Through My Fingers

Maybe the worst thing about this blog is how little new there is in it.

The topics I write about in 2015 are the same topics I wrote about in 2005, in 1995 and even in 1985.  They are about empowerment and claiming, about transformation and connection, about essence and truth.

Over the years I have written many aspirational statements, encouraging and positive assertions of possibility.   Sometimes they are full of hope and other times they are set for contrast, leading to odd incidents like having the ironic parts of a downer message read to a room full of people on the floor doing orgasm exercises.

“The lovely statements of the way things could be are usually followed by an explanation of why they will never be that way for you,” I was told by a blog reader.

So many visions, dreams of a better future, have slipped through my fingers like smoke when I went to reach for them.    They seemed only to exist as chimera, impossible to get reflected or supported in the world.

If I have trouble getting my experience mirrored in a way that feels safe and accurate, allowing me the permission to know what I know and feel what I feel, then what chance do I have of having my dreams seen in the world?

A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and sings it back to you when you forget the words.   A therapist is someone who sees something in you that you do not yet see in yourself.  To dream big enough you have to go beyond the rules and expectations, which almost always involves finding someone to  cradle our dreams, helping believe that we can birth them in the world.

Sabotaging the dreams and aspirations of those you find challenging is at the heart of the social pressure of stigma.  How else could society maintain the status quo?

I learned early that being a dream burster was not useful.  Nothing humans create can come into existence unless it first exists as a dream.  No dream comes true whole, but dreams always are the starting point for new, fresh and wonderful.

Today, today, today, I need to have a dream that is worth grabbing onto, a dream that will keep me buoyant as I chase it to find a new and rewarding reality.  I need not to just have my dreams slip through my fingers again, like so many dreams of so many transpeople have over so many centuries.

Is my failure to go after dreams a pragmatic choice, reflecting the barriers to transgender assimilation in society?  Is it based in the way my dreams have been made invisible, my experience of being stigmatized in the world, shaping what I believe to be possible?

Is my failure to go after dreams a compromise choice, based in the understanding that to walk as visibly trans in the world requires strong armour? Is it based in my sensible observation of other transpeople, the price they paid and the limits of their lives?

Is my failure to go after dreams a reactive choice, the old tapes and slams coming up again and again, so I avoid what might cause me pain, get the third gotcha? Is it based on the egos desire to avoid discomfort?  Is it just self sabotage?

Whatever the reason, smart or scared, habitual or environmental, the result is the same: I scrape for dreams but when I try to reach for them, the momentum goes away as I feel them slipping away.

This isn’t for lack of work.   I learned early how to do the work in my family, being the target patient, scapegoated for making the limits & twists visible.  As a transperson. I learned early that it was my job to understand & accommodate other people, not their job to be there for me.

Assimilation escaped me, never finding a way to feel seen and supported as one of the gang.   I wasn’t one of the guys and I wasn’t one of the girls, not really being one of the kids and not one of the adults.

How do you participate in the system of desire when you are unable or unwilling to play the role assigned to you based on the shape of your body?  What happens when potential partners cannot see, affirm or even understand your heart?

If I wanted to be alone, strove to be a loner, I would be a very different person.   I wouldn’t have tried so hard to connect and stay connected, wouldn’t have such a broken heart from being caught between my integrity and my love.

Alone struggles take a lot of work.   There is no one to share the momentum, to transfer it back to you when you stumble for a moment.  In group projects, we pull each other forward, keeping up speed, but individuals who get stopped have to start again, losing energy with each bump.

I may have been working the same ground for a long time now, but that is very human.  We often go in spirals, going deeper or higher with every turn.   Knowing the ground intimately offers us knowledge we can get in no other way.

That knowledge, though, doesn’t always translate into energy.   The enthusiasm to throw yourself into the unknown, not imagining you can be hurt badly, takes a certain kind of innocence and naïveté that rarely endures the fall to earth.

I know how to create energetic, hopeful and encouraging dreams.   Finding a way to grab and hold onto those fragile dreams, letting them lift me, is much more difficult.  Without reinforcement from other people, they seem to slip right through my fingers.

