Stacked Deck

The only thing that you can do in life is to use your power of choice to play the hand you are dealt in the best way you can.

The deck that hand is dealt from, though, is stacked.   It’s not fair, random balanced or equitable.

You don’t get a fair deal.  You just get the deal you get, biased by class and race and genetics and location and a thousand other factors.   The hand could always be better, yes, but it could almost always be very much worse too, especially for those of us born in first world countries.

Acknowledging the good cards we are dealt is often very tough.   We don’t compare our hand with everyone in the world, rather we compare it with people that we see around us, and that usually means the people we see as being advantaged.  Don’t we just deserve the basics, whatever we think those are, and therefore should have gotten more?

It’s easy to believe that if we just had one or two more breaks that our life would be gravy, easy and much more comfortable, without the challenge pain and stigma we face now.   Our problems are based on how we are disadvantaged, whatever that means to us.   For example, their family has Mercedes, but we only have a Plymouth, so we don’t have the status that makes their life easier.

The price of our crappy hand is right in front of us, forcing us to struggle everyday, while the price of their challenges is invisible to us.  Increasing the price of their struggles, then, is cheap for those who already have power, a wise choice to limit the demands on us and push them lower into the chain.

This divesting the cost of failed social responsibility onto those individuals actually damaged by the neglect is adding abuse to injury.

Classes that are marginalized, denied opportunities and services, and then show themselves to be less successful because they act out, responding to the deprivation they endured, end up getting blamed for being broken.

This happened with all sorts of groups, from people of colour to immigrants to women and so on.   Those who had governmental and social power made sure they were denied a fair shake and then used the damage caused to those individuals to justify their decisions: if those people were going to act in such a rude & disgraceful way, then surely we were right to deny them the rights and rewards that we as good people have earned.

The social deck is stacked, no doubt.    That doesn’t mean, though, that we can understand the unfairness just from looking at our hand and the ones around us.  It is often impossible to see the price others have had to pay for what they got, especially when we envy what they seem to have.

While we can choose to work for more fairness in the deal, the only way we can possibly do that is from a position of power.   We need to be able to convince other people to go along with our proposals, using any effective and moral techniques we can muster.

Owning our own power, though, means making the best choices to play the hand we were dealt.  Through all that deal, no matter how unfair it may have been, what we need to do the same thing we would in any situation: making considered, smart choices and putting our own commitment and energy behind them.

Making good choices means using our emotions to fuel our better judgment rather than just indulging and acting out our feelings.  By understanding that no matter how entitled anyone looks to us, they have paid their own price for the gifts given to them, struggled with their own lack, and carry pain somewhere just under their skin.   They are human.

Complaining about situations almost never changes them, almost never creates the power to make them better for us and for others.

The deck is stacked.   Life is not fair.

But the only effective thing that you can do in life is to use your power of choice to play the hand you are dealt in the best way you can.   Choose, learn, then choose again, choosing better.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
— Margaret Mead

Do you want change, changes to your life or to the world, or do you want someone to indulge your own self-pity?   You must be the change you want to see in the world and that always means making better choices, no matter how much you would rather complain about the hand you were dealt.

Real Artifice

Audiences love artifice.   Artifice is always more exciting than reality because artifice is crafted to be engaging, attractive and compelling.

Reality is either boring, confusing or challenging, but artifice takes our assumptions and expectations into account, building something that feels realer than real.  We like a good show.

All the codes that revel authenticity are at play in artifice.  As humans, we have a strong sense of people even if we know that they are putting on a bit of a show for us.

Artifice is really the only way we have to communicate.   We construct our expression, using all the bits and pieces, the language, images, movements and ideas that we see as being effective in establishing our position.   The performative always takes artifice, even if it is so well done or so earnest that we see it as “real.”

Owing your own artifice, though, takes chutzpah.

Most of us just follow group norms & expectations, playing along and living in the shadow of what the people around us are doing. By taking on their coloration and habits, our artifice doesn’t stand out because it is embraced as normative.

Artifice that moves beyond the bland and traditional. though, stands out.  It can easily be assailed as false, as manipulative, as deluded.  Rather than seeing the choices of those we are familiar with as artifice we feel better assuming that their conventions are natural & proper, while those which challenge our expectations are freaky & sick.

My challenge, should I end up deciding to go out into the world, is constructing a new artifice for myself.

