Lost Heart, Lost Life

Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah blah.

“If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open doors to you. I say follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else”

Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth, with Bill Moyers

Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah blah.

(Good.  Are they gone yet?  Have I put out enough thoughts and words to deflect them, to make them think I am just cerebral?   Have I shown that I know how to stay defended, know how to be smart and dry?  Have I driven them away?  Am I safe to get naked?)

I learned early that the only way to keep my poor femme heart safe was to keep it defended.  My defence, as TBB makes clear, is in my head.

Now, I come by the porcupine bristles of sharp thought, clear vision and a web of fast neural connections quite legitimately.     I don’t just bluster and posture to put up a smoke screen, rather that big brain is a very important part of me.  It doesn’t sleep, doesn’t get off patrol, stays vigilant and active.

Along side that smarts though, is my big tender femme heart.   And understanding my choices and failures is much clearer when you actually see it, see how it loves and feel how battered and bruised that it is.

I am, I fear, a hopeless fucking romantic.    While I know that this truth is vivid in every fibre of my body, know that every thoughtful and analytical text I have ever written holds this truth in every line, words to reveal what connects human hearts not words to venerate the separations and taxonomies of the mind, my too big brain often overshadows my too big heart.

Truth is that I like it that way.   I’d much rather be challenged or rejected for what I think than for who I am.   I can change and shape my thoughts, use them to defend and enlighten, but my heart, well, I have known since I was a child that it is what it is.    What it is, of course, is tender, broken.

It’s my heart, my nature, my love, my Eros, my bliss that people have attacked ever since I first showed it.  It’s my heart that was just wrong and sick and not fit for human connection.

Part of this, of course, was a family that didn’t get emotion.   Aspergers will do that, even as I knew my father was incredibly loving while my mother was incredibly demanding that people make her happy.    I not only had no training in how to manage a human heart, but my mother made sure it was unsafe to express emotion around her.

The other part was the fact that I knew from a very early age that my heart was drawn to the feminine, and it was made very clear to me that was reason enough for others to stigmatize and abuse me.  I learned to play alone, not with the boys, not with the girls.

I was expected to control and manage my heart, not to explore and learn to trust it.  Boxes within boxes, performances within performances, I learned that I had to constrain myself, to hide and deny.

When I walk in the world as a visible transperson, I know that expression comes from my heart.   It’s not a smart or thoughtful thing to do, rather it comes from my own vulnerable place.   I don’t show my nature for political or in-your-face reasons, rather I reveal it because it reveals my heart.

My vulnerability is often difficult for others to believe when they see me making what to them looks like a deliberate, confident and even flagrant display that they could never imagine making.  Instead of responding to the tenderness of my revelations, they often see arrogance and insult in my choices, giving them permission to stigmatize, taunt and abuse me.   We teach children early that humiliating others for “inappropriate” gender expression isn’t just tolerated, it is valued, and that habit can last a lifetime.

It’s tough to know how to love someone who is as big, as exposed, as queer and as needy as a transperson.  We have learned to not trust what others proffer, so we brush off their advances as politeness, or worse, we can’t even see their advances through the armour we have placed around our own heart.   How can we be loved and lovable when we have such a long and deep experience of being told our hearts are flawed and sick?

My biggest shame comes from not being able to deny my heart, not to be able to conceal my weak and silly romantic nature in appropriate ways.  I have been taught that I have to do this, that there is no space or safety in being open, giggly, wearing my heart on my sleeve, giving too much information, being too exposed and too vulnerable.

People assume that if I am smart enough to think well, I should know how to control my heart, to not live viscerally in the world.    They seem to think that hearts and minds aren’t complimentary, and that having a sharp mind can’t also include having a big soft heart that loves beauty and frills.   And they also treat me with a kind of wary attitude so they won’t feel “tricked” by me, leaving me feeling isolated and around people who will dismiss me if challenged, not standing up for me.

It is, from the earliest days I can remember, my romantic, feminine heart that has always taken the blows, has always ended up battered, bruised and broken.   It’s always my romantic, feminine heart that goes undernourished and lonely, even as it drives me to care for and connect with others, limiting my own expression for their comfort.

I know how to be ironic and cynical, cutting through cheap treacle with a quick quip.   That rejection of manufactured pap, though, is just a rejection of hiding problems over with sweet pink paint, and is always done with grace and love.   I do admit that might be hard to believe for people who like sweet, manufactured pink pap covering all twists and conflict, though.

That quick curmudgeon façade, though, comes from the tricks I learned watching Bogart movies in Cambridge while I was in high school.  I needed to learn some kind of man tricks somewhere, even if I was never cocky enough to really make them work.  I learned very early that no matter how fierce it was, that part of me was just too fragile for the world.  The need for love will just break your heart and show your weakness, especially if you reveal a feminine heart in a world that thinks your reproductive biology defines everything.

It never felt safe to explore my desire, but somehow, love and passion are universal in the way that people respond to them.   People respond not to virtue but to vitality, as Sebastian Faulks reminds us.   Joyous is joyous.

It’s not the frivolity of women that makes them so intolerable.
It’s their gastly enthusiasm.
Horace Rumpole (John Mortimer)

I learned early that coming from my heart was opening myself to an unsafe world, a world that just wasn’t going to get it, that was going to mock and shame me for my choices.

Instead, I chose, for a number of good reasons to defend my heart with my head.   First, I needed my head to survive in the world, I had a good head, and my head was something I could own, a place where I could shape and control my choices.  My heart, well, the heart  wants what the heart wants, as Emily Dickinson wrote.

Better to be attacked for being smart than to be attacked for being too frivolous and enthusiastic, because the head can process criticism, while the heart, it just bleeds.

My bliss, though, doesn’t reside in my head.   That’s not where my mother in the sky put the song she taught me to sing in this world.

If I want to be present in the world, it’s my heart that needs to pump that vitality through me.   For someone, though, whose head has learned to control her heart, who has learned not to trust others with her heart, who has a heart broken and battered from years of stigma, whose heart is often seen as too big, too intense and too queer in the world, well, that’s someone who has learned to protect and isolate her heart.

I expose my heart all the time, in the best way that I know how, with the finest words my head can muster.   I just never assume that people will love it, or even understand it.   I know they very well may focus on something outside of my heart, like the ideas I offer, the language I use, or the shape of my body.   I don’t act on what I love, putting it out there, because I learned long ago that to keep it safe, I had to keep my heart to myself.   It wasn’t something I could trust anyone else with.

That doesn’t mean that I haven’t tried to trust.  I am committed to working the process, yes I am.  I look in every human mirror I see to understand how they see me, but I also know that their view of me is clouded not only by their expectations, conventions and desires, but also by the fact that I leave my heart shrouded by my head for safety.

“Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t expect them, where they wouldn’t open for anyone else.”   Words of wisdom from someone who compared empowerment stories from across human culture.

Trusting that my heart can be loved and lovable in the world is hard after all the training I have gotten, and all the defences — good, smart, fair, well-crafted, balanced, elegant defences — that I have created around it.

But not trusting that my heart, no matter how femme it is, no matter how frivolous and enthusiastic, can be effective in the world is saying that my life force just can’t break through the noise, that my life force is too broken and too tender to continue in the world.  It is saying that hurt will overcome beauty, that pain will overcome life.

I know what I need to do for 2014.

I’m just not sure I still have the heart for it.