How much struggle do we put behind change until we turn a corner?   How do we know if we are just throwing good resource after bad, pursuing a goal that will never come true, and how do we know if it is more effort and more persistence that will actually get us to a better, more rewarding and more comfortable place?

The challenges to build a life, learning discipline and moderation, finding new ways of accomplishment are always worth the effort.

The effort to build a dream, though, some idea of how get what we want, often ends up with less results and more lessons, coming to a more sensible idea of what is possible for us in this world.    It always makes sense to find moments that are good and learn to extend them, but pounding towards a fantasy without acknowledging the feedback you get can be just boneheaded.

We need other people, need a kind of crowd understanding, to test our dreams against.   Good mirroring lets us not only see what looks good on us and we should work on more, it also lets us see choices that aren’t working, giving us the information and support we need to change those behaviours.

Dreams coming true give us the vision to meld reality with visions, creating an more effective presence in the world.

Dreams that don’t leave us with the hard, hard choice of committing even more or of smartening up and compromising more.

Is this the time to go full out, or is this the time to understand more about a compromised life?

Continue reading Through My Fingers

Take Control

You need to believe you have agency and control in your life.

We all know that you can't control other people.  They grow and heal in their own way and in their own time.

If you want to have power in your life, you have to have power over something that you own, something that you can control.

Transpeople around the world will tell you this: you own your own body.  You have control over what you do to it.

It takes hope, the belief that change for the better can happen, and commitment, the willingness to put everything you have on the line, pushing through discomfort, to create real change in your body. 

Body change is never a magic bullet.   It doesn't change everything. 

Taking control of your body, though, can change your confidence, can change your stance, can change your attitude as well as changing your appearance.   Changing all those things can, indeed, change your life.  

By claiming control of your body, you claim your commitment and power in the world.  You embody the change you need to see in the world.

You are amazing at words.  No one can challenge that.  You have provided brilliant words to illuminate the transgender experience, to speak for the truth of continuous common humanity in the world.   Your words are sharp and powerful.

Having people feel the real energy and heart behind those words, though, has been a struggle that has left you lonely and exhausted. They don't connect in the way you want, don't bring you the affirmation and feedback that you need.

People respond not just to words but to energy.  I see the energy in your heart, but it is cloudy and blocked to most people.

Unlock your energy.  Show it on the outside.  Manifest that amazing heart in a physical way.

Not changing your body allows you to hide.  It's just hard to scrape away the daily and reveal what is inside.

Changing your body allows you to shine.  You won't have to get out from behind your history and biology, you will be out beyond it.  Life will become simpler, easier and more integrated, become less blinking and less stressful.

I know that you have committed to "transnatural" years ago and have learned a great deal from that stance.  You have shown that it isn't clothes or hormones that define us, it is the way we allow ourselves to see the world, the way that we think.

"Transnatural," though, has also kept you invisible and disconnected from your body.  It isolates you from desire, means you can't easily get more naked in front of other people.  There is a cost to that, and you have been paying it.

I know there are limits to a trans body.  But the limits to a normative one, especially for someone who has such an enormously big trans heart and such a feminine mind as yours seem to me to be even bigger.

As Holly Boswell said so many years ago, what have you got to lose?   It's not like your life is working for you now, not like you are getting what you so desperately need in the world.

You know the solution, know the quote.   Leap.  Take the jump from insanely powerful words to messy embodied choices.  With your mind and heart, you will get the hang of it easy if you just stop holding onto your biology and your history.

Take control of your life.  Use the inheritance, however distressed you are at how the executor handled the estate, to grab one more shot. 

You have done amazing things with your mind, your language.  Do good, trans things with your body and I believe that resonance will occur, the vibrations will start, and you will enter people's consciousness in a way that stirs their hearts and a way that will return to you.

You are trans.  Let that out of your body, not just your mouth.  Take control.

Let loose from your bonds, move into the future.  Liberation, transcendence, claim.   Drop the expectations and be naked. 

Don't just tell your truth.  Shine it in the world.  Walk in bold abundance, show the world how much you have worked, how much brain and heart is inside you.   

People see the powerful mature woman inside of you, so bringing her forward will let you take your rightful place in the world in a way that staying invisible never will. Be the woman you know you are, beyond the shackles.

