Christopher Hoffmann
28 min readAug 19, 2023

By: Christopher Hoffmann

I keep forgetting what it’s like until that moment arrives again when alone, I open the door to my apartment, and roll my bag to a stop in the middle of what week earlier was a total whirlwind of entropy and chaos, as two people accelerated to reach escape velocity.

I can’t remember exactly when I realized, I was one of those men that women find when they need to discover their own deep feminine souls.

There were always little encounters over my lifetime to indicate this trait but the first of such clear memories was a woman I met at a dance on a cold rainy February night in Portland. I was single, 58 and just out of a three-year relationship with a total narcissist, the woman I danced with was 28 and just out of being married after a four-month cross country bicycle trip that didn’t go so well. The dance we had together said it all. We ended up across the street at a little Sake bar. We realized immediately that a thousand years ago we agreed to meet at this very moment to heal each other. We each were broken in our own unique way and each had each other’s medicine. We made a handshake deal to simply walk each other into spring, to walk together for a four-month burn and then try hard not to scream, “FUCK YOU” when we broke up.

It was epic, as soon as the weather broke I pulled my little Gypsy caravan trailer out of storage and we went out to the John Day river valley in eastern Oregon to camp for four glorious days. We shot a music video of her walking through the valley playing her Ukulele as I stepped gracefully in and out of the frame in a big ranch-hand rain-coat and wide brim cowboy hat I bought in an antique store. We made total magic together but what I realized in the middle of it was my own lack of attachment, a certain disembodied yet very present awareness of what was happening in the moment. After surviving my previous horrific relationship and how it crushed any ounce of idealism I had around the intoxication of love, my new sober awareness of what I was really doing, allowed me to see more clearly what the other person wanted to create. I found myself sort of building the structure and space that these women needed, not as a pleaser for their approval, but a space where they could be allowed to be who they really wanted to be. The more I just stepped back a bit, the more they would lean forward into that structure to animate it. In the calm of the space came exploration, inquiry and a curiosity that can’t exist in the din of day-to-day life or the constant demands men make on women for their attention.

The second was a yearlong relationship with a 45-year-old woman who had just moved up to Portland from San Diego CA. From the first day, we energetically tore the skin from each other’s flesh and drank each other’s blood. In her own words: “As we were symbolically throwing the mattress out the window and tearing the wallpaper off the wall, we had NO fucking idea what we truly IN FOR together… the magnitude of beauty and awakening and consciousness we would inflict upon each other. This is that threshold. A new unprecedented chapter of learning how to Love.”

So that’s what we did. I’ll admit, at times we were in a total bliss cave but all-in-all there was a sobriety to it that took me by surprise. It went on for almost a year until the we realized it had an ending it. As we evolved, I started to see how this path wasn’t converging but instead was turning into a gift I needed to give her, to walk her toward her own new awakening, down a path she needed to walk alone. It’s just so strange as a man to arrive at a realization that the best way to love someone is to open a path in front of them that they can walk themselves, to symbolically enter a room full of chairs in front of a woman and clear each one out of the way to allow her walk at her own pace with no concern for any obstruction. I made that conscious choice, to be willing to bare my own pain of letting go of the great big fat love-of-my-life future I imagined with her, and turn my dedication to helping her find herself in a way that would allow her to be recreated.

Her history was steeped in the study of women’s rights and the male and female relational dynamic. She was a writer with a strong advocacy for women’s success and how they best can make their way through the complexities of the world we’re in. As we got to know each other I could sense she was doing all she could, to shed her tough yang edge and connect to her feminine core. I remember her saying something that felt like the beginning of a new inquiry for her, “I don’t get all these women that feel like they have to be all up in their Kali to effect change. Women don’t need to be in their rage and goddess anger to have an impact. Anger is just admitting you have no power left. Choice is what creates consequences. Consequences change reality.” As she started to realize the magnitude of the anger in the female collective, she shifted her writing to drawing attention to the role women play in reinforcing men’s behavior. To do that, she started interviewing both men and women. She developed a theory she wanted to share with men. That’s where the challenge started to get real for her. She knew she didn’t want to meet men head to head but wanted to find something deep in her pelvis that she could access, a form of wisdom, an inner strength or clarity to match a man’s intellectual rigidity with not strength, but surrender.