Relational Choice

Choices must be made. Every choice has a cost. Life is a trade-off between what you want and what you want more. You can have it all, just not all at once.

Right now, you have made the choice to be a woman in the world. You love the kind of benefits you get from being a woman, but you also hate the fact that you lose benefits you took for granted while being a man.

This is a BFD for transpeople, who understand the cost of gender in a profound way that those who have not walked between gender roles never will. Most people never consider the price of gender, they just get good at their assigned role, shaping themselves with their assigned context. There are millions of ways to be a good woman, from very butch to very femme, lots of choices to be made, but they all, too, involve trade-offs, though not so dramatic as crossing between man and woman.

Too many transpeople decide that the problem is “the binary,” so that gender should be eliminated so there are no trade-offs to be made, no losses to endure, no price to pay for being who they are.

“Liberate people now!” they cry, making an emotional case disguised as just political triumph over oppression. Why should we have to choose? And why should choosing have a cost? That’s just keeping people down!

The laws of physics, though, give us some insight into choice. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. As heat rises, so does pressure. Factors are connected to each other; weight changes momentum, for example. None of these are binary, but they are all relational; change one factor, and the system changes too.

Why shouldn’t human life be the same? Change one factor, and the system changes too. We don’t get to keep what we want constant while introducing change into the system. Factors are related. Choices have effects, and effects include unwanted effects, which we see as costs. When the system changes, it responds in new ways.

I get the whole tranny in no-man’s/no-woman’s ground thing, where it feels like neither women’s choices or men’s choices quite work for us. My first question at my first gender conference twenty tears ago was “Men and women take power in different ways.  How do you shift your power in the world as you gender shift?”

How do we exist in a world where people have preconceptions, knowing what they think they want, knowing what they fear? To find people who understand that relationships are just relationships, and dividing people by birth reproductive biology is just sexist and silly is a hard thing. People are taught that we are defined by the shape of our pee-pee, and any crossing that line is just satanic.

But that is changing. And you are much more likely to benefit from those changes than people 20 or 25 years older than you are.

I know why people get stuck in gender transition. We get stuck because we fear losing what we had in conventional gender and never being able to achieve what we need in our true gender. We fear letting go of what we have because we don’t see how we can get what we need if we leap.

Does that mean the answer is to try and strike down the Newtonian laws of physics, the truth that every action has an equal and opposite reaction? Or even the new quantum laws of physics, like the truth that observation itself can change results? Is railing for a world where actions don’t have consequences really a good use of our energy, or is it just pissing into the wind?

We live in a finite world, where a choice for one thing is a choice against something else. We can have it all, just not all at once. Every creation is a negotiation of trade-offs, even trade-offs we would rather not have to make.

We live in a world of related factors, a system where everything is connected. We don’t get to cut those strings and stay standing up.

And railing about that as being an unfair binary isn’t going to change it.

Make a choice. If that doesn’t work, take what you have learned and choose again. There are no perfect choices, only a range of good ones.

Because everything is a trade-off, everything is related, every action has a reaction, everything has a cost.

And no human has ever figured out how to change that truth.

Moms Mabley

I saw Whoopi Goldberg’s show on Moms Mabley.

It’s basically all these current performers talking about what Moms Mabley meant to them, with a few academics thrown in.

To me, they seem to miss the point.

Someone who knew Jackie Mabley when she played the Apollo in Harlem described how they called her “Mr. Moms,” how she was the first woman they knew to wear men’s clothes, how she always had a beautiful girlfriend.   They talked about how Moms had two characters, one off stage and one on.

Whoopi talks about how being a lesbian was OK because it wasn’t nobody’s business in those days.   That’s the only narrative we have about what it was like to be queer in Harlem in the 1930s.  We have to take her word for it to buy her version of the story.

None of the current performers or academics knew the off stage Moms.   They are audience, just like us, seeing only the persona she used on stage.

To me, Moms Mabley makes much more sense when seen as a drag act.    Moms is Jackie’s drag persona, a comedy drag that no straight woman would have chosen to do.  Only a trans-man doing drag (or a butch woman, or a masculine hearted woman, or whatever the term they would prefer) would do this raw a performance every night.

When we consider that Moms was mentored by an act called “Butterbeans And Susie” where the male performer regularly wore blackface in the early days, why should the idea of Moms wearing dragface surprise us?   She grew up in a culture where wearing a mask, especially the mask of a fool placed over deep folk wisdom, was a standard convention.

When we take Moms out of the time and place that shaped her performance, trying to evaluate her as if she was just another standup comedian who played ugly like Phyllis Diller, I think we miss the point entirely.  Sure, Totie Fields and Joan Rivers knew how to wear a mask to get laughs, but theirs was not the same as modernized blackface, nor was it a kind of drag act that covered over gender and sexuality even in a female bodied person.

It’s just another example of how queerness becomes invisible in culture because the audience is removed from it and so doesn’t get the construct, only the surface.

For Moms, the audience getting the surface was enough.  She had that act down, and the chance to perform and get paid for it was what she needed.

Her private life had always been private, so she was not forthcoming about it, which is why Ms. Goldberg had such trouble making this show.   The mask was polished and all the audience needed to see.

Because, I suspect, Jackie Mabley knew they wouldn’t get her real story even if she told them.  They would try to cast it in terms that they understand and lose the meaning.

We queers learn very early that people see what they expect to see.   “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are,” as  Anaïs Nin said

Blackface performers and classic dragface performers knew that.   We knew we had to have a face for show and another one for our own feelings, and we knew that because we were part of a culture that needed us to be cloaked and unchallenging.

And people who don’t have that experience miss the point.

To me, Moms Mabley wasn’t just a prototype standup.   She was a well trained blackface performer who adapted smartly to the new world of standup.   She did a drag act, disguised as standup.

But that notion wouldn’t serve Ms. Goldberg’s point, would it?

A Happy Kind Of Failure

Keith Johnstone, who invented the Theatresports format for impro comedy, says that there is one trick to doing the format right.

You need to fail and still be happy, he tells us.  It’s that happiness that keeps the audience liking you.

That’s the same advice Ms. Rachelle used to give to transitioning transpeople.   As long as the people around you see you being happy, she told me, they won’t question your choices too much.   But if they don’t see that happiness, then they will circle like sharks to tell everyone why you have made a horrible mistake.

Tell people why expressing trans makes you happy, I used to tell transpeople who needed to come out to loved ones, not how much transgender torments you and leaves you in pain.  After all, if you say it’s about pain and suffering, how can people get behind it?

Don’t worry.  Play happy.  “You are the fat girl!” a crossdresser yelled at me during a photo shoot at the old Corvette Americana Hall Of Fame.   “That means you have to be jolly!”   Oy.

On stage you have some obligation to satisfy the audience, especially if you want them to come back again.  In marketing, planning your choices around the audiences you need to satisfy and the content that will engage and enervate them is crucial.  It is all about the audience.

A life that is built around the audience, though, one where you are only product, well, that just sucks.   It’s not really human, is it?  It’s all well and good to know that failing and getting back up again with a smile — a big circus bow — works well in an impro show, because all that is scuffed is your pride, but failing in real life often has bigger damage and repercussions.

I do understand the injunction to be happy even in failure so you keep the audience from wincing, from feeling unpleasant emotions like anger, cut-throat competition or real suffering.   All in good fun makes for a good fun evening, indeed.

Pasting a veneer of good fun over a life filled with failure, though, isn’t really a reasonable ask.   That means losing the ease of the audience, though, means making them feel ill at ease and uncomfortable.

