Girl Story

I’ve been listening to country music on the car radio, but it’s making me a bit queasy.  You see, today the target audience for country is women in SUVs with kids in the back, and those proficient hacks in Nashville know how to make them happy.

Proud women or men saying how happy women make them, that’s the entire oeuvre, with a bit of party music thrown in.  Carrie Underwood, who was so happy to let Jesus take the wheel, is now happily keying her ex’s car, which is not the answer I would expect when asking WWJD.

I listen to this claptrap about earnest daddies buying Happy Meals and women paraphrasing the Paradoxical Commandments (Do It Anyway) in a happy-sap-pappy way, and I squirm.  To me, the message is clear: success as a woman has clear and understood parameters.

Women, I know, are pack animals as much as any male human.  What they want is to be an esteemed part of the group, and that means having what other women value.  Unless other women value it, it is often difficult for women to see the worth in it.

This is, of course, the heart of the girl story in this culture.  Heck, for all I know it may be the heart of the girl story in every culture.

I know, though, it has never been the heart of my story.   My story is the essential tranny journey, one that walks away from what other people want to find some individual expression.

This is often hard to explain to people.  They assume that I make choices for the same reason they do, wearing short skirts to attract men, for example.  They make their choices to get what they want, to get what “everyone values,” shaping their expression around common desire, including the desire to have status within the group, and assume everyone makes choices for the same reason.

It’s possible that if I had been one of the girls in high school, I would have bought into this story.  But I wasn’t, and I wasn’t one of the boys either, as was clear to them.   Part of me does wish I could have bought into this story, learning how to get status and prestige in the group by enacting the shared story of success though achieving shared desires.  But I didn’t, and now, at an age when other women are putting aside the dreams & patterns of girlhood and claiming their own unique expression, power & status, well, it’s not going to happen for me.

Still, I flip on the country radio and I am reminded, song by song that I am never going to have a standard girl story, am never just going to get to accept the common ideas, desires and dreams which populate these tunes.   That makes me sad, and I often respond with classic cynicism, rejecting the commercial manipulation occurring, which is simultaneously true & smart and lost & empty.

To be comfortable with our own unique story is the ultimate goal of any human life. 

But yeah, being comfortable we have operated within the shared story, the shared girl story, has attractions too.

Otherwise, why else would so many women be so happy to have it affirmed on their car radios, and work so hard to enact it in their own lives?

Management Issues

I went to a workshop on how to make a good living as a life coach.  I came away with two conclusions

  1. Because I know how to ask questions that enlighten, listen without judgement, and empower people to move beyond hidden blocks to find their own voice, I have an extremely good skill set for this work
  2. Because I have claimed my own enlightenment and surfaced hidden blocks, people who have not yet done the work may find me scary, so marketing myself to do this work may be very hard.

The workshop leader was great.  I could believe that my transstatus was a non-issue to her.  It was an issue to others in the class, though, and the woman I paired with for the exercise had no skill set of making people feel comfortable and safe to explore the blocks.

When I got back, though, I had to do two coaching sessions.   My sister’s big boss came and decided to troll the store for problems again, and her staff said that my sister wasn’t warm and nice.  She may turn in some of the top numbers of 250 stores nationally, but she isn’t a schmoozer, and now her assignment is to schmooze the staff to get them to like her.  Big boss didn’t express her confidence in my sister, rather she told my sister she has 48 hours to convince the staff that BB has confidence in her. 

As a sibling, I want to kick BB’s ass.  As a sibling I want to empower my sister.  As a coach, though, I know that she has to work it out for herself, that I can’t teach her another way to be present in the world.  I tried that when we were in high school, and decades later she told me “I know you were just trying to get me to engage my anger, but I wasn’t supposed to be angry at you, and it just felt creepy.” 

Next, I had to talk to my mother, who has been sick in the Orlando timeshare.  They haven’t really done much there, no real events, and she has been watching my father take care of her.

“This is probably our last trip,” she tells me.  “I don’t want to have to make your father do all this work.”

She’s holding feelings of frustration and inertia, and while I address them a few times a day, even when they are on the road, well, her empowerment is her empowerment.

It turns out that coaching is what I do, what I always have been doing, but that doing it at close range means that the challenge of beng both engaged and detached at the same time is very, very hard.

I looked at the people in the room last night, and saw only a few who were even close to understanding the management challenge of empowering and developing people. 

The big breakthough for these folks comes, it seems, when they stop simply being a participant and also engage the role of being an observer in life.  They find this freeing.

Speaking as one who was forced to stop simply being a participant in my life and become an observer very early, learning to channel & limit my own energy through the gateway of that external & conscious awareness, I don’t find it as freeing.

I do understand why it’s simple to them.  “Don’t worry that you don’t have anything new to say in a book.  All self help books say the same things.  It’s your view, your voice that makes it different and valuable, your own beautiful vessel filled with the common wisdom,” the teacher tells us. 

The trouble with man is twofold.
He cannot learn the truths which are too complicated;
he forgets truths which are too simple.
 Rebecca West 

Most people just need to be lead to their own knowledge, the stuff they hide from themselves.  “If you knew the answer, what would it be?”   And to do that, we need to be gentle management, waiting until they are ready for the questions  –“Don’t try to sell anyone on coaching.  Doesn’t work.  They need to be ready” — and then ask them gently and in their own time.

Wait until they are ready to heal, because that’s the only time that they are open.

When I had to do my intro for the group, I talked of being the guru, the one who engaged the new and then brought it back, of crying at Tom Peters books because the empowerment was so sweet,  of my own path, and of being the “grad course” in my community, asking the questions at the front edge of awareness.

I love management.  I’m good at it.  But, when strong Gwyneth asked what I wanted, it was to be able to be in the world without having to be in that bloody management headspace, all filters and observations.

Down here in the unread end of this entry, I’ll tell you a truth.  I felt the power of flight from the first moment I walked into the classroom, and I had to fight it even an hour and a half into the class, especially after that gaping look one of the participants gave me.   There is a cost to that reaction, but when I got though it, I got to the point where I realized that I didn’t really have anything to get from these people beyond the view of a successful coach, who may not know that Ries & Trout defined marketing as the art of oversimplification, but who knows that process in her political communication manager trained bones.

Supportive & empowering management, but with little challenge or push, is what most people want and crave.

But the requirement to always be the manager, to be the one who hears without being heard, well, I find that an issue that I have trouble getting over.