Stop being so mentally tough and show your tender heart on your body. You have little to lose, and a great deal, I believe, to win.

Beyond Smartass

It’s easy to be a smart ass in the world.

Many of us have the experience of other people always looking for things we did wrong, moments they can use to mock and humiliate us.   We feel attacked in the world, often with cheap shots and snarky comments.

That pounding, even if it is claimed to be good natured ribbing, well, it can really hurt.

We learn what we are taught, so in a world where we see smart asses being rewarded, with laughter and kudos, the natural response is to try to be a smart ass too.  The best defence is a good offence, so why not learn to give as good or better than what you get?

Smart ass makes us feel like we have control and protection in the world.    We are not just a victim of others snaps, we are able to hit back, get laughs and keep them in their place.   Putting down others can feel like like it puts us up, pushing them down below us, puffing up our ego, trying to make ourselves look bigger and more threatening in the world.

Like any other defence, though, sarcasm don’t just keep us protected, they keep us isolated.    They become a way to resist being open and vulnerable, separating rather than connecting us.

I grew up in a home where sniping and attacks from my mother were very common.    She took shots to hurt people around her, to show how they were idiots and that she, because she could call out their errors, was above them.  I learned to manipulate early, knowing how to use a sharp tongue to fight fire with fire.

For the decade before I moved in and took care of my parents, I had to learn how to be open and tender again.   I had to learn to support dreams rather than just burst them.

It took a great deal of time to build the trust of my parents.    They expected shots, and needed to learn that I wouldn’t slap back at my mother as I had in the past.  By the end, though, they had learned to depend on me, knowing that showing weakness or fear would only engender compassion and help from me.

There was nothing more important than that trust, that safety, in my quest to give them one more good day.   Fear that they would be hit rather than assisted would mean they had to stay tight and not open up their challenges, not work with me towards the best possible outcome.

Not being a smart ass doesn’t mean that you are only sweet.   I always pointed out ironies, inconsistencies and places where we might be able to do better, but I did that with love and respect.   I wasn’t trying to score points, to prove that I was smarter or bigger than they were, wasn’t trying to put them down.   Instead, they came to understand that I was trying to lift all of us up.

I am witty and sharp, but I now use my words with compassion and wit, acknowledging that our flawed choices show continuous common humanity, reveal opportunities for growth and healing, rather than being stupid and low.

When you are in the smart ass mindset, it is easy to believe that the pearls you offer are gifts, barbed arrows shot to knock own arrogance and stupidity.   After all, the first part of smart ass is smart, right?  The smugness that comes with smart ass can feel very satisfying, at least until you wonder why people veer away from you, don’t trust you, and always want to fire back at you.

Moving to a constructive attitude, more open, earnest and forgiving can be hard.   Our inner critic is often a smart ass, always ready to point out how we fucked up, left ourselves vulnerable, were made a fool of by not striking out first.   Duh!  We smart ass ourselves first, a protective response that comes from years of being the victim of casual tormenting, usually the well approved tormenting of children against other children.

Smart ass is sensational, a comforting dance of schadenfreude, delighting in the failures of others.   Television producers, for example, have long used smart ass to invoke sensation, making even the most bumptious viewers feel superior when they can laugh at someone else brought low.

Moving beyond smart ass needs to come when we have people who depend on us, who trust us to help them grow and heal.   Children are always going to make mistakes  just because they don’t know better.   Their mistakes are real and earnest attempts to succeed, steps along the way to knowledge.   If we make them fear that failures will result in a cheap shot, smugly pointing out their lack of grace in a hurtful way, how can we ever encourage them to take risks and claim ownership?

To be a good manager, to be a good parent, to own your own humanity, you need to be able to move beyond smart ass.  Alloying wit with compassion allows it to foster healing rather than just spread humiliating inequities.

You’d understand that, if you just weren’t such a damn smart ass.

Body and Words

While my struggle to be seen, heard, affirmed, validated and accurately mirrored may seem from the outside to be an intellectual quest, it most assuredly is not.

It comes from somewhere much, much deeper, somewhere much more potent and tender, somewhere in my heart.