And losing the audience?   Well, that has always made me unhappy,  but not as unhappy as trying to keep a happy and conventional mask on to make others comfortable.   I know they want queers to hide suffering to keep them feeling breezy, but silence == death.

Then again, death == death, too.

Happy?

It’s not alright

Sabrina — TBB — wants to share this with you.

It’s not alright

It’s not alright for you to ignore me.
It’s not alright for you not to call during the holidays.
You are my children, my family and friends.  It hurts more than you can imagine

It’s not alright to poison my children toward me.
It’s not alright to claim I am violent when I am not.
It sets up doubt which can never be overcome.
It’s not alright to make me the villain when I am not.
You were my spouse and lover. You are supposed to be my family and friends

It’s not alright to tell my children that I am not worth loving.
It’s not alright to constantly make them feel that they have to choose between me and you.
You were my spouse and lover. You are supposed to be my family and friends

It’s not alright to plan things during the short planned times I have to see my children.  It’s not alright to plan holidays so far away ,with family you haven’t seen in years, so that I can’t be with them even for an evening. I see them little enough as it is.
I love them too.
You were my spouse and lover. You are supposed to be my family and friends

It’s not alright to never invite me to go out.
It’s not alright to be nice to my face but talk about me behind my back.
It’s not alright to be nice to me only because you need something from me.
You are people who are now in my life, acquaintances and people I work with.

It’s not alright not to love me.
I am worth loving, and without love I will certainly die.
Is that what you want?

Unreached Belief

In  Denial: Self-Deception, False Beliefs, and the Origins of the Human Mind, author Ajit Varki explores Danny Brower’s theory that “the uniquely human ability to deny reality in the face of inarguable evidence — including the willful ignorance of our own inevitable deaths — is the key to our evolutionary success.”

Varki argues that the reason no other species on Earth has done what humans have done is because no other species can deceive themselves so effectively.

Personally, I think that argument doesn’t quite nail what makes humans unique.

As far as we know, no other species has developed symbolic language, and that means no other species has developed the power to tell stories, the power to create myths.  Sure, those stories can be used to “deny reality,” but they can also be used to create new imaginary realities that bind us together, that allow us to share imagination and work together to create new shared and real realities.   How could elephants or porpoises come together to build a city if they have no imagination of what a city might be?

Humans are unique because we are story tellers, I suggest, and those stories we tell to contextualize our world,  those myths we make to shape our understanding are in the end, what makes us human, for good and for bad.   That’s why, for example, we are the only animals with gender, because we have created a symbolic language around reproduction and child rearing, rich in expressing the nature of our own hearts.

Those stories have a power to link us to something higher than facts, link with something bigger than our own lifetime.  We see ourselves as a part of something beyond the factual, something magical.

I know what the best stories are because as a theologian, I study stories and how they help us in the world.   By looking at the story themes that humans come back to time and time again, over many cultures and much history, hard won universal truths emerge.

In the end, approaching the world with love rather than fear, seeking connection rather than separation, trusting abundance rather than scarcity, and following bliss rather than convention usually creates the best results, the happiest, most harmonious and most successful results.  When we use conflict to burn away expectations and open our eyes to a shared reality, we lift each other.

This is why I know that my own worldview, based on my experience of scarcity and fear isn’t a worldview that will set me up for success.    It’s why I know that I have to get a new story or have to get out.

I understand why Ms. Rachelle sometimes feels that her inability to pick a story and stick with it is a handicap rather than a gift.  Shimmering vision doesn’t give the survival advantage of good, hyper-focused belief, no matter what other benefits it brings.   We are just overthinkers who underachieve.

When the time comes to act from belief rather than to live in clear vision, to enter the story rather than just to watch it, challenge comes to me.  The mind needs stories to get us past knowledge and into imagination, needs intelligent ignorance to get us creating rather than just reacting, needs the spark of hope to get us beyond inertia.  You gotta have a dream, [because] if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna make a dream come true?

Anyone seen any good dreams for aging, too-smart transwomen lying around?

Unsafe At Any Age II

TBB and I were talking about yesterday’s post and about how unsafe felt.

It’s easy to be under attack by someone who hates you, because in that case, you know you need to wear the armour, be defended.  What’s most difficult is when people who you love and who love you just can’t take and value what you are offering, when they end up running over what is meaningful to you.

TBB is making a special homemade Christmas for her mother who is facing memory loss, even though it is a difficult year for TBB, the first Christmas she won’t be with her children.  When her friend says she bought some pies at BJ’s, she tries again to explain that the gesture is nice, but store bought is off the table in this special year.  Her friend just can’t get it; she was just trying to be nice.

It’s when people we know love us end up not not valuing what we show of ourselves that we hurt the most.  We are forced to wear armour all the time.

The worst part, though, is when those people think that our struggle for quality and authenticity is about them, when they feel attacked by our truth.  They are “doing the best they can,” and it should be enough for us, even if it falls far short and even hurts us by their action or inaction.  They don’t want to be forced to heal, to grow, to be enlightened, because to do that will expose them in the other parts of their lives, make them unable to put up the twists and defences they use to face people who demand respect for fear, manipulation and sickness.

Too often then, we get cast as the abuser, making demands that would expose their own unhealed feelings, their own unconsidered choices, their own failure of priorites, their own twists that defend them.  They blame us for the emotions that come up in them, blame us for their own feelings, and slash out to try and silence us so they stop being challenged.   After all, didn’t we bring this on ourselves by not fitting in, so don’t we deserve what we get?

To be trans in the world has to be a commitment to individual truth, honesty, authenticity and healing.  When others glimpse themselves through our eyes, it is often easier for them to try to damage and discredit us rather than face their own twists.  We may know their acting out tells us more about them than us, but we are still the one who takes the blows.   And when those hits come from someone we know loves us, well, that hurts twice as much, and forces us to wear armour even in spaces where we should be able to get naked.

Our expressions and feelings are about us, but when they challenge others, it’s easy for them to cast us out as perverts and abusers, as scapegoats, as stupid, as the one who seems to be causing the problems rather than just the one who is revealing them.

I once suggested that every Christian church be issued a transperson so members could get their head around the real meaning of unconditional love beyond their comfort zone, but the truth is that I couldn’t imagine subjecting poor, tender transpeople to that kind of  abuse.  They don’t deserve it.

We know when people love us, and we know when their own issues erase and attack our own truth.  That makes us feel unsafe, unheard and cast as the terrifying ogre, and that hurts, keeping us from trusting our own impulses, keeping us from removing the armour we have learned to wear.

We learn to not ask people to enter our world, to see through our eyes, to hold our hearts, because we know they just haven’t done the kind of work we have had to do to embrace truth beyond convention.   We end up able to enter their lives with grace, but watching them get freaked and act out when they even get close to entering ours.  They can’t understand why we can’t just play along, can’t just put up and shut up, can’t drop the challenging truth and just be nice.

It is our heart that demands we take the challenging path, go on the journey to slay the dragon with “Thou Shalt” on every scale, march to a different drummer.    We were forced off the easy and well worn road to claim our own creation beyond convention.

It’s easy to think our choices are about challenging them, about making their life harder, about “fuck you,” or sickness or demanding abuse to those who don’t see the need to move beyond their own comfort zone.  And if you feel that, it’s easy to find our views, our assertions, our value and our priorities to be intrusive and unreasonable, easy to find them to be about you.