After hearing her share her disappointment in the Portland vibe and how small town it was turning out to be, one Sunday morning we finally named the new dynamic to what we were doing, set a date and made a plan that included her moving back to San Diego to be near the clients she needed to work with in LA. I still had my daughter in Portland who needed me, I didn’t want a long-distance relationship, so we opted for a clean no contact break. As the last few months drew near, in the middle of her going through all her boxes of “stuff” and repacking all her worldly belongings, her anxiety started to build. I was helping her redo her website, write some content, the crappy Fiver logos, the frustration of it not feeling right in her body, how she couldn’t access the wisdom she needed so the words would resonate, she started getting more and more agitated. After sitting on the floor in silence for two hours; sorting, packing and discarding all the little jars of potions women have, she finally turned to me, but instead of voicing her total dismay she said in a steely kind of clarity; I need you to help me enact a ritual. I need you to find a glass dildo, make a leather hilt or shield like thing and form something I can stake down to the earth. Then I want to you take me out into the old growth forest, install it in a moss covered clearing and be there with me as I have an interaction with it.

In three days an Amazon package arrived with just such a glass dildo, I went to the leather supply house bought some brown leather and some brass grommets. It only took me a day to make. It was cultishly intimidating to hold, a sort of talismanic heft to it. By that weekend we were in the mountains with my little travel trailer in tow. My space creator was in full autonomous control. I was the man with a machete up front clearing a path through the underbrush. As we walked deeper into the old growth forest I slowed to a few steps back, listening for her intuition on the perfect clearing. It eventually presented itself just over a ridge behind a fallen tree trunk as high as the top of my head. I took the “apparatus” out of my bag and installed it at the location she pointed to with three long steel spikes. Stepping back, it was an ethereal sight as we looked at each other and then back to it and looking at each other again. There were no words now as we realized the powerful transformation that was coming over this little moss covered clearing as this glass protrusion, anchored by leather, was connecting itself deep in the center of the earth.

I took a position on a rise where I could maintain a periphery view. She stripped down naked in the shafts of light cutting though the canopy. Out of her bag she took a sheer silk spaghetti strap dress and slid it over her pale torso. She took a bundle of Sage out of her bag, lit it and then walked around in a wide sweeping circle to clear and define the perimeter of her enactment. Her steps became more intentional, like a dog walking in circles, pawing the ground before laying down. Something started to guide her. Her steps slowed, the grace of her body became possessed by a languid ballet kind of elegance. I could feel a column of energy form, a shaft of some sort of divine spirit that reached up into the heavens. I found myself unconsciously holding my hands up at my sides like warming them at a fire or the way women in church sway, head bowed, arms out in the presence of the divine.

The walking circles tightened until she was converging on the center. She made one final step across that earth root and stood there over it, legs spread apart, placing her entire pelvis and spine at the axis of this column. If there was light in the column already, when that alignment happened, a plasma formed. The hem of her dress was below the knees which required her to lift it up slowly as she gently planted her knees in the soft moss in a triangle relationship to the erect glass shaft. For fear my quantum gaze may change what needed to come through her I looked up to the horizon. There was such an eerie silence hanging in the warm summer air as she first bowed her forehead down to the earth and then allowed her knees to soften, pivoting slowly backwards. The magic of the moment of contact was so private and vulnerable. It was highly erotic but not sexy in a siren song kind of way. It had no pull to it, it needed nothing from her, it had nothing to say outwardly but all do with her own personal experience. I could feel the profound affect her surrender had on me. It wasn’t a letting go or self-sacrifice on her part but quite the opposite, it was a demand for my sobriety. For every inch she took in I could feel her energetically looking over at me to get my assurance I had this.

She took her time but the more I could feel her relaxing and surrendering not to mother nature or father earth but to herself, the more my masculine protector came online. The power I was able to access in myself as I stood there, like a sentry against the chaos, was profound. I called in every ounce of strength I could imagine, calling in my brothers to stand shoulder to shoulder with me looking outward in vigilance, to harness the forces of wind, fire and ice, even the very low vibrational resonance that caused these old growth tree to heave up out of the ground then channeled that power into a protective sphere around her. The more she descended into her experience, the more I expanded that sphere to hold her. She was free to be as vulnerable as she wanted to be, knowing there was nothing that could touch her as long as I was standing there.