In Gerri Hirshey’s Not Pretty Enough: The Unlikely Triumph of Helen Gurley Brown, the founder of today’s Cosmopolitan magazine is displayed in all her feminine power.  HGB, as Ms. Hirshey calls her subject, always stood for a certain image of womanhood, a sexy, vivacious, stylish media savvy performance of potent wiles.

To imagine taking feminine power without mastering some modes of artifice is impossible.  HGB was clear that artifice was not something you wore like a costume, trying to conceal you really are, rather it was a tool to magnify your presence in the world, revealing and amplifying the best of you.

Anytime you bring something forward something else recedes into the shadows, but that helps you in the world.  People see your pride, your commitments, your enthusiasms, even as they don’t need to see your weaknesses, your fears and your pain.

Ms. Hirshey, as she says in her title, believes that HGB self image was torn down rather than built up by her mother, so she always believed that she was not pretty enough.   This lead to HGB learning how to get affirmation of her own femininity,  making choices that would engage and please men for all her life.  HGB and Joan Rivers would swap war stories about plastic surgery and HGB finally got breast augmentation when she was over 70.

One transwoman announced that “I didn’t decide to be a woman.  I stopped trying to be what I was not was not and she came out.”  When you look at her photos, though, you can see that she has used a great deal of artifice to construct her new appearance.  Suzan Cooke would write these people off as a “skin transvestite,”  someone who self-feminized for erotic reasons, an autogynephiliac to use Blanchard’s term.

Does being highly concerned with artifice make someone not a woman?   While being committed to feminine artifice doesn’t make you a woman, as any number of gay identified drag queens will be happy to tell you, it doesn’t stop you from being a woman either, as Dolly Parton shows.

I have eschewed artifice. I am “trans-natural,” never even taking hormones, which has allowed me to understand trans without chemicals, the way humans had to do it for most of history.   My Aspergers parents were not effective at social status and artifice made a very limited impact on their very self-contained minds.

To enter the world, though, artifice is a key form of communication, one that simplifies and eases the passage of information.   “Show them” often requires putting on a bit of a show, one that communicates in a way that telling them never will.

Those who want to be seen, heard and remembered often adopt a signature look, something instantly identifiable as the essence of who they are.

My daily look, though, is absurdly utilitarian and rude, a uniform made up of whatever remains in the storage crates I keep my stuff in.   I have never had a regular appointment with a hair professional, never even kept up key components of health, instead relying on discipline & denial to keep going.

My space has never spoken of me either.   It is raw, monastic and practical, without my own stamp.

Without getting to play at looks when I was young and cute, I fell back to button front, button down oxford cloth and corduroy, the better to hide a feminine heart, being without any desire to cockily preen.

Like so many other bits of my backwards life where I learned early to be the caretaker and then only later could try to figure out blossoming, the call seems to be for me to begin to embrace an artifice which aids in effectively communicating to the world.

It’s hard to move to artifice at a time when so many are moving away from it, hard to be bold without a rich history of exploration & revelation.  I have had many tell me that I need to become more plain, renouncing the external, even though that was something I never owned for myself. (2006)

Artifice, though feels like it is required if I want people to find me fun & easy to engage, if I need them to enjoy the show to become open to the content.  Without the eyes of a collaborator, though, an editor, director, or producer, that work of packaging is very hard for me.

My story isn’t “not pretty enough,” rather it is just “not pretty.”  It was hard for HGB to stand & compete in the world with her battered self image, finding the need to use artifice to turn herself into a character, and it is hard for me, now and after so long, to find my own artifice, my own visual & habitual signature.   I worry about looking like a silly tranny in a costume, not just mutton dressed as lamb but beef playing at veal.

Artifice does seem important, though, somehow.

Pursuing Positive

To have genuine bodhicitta is to burn with love in a world you cannot fix.
Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel

Taking that journey to enlightenment is a one way trip.   A bell cannot be un-rung and you cannot un-know what you have learned.   That was one of the last laments Christine left me with: “Why didn’t you tell me that there was no way back?”

The path is a pursuit you take on. You have to want to interrupt your own delusion. To do this you have to appreciate seeing what is not working in your life.
Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel

People have learned to live with delusion.  They don’t complain about what is, rather they complain about what they believe should be, complaining about how life, their partners and the world fail to meet their own expectations.