I’m sure that Dr. van der Kolk, as a psychiatrist, would tell me that those parts of myself I metaphorically call my heart are not based in that beating knot of muscle in my chest. but rather are physically located in the neural tissue between my ears.   They exist in the brains under my brain, the reptilian brain, the mammalian brain, the right hemisphere that exists outside of language and rationality.

I need a way to talk about those parts, though, and for many centuries humans have called the seat of sensation, of emotion and of love in the heart.  Those parts of the brain that connect to the body seem to exist somewhere deeper inside of us. below our socialization.  somewhere out of our head.

My big, verbal brain has worked diligently to keep me going over my years.  Using it, I have looked for the power of healing, especially the power of mirroring.

By being able to have words for my feelings, I have unwired my buttons, making me safe to talk to.

My skill at putting language to my feelings has made me helpful to others in putting words to their feelings, either because they see bits of themselves mirrored in my writing, or because when they converse with me I am very present, mirroring them in ways they find kind, affirming and useful.

When they want to heal, my hard won skills and knowledge helps them, but when they want to stay compartmentalized, I am just annoying as hell.

The power of a wounded healer, it seems to me today, is in the way they can use their own pain, their own damage to offer a mirror to others, one that can help them move their own self image towards understanding and their own choices towards healing.

I am proud to offer my smarts and my persistence to others, so that they might catch a glimpse of something they haven’t seen reflected before and come more to peace with themselves.

The cry of my own wounded heart, though, of those brains beneath brains, is often missed in this process.   How can people possibly see in me what they cannot yet see in themselves?  How can they connect with the knowledge and feelings still buried deep in my body rather than just with the words that come out of my mouth?

“We see things not as they are, but as we are,” said Anaïs Nin.

Any writer will tell you that people see their own reflection in writing, picking up phrases with their own assigned meaning, missing what seems to them like noise or filler, and putting emphasis on what resonates with them.   People always read with their own eyes.

I live, though, in the the spaces between their attention.   I am not the symbols I offer, “I am the shadows my words cast,” (Octavio Paz), the deeper meaning I struggle to code in my text.

It is that deeper pool where I really live, in the wellspring of humanity which lies deep inside of me.  My experience of the world is not verbal, it is embodied, a multisensory trip though a real world that I struggle to express through words.

When I share my words, I am not really asking people to hold onto my intellect, my virtuosity or my brilliance.

I am asking people to hold onto my heart.

My words may be smart, tough and resilient, but my heart is tender and torn.

Sometimes people wonder why I never tried to court an audience, never decided to climb into the spotlight, as The Drama Queens tried to do time and time again.   I knew that I could get my voice heard, could court visibility, get my ego fed, but I also knew that my heart wasn’t in it.

The message of the world is simple: people can’t give you the kind of engagement that you want, so learn to settle for what they can give you.  Get enough of that and you will be have the resources to find what you want, will be so visible that people who may be able to help will see you.

A life of denying, suppressing and doubting my own vitality has left my heart quite shredded.

It is unreasonable to expect others to engage the depths of me, even more so if I see their own fears and unhealed places quite quickly.

I understand the expectation; if I am able to move beyond my wounds, able to engage their wounds, then I have the obligation to do that, the requirement to be the bigger, more forgiving person.  I have the obligation to care, just like I had that obligation with my parents from as early as I can remember.

The expressions of my heart, the desire, needs, and so on were things to be kept down and under control.   This was the way I could keep others comfortable and not attacking me for being stupid, sick and perverted.   I learned to stuff and swallow.

The body keeps the score.  My heart demands its breath.

The only way for me to move ahead is to go back into more aesthetic denial, something that feels like going back to entombment, or to go forward to a more playful, sensual, emotional, integrated and feminine life, something that feels beyond possibility for a broken old tranny like me.

As smart as I am. my intelligence won’t save me, won’t make me blossom in the world.   That intelligence is there for a reason, though, an artifact of the long desperation to be engaged at a deeper level, to have my tender heart seen, felt, respected, mirrored and maybe even, dare I hope, adored.

People want to argue me out of that need, telling me to grow up and be a man, to put on my big girl panties.   Just get over it, they say.