At one point I imagined locking eyes with a wolf pack on the far ridge. The way I felt, I’m confident just my stare would have been all they needed, to know if they took one step closer I would not only kill them all, but tear the limbs off their bodies. As she had her way with the earth, her sense of self and the power of her deep core feminine nature, it called me to making contact with my animalistic protector, warrior rock of stability. The ritualistic nature of it all allowed me to connect to a new felt sense I always struggled to hold onto. How could the act of a woman surrendering be a trigger for me to stand-up and be so stronger? So much in life we can’t just intellectualize our way to, we must enact it. Maybe there’s something about women who are always in competition with their man to be the protector, where the man doesn’t really need to hold the whole thing or take full ownership of it. I’ll tell you, when I get a clear signal that my partner is surrendering to not only me, but herself and to the very cosmos, it initiates me. It initiates me to take full accounting of my own ability to hold a space open for my partner’s fullest expansion. That initiation forces me to test my own capability to stand solid and true for myself and my capacity to do the right thing at any point in time.

It went on for an hour, her slow deliberate searching, her nuanced curiosity, her stillness sometimes, kneeling there for the longest time with her pelvis rooted to the forest floor, head bowed breathing slowly. Having connected with a part of myself I had never know so clearly, I found there was an aspect in me that had its own creative language, the center of my creative essence that had to speak, like the heart inside every musician or dancer or painter, to be known, to enact who I was, not only with words but with any form of expression I had access to. As I was having my experience, I felt a mind-meld with her, knowing she was having the same experience with herself. We shared a life force coming online so strong that even if the vocal cords were cut, the hands would communicate, if the hands cut off, a paint brush on a big toe would smear paint on a canvas and if the feet were removed to glue a stick to the forehead and tap it out on a keyboard. Once anyone makes contact with that place in one’s self, we can never be the same, its primal and hidden in out DNA until we somehow unlock it.

We decided our last day would be in Big Sur. The day we left Portland we piled all her last packed bags and boxes into her Subaru. Even the little plant shoved in the last opening, grown from a cutting of her grandmother’s Christmas cactus. As I was locking the door to my apartment I looked around to a sea of packing tape scraps, torn cardboard and a pile of clothes for Goodwill.

After a three-day road trip down from Portland, laying in a hot tub cantilevered over the Pacific Ocean saying all the things one says to their partner when there are no days left, it all slowed down enough to leave our bodies a bit. We were outside the beach cabin the last night to look up into the trees to see a spirit there, a glowing vibrating presence. An old friend not as a spirit guide but one that simply finds joy when witnessing someone trying to find their own joy, a life force that needs nothing other that to offer a reflection if I needed, open to being asked if what I am about to do, is true.

After a sobbing goodbye at the airport and long flight home I rolled by bag into my apartment and had my first encounter with that feeling of walking backwards in to the past, the aftermath, the frozen still life of the cardboard scraps, the pile for Goodwill, the feeling of a silent emptiness.

For the person moving forwards it’s lights out and Molotov cocktails tossed over the shoulder, but for a man like me, the one who helps women find themselves, I walk back to my base of operations, I walk back to my sense of self, I walk back to my own new beginning. These encounters with women and my openness to experience them fully, prepared me for my life’s greatest act of helping a woman to find herself, my own daughter.

It’s funny how in the freight-train of words that thunder by on any given day, some words stay with us. My daughter Lauren and I were having a coffee at a little café about nine months after I left her mother. She was sixteen at the time, angry and abandoned feeling. It was true, after restoring our house for ten years and then finding out the container I built did not produce the family vibe I wanted, I lost my sense of self. I was trying to have a conversation with her where we could each voice of sides of our experience, but to keep coming back to what was good. She finally thanked me for my collaborative, negotiation based parenting style that allowed her to make her own choices and feel like she had an influence on the family but what she said next is what stood out, “I don’t know if you realized it daddy, but you were raising a young woman, not a man.” That phase contained in it so much complexity and insight and confusion for me there was no way I could address it. My experience with those words was as if Lauren took a big wooded spike and drove it into the ground with a big steel hammer, no sign on it, no balloons, just a bare wooden stake in the middle of wide open field.