“Treat me like I want to be treated,” they wail, ranking out those who are stuck in their own delusions about how the world has failed them and how other people never treat them like they desire to be treated, how they deserve to be cared for.

To live in the delusion is to live in a negative identity, knowing what you are not, knowing how the world failed you, knowing how you are separate & different.   Negative identity demands identifying enemies, those who are out to hurt people like you, shaping who you are as a wail or attack on those who refuse to change to meet your simple & beautiful needs.

The path to healing, to caring, is the path away from a negative identity, from knowing who we are not, to a positive identity, to knowing who we are.   It is to live in love, burning with love for a world that you cannot fix, knowing how the battle serves you, knowing how you are connected & a part of all.

The delusion, though, is always easier, specially in a world where marketers have learned to use that delusion to control social behaviour, to control your behaviour.   Everyone wants to be tame and fit into the group, following the conventions & expectations, even as we feel the need to be wild and claim our own messy, human, powerful heart.

Knowing yourself is owning yourself, owning your own history, thoughts & choices, knowing that the holiest you is a creature of action, not a creature of reaction.  Your struggles are your struggles, but your choices are you.

Not having anyone to blame is hard, not just for the burden it places on you, but especially for the way it reflects on the people around you.  Your positive identity, your responsibility for your choices casts light on their responsibility for their choices.   It shows their rationalizations and beliefs for what they are, uncloaking the delusion they use to deflect scrutiny from themselves.

Everyone wants and needs compassion, for we are but humans doing the best we can in a world we cannot fix, cannot perfect.  Explaining why we deserve compassion, though, pushes compassion away from us.   By showing our effort, our work, our struggle to become aware and take responsibility for our choices, we open the hearts of those around us.   By identifying as a victim, worthy of indulgence, though, others close to us, asking us to take responsibility for what we can change.

God, grant me the courage to change what I can,
the serenity to accept what I cannot change,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Struggling to leave the soft, shared delusion behind is always hard, because it always demands that we claim who we are, taking responsibility for our choices, rather than just living in who we are not, blaming the world for how it treated someone as special & delicate as we are.

People heal in their own time and their own way, even you.

We cannot heal the world, cannot fix it.  We can only heal ourselves and let our healing, our service and our love become a force to help others who are struggling begin to move beyond their delusions when they are ready, when they begin to burn for moving forward.

The Buddhist path is not about cultivating peacefulness.
It is about cultivating wakefulness.
We are trying to expand our repertoire of what we can handle.
Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel

Ms Mattis Namgel calls it the Buddhist path, but I see it as the human path, a path towards enlightenment that the Buddha took and that is open to each of us.  “There are dangers in all forms of literalism,” and for me, the fundamentalist delusion that only the path you chose to healing is true & valid is getting the ladder mixed up with the destination.

For me, living among people who cannot afford to let their delusion die, those who expect caring and live in blame rather than those who give caring and live in love is very hard.

I struggle to engage wakefulness, becoming more aware though my own practice of writing, then sharing that work with the world in a loving attempt to help others.

Others embrace my service to them, my active caring.  Because they need their own delusion, though, others have not really listened to me for so long that I am drowning in the the pool of my own unheard truth.  I feel un-mirrored, my heart invisible and lonely, at the end of my rope.

Simply being myself in the world demands others confront their own comfortable delusions, the separations that they think are real but are only in their mind.   “In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.”   That’s been my mission statement, and I am sticking to it.

In the end, our life is about what we are willing to fight for much more than it is about what we are willing to fight against.   Tell me who you are rather than telling me who you are not, show me your personal pride rather than your shared enemies.   That’s one reason why, even though I could easily be called “non-binary” I have slipped that identification; too many people use it to convey what they want to avoid rather than what they are willing to claim.

To have genuine bodhicitta is to burn with love in a world you cannot fix.
Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel

The only way to be a healer is to take responsibility for your own choices, no matter what wounds you have endured.   When your scars tell a story of transcendence rather than one of victimization, you define yourself rather than letting your abusers name & shame you.

Love is the force that we have.  We cannot fix the world, but we can be love in it, raging against the delusion of separation.

Enlightenment is hard because we live in a world most comfortable in twilight.  Brilliance makes others want us to heal them rather than using us as beacon which can lead them to their own emergence, their own rising, their own light.  Healing, though, only comes by doing the work, claiming personal wakefulness, seeing clearly what is not working and interrupting your own delusion.