I have done that, though, started doing that when I was very young and continuing through.   My childhood was denied, for so many reasons, my life backwards, adultified too early.  Being mature had a cost, and the body, well, it keeps the score.

HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
-- W.B. Yeats "He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven"

Pathologizing

Transgender is an perversion, the fevered sickness of a deluded mind.  Birth sex defines who people are and anyone who tries to deny that, can’t accept that truth, harbours warped values that make them dangerous.   We need to constrain them for the good of society, need to keep them away from the women and children their transgression puts at risk.

This is the message of those who promote so called “bathroom bills,” designed to wall off transpeople from good, righteous and normal people.

By identifying transgender expression as pathological, it becomes easy to lump transgender with other pathologies, from child abuse to schizophrenia. Emotional buttons are pushed, releasing fear which justifies any effort to constrain, marginalize and dehumanize transpeople for their own good.

The essence of this argument is that transgender people should not be allowed to steal our babies (1998), stealing their virtue and their future.   By putting transpeople in the sick bin, we keep our children pure, untainted and under our control.  For those who see the world as a place of sin, following preachy preachers who strive to draw a line between the faithful and the evil, this demonetization of those who don’t follow the strictures of their church comes easy.

The notion that transgender expression (including other gender variant expression, like homosexual behaviour) stems from sickness, from a perversion of the normal, natural and healthy working of the mind and body, is far from new.  It was the default idea for all of the last century and before.

I know that I struggled with the question of sickness in my life, evaluating “differential diagnoses” (2006) which tried to identify what was good, true and pure and what was broken, cracked and warped.    Being lumped in with every dysfunction of desire meant that I had to know where acting on those drives was wrong and where it was just claiming expression past oppression and convention.

Struggling through the issues of truth and falsehood (1997), how we express what we know and what we feel in the world while staying in a framework of veracity was the first set of challenges I had.  I knew that I was not female bodied nor was I raised as a woman, but I also knew that my nature was not that of a normative man.

The other set of challenges were about behaviour in the world.   Where could a moral line be drawn that respected others but also allowed freedom?  For me, that boundary was around queerness, and the demarcation was consent (1998).

As much as I came to rational understandings about the health of transgender in the world, the emotional understanding has been much harder to integrate.    I acutely feel the discomfort of those around me, feel the mirroring of erasure, fear and anger.   I know that when others don’t understand, they tend to pathologize,  casting me as sick, broken and warped.   If they are normative, I am fractured.

This is one reason why I never look to the medical profession to provide solutions for transgender.  I didn’t want to have to sign up as sick to try and get a cure or even a dispensation for my assigned affliction.   I knew they couldn’t deliver what I needed.

Instead, I looked to anthropology and theology for cultures where transgender people were seen as a natural part of the culture, offering special benefits to their families, bands, tribes, villages and communities.  The story of human culture turns out to be full of understanding and affirmation of people like me.

The problem seemed to be located not in biology but in belief, in belief systems that drew crisp binaries between us and them.  In examining those systems, what I saw were economic fundamentalism, the attempt to expand and control populations by having rigid and compulsory structures around reproductive biology and breeding pressure.

It doesn’t surprise me at all that those who believe in creating huge families also believe in enforcing gender stereotypes.    You serve the church by being fruitful and multiplying,  so whatever is in your heart, your obligation is to breeding biology over all.  This is the economic pressure at the heart of heterosexism.

Gender, though, does serve an important purpose in controlling copulation, reproduction and child rearing.   We do need a system that enforces the responsibility to care for children, wanted or not, and that is a system that must be based around families.   That doesn’t necessarily mean two person female/male families — there are other models in human culture — but it does mean safe and consistent space for for children to grow in.

As a transperson, my response to people who propose bathroom sanctity bills comes on two levels.

First, I understand the economic basis for this push, the attempt to control gender expression so that people don’t have to do the work, feel they can isolate their children from queerness, and have a common enemy to rally around.

Beyond that, though, I feel the hurt and trauma from others who would pathologize me and people like me in the world.  The old wounds and attacks come up, making me tense up expecting the “third gotcha,” a re-traumatizaion at any time.  The attacks make other transpeople distressed and I watch them lash out in painful ways, often lashing out at allies and others who they see as too queer and perverted, bringing this down on us.