A few years went by as I wandered through my own rebellion against the confines of what I left in my marriage. I eventually woke up enough and had the resources again to rent a big apartment downtown and offered to Lauren the chance to move out of living with her mom and live with me. That opened a whole new chance of getting to know each other, but there was still a distance I couldn’t put my finger on. Lauren was a highly empathic introvert with a tough, do it her own way edge she inherited from me. It got her fired from a few jobs for sure. As I started to see her more clearly, that big wooden stake kept reappearing in my periphery vision.

It wasn’t until a met a sacred sexuality teacher who explained to me the art of surrender, for me to finally understand. She described how as a woman there is no way to be safe in the world if you try and protect yourself. No amount your own vigilance or strength or power can match the dark forces that are all around you. You must be the light itself. She said there is an artform to surrender. As a woman, the mastery is in how fully surrendered you can be, based on the perceived threat. She said it’s not an abandonment of self-safety, any woman has at her disposal all the fire and furry of a mother protecting her young, it’s that to live her life in her feminine she chooses not to fight, but to listen and be highly aware. As a woman in her feminine moves through her environment, she scans for men who will protect her, men in their clarity, men who know who they are, no matter how alike or unlike her they appear. Her surrender actually causes her protection to emerge, a protection that if she’s walking through a crowded bus and gets her ass grabbed by a man, to look for a nod from the man sitting next to him, knowing he’ll reach over to hold the man who grabbed her still, long enough for her to return and slap him in the face. A woman in her surrender forced to take the subway home at two in the morning, walks down onto the platform and looks for the soft gaze of a man she can trust to share small talk, until the train arrives.

That’s when I realized that all the lesson’s I was trying to teach Lauren on how to be strong, to defend herself, to be forceful in what she needed to say, were all wrong and driving us further apart. Since she was such a gamer, I had been a big fan of her being in school as a video game developer and 3D animator, it had a clear path to financial success and some prestige. After a few years she started to hate it. Normally I would have coached her on how to deal with the ambiguity or gave her a pep-talk on toughing it out but instead I started asking more thoughtful questions. It turned out, the male dominated energy in the video gamming space was so dense and pervasive, her original thoughts of advocating for better women’s role models and narratives gave way to total frustration. Seeing that big wooden stake again I started to ask what would feel more in alignment with her felt sense of what she wanted to do? She said she needed to do something with her hands, she needed to feel its tug or the texture of what she was making but had so much fear from her mother’s judgement she couldn’t imagine trying to change her career direction, to disappoint her and counter the coming accusations of it being a waste of money. It was right there that I started building a sphere of protection around her, to allow her to find what she needed to be, to allow her to crash around a bit and feel for herself, what SHE needed to make contact with.

To get her out of art school I talked to her mother to share my support for what Lauren needed and to ask for some breathing room from judgment as Lauren searched for a new path.

Lauren next tried building stop-motion puppets where she joined a work group and made a few puppets to collaborate with others in little animation projects. Sadly, she found the tediousness of it and the small timey rewards just not worth the effort. She tried other directions based the merits of the work, she found some openings there but after six months she was hopelessly frustrated and disheartened. One night it all came crashing down. Now at age twenty-three, I was over at her new apartment helping her reconfigure her work space from a computer based work station to a craft area with a longer work table for her sewing machine. She had RuPall’s “Drag Race” series running in the background as we set stuff up. As we worked, she kept hinting at how what she was doing don’t feel right, I finally asked her, “Tell me Lauren, if you could do anything you wanted to do, no worry on cost, no limit on time to get there, what would you really want to create for yourself, it’s your life?” That’s when the flood gate opened, “I want to be a costume designer for Drag Queens.”

Everything all of a sudden made perfect sense, her big over the top Halloween costumes, her attention to the artistry of her make-up her perfect eyebrows as a thing, the list went on. We sat down next to each other in front of her monitor, she drew my attention to the show and said, “Look daddy, look at what this really is.” I never paid much attention to drag queens, I respect the notion of dressing in drag as a gender bender, even dressed up androgynous a few times to go to parties but until she explained the message imbedded inside Drag, I never would have noticed the subtle artistry and brilliance in it. She began to explain how in our culture men assign women a sexual currency, how men expect women to dress in a certain way, so they’ll be selected by men to sit next to them on a man’s couch and watch the man show together. She explained how women comply and rebel in their own subtle ways to these demands but no matter how hard they try, the submission is still there. She tilted her head at me and said with a clarity I’ve never heard her embody, “Drag Queens take those fashion choices and turn them up to the extreme as a calculated commentary on the ridiculous tragedy of it all.” So, there it was… my daughter is a rebel warrior for feminine liberation, her sword, the Drag Queen costume.