Is emerging worth the risk of drowning in your own un-mirrored awareness?   I guess that, for me, I needed healing so much that it was.

For you, though, how much is healing worth?  Are you ready to move beyond your comforting expectations of how others should change and take responsibility for who you are?

T3: Writing New Stories

There is no backwards button in life.   So unkind, no rewind.

When Virginia Prince tried to read me out as a crossdresser way back in 1991, she told me that I must have purged, gone through the ritual of tossing all my wardrobe and telling myself that I would never dress up again.

That was just another sign that s/he had no idea who I am.   I was never one of her femiphiles, never just playing with one put-on personae.

I don’t purge anything.   My low levels of latent inhibition means that the past doesn’t slough off, means that I have to learn to live with it.

My goal, upon coming out, was integration.   I wanted to connect things together, needed to find integrity and honesty.   So many threads, so little connection.

Does anybody every really get to write a whole new story, create a totally different incarnation?   Or do we just wear various masks, showing different facets of who we dreamed of being?

Moulting, making new choices, invoking new ways of being in the world, well, we all do that.   Thank God that we don’t stay as clueless as we were at sixteen.

But really becoming new?   The privilege of a lifetime, Campbell says, is becoming who you are.

Is the crust I carry really who I am?   Or are there new stories to be written, new, different, liberated, loving stories?  Even, dare I say it, pretty stories?

If I had to write a new story, it might cast me as the writer of stories, a sensuous novelist with a witty take on the foibles of the human condition.   Having dreams with happy endings, or at least satisfying ones, seems appealing.

Women tend to see their lives as a series of chapters;
Men, as an arc with a clear trajectory.
— Sarah Crichton

A woman’s life can be a succession of lives,
each revolving around some emotionally compelling situation or challenge,
and each marked off by some intense experience.
— Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor

For it is surely a lifetime work, this learning to be a woman
— May Sarton

To be a woman is something
so strange, so confusing and so complicated
that only a woman would put up with it.
— Søren Kierkegaard

In 1999 I wrote “The Guy In A Dress Line” which basically signalled the end of my political period.  Is our trans history always the defining factor in our life, or is there life after primary transgender identification?

Of course, in trans spaces, especially on the internet, it is all about trans.  There we assert, we argue, we politic, we posture, we declaim, we attack, we emote, we express about our transness.

For many transpeople, though, those spaces are not safe, comfortable or affirming.  They have moved on, made a new chapter, created a new story around something other than trans.   They don’t need to fight every zealot, engage every newbie, rehash every battle, inveigh every political trope.

They have, in some way or other, Transcended Transgender through Transformation, have gotten to that T3 level where trans isn’t at the front of who they are, rather it is just one component to a full and rich life.

The stories they live are incomprehensible to those who think trans is everything, be those people religious fundamentalists or identity politics fundamentalists; anyone who thinks that group identity always outweighs individual expression.

Having to choose, though, if trans means everything to us or trans means nothing to us is just another heartbreaking, bullshit binary choice, even if it is often forced on us by people who claim to be supporting non-binary expression.

As much as gender is framed as binary in this culture, no one, absolutely no one, has a binary identity.   Who we know ourselves to be is always much more complex and nuanced than just being one thing or the other.  There are always shades and intensities, from those who strive hard to be a very girly girl to those whose gender identity is one of the least important things they express in he world.

Is the essence of being non-binary crafting individualized gender roles with correspondingly tailored pronouns, or is moving to understanding that gender is not essential to identity?   Once we are not primarily focused on our role in a system of desire, we can understand that who we are is much less about partnering and much more about doing, about all the choices we create in our life.

The essence of Transcendent Transgender Transformation, T3, is simply acknowledging that people are much, much, much more than their sexual characteristics which makes them much, much, much more than their reproductive role, which makes them much, much, much more than their gender.

T3 is beyond gender but is not opposed to gender.  T3 doesn’t get stuck in the trap of putting gender first and foremost in human identity and then trying to soften that primary identification somehow.    Being a man or a woman isn’t primary for us, even if those identifiers communicate our self knowledge, our outlook, our role and our choices in a concise way.

T3 puts our creative efforts first, valuing us not as one or the other but instead as a unique, balanced individual human with their own pattern of personal strengths.