It’s not when people who deliberately hate us attack us that we feel unsafe, though that does set the territory, especially when those who love us don’t stand up and fight for us in that case.  We know this world offers challenge.

What we hope for, what we need, what we crave is for people who love us to work to see what we see, work to respect our struggles and our values.  When they don’t do that, but rather respond from their own unhealed emotions, trying to silence us when we speak from our heart, well, that tells us how unsafe the world is.

And it hurts.

Unsafe At Any Age

My father lit up any time my sister entered the room, all smiles and beaming blue eyes.   He loved his beautiful daughter.

It was my name he kept repeating as he was dying.   He wanted to know where I was, even when I was holding his hand.  After speaking for he and my mother for so long, he wanted me to find my own voice.

“He always felt so safe when you were around,” my sister told me.

I never thought I was taking care of my mother.  I thought I was helping my father take care of my mother.   I knew how she worked, making demands without understanding the cost of those demands.

And I knew how my father spent his life struggling to comply with those demands.  Up until his last six months in the hospital, he always told he he would get better and do what she wanted, work to make her happy, even though 89 years proved that was task no one could achieve.

I was here for the last decade to make sure that my mother didn’t kill my father with her demands.

That meant I was safe, from cleaning him up in a restroom when he shit his pants to sitting with him all night in emergency rooms.   I made sure that he felt safe, that there was someone who was taking care of him, someone working hard to fight his battles.  “Saving Mr. Banks,” indeed.

I loved doing it, I really did, as much as it shattered and infuriated me.  His returning to the notion that if I was just more like him, I could succeed, my mother’s constant self-centred distress, and then the battles where they just missed the point, it all tore me up.

But I was there, for a decade, making sure that they felt safe.  And when I wasn’t there and someone let them get hurt — that picnic where my sister let my father fall off the scooter and break his back — the cost and distress to me was high, very very high.

I know that I will never, ever have anyone who works to keep me safe.  My sister has promised to do that, of course, but the number of promises she has broken let me know that all I should expect from her are shards on the ground.   She wants to feel safe with me there — the last time when I escorted her to the plastic surgeon for removing squamous cell cancer — but she has no idea how to keep me safe.

The world feels very, very unsafe to me.  I grew up in a minefield, laced with stigma, ego and people who just couldn’t understand.    The “third gotcha” defined my experience of the world.  Safety was never something my parents gave to me, with an unstable mother and a father who was sweet but clueless, so it was something I had to give to them.

My dream was always someone else to share the driving, someone who would make safe space for me.   My own Star Trek moment was when Lwaxana Troi cradled shapeshifter Odo in her lap when he had to go back to gel form and didn’t have his own space.  He was safe.    When TBB and I were on stage together as The Drama Queens, we had each other’s back, which made it feel like a safe space to let loose.

At this holiday season, the only place that feels even a little bit safe is in this basement. Maybe that’s why I have spent the last two weeks inside, battling infection, not even going out to shop for food.

It’s my last Christmas in this house.  I know that, even if every other fact is invisible to me.  Whatever bit of safety I do feel in this decaying bunker is disappearing, and very soon.

I have rescued the people I love, doing that will all my energy and life force.  Is there anyone to rescue me right back?   I very much doubt it.  My own queerness, empathy and hard won healing lets me walk into other people’s worlds, help them feel seen and safe enough to heal, but it also leaves me alone, with no one who gets the joke.

Other people want to be sweet, loving, kind and safe, but they each have their limits.   They have their own lives, their own healing, their own priorities to attend.   Those limits are the limits of what they can do, limits of the safety they can offer.

The struggle to find safety inside of ourselves is a challenge for everyone in the world.   Faith helps, but so does the long ago experience of feeling safe in the world, that sense that safety is possible somewhere.   Somehow, that experience is lost to me.

My first post in this blog was about how, in a 2005 Thanksgiving grace, my mother valued my sister for who she was, but valued me for what I did for her.   My value was in duty, not in beauty or in essence, so who I am I, how safe am I, if I express my nature rather than doing my duty?

My experience is of a world of scarcity, which is almost by definition a scary world.   I spent a lot of effort trying to build intrinsic safe space (1994), which let me learn to be safe for other people, letting go of my manipulative defences.  being post therapy was my only choice, even in a world where recovery is not highly valued.   I know that other people’s intention to be safe is sweet, but that the limits of their safety are the limits of their own awareness and healing.  They may have a loving intention, but that does not make them safe.

I know how to make other people feel safe in the world.  People respond to that ability, opening up and knowing that I am unsquickable and safe.

Feeling safe in the world seems to escape me, though.  It’s just not deep enough in my experience to trust.   This learning to trust isn’t something I can do by myself.   In my tender state, it’s too easy to feel every slip as a slash, to feel every inadvertent bruise as a bomb.  I have learned to not expose myself, learned to fall into myself, but that also means I have learned not to get the support, caring and love that I need.  Humans aren’t meant to be alone.

The opposite of feeling safe is feeling terror.  I  know that the world requires risk, that nothing is safe, but feeling always unsafe means that it becomes hard to work the process, get out there and do the work that can bring reward.

I am proud of making my family feel safe in the world, of taking care of them.

But I am also very, very tired of feeling unsafe in the world, with no hope of safety.

 

 

Christmas Whimsy

The gift I want this holiday is whimsy.

The secret to seeing magic happen in the world is having the belief that magic can happen in the world.

If you believe magic can happen, then you will see it in the world, but if you don’t believe that magic can happen, it will stay invisible to you.    You may see coincidences, happenstance, wit, even phenomena in the world, but without the magic that enlightens and brings hope they will be without meaning and connection.

Arthur C Clarke famously said that any advanced enough technology can appear as magic.  If you don’t believe in magic, it’s easy to write off a smart phone as just a piece of tech, but as someone who knew computers way back then, I like seeing it as a bit of magic, made with hard work, growing smarts and inspiration.

Shamans are magicians, walking through walls and transforming in the world.   To a shaman, this is just work.   You practice and you learn and you grind and you make change happen.  You pull out the rituals and traditions that open the senses and open the mind to the awareness that magic beyond convention and expectation is possible.

What makes it magical is the ability to see doing something that might be impossible not just as a feat of grinding work, but also as a triumph of effort and spirit over entropy and ignorance.

The difference between seeing something as just sweat and seeing it as magical is if we choose to add the magic dust to our vision.   When we see with wit, amusement, and awe, the world reveals its magic to us.

The word I know for this magical view is whimsy.  A whimsical view of the world is one that is open to the sparks of aha! that change the dreary and workaday to the magical and transformative.     It is when we laugh, be it a big belly laugh or a twinkle in the eye, that we see past the conventional to the amazing, awesome and energizing.

The magic of Christmas, to me, is the magic of whimsy.  We take time out of the rush and hurly-burly,  opening ourselves to beauty and magic.  We tell each other ghost stories and stories of moments when things changed in a moment, where magical elves bring giving to a world that needs love. We gather together in the flickering candlelight when the world outside is dark and cold, and in our companionship, the sparks of magic fly between us, whimsy that opens the senses.

Everything we do for the holiday is designed to create those sparks.   We decorate with shine and scent, trade our everyday work clothes for finery, create special treats that connect us back to the sensuality of years before, play festive music, and bring out the drinks that delight and open the heart.   More than that, we make magic for the least jaded of us, seeing through the eyes of children, whose awe and wonder bring us right back to a time when the world around us always seemed magical and full of whimsy.