I knew right then some little stop-motion puppet was never going to be big enough, no 3D animation, sculpture or painting or other work of art. She had been hinting at getting out of Portland, but it didn’t make sense until then. After taking all of what she explained to heart, I said, “Well, then you’ll have to move to New York.” She looked at me from what must have felt like being truly seen for the first time and wept, long and hard.

It was mid-summer, over the next month our familiar negotiational communication style paid dividends. We agreed, to go to New York she needed to be prepared with some recognizable portfolio pieces and references from teachers. She found three classes at the community collage fall term; a theatre set-building class, a sculpture class and a costume making class. The goal was to throw herself into school and because of the skills she was learning, to keep her part time job restoring furniture. When finals hit she would quit her job, pour all her time into killing her assignments and then when school was done in mid-December to dismantle her apartment and move to New York. I agreed to all of that but took a bit of a we’ll see stance, as the fall unfolded.

As the months went by I was amazed at the magnitude of her output, her determination, the progress photos she sent of her work that came attached to texts that arrived at four in the morning, her laser focus, her collaboration with me on any written communication with teachers to make sure the energy was right, and the language used was grounded and on topic, she didn’t temp one chance at failure, she played it perfect. As November rolled past she shared how through friends she found an apartment to share in New York with a man who was studying at NYU as theatrical writer, how her teachers where glowing about her work, how all the plans that she hoped would fall into place were constellating perfectly, it was time to be fully committed.

The moment to share my commitment with her came as she was getting out of the car after having dinner. I stopped her and said, “OK Lauren, I’ve been watching what you’ve been doing, I’ve shared how impressed I am and I’ve heard you talk about how you trust you’ll get there but I’ve decided it’s going to be my personal obligation to deliver you to New York. I’m ready to give you ten thousand dollars, which is half my life’s savings right now and all the time you need between now and then to help you pack and get out of here, plus I’m willing to travel there with you and stay for a week to help you load yourself into your new apartment. All she could muster was, “Really daddy?” The way she said it, was all I needed to hear.

That’s when the machete came out and the non-stop chain of events started to stack up like dominos. She was tempted to kick the first one down on her own, but I reminded her, to stay in her feminine and not bull her way past the anxiety of telling her mother there is a final plan in place. She would have to get the permission of her mother out of respect for her. Because of the fear that her mother may try and talk her out of it, it took Lauren a week to find the courage to tell her. Afterwards she was surprised at how well it went, how different it felt to kick that first domino down, the deposit on her apartment, to know as the plan was set into motion she was surrendering into it, instead of fighting for it, to know that SHE was in charge of creating whatever magic she needed to channel and to finally have the space to trust her own deeply guided intuition.

There it went, one day after another, she seemed exceptionally calm about it. Maybe all that time spent video gamming was paying for itself in her ability to solve problems, remember where the golden key was kept and doing her self-care to recharge her weapons. It was an epic battle to get out of her apartment, the minute we shot the photos of her last works of art, her little stage set design that had in it a level of subtilty and sophistication words could never have captured, her “Dark-Witch” Halloween costume and the over the top hat, for works that we her first attempt the clay head portrait sculptures that blew me away in their detailed anatomical and emotional precision. After the click of the last photo taken, everything that was built to support her was now what was in the way of her exit. The purging started the next morning, boxes filled quickly, all week long to then finally pass through the first portal, six hundred pounds of her “stuff’ strapped to a pallet at the trucking depot. Four more days to the next portal, walking out of her apartment door and down the hall, never looking back.

We planned to use a few days at my apartment to regroup and allow her to see her closest friends one more time. There was one last repack of our luggage to offload a hundred pounds into a box we elected to ship via UPS. I walked into the Livingroom at one point to see her sitting on the same floor in the middle of all her jars of potions, sorting, discarding and packing what she needed. Women must feel some kind of ceremonial connection to these colorful objects. Even though it brought up a deep sigh of empathy for her femininity, I’m confident it hasn’t changed in half a million years.