How do we write a new story when we are bound to the binary expectations and assumptions of others?   How do we become transcendent, transforming beyond the limits of gender when gender is held as primary & essential?

In a culture beyond simple heterosexism, we need to value people first for what they bring, not how they fit into some binary.

T3 people do that, announcing that they are not first and foremost their gender, but rather that they are human first, full of skills and history and possibilities that are not constrained by identity politics, by enforced grouping, by gender.

T3.   It’s the future.

Or, at least, it’s my scratchy attempt to write a new story.

Failure, Risk & Love

There is only one good reason to commit to failing again and again, falling flat and getting up until you get it right.

Unless you love something, really love it, love it so much that you want it to be an integrated part of who you are, then how can you take the pain and nuisance of letting it slap you down over and over again?

It is only the pursuit of love that engenders the pursuit of risk.   Unless there is a chance of a deeper connection with someone, something or some passion that we love, why put yourself out there and take a risk?  Why not just play it safe and small, reserved and sad because you don’t have the love in your life that calls you to a passionate exercise of living?

Don’t we want someone to love?  Don’t we want to feel love everyday?  Don’t we  want to be in love?

It is love that fuels our leaps, our coming out of the plainness of who we are now, the comfortable old persona, and attempting to become more, to become better, to become new.   The love of a person, the love of mastery, the love of exploration, the love of rebirth, whatever we love, it fuels us.

Risk always includes failure.   Nothing comes without a few scrapes and bruises, without falling down a few pegs, without a few heartbreaks.   Learning takes time and loss, shards of pain that point out where more work, more focus, more sweat, more attention, more smarts and more love is needed.

When we are young, love is easy to come by.   We are always being swept away by love, or at least by the dream of love.   We imagine the power of who we could be if we just had the right love, the beautiful mirroring of our love, someone who takes our love and reflects it back, turning love into something that feels strong and solid.

This means that when we are young, the mourning for love is also easy to come by.   We imagine the feeling of being in love, the focus and the affirmation that keeps us fresh, invigorated and ready to leap.

As we get older, we learn to consider our choices more, to be more selective in what we love.   We understand that love spread too thin isn’t really much love at all, understand that if we want to avoid the mourning & heartbreak we also have to avoid the drama that comes with easy, torrid and essentially cheap love.

The awareness that love takes work & commitment, that love & discipline are unreservedly intertwined comes as our love ripens, creating deeper challenges which take time & dedication to work through.   Our love matures as we mature, becoming less a momentary rush and much more a persistent investment, draped in compassion, nuance & understanding.

A folly of youth is to believe that a spark of love is enough; a folly of age is to believe that a spark of love is not crucial.

Negotiating the role of love in our life is always challenging.   Just because we are a mother and give our love to our children doesn’t mean we don’t need a bit of the fire of love back.   As the kids grow and move away, we have to open to new loves, new paths of love that keep us fresh, that keep us passionate, that keep us growing, that keep us ready to risk failure and leap towards something amazing.

To love again is to risk again and to risk again is to love again.

Just maybe, the biggest risk we make with love is if whatever we love will love us back.    Our gifts and talents have limits, so understanding our own nature leads us to know where we can invest ourself to find the kind of rewards we need and want.

To leap again is to love again.

I rose from a vivid and exquisitely tender dream about coming together again with the apricot haired love of my life, finally being able to not skitter away but connect.

Learning that love is not for me was hard, a retraction deep into my nautilus brain, pulling my dreams in to a place where they didn’t bother me too much as I did the hard work.

People like me, and that means so many things, have a tortured relationship with love, with desire, with deep and intimate connection.

Just looked at the web stats and someone found a post titled “My Father’s Eulogy.”  It’s about inheritance, about love.   His death was also the last time I heard from her, just a brief note in an on-line guestbook attached to his obituary.

To love again is to leap again.

People around me treat me as fired ceramic, dutiful, utilitarian, hard, fixed.    They know what they want from me, know my limits, know my place.

Somewhere, though, there must still be a bit of raw clay whose destiny is not fixed, that is plastic, malleable and holds new possibilities. 

Does that lump need to be protected, saved, hoarded, or might I risk trying to shape it, even knowing that my hands are old, my skills clumsy and it may well deform or shatter in the kiln?

The only reason to commit to becoming new, to risk failure and create rebirth is love.   If we aren’t heading towards something we can love —  agápe, éros, philía, or storgē — then what is the point?

