The following is a meditation on power that takes loosely connected declarative statements and weaves them into a spiral into my own enlightened powerlessness.
There is a reason most paths that diminish the ego are fortified with evangelism to take the place of personal motivations. Missed that part.
I believe that I have the right to do what I want.
I don’t believe that I have the right to demand change from other people, don’t have the right to try and control their actions. I learned to let it go.
When I was young, manipulation of others was often my goal. It was definitely my defence. “Let me talk you into it!”
Not deceitful manipulation, mind you. I would be happy to tell you my interest.
And to the end, I used those tools on my parents to help them do what they wanted to do. Sing “Hello Dolly” while my mother kind of just wanted to stay on the bed? Sure. We both knew she should start moving, and a laugh with some energy helped that happen.
Christine helped me so much in letting go of my habitual manipulation. I can’t make you love me. I would try and she would call me on it, and I ended up letting it go, though that process took decades. Giving up my defences also meant giving up many of my pretenses, coming to grips with my own nature being more exposed.
Nowadays, I will often tell bereavement counsellor of a way in which I don’t get the response from others that I need, and she will say s0mething to the effect of “That must be difficult.”
“Yes,” I will agree, “but it is what it is. I can’t control other people.”
How much is one allowed to manipulate others to get what you want? How much do you get to pester, cajole, arm-twist, flatter, threaten, feint, and do whatever else to get them to do what you want?
Power is the ability to get other people to do what you want. There are a number of paths to power. You can coerce others with threats and denial, you can use commerce to trade with others, you can convince others, evangelize, to get them to do what you want. And once you have others doing what you want, you can use the power of coalition, of the group, to do more of the same.
To be powerless is to be abject. It’s not a good place, depending only on the charity of others. Trans, though, is often seen as abjection, because to be out and trans is often to have to surrender your old power and turn it in for new power.
For me, I always had the sense of growing up powerless inside my family. My only power was gained by servicing the desires of others. They had the needs, I had the requirement. My first post on this blog, about Thanksgiving 2005, was about being valued as a human doing rather than as a human being.
The question I instinctively ask is “What is reasonable to ask of others?” But even that question reveals the limits of my thinking. Is being “reasonable” the only test of what to ask of others? I suspect that it is not.
In 1992, I drove back from my first Southern Comfort, where I first met TBB, and on the radio was a song Mary Chapin Carpenter. “It’s too much to expect, but it’s not too much to ask.” Yes, I understood that sentiment. I still do. (And her version of Lucinda Williams’ “Passionate Kisses” still breaks my heart.)
“I need,” “I want,” “I deserve,” are not phrases that I have learned to use or to trust. Getting past the ego, getting beyond desire are important parts of getting clear, but getting beyond them also limits achievement in this life.
“If you don’t ask, you won’t get,” the old saw goes.
But a life of denial, self-sacrifice and service does not leave one in a place to confidently go for one’s dreams. In fact, it can easily leave one bereft of dreams and the energy to boldly go for it, whatever the hell “it” is.
Can’t I just, just find someone else to take care of?
Too hard being me.