On the final day in Portland she went up to the top of Mt. Tabor. It’s a small extinct volcano that offers a panoramic view of all of metro Portland. Having spent her entire life after age three here, she did a ceremony to honor Portland, to look out over a landscape where everything she ever did happened down there, to imagine each year that went by, how important each one felt at the time, to access some of her dreams and feel her subconscious. I’ll never know what that was like for her, there is no answer adequate for a question, “How did it go.”

The thrust toward life started again at four in the morning. So surreal again to be locking the door to my apartment, to look in to see the same sea of packing tape scraps, torn cardboard and a pile of clothes for Goodwill. Then off to the airport and almost stopped at the gate over the details of how her pet snake needed to be transported. Some cash and a little dog crate later, we were through another portal. The six-hundred-pound pallet arrived on a Brooklyn street lined with snow drifts. The driver shoved it between two parked cars, had me sign the paperwork and rumbled off.

We both came down with the same wicked cough. It was debilitating but we got it all done, went to IKEA, went to Target, unpacked her “stuff” and set-up her new work space. In the haze of our head colds we never realized how fast the week went by. On the last day we planned to go to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden but after sleeping in and trying to get a few last things done I never checked to see they closed at 4:30. We ran out of there to catch an Uber but after getting stuck in traffic we arrived at 4:10 to find the arboretum closed and only twenty minutes before the garden gates were locked. As we walked onto the garden pathways, Lauren had a teary moment of sad frustration as we both realized we suddenly had our clarity back, how much we deeply enjoyed each other and how much of a fog we both had been in. I held her while this feeling moved through her. I said it felt good to finally stop for a moment, to realize how driven we both had been, how much we both trusted each other that we had this but also how we hadn’t appreciated what we had really accomplished. There was a cool foggy mist in the air. Ice was still thick on the water-lily ponds. We rounded a stand of trees to be confronted with a tranquil frozen pond with on the far side, a gorgeous red Japanese archway, the ends of the arch turned up in a wide playful smile. I didn’t see it until Lauren said, “Look daddy, a blue Heron.” I looked closer to see that yes, there was a Heron standing at the top of the arch like an ornamental guard of time itself. I said, wow that’s a powerful totem symbol Lauren. She took out her phone and looked it up, such a geek.

We wandered through the adjoining art museum together then found ourselves the perfect little restaurant that had gluten and dairy free choices before both realizing the whole night was actually perfect. Sitting across from her, this twenty-four-year-old woman, in her recent New York bound haircut, a woman who had claimed her freedom and made it happen from the essence of her feminine surrender, for herself with only my presence to as a resource, I became overwhelmed with the intimacy of it. I tried to keep my anxiety at bay with small talk until Lauren snapped me to my senses by chirping, “Daddy, we only have a few hours left together, is this what you want to be talking about?” Like a Cheech-and Chong record-player arm being drug across by train of thought, I stopped cold and look her in the eyes, “Thank you for slowing us down Lauren, you’re absolutely right.”

She got up to go to the bathroom. As I sat there alone, I realized that THIS was the moment that a father tells his daughter how much he loves her, not in words of affirmation but in words sourced in how he sees her. This was the moment my father never found to tell me those words, this was the moment my mother never found to see who I ever was, but what can I say that comes close to honoring the depth and magnitude of this moment in our history, a moment clearly to be burnt in both of our memories for the rest of our lives.

Lauren sat down with a certain softness and just gazed at me. I asked her, “What can I say to you Lauren that you need to hear from your father?” Her answer was simple, tell me what you think my natural gifts are. That I could work with. It was unquestionably her natural embodied joy. I told her even as a three-year-old, her presence and smile radiating up out of her little stroller would stop people cold. I know parents are predisposed to see their own children as special, but the adulation was non-stop. I told her the joy shared wasn’t from a place of wanting to be accepted or to get some form of attention, it radiated out from a place of knowing that inside herself she was aware of having something very special and proud of it. Thankfully, having been through my own initiation with my previous partner I was in contact with this same center of joy I was trying to explain to Lauren. I said the thing I see in you is a very personal center of creative resonance. It has its own language, its own need to be seen, its own carrier frequency that communicates out of you through its own channel of expression. That is why you did so poorly in High School, because they were forcing you to communicate through a channel that didn’t interest you, a channel of memorized numbers and words that had no expression behind them. I told her the kind of joy we both understand is one that is not always euphoric, it can be painful and harsh and deliberate but joyful none the less because it represents our autonomy. That’s what inspires people about you that they don’t quite understand, I said. Your particular kind of joy, the one that has a deep compassion for human dignity, your desire to make things better, to solve at least one of the world’s problems, your early days on dance team and how you didn’t need to project your passion like the teacher suggested because you had it in you, your stand for women’s rights using the Drag Queen costume as your sword, all add up to your inherent connection to your own liberation. That’s your natural gift Lauren, to inspire others that they might someday liberate themselves.