The cliff is right ahead of me.

My experience weighs me down with caution.

Unless you love something, really love it, love it so much that you want it to be an integrated part of who you are, then how can you take the pain and nuisance of letting it slap you down over and over again?

Leaping is loving.   Loving is leaping.

My vision of the light & love available to me, though, well, is there a name for leaping into the fog?

Bracing For Blows

I know how I gird for battle.

My heart gets locked down hard and my head gets locked in.

Instead of using it to guide me, I deploy my heart as a sensor, giving me important messages about both my emotional status and the emotional status of those I am dealing with.

By using my head, I can make smart choices about the attacks I endure.  I can use the jujitsu to redirect them back onto my attacker, fending the blows and keeping them off balance.

Rather than acting out I can stay rational, balanced and gracious, which really can piss off people who want to take control by the force of their own rage.

This a technique I had to learn very, very early.   Acting out was what my mother did to everyone, as she had no other way to express her emotions, especially her feelings of being disconnected and hurt.

It is a very grown up technique, very mature.

The problem, though, is that employing it always comes at a cost.   To stay attenuated, rational, throttled back, limited and considered means I have to take my emotions, my intense and powerful energies, and keep them bottled up.

My sister recently told me the story of when she was doing Wave Work, a kind of body work, over 15 years ago.

As the practitioner went over her, she felt a kind of a growl unlock in her soul, a deep booming sound like the muffled roar of an animal warning others not to come close, telling that there was rage bottled up within that could explode in attack if not respected.

This wasn’t a sound that she could make in the world because she grew up learning to stay hidden and safe from a mother who could slash out, one who had no idea that part of her job was teaching kids to stand up for themselves, to fight for what they needed in the world.

When I tried to teach her my fighting techniques, my sister shut down, knowing that her battle wasn’t with me.   She knew I was trying to help, but it wasn’t at all what she needed.

On that table, though, her growl was unlocked, her own energy released.

When she sat up, she looked down at her hands and saw flashes of colourful energy coming from them.   As she slowly waved her arm in the air, she could see the sparkles create trails, glittering in a following arc.

“Yes,” her practitioner told her, “they really are there.

“You are full of that energy.   It is richly within you.”

Both of us, though, learned to put our heart on lock down, absorbing all that energy rather than letting it flow in the world, empowering us to follow our own shimmering hearts.

Our training was to hide our heart energy rather than following it, to become introverted rather than extroverted.

For me, who has a performance streak, I found a bit of balance, but for my sister, whose nature runs to introversion, combining the training with that means she can easily get swamped by her feelings.

When I first started walking in the world revealing my trans nature, I learned that I had to be ready to defend myself from those who saw my act as indecent, political or sick.    It was easy to see why so many other transwomen ended up carrying around in their own sealed world, their own lucite bubble to keep them protected from all the flying shit.

My expression is part of my service, bringing that blend of head & heart to help heal, but it wasn’t part of my indulgence.   I didn’t need to be wearing specific clothes to feel present, authentic or happy.

Not having to stay bracing for blows all the time, ready for the “third gotcha,” meant I could be more open, more vulnerable, more present.  It meant I could live more in my heart and less in my head, using my strength to take care of my parents and such rather than just defending myself against those who chose to act out against trans expression.

Bette Midler recently recalled a tweet (though without apology) that suggested since “I Am Cait” is cancelled, Jenner should “go back to being Bruce.”

The amazing Alexandra Billings replies that while we may change presentations, we are who we are, always have been and always will be. There is no going back to a time when we weren’t trans, only back to a time when we didn’t show it in the world, didn’t make others see it.

We are trans everyday of our life.   I know that I have been trans every day of my life, no matter what other people saw or wanted to see.

The battles that I really needed to fight, the ones that demanded my attention and my scarce resources were not the public ones.  I had to go deep inside to do the inner work, had to participate in my family, had to care and think and write.

To move to another stage, though, I need to be more present and visible in the world.   That means I have to gird for battle, have to be ready to take the blows.

Living with a locked down heart, though, sounds horrible to me.  And while I have tried to search for other defences, well, getting mirroring for being bigger, more exposed and more dynamic isn’t something I have found anyone to support.

Who heals the healers?   Where is the safe space for rest, affirmation and nourishment?   In my family, it only existed inside of us; there was no one to help.

