“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.