If we can’t let loose, open to whimsy and see the world as a magical place at the holiday season, when can we ever feel that energy?   When can we feel the pure power of love?

The weight of my life is being too hip for the room, being surrounded by people who don’t get the joke.  And over the course of the last year, even I have gotten beyond hearing the jokes, those cosmic jokes that my mother in the sky pulls to reveal herself and the connections she makes, the jokes that pull back my own fears enough to laugh at them.   And when I miss the jokes, I miss seeing the magic, the meanings beyond the mundane which remind me that I am spirit living a human life.

That’s why the gift I want this season is whimsy, a fanciful and fantastic viewpoint that lets me see the sparks of magic in the world.   I need a more whimsical vision of the world, childlike and full of wonder, one where playful magic abounds and delight is possible.

This isn’t a traditional gift in my family.    But it’s the gift I think that I need.

Whimsy for Christmas, the fanciful and witty opening my vision to the possibility of magic.

That’s what I want this year, Santa.    Whimsy.

 

— — —

Any interest in my old Christmas pieces?   1993-1999 (Includes Naked For Christmas)  — Poetry Christmas Magic A Table Grace

Beyond Scarcity

So this is the gift I wish transpeople would give to each other: Take care of each other.

Help each other grow, help each other heal, help each other find their own unique power.

When I look at the struggles of other marginalized people, it is clear to me that it is only when they started to take care of each other, rather than trying to scramble into some social game of trying to be the good woman, the good black, the good gay that they ended up lifting everyone.

The problem, of course, is that to do this well, first we have to grow, have to heal, have to find our own unique power.    We need to move beyond our own damn self to embrace the wider world, but the entire premise of stigma is to keep us bound up in our own damn self.

Until we can trust that other transpeople will have our backs, not stab us in the back to try and get a bigger piece of what can seem like a tiny pie, we can never grow the influence and success of transpeople in the world.

As transpeople, we know how to live with the assumption of scarcity, the idea that we have to scrape hard for every scrap of dignity, respect and affirmation we need.   We know how to run on fumes, and more than that, how to try and huff up all the fumes in the room so we won’t lose them to someone else.  We learn to demand and scrape to get what we need, valuing independence over interdependence, a notion we have not learned to trust.

The idea of abundance, that as we become more potent and healthy the pie expands, making more available for all, well, that’s hard to get into the soul of a transperson used to playing a less than zero sum game.

Taking care of our peers, our allies, our community is taking care of ourselves.   Investing our energy in those who can return that energy to us when we need it, paying back the energy others have invested in us, is the way we end up strengthening and multiplying the energy available to us.

The most painful thing about being trans is to offer your gifts and not have them accepted, as I wrote twelve years ago in “What You Need To Know About My Transgender.”  I know that my participation in the gift exchange of life has always been lopsided.  People happily take what they want from me, allow me to enter their world, but the reject any possibility of having to enter my world.   Gifts that open a queer vision are just rejected, and the idea of giving me what I need seems too difficult to consider.

As much as I know that giving is the key to receiving, the experience of my life has been one of scarcity.   I know that this is the experience of many transpeople, this sense of being forced off the grid for being too queer, too challenging, too scary.   It feels like the choice is stark; be more visibly myself or be more on the grid.

The journey of being trans is always a trip beyond the expectations of those around us,  a trip outside the communities into which we were born.  We claim our own identity beyond imposed convention imposed by culture and biology.  We then have to decide how much we want to assimilate — find the closet at the end of the rainbow — and how much we want to stand apart, iconoclastic and individual.

ShamanGal has had this experience.   She is being valued as a woman at work, crossing cultures and supporting the corporate goals, which is great.   As she becomes expected as a woman, though, her own trans nature becomes invisible, so much so that in the middle of a recent long business trip, she had to sneak out and hit a gay bar, someplace where, for a moment, she could be just another transwoman in the world.

Running from spaces where trans is nothing to spaces where trans is everything is no way to create a balanced life.   As long as we transpeople perpetuate that duality by demanding political compliance that venerates wounding above all and normies perpetuate that duality by making our queer experience invisible, we will live in scarcity.

The more we support each other in growing, healing and being empowered, the more we can move from a scarcity approach to the world to a belief in the possibility of abundance, to the idea that we can expand the world open to transpeople.

By getting beyond our own damn selves and taking care of each other, we can build community by building each other up rather than trying to keep others down so we can try to get what we need.

Scarcity sucks.  But moving to abundance thinking requires trust.   If we can’t trust that other will support us with grace and kindness, especially others like ourselves, how do we make that shift?   If our history is a tale of traps, pitfalls and stigma, where much was done to deny us not only success but also comfort, how do we learn to trust that giving more will get us more?

We need to take care of each other, enough so that we feel empowered enough to trust that abundance is available to us.  As long as we don’t believe that, though, our instinct will always be to play small, hoarding not healing.

Life exists for us beyond scarcity.   It’s just getting to that place which is hard.

 

Shimmering Facets

“It sounds like deep and overwhelming grief,” Performance Guy said after reading my last few blog posts.  He isn’t wrong; today is a year since my mother died and a year and a month since my father died.

My sister and I have a different way to explain it.

“So much loss,” we say to each other.

Loss is inevitable in a human life.  Nothing lasts forever.   Change is the only constant.

“Where are the wins?” I used to ask when I worked in software.  If loss is inevitable, simply cutting your losses only leaves you with somewhat smaller losses.  Somehow, somehow, there need to be some wins, some successes, some joy, some love to balance the loss.  You can’t balance a budget just by cutting expenses, and you can’t balance a life just by learning to endure loss.

For me, the experience of loss is long lasting, deep and profound.  I was taught early that success was beyond my expectation, that I needed to learn to be defended, needed to scale myself back.   Between my family and the stigma of being trans in the world, I learned to play small, to cope with loss, so much loss.

It is very easy for me, with my very sticky memory, to remember all the losses of my life.  It is much harder to locate the wins, to use them as templates and motivation to risk again to find another win, another joy to mitigate the loss.

I am blessed — and cursed — with the gift of a good memory.   It’s what I use to make connections in the world, and making connections is at the centre of all I do.  Still, that means my experience is like being on a floating raft of debris in a maelstrom at sea.   Flotsam and jetsam swirl around me and I choose one or two pieces to cling to at any one time.   For people who see me at that moment, they assume what I am holding now defines my life, but I know that all the other detritus is close at hand, ready to enter again my personal flotation zone.

This all leads to my crystalline vision of various events.

In the first storm of the season, neighbours don’t snow blow the end of the driveway as they have in the past.

I look and feel gratitude for their actions in the past, as they had no obligation to do that.  I look and feel sadness that I am not being taken care of again.

I look and know that my last year of isolation has left me disconnected.

I look and know that my neighbours are now aware of my trans expression in ways that we have never spoken about.

I look and think how my sister hasn’t helped negotiate with them, has left me stranded in so many ways.

I look and imagine buying a new shovel, but know I don’t have the cash.

I look and remember my father’s determined struggle to get the old snow blower working, refusing to acknowledge his lack of skill, demanding more of me, leaving me frustrated and dejected.

I look and remember my mothers pleas to get a new snow blower.

I look and know that my health status is much less vigorous than it was and digging out will take a struggle from me.

I look and wonder why I should ever make the effort to go out again, wondering if anyone will ever come to me.