I know how to battle.   Callan is, I found long after choosing it, a feminine name meaning “powerful in battle.”

How to heal from battle, though, well, that has always been a cost.  And, like any human, the older you get the more you carry, the more healing costs you, and that shows in my choices.

All that energy is in there, those flowing colours ready to come.

The fight, though, to get them out in the world, beyond the training and expectations that they should fit nicely in other people’s expectations, though, well, that takes a battle.

Social Status Seeking

Dale Carnegie taught the world how to Win Friends And Influence People and in Self-Help Messiah: Dale Carnegie and Success in Modern America, Steven Woods tells the story of why Carnegie wanted so much to be seen as successful and how his lessons in satisfying the needs of other people created an empire.

Carnegie’s basic lesson about success is simple: you have to want influence so much that you will endlessly work for it, so much that you will push through failure after failure to get it,  so much that you will put other peoples needs, desires and feelings before your own to get what you want.   They will see you as their friend if you never tell them that they are wrong, never are rude to them, never seem like you are not valuing them more than anything else.

Performance is the key for Carnegie, and like any preacher, he knows that you have to become your performance, becoming the friendliest and most influential person you can possibly be at all times.   Unless your performance works with the kind of deep conviction that drips authenticity, well, it’s just not going to get you what you want and you are going to have to keep polishing it, as he polished his performance everyday.

Carnegie grew up poor and that was embarrassing to him.  When he got to teachers college, he saw a way up through rhetoric, a way he knew suited his skills, a way that he could succeed at if he only went at it with hammer and tongs.

Wanting to be liked by the crowd, wanting to be popular is what most people grow up wanting.   Success means having friends who listened to you, who you could influence to do what you wanted.   That is dream power, soft power, power that puts you at the head of the crowd rather than separating you from it.

Carnegie understood that drive and offered tools you could use to make that happen.  He was so nice, so clean, so likeable that people wanted what he had, and if they didn’t have his drive, well, at least they could have his manual.

“Unless you like failure, you need to embrace the selective truth.”
— Jack Peltz, “Where The Road Hits The Rubber” (Roadies S1E9)

Being who others want to like, even if that means having a bag full of faces that you put on to suit the person you want to influence, well, there is a cost to that kind of behaviour.   It’s very hard to be committed to ideals and to truth when you have to have situational behaviour and ethics.

I love great corporate structures, places where people come together to share their skills and energy to make great things or to give great service.   I long to be a part of that team which revels in diversity, pulling together for greater goals.

I hate cheap corporate structures, though, those filled with fear and politics, where social pressure is a club to enforce compliance with some kind of imposed norms which treat people like interchangeable parts.

Carnegie was teaching people to be the kind of worker who put the sales figures ahead of almost anything, the one who would do whatever it takes to exceed expectations and rise in the corporate structure.   Because success is the ultimate virtue, the ends justify the means, and all that lovely groupthink.

Social status seeking is, of course, the most powerful force used to tame humans, to get them to go along, taking on the beliefs, choices & identity of the group.    Who doesn’t want to be embraced as a member of the gang?

How much, though, is it going to cost to be part of the in crowd?   How much of yourself do you have to give up?

For most people, their identity is as part of a group.   They are a member of a family, people from a neighbourhood, students at a school, one of a clique, part of a group with shared values.

Identity as an individual comes along later as they see the need to break away, try shifting groups until they find the need to stand alone, understanding their own heart and claiming their own presence.

That wasn’t the way it worked for me.   My aspergers parents didn’t know how to make a group, a safe space.   Instead, it was all about them, either in an narcissistic acting out way or in a sweet crackpot way.

I understand why people want to wrap themselves in group identity, in the tame warmth of fitting in, but only in an abstract, conceptual way.   It is easy to watch people who seek social status and know what they want and why, but it is much less easy for me to understand why that surrender of self to group norms and mores ever feels good and safe.

Carnegie’s basic message about success was simple: know your audience.

My message is much more the other side: know yourself.

As much as people love a binary, a duality, our messages aren’t all that different.

Carnegie preached that you couldn’t just follow a template, because unless your message appeared sincere, it wouldn’t work.

I talk about the importance of service, of being gracious and appropriate in a way that not only respects but that also serves the people with whom you are in relationship.

Wild and tame, the primary duality.

It’s just the tame bit that bloody well escapes me.