul even though I felt fairly dead inside and was trying to vigorously shake myself alive by driving nearly 100 miles an hour on winding mountain roads at night, music blasting and then passing cars. When I actually started talking to people, I morphed into their personalities, not even knowing my own. That’s one of the downsides of being hurt by others when you’re just coming into your own at 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and so forth. You never know who you could have been had someone else not decided to show you that you were value-less during that crucial time of discovering who you are. I didn’t know who I was, so I adopted much of who others were to feel “normal.” I didn’t know what normal was and I didn’t yet know how to embrace or discover my true self.
I thought I was happy during my rebellious years. I really did. But I was answering my pain and anxiety with horrific self-abuse, and I didn’t even know it. Because I didn’t know how valuable I was as a human being. I’m the only me I have, no matter how strange or broken.
But we forge on. I’ve recently begun the critical though excruciating yet exhilarating work of a personal archaeological dig. I don’t want to fake happy anymore. I want to know it all the way into my bones. I am foraging for wellness. I want to learn better ways to care for myself—and truly implement them.
Just the other day when I was spending my valuable time doing important work researching random quotes on Goodreads, I stumbled across proof that Frida is part of my tribe, after all.
Frida Kahlo said, “I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yet, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”
I wanted to email her right away, forgetting for a fleeting moment that she died before I was even born. But though our living paths never crossed, I feel for Frida in that vast lonely space where she wondered where her tribe was, knowing she mustn’t be the only one in such writhing pain. She and I have a decent amount in common, enough where I would moderately stalk her online if she were still alive, declaring her my best friend until she acknowledged me.
Further proof we could have been friends: She was bisexual, though she married a man (the same one twice!) and I married a woman (I’m a registered lesbian with a legitimate toaster and everything, but lately I’m considering myself more queer than lesbian—but that’s a different post). She had congenital deformities as do I. Hers was her spine, and mine are my crooked thumbs, the complete deformation of my middle ears (hence my hearing aids to attempt to make up for my severe bilateral hearing loss), and my left wrist won’t turn over (I make the worst server in volleyball and you can forget playing Rockin’ Robin with me. This all goes back to my social woes. Full circle, don’t you see?). Oh, and I have a congenital heart disease that makes me at high risk for sudden cardiac death. Super.
Frida spent three months stuck in her bed in a body cast because of a terrible bus accident. Afterward, she struggled with chronic fatigue and pain. She took to her art to explore all of what plagued her. I know the abuse I suffered was not an accident—it could have been prevented. But it forever changed the course of my life, and I’ve been struggling with chronic depression and anxiety ever since. One of my official diagnoses is PTSD: post-traumatic stress disorder. Constantly being hyper vigilant and worried when the next attack is coming can wear a person out. Not being able to hear people creeping up on me, even if it is my wife or children, causes panic attacks. I am tired of being afraid, but I’m working on it. And my medium is writing—to explore what happened and to forage for a better future.
Maya Angelou wrote in Letter to my Daughter, ““You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
I believe strongly that the road to happiness is paved with good intentions. I set those in my yoga practice. From now on, I decide who and what I am, not my past. Even if that means doing night yoga as Princess Frida Lemongrass while yawning loudly.