All of these views are true, no matter how conflicting they seem.  And this faceted way of experiencing the world has driven my writing.

In this blog for the last eight years, though, I have been trying to communicate my transgender experience as well as I can without considering the view of the audience.  This means I have always been on the margins, away from the central sweep of transgender expression — “the grad course” as some have called it — but it also means that some transpeople have found in my writing expression of experiences that we share but are far from conventional.

There are many good writers who are working to write about the trans experience within the conventions of their audience.   They take shared experiences and language, adding a bit of a twist to illuminate the trans view of those things.  I appreciate these people, especially because I used to be one of them.

I needed to move away from convention to love, to bliss and following it, to the challenge of finding and trusting our hearts in the face of social expectation.  This is a very queer viewpoint, but also a very spiritual viewpoint, more theological than most self-help pitches can sell to their audience.

This has been a lonely quest, but if the goal of your quest is always to stay close to comfort & community, you are unlikely to find the deeply hidden jewels.

Jewels, though, are always prismatic, bending light and making sparkle to the vision, so as we cut into them, we are granted not just one clear vision, but many.  To communicate that spectrum in writing is always a challenge, because any snapshot misses the shimmering views.

I shared my vision with all the clarity in my power, but know that most often see just the views at hand and not the ways the views all dance and multiplex in my view all the time.   I don’t pick and choose between the ways of seeing, I swirl between them, all of them real for me, even the ways I see through the eyes of others.

I remember a post to a theory list where I offered a series of readings to the story of a transwoman shooting and killing her therapist and herself.   I offered about a dozen readings, from sick transpeople to abusive therapists and on and on.  People didn’t see my note as a discussion of how we assign our own meaning to events based on our mindset, rather they wanted to announce which meaning was “correct.”  Some even used my post as a kind of ballot in which they could go point by point and separate truth from polemic.    The idea that the readings all contain truth and all contain polemic wasn’t something they were ready to engage.

This will not be a hit post on anyone’s terms.  A post about how the long-term experience of loss held in the memory creates diffraction views to see the world through a revelationary array of perceptions may be profoundly shamananic, but not in any sense that anyone who likes to buy new, pop and fun shaman magic wants to engage.    It’s just not the kind of a quick snapshot that fits into a moment of a modern day.

It’s only my best attempt to explain myself in the world.  And that’s not really enough, ever.   Too much loss.

Someone Had To Be The Mommy

As we grow up, we start to understand what has been missing in our life and we begin to search for it.   For some of us, we are lucky enough to find someone to give it to us, but for many of us we have to learn to invoke it in ourselves, claim it as giver and not receiver.

It’s never too late to have a happy childhood,” goes one mantra of the pop psychology movement, but Ms. Rachelle preferred her friends version: “It’s never too late to grow up.”  I suppose that is a version of the slogan, “You are only young once, but you can be immature forever.

My mother was never particularly good at mothering.  In fact, between her narcissism and Asperger’s, she was downright awful at it.   She was always furious at her mother for not mothering her enough — my grandmother was not a warm woman –and by always, I mean that after I did my grandmother’s eulogy, my mother told me that it was very nice, but she still hated her mother.   My mother was 75 at the time.

As I took care of my mother as she got older, I often sympathized with my grandmother.  If she was forced to deal with as wilful a child as I was forced to deal with wilful charge, well, no amount of caring could get her out of her blackness.

What my mother wanted was someone to make her feel happy, an impossible task.  Only she owned her own happiness.   But she imagined that someone should have done the trick, understanding and caring for her in such a personal and intensive way that she would finally be the happy child that had escaped her in her youth.    She wanted a mother, in other words.

I knew this truth from an early age: someone had to be the mommy.   And I knew that if someone was going to do it in this family, it would have to be me.   If I never had the kind of mom who was considerate, empathic, supportive and loving, the best I could do was be that kind of mom.

Lots of women figure this out.   But the vast majority of those women aren’t saddled with the challenge of being seen as a man in the world, aren’t laden with the abusing stigma of being trans.

Other women may be able to start a family of their own, to find some kids who need love and invest in their future.   They can channel their own maternal urges and needs into actually being maternal.

For me, though, the best I could figure out how to do was to be a power-femme drag-mom.  I am so damn femme that I never wanted to be the father to children, even though I could play bits of that at times, just another breeches role to serve kids who needed that figure in their life.  Believe me, if you could have children after trans surgery, I would have done it in a heartbeat, no matter how crappy I would have looked, but sex changes are still far beyond the primitive hormones and surgery we have today.

What this meant, of course, is that I got to do all the work of a mom (and much of the work of a dad) all the dutiful daughter stuff mixed with the obligations of a son, without getting any respect, acknowledgement or reward for it.  No corsages, breakfast in bed, dinner out or any of that for me.   People in the trans communities couldn’t imagine that they were growing and needed a parent, even as they made adolescent demands on those around them, and people in my family couldn’t understand the emotional demands of my role.

In the 1990s, I spent a lot of time in queer spaces talking about the role of the parent in society, being the organizer of community.  This call to become the parent is still difficult in queer spaces today, because when we are emotionally in our twenties, we are dedicated to running away from the habits of our parents rather than consciously creating our own parent role.   By the time we take on that parental role, we have less time to be queerly political and less need to demand our own independence.   We have accepted the third stage, going from dependent child to independent youth to interdependent adult.

I spent a lot of time in the last decade of my parents life comparing the obligations of a parent with the obligations of a caretaker.  Mostly a parent gets to see growth everyday, while living in a context of social support networks and loving children, while a caretaker gets to see decline everyday, while living in a context of invisibility — aging & disease are not cute — and parents who are getting more and more frustrated and upset at their oncoming limitations.    A parent lives in hope of better days, while a caretaker lives in certainty that worse is coming.

I spent myself not on building a future, but on cleaning up a past, and I did it without the simple respect and appreciation for what I had to put out.  While my mother expressed gratitude at the end, her wishes for me were destroyed by family who never learned to take responsibility and play their part.

I knew, I knew, I knew that someone had to be the mommy.     And I knew that my mother in the sky put that nature into my heart.  I just also knew that the world around me called me sick and a liar when I tried to say that out loud.

Today, my choices and my path probably would have been very different, but I wasn’t just born twenty years ago.   Blessings to all the transwomen who know your own maternal hearts today; may you find ways to be the mother in a real, full social context.  May your babies change the world.

Somebody had to be the mommy.    And that somebody had to be me.  So, like any mom, if that effort left me depleted, well, it was my calling, my duty, my nature, my life.

So be it.

One More Good Day

During the decade I took care of my parents full time, my goal was simple.   I wanted to give them one more good day.

I achieved this pretty well, I think.  They both made it to 89, and for my father, that was fifteen years longer than any of his siblings.  My father thought his last Saturday night on earth was “Great!” and my mother ate less than twenty four hours before she died, feeling safe and cared for.

When I think back on year since they died, though, it doesn’t feel the same for me.

It’s hard to remember even good day in this limbo.   I remember lots of bad ones, though, like when I found out that my mother’s wishes for me went unfilled, as this house that won’t be mine broke down around me thanks in part to the way my sister treated it — the kitchen sink has been unusable for weeks now — and how I have had to live on a shoestring, scraping by on scant resources.

I have done my part to work the process, but the costs of putting my life on hold to do the work of the family really have shown the damage to my own capabilities, from my health to my connections.