“Thank you, daddy.” Was all she said. What else could she say. We paid our bill and left. It was still warm for the middle of January, so I suggested we walk home through Prospect Park. Through the fog, the Solder’s and Sailor’s Archway appeared. We walked toward it, knowing its significance as another portal. Looking up at the mass of it from below we agreed to stand there together, and formally step forward into her fresh New York life. There was no dragon left to defeat, no more potential failure, she had quietly and methodically eliminated all the obstacles in front of her to allow her to calmly step across the finish line, not in a roar of fanfare but carrying a deep sense of self satisfaction.

From that moment on, the acceleration returned but this time it was toward my leaving. On the walk through the park I was reminiscing about where the time went after I left her mother, was it two years or three before we moved in together in my first apartment? I realized it was three and said to her how aware I was of being so absent from her life then. She said something insightful, “Would you like to apologize for abandoning me those years daddy?” Her honesty and clarity surprised me yet struck me deep in my heart. “Yes” I said, “I would like to offer you and an unconditional apology for abandoning you, that must have been awful for you.” Then I bust into tears and we held each other. I asked her if she accepted my apology and she said yes.

The rain started coming down heavy suddenly, so we called an Uber home. She said she wanted to hand write me what she called “a plane letter”. I knew what that was, she wrote me a similar one to congratulate me four years ago, as I flew out to New York to be on the Today Show with my latest product, my single wheel motorcycle. It was too late that night, so she said wake her in the morning when I got up and she’d write it while I was getting ready. That morning the acceleration was marked by my on-time flight at JFK and availability of a ride in our area. As the time crushed in, she kept writing. Five minutes Lauren, “Can I have ten?” she said. I got all my stuff packed, my boots on, the car waiting downstairs, standing quietly in front of her in silence, fielding the second text from the driver as she signed it. She fumbled to wrap a second sheet of paper around it and tape it shut, a handy glue stick did the trick instead. She handed it to me as the acceleration almost ripped me through the airborne door like a line of parachute divers strung up to the same rip-cord wire. A quick lingering hug, and a goodbye daddy was all I heard as I looked back one last time at her standing in her new doorway.

Across the entire country was a perfect sunny day. I’d never experienced that before, to stare out the window for five and half hours and watch frozen in white snow, the Hudson go by, Appalachians, the Great Lakes, the expanse of the Dakotas, the Rock Mountains, the Cascades and then the drop into Columbia River Gorge before landing in Portland. I waited for the right moment to read Lauren’s letter. The seat next to me was empty so I didn’t worry about my tears being obvious, but I did want to allow the city to recede on its own and let the morning settle into a calm that would allow me to take in her message. What was in that letter is private, but I can assure you I wept, I wept for her honesty in what she said, I wept for the comfort in knowing my little girl had taken her place as a woman, I wept for her having been able to take her place as a feminine creature after so many years of me not seeing her as such and I wept for myself for having managed to be so unwavering in my support for her, for all the choices I made that were wise and just and resourceful that allowed her to be delivered to her new beach-head, a new beginning to start her assault, to make her mark on the world.

Then it comes, that moment I always forget, when I swing my apartment door open to the blast of the past. The still life, the reminder of what it takes to help women find themselves, to be a man that will sacrifice his own comfort to clear a path for a woman he loves, a path of her own choosing. To be capable of loving by letting go of what any of it needs to be.

I stood there in that ambiguity until a smile returned to my face. I knew I had done well, I knew I did the right thing, but what made me smile… this was what MY joy felt like.