Allies often get caught up in these arguments, deciding that it is right to compromise and draw a line between good transpeople and sick transpeople.   Once that happens, their own fear blossoms and they cannot stand up for our queerness.   We ask for affirmation,  we get quibbles and distancing.   Researchers who studied transpeople and found them broken often decided that damage must be the cause of their transgender nature rather than the effects of being pathologized in the world from a young age.

“We are the normal ones and you are the freak.  We paid the price to fit in and you did not.  Which one of us is then the problem?  Which one of us is causing disturbance?  Which one of us deserves whatever shit they get?  I’ll give you a hint; it’s not me.”

The facts are clear.   Transgender access to appropriate gendered public sanitary facilities make everyone more safe rather than less safe.   People who are going to violate others without their consent will do so anyway, as they are already not compliant with laws.   Public safety officials across the country agree with this.

For those who feel the need to pathologize and demonize transgender people, these facts are irrelevant.  To them, transgender sickness is a matter of obvious belief and those who do not see it are themselves warped and corrupted.

That hurts my heart.  Being lumped in as sick, perverted and dangerous is deflating, especially when you know that the more you fight their blanket denigration the more you feed the battle, stoking their fires and creating more damage.   Defence is attack, so fighting just makes the attackers stronger.

The long term effects of being classed as pathological and demonic are crushing, even if you know very clearly that the accusations are not true.  The cost of fighting false accusations which support stigma, ostracism and marginalization has smashed many humans.

I know this, she said sadly, firsthand.

Mirror Shards

Accurate mirroring gives you permission to feel what you feel and know what you know — one of the essential foundations of recovery.
 — Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps The Score

You can no more see your own soul than you can see the back of your head.  ‘

The only way to get a glimpse of who you are is in the mirror of society by looking into the reflections of how your choices effect others.

This is why humans need mirroring.   It is why we need to enact transgender, not just keep it inside (1996) and why broken mirrors can cause big problems (1998)

It is also why we are always trying to determine bias in the responses of other people: is their reaction about them or about me?   Is their mirroring of me accurate or is it funhouse?

The consistency of reflection is important to this process.   If everybody sees you one way, you have a high degree of confidence in that mirroring.

I was talking to a friend of my sister about this.  “Do you really need other people?” she asked.  “Can’t you do it alone?”

Everybody ends up with an internal, virtual mirror of themselves, stored in our self image.  We use that inner mirror to model our own choices, to create a virtual us in the world.

For people who haven’t, for whatever reason, had accurate mirroring in the world — people I might call “too people,” who are too intense, too smart, too queer, too whatever — those mirrors we build aren’t made up of nice, big, affirming chunks of mirror, ones we hold with confidence.

Instead, we build our model mirror out of tiny shards, little reflections.   Our nature isn’t normative, expected, simple, unchallenging.   Much of who we are is masked or occluded, made invisible in the world.   We struggle to express it, but more than that we struggle to get useful and affirming reflections of what we are trying to share in the world.

Like a crazy paving mosaic, we use tiny fractured off shards of mirror to build our self image.  Alone we create our own inner mirror as best we can.

We know, though, the limits of that kind of mirror.    We know that it contains gaps and flaws, refractions and spiders.   We know not to trust that self image because we know that we don’t have the simple reflection of accurate mirroring in the world.

If we doubt our mirror. we doubt what we see in it.  That means we doubt the knowledge and feelings that we see, not feeling the shattered reflection gives us enough truth for strong permission to feel what we feel and know what we know.  Our foundation for recovery is weak.

By covering the mirrors to avoid reflecting what is uncomfortable, normative society tries to erase the power of accurate mirroring for the challenging, “too” people.   We struggle for visibility in the world because we struggle to be confident and empowered in our own self image, struggle to believe the strength and beauty we see reflected.

For social beings, do we exist without the mirroring of relationship, the networked mirroring of community?  How can we know who we are until we can see ourselves reflected?   It is my fondest hope that in my writing and speaking I have offered some useful mirroring for others, that by revealing myself I have helped some get a glimpse of what is inside them.