Often, I would tell my sister as I struggled to give more than my all, “Take care of yourself.  One of us has to make it out of here alive, and it’s not going to be me.”

I worked hard to give my parents one more good day, and I did that for over a decade.

For me, though, good days seem impossible to find and even more impossible to imagine.  Where do I feel safe and seen and valued and  respected and cared for?   Where is my one more good day, the one where I feel loved?

Maybe it’s just the limits of my vision, the extent of my damage that keep me from finding what I need.

But maybe that’s enough to keep me down forever.

Nourish Heart

If my heart is so empty, I hear someone say, why don’t I just replenish it?

The only way I know to replenish a heart is to let down your guard and be immersed in love.

That takes a safe space where you can get naked, drop the filters and love.   It takes a space of trust where you know someone else is watching your back, someone else is needing all you can give them in this moment, someone else is dropping suspending judgment of you to embrace who you show yourself to be.

Business dealings are not about love.  Social graces are not about love.  Everyday chatter is not about love.

Social justice spaces are not about love.  Political spaces are not about love.  Internet spaces are not about love.

To give and receive love, first we have to be able to know ourselves as lovable.

I know that my mother in the sky loves me.  Of that I am sure.  And that love helped me be grateful and serene as I took care of my parents in their last decade.

Other people?   Well, that I doubt.  “Jesus loves you, but everybody else thinks you are an asshole.”  Love feels very risky.

And finding safe space where love can touch me?   Beyond the imagination of an old, decrepit tranny femme who time and time again has told by her family and her community that she is way too smart and idiosyncratic to be lovable.

Gotta go.  The ceiling is dripping on the bed again.

Guru & The Girl

I have learned to live as a transcendent and brilliant guru in the world, combining my power of seeing with long experience in doing the right thing.   I know how to be in the moment, analytical & gracious, modulated & appropriate.

My heart, though, is my heart.

In recent times, I have been using the heart metaphor to talk about trans.   I locate the essence of what has been called “gender identity” in the place where they know what they love, in their heart.    People may be male bodied — identified as a male at birth or soon thereafter, based on their reproductive anatomy — but with a feminine heart.   They may then assume the gender role of a man, of a woman, or some other pattern, living neutrally, switching roles, or finding a between position — but that is just part of their attempt to be effective in the world, to find a performance that works to get and express what they need.

In the end, it is our bliss that defines us, our bliss we need to follow.   And we know our own bliss by knowing our own heart.   Our brain just ends up negotiating between social, physical requirements and the needs and desires of our heart, trying to work out solutions that help us make better choices to build a better, more potent life.

The brain without the heart, well, it is like a car without a driver, prone to going around in circles and getting lost in arguments.    Even the most cerebral among us need those flights of imagination and creativity to short circuit old patterns and deliver the light that is brilliance.

What I know about this blog is that people like well thought out insights, taking them away as tools that help understanding and communication.   These are easy to value.   What people have more trouble with, though, are the cries of my heart, les cris des coeur, which express my deep, underlying emotion.

In my experience, this is the norm for transwomen.   We learn to become icebreakers, leading with our mind, because our emotions are baffling, confusing and even distressing to people who are fixed in the gender binary of heterosexism, where genitals define role, not heart.   We end up not letting go of our defences — that broomstick in our bum — because we just don’t believe people will get our heart.

In the end, the only real justification for our transgender expression is “because God told me to.” This is often softened to “because I was created this way,”  but in either case, our expression reveals our understanding of what our creator put in our heart.

It is easy to meet people on the ground of the mind, but as strong as my mind is, it is not what informs and powers my life.     It is my heart that drives me.   It is my heart that I want to be seen and affirmed, even if I know how to use my brain to service the needs of other people.

Now, when I am a caretaker, I get secret affirmation.   I know I am coming from my heart, even if others can’t see it because I am staying in invisible mode.   That’s a real conundrum for me, as I have found that being visible makes people wary of accepting my gifts.   This is just another facet of living in a world where transgender is either everything or nothing, either the huge freakin’ deal or is invisible, rather than trans being just something.

I know that this trans invisibility can happen when we are hidden as a man or hidden as a woman.   People like the conventional assumptions about gender, and the struggles of a transgender life are just too odd, too queer and to scary to ask them to engage.

I know people see me as a mature and authoritative person, someone who has transcended gender to have a whole, humanist viewpoint.   I know how to enter the worlds of others, even as they have little idea of how to enter mine, know how to touch their hearts even as mine stays occluded to them.  I feel like I am doing all the work to translate what I hold into what they can understand while what I do and value, while my heart is invisible to them.

Older women become more invisible as they become more androgynous and neutered.   For women who own their girlhood, that is part of the process, but for women who never owned their own girlhood — transwomen like me, for example — that is a very tough haul.

The fact that it is very hard for me to get my heart seen, affirmed and nourished, even as I know how to act the wise crone, leads me to unravelling.  There is a whole list of things that I should do that I am not getting to as my energy — the energy of my heart — is depleted and not replenished.

People often suggest that I can use my brain, my smarts, to find solutions to overcoming an aching and empty heart.   They have seen me transcend feeling, so want me to find new ways to do that.  The problem is that I have used up all the energy I have to do that, leaving me skint.   Doing what should be done is a very heavy lift, because I don’t feel I have the heart for it anymore.

I never learned how to communicate and connect with my heart in the world.   That is the experience so many of us had growing up trans; we were stigmatized every time we happened to show our own heart in a way that conflicted with the gendered expectations piled onto us.

We learn to live in a socially induced form of depression, learning to inhibit and suppress our own heart, the heart our creator placed in us.   Our bliss — our life force — is deprecated, forcing us to learn to hide and deny it, leaving us without energy and exuberance.  We may buy the red shoes and replace our energy with the erotic, but finding space for engaging our own bliss again becomes terrifically difficult.

I am telling you that I am straining to find the energy of my heart, and that strain is leaving me crippled and hurting.    That may not stop me from finding shards of my transcendent guru energy, but it really limits this girl from engaging her life.

Caregiving filled my heart, even as it depleted my connection with self.  My connection with self depletes my heart as I cannot find the means to pulse and renew my energy.  Just another choice where the cost of each direction tears against the other.

My answer?   A bed, warm coverlet pulled over my head.

At least there I can dream of beauty.

Over Your Own Damn Self

It’s amazing how much getting over your own damn self can contribute to your happiness.

And it’s even more amazing how incredibly difficult getting over your own damn self is.

We know how we have been hurt in the past.   We know how people have scared us into behaving the way they want with threats and warnings.   We know how we have tried and failed.   We know where it still hurts to be touched, know where we have scars and wounds, know where we have learned to protect ourselves.

We know how bad and evil the world can be.  We know all the stories about monsters and manipulation, stories that stir the fear in us.   We know the arguments made by ogres about why being anything less than fully defended is just stupid.   We know the map of all the pitfalls others have pointed out to us, know how they have worked to burst our balloons as just naive and silly notions.

We know how we have been taunted, mocked, ostracized and humiliated when we tried to do something that made the group uncomfortable.   We know how others have been cruel and nasty to us, working to shoot us down when we became too visible or too challenging.

We know what it feels like to feel like a fool, standing there with egg on our face, just turning red and wanting to disappear.   We know how it feels to be standing on the outside, looking in, trapped outside the  group.     We know the feeling of being cut to the quick and dammnit, we don’t ever want to feel like that again, ever.

Avoiding discomfort is the call of the ego.  Staying focused on what went wrong in the past, or all the things that could go wrong in the future, well those are the basic tricks the ego uses to pull us out of this moment.

It’s not hard to find support in being pulled out of the moment, not hard to find support of the fear that keeps people from healing in an effort to avoid the discomfort of change.  Not only will politicians and TV news spread fear, people who want to justify their own lack of healing will take potshots at anyone who tries to climb out of the swamp.

When the lesson you have to share is more challenging — the lesson that growth is good, the lesson that letting go of fears is can lift you, the lesson that healing really does change everything, the lesson that getting over your own damn self can really contribute to your own happiness — then it is much more difficult to share.    People resist in others what they resist in themselves, often working to silence anyone who challenges their fear based view of why they cannot heal, their view that the world needs to heal to meet them, not the other way around.

It is healing that changes everything.      Healing can only, only take place when you are able to get over your own damn self and become new, accepting yourself and your world as they are, not rejecting them because they are not as you wish them to be, because change terrifies you on principle.

The only thing you control is your own choices.   Bringing your choices into authenticity, harmony and integrity with what is brings you into authenticity, harmony and integrity.   Putting others down does  not do that.

In my experience, people who are committed to growth and healing find me positive and useful, but people who are committed to status quo and fear find me annoying and stupid, someone who should be attacked and silenced.    My challenge has been finding others who are also committed to healing, who want to stay in the zone, who understand the scalpel that cuts away prejudices, assumptions and fear to be the key to being alive and potent in the moment.

Getting over your own damn self doesn’t mean being stupid and forgetting the lessons of the past or the tales we have heard from others who have gone down similar roads.  We each only have limited resources so we need to be smart about our priorities, about how we spread ourselves around.   It is when we can believe that our past failures are not dire signs of impending doom but rather lessons that show us how to make better choices that we can be optimistic and get over our damn self.

Healing takes time.   We each heal in our own time, on our own cycles, no matter how much we resist the change that must come with healing.  Healing can be accelerated, though, when we are supported in that healing by others, when we are able to feel safe enough to show our new possibilities to others.

Stigma, though, makes the world unsafe, because stigma demands that we stay stuck in our own damn fears, our own damn expectations, our own damn self as long as possible.  Stigma spreads fear rather than helping us move past it, and stigma teaches us to police ourselves and others by reinforcing and spreading fear rather than transcending it, rather than helping us get over our own damn selves.

When we let the abuse that stigma has engendered control our choices, we can never ever get over our own damn selves.   Our history is true and genuine, our scars are valid and poignant, our world can be scary and dangerous, of this there is no doubt.   Letting those truths stop us, though, from finding the good, the delightful, the authentic and the blissful in the world, means we surrender to the bad stuff, not working for change, and not getting over our own damn selves.

It is amazing how incredibly difficult getting over your own damn self is.

But then again, it’s amazing how much getting over your own damn self can contribute to both your power in the world and your happiness.

Brain Survival

“You change context away from emotion much faster than I do,” said Performance Guy.   We sit for a coaching session, then at the end, I shift over to business to talk about how I am supporting his websites.

He finds my transitions fast and abrupt, going from showing real hurt and struggle to a cool business posture in a heartbeat.  He needs more time to shift gears,  isn’t used to snapping out of feeling and into thinking that quickly.

For me, the requirement to put my emotions on hold in a flash is a pure survival skill.  My experience of the world is that it is a place where things can go badly very fast and I need to be ready to get back my sharpness instantly.

Being emotional and out of control, even for a moment, is a luxury I have never experienced.   You only feel that way if you feel safe in the world, safe to be exposed and vulnerable, safe with others who will watch out for you, safe and protected in community.

My experience of life is waiting for the “third gotcha”

A top professional golfer who is offered an enormous sum to play a round. When they asked what handicap their opponent wanted, they were told “Three Gotchas.” They accepted the offer, and on the first hole, just as they were about to drive, their opponent rammed a hand between their legs and screamed “Gotcha!” which caused them to miss the shot. The same thing happened on the second green, just as they were about to putt. When the golfer got in the clubhouse, they had lost by seven strokes.  Someone asked why they had lost, and they replied “Have you ever tried to play 17 holes waiting for the third gotcha?”

I have been taught that my emotions are flawed, sick, weak and abusive to others.   I am not allowed them because they aren’t conventional, because they aren’t the way others assume I should feel.

I was called “Stupid” as a kid because I got my choices wrong.  Rather than instinctually trying to satisfy others, to fit in and be liked,  I asserted my own individuality.   That made me the target of abuse and stigma.

My instincts were seen as wrong, flawed, sick, terrifying and abusive.   They were something I had to control and suppress, to deny and disable.

I’m certainly not the only “too person” in the world — too smart, too intense, too queer, too whatever.     I’m not the only person who was taught to distrust and bury my own feelings and instincts.

One of my favourite quotes is from Nina Arsenault: I like doing stuff without knowing if I’m being ironic.   Her training is always to know her intent, to control and manage her expression, and her choices are almost always seen as ironic by others because they are not conventional.  All she wants, though, is the freedom to do stuff without having to know why, to be herself without the demand of continuous and deep self control coming first.

My experience of the world is simple: things are going to turn to shit and I have to be ready for that at all times.  Other people may be excited about possibilities and portents, about the direction that events might head, but my training is to believe it when I see it, and I don’t see things turning out well very often.

When things go bad, as they inevitably will, I need to be able to use my head to keep going.  My head is my armour, my Swiss Army knife, my solace.  It’s where I go to feel safe and cared for.

I’m certainly not the only transperson who has learned to live in their head.  ShamanGirl may have felt strong emotions facing some of those transpeople who need to put others down to put themselves up, the ones who play crabs-in-the-barrel, who spray their sickness across anyone trying to heal, but by trusting her head, she was able to find her centre and make some safe space for others at the party.

People who resist healing are people who come from emotion, especially the negative emotions of pain and rage, but are also those who choose to attack in an attempt to control the conversation and silence challenges against their sickness.    They are the people who have the luxury of manipulation and emotion.  Worse, they are the people who appeal to the primal emotions in others, encouraging them not to transcend messy and twisted emotions but to simply surrender to them.

To engage healing, to rise above, to stay stable and functional beyond the huge network of scars and damage, I need to be stay in my head even as I feel and express emotion. That’s why I can so quickly change context back to the intellectual.  I have been trained that my emotions are dangerous because they are too queer, and I have learned that my emotions are dangerous because they lead me into pain & hurt, not effective, conscious, considered response to those who want to silence and hurt me.

I know how easy it would be for me to slash out, expressing my pain, my frustration and my damage in a vivid way that is deeply emotional, but I also know that doesn’t read well on me.   My smarts are visible, so even if they are isolating, I am saddled with an obligation to use them.    If it is to be, it begins with me, and not with me operating out of the pure joy and love that I experience in the world, rather with me rising above the pain to do what I know to be the right thing.

For me, the requirement to put my emotions on hold in a flash is a pure survival skill.  My experience of the world is that it is a place where things can go badly very fast and I need to be ready to get back my sharpness instantly.

Being emotional and out of control, even for a moment, is a luxury I have never experienced.   You only feel that way if you feel safe in the world, safe to be exposed and vulnerable, safe with others who will watch out for you, safe and protected in community.   When you always have to watch your back because you travel alone, emotions don’t serve you, only focus does.