Still, those of us whose self image is made up of tiny, tiny shards of mirror, scavenged and scraped and saved, glued together the best we can, have low confidence in that reflection, low confidence to trust our own feelings and self-knowledge.

We experience others trying to project on us rather than to accurately reflect us, to come from their expectations, to make our search for truth about them and their fears, about the feelings and knowledge they want to keep invisible and unchallenging in their lives.

The struggle for visibility is the struggle for mirroring and the struggle for accurate mirroring is the struggle for permission to feel what we feel and know what we know, which is one of the essential foundations of recovery.

Without an effective self image, we cannot build an effective life.

Shards, well, as much as we scrape, they just don’t really cut it.

 

Continue reading Mirror Shards

No Habit

Once you get good at no, it’s hard to change.

I learned early that to survive and be even halfway comfortable in the world, I had to say no.

No to my trans heart, no to expectations of safety, no to my body, no to indulgence, no to so many things.

Once I got good at that kind of denial, I started to get rewards.   People were happy that I shut up, tuned into them and offered service, so much happier than when I was a mouth, sharp queer.

Becoming proficient and expert at no had a high cost, culminating in the decade when I helped my parents live their last days and then for the two and a half years when I had to live in the choices of the executor, choices that served her.

Aesthetic denial is a thing.  It has its own demands, own price and own momentum.   Once you learn to tolerate loss, saying no becomes more than habit, it becomes virtue itself.

There are many good reasons to say no.   No clears away the clutter, heightens the focus and sharpens the vision.   You cannot live a good and healthy life without learning to say no, to say it graciously and with power.

There are many good reasons to say yes, too.   A no habit may be more disciplined than an indulgent yes habit, trying to have it all at once, but when that no habot blocks you, isolates you, and chills you down, it becomes a problem.

I encourage people to say yes more than I have, to go out and be bold in claiming transformation and possibility in their life.   I may have learned an enormous amount from no, from that aesthetic denial, but I know that it denies vitality and is not for everyone.

My sister recently told me that my detailed memory is a 70/30 thing.   It’s great that I listen close, hold history, make connections, reflect patterns, but it is also a pain in the ass that I remember every cut that laid me out.   70% lovely blessing and 30% really annoying is the balance she came to.

The most memorable moments are not when I said no, rather they are where I could not bring myself to say yes.   A year ago TBB offered a new computer, for example, a blessing that came from gratitude, fortune and love, and I diddled and dithered, unable to say yes.

What is the point of saying yes?   If you are used to no, have recast your expectations, analyzed not just your experience but the stories of others, you understand yes is just a passing thing, a long shot.    The odds of success, well, they aren’t good.

Humans, though, are long shot creatures.   “Shoot for the stars,” they tell you, “and if you fail, you still will have the moon.”  We know our success will always end up smaller than our vision, so we have an incentive to dream huge and compromise later.

We love dreamers because we love the pure vitality contained in their hope.

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.   Saying yes to the long shots rarely pays off in the way that you expect, but it almost always brings surprises that are rewarding and often delightful.    You cannot have divine surprise, much less a church based on it, without saying yes to long shots.

Yes is what keeps people in the flow of human intercourse and commerce.   If you don’t say yes, people will stop asking, leaving you on the sidelines.   The circle of community flows on yes, on one hand washing the other, on the economic lift that circular engagement and cooperation provides.

Spend too long, spend too much of yourself on saying no and it becomes quite a habit.   Yes just seems too costly, too expensive, too depleting of scare resources.   You just can’t afford to say yes.   You lose the craziness to say yes, even if you can encourage that in others.

Committing suicide with cash in your pocket, though, seems like missing one last opportunity to claim value in this life.  Taking that sure option to leave feels safer than the long shot that may well just hurt you again, stuck in a cycle of diminishing returns.

I often ask myself “So, if you could do anything you want, what would it be?”   Trying to tap into my desires, my gut, that part of the brain beyond language feels important.   It also feels like trying to reach too far, my no habit evaluating possible outcomes and finding them wanting.   The no habit cannot plan for surprises, so it discounts them.

I am clear why I leaned to say no.

I am not clear how I learn to say yes.

That is a problem.