We live in a time where the expectation of personal customization runs rampant. Have it your way. Roll your own. Order à la carte. Install your own skin. Only take what you want.
That idea can tend to lead people to expect that life is a pick and choose kind of experience, one where you can take only the bits you desire and leave the bits that you just don’t fancy. It can lead them to believe that they can get the good parts without paying any costs for them, get what they want without any downside.
The notion of an ideal life without trade-offs, a self-selected life without the requirement for compromise, a designed life where we only have to get what we want without paying the piper is a fraud.
“Every gift is also a curse,” I said to Performance Guy.
“Maybe we can work to eliminate the bad side while keeping the good side,” he suggested.
I laughed. “If you cut the coin in half, do you really eliminate one side of it? Or do you just create two coins both with two sides?” He saw my point.
I have seen many transpeople who have a theoretical view of gender in the world. They want to design their own gender expression before they manifest it.
These sketches, of course, all follow the same pattern. They keep all the bits they find desirable and good while eliminating all the bits they find challenging, oppressive, costly and bad.
A therapist once told me that she told a transwoman client of some of the costs of living as a woman in the world, including challenges in the workplace.
“Well, that won’t apply to me,” the client said, waving off the comment.
“Well, then maybe you won’t really be living as a woman,” the therapist thought.
In the end, immersion is immersion. If you want to get into the role, you take the whole role, or you don’t really take the role at all.
Staying in the hypothetical and imaginary is fun, but the real world is shaped by real choices which always bring real reactions and real responses. We become constrained by the laws of earth where all is connected and every choice for something is a choice against something else.
The best part of that constraint is that it helps us become real, become connected and become profound. The only way to achieve mastery is to try and fail and try again, getting smarter and more competent with every choice. The actual is always richer, more nuanced and more powerful than the hypothetical because the actual has to exist in many dimensions, has to carry the tool marks of its creation, has to be embodied and manifest.
“A girlfriend called me last night,” ShamanGal told me, “and she just whined for a half hour about what had gone badly this week. I could never have imagined that I would have to sit through that when I imagined being a girl, but then again, I couldn’t imagined I would have liked it too. It felt good to be there for her, felt good to let her share, felt good to know that she would be there for me when I need to vent.”
She is learning, bit by bit, the costs and the joys of becoming real rather than hypothetical, of owning the whole life of a woman rather than some kind of edited claim that comes from a distanced view of what is good and what is bad. By surrendering judgment and letting go of prejudice her life becomes real and therefore much more full of vulnerable and vital truth.
It was The Velveteen Rabbit who taught me that surrendering to love could make us real, and The Red Shoes that taught me that owning my own messy passion was much better than trying to substitute nice commercial passion that will eventually force us to dance their tune.
For me, the thing that LGBT people used to share is the experience of being shamed into the closet. We had to fight to get out into the light so we could get the feedback and exposure we need to separate good from bad, to grow healthy. To think we can judge the good from the bad without actual experience, just based on the way we think life should be, seem to me to be a path to crippling ourselves before we even learn to walk proud.
You want life, you get all of life. You get the whole enchilada. “Life is a banquet and some poor suckers are starving to death,” TBB likes to remind me. We starve, of course, because like some children, we only want to eat what we judge desirable, what we think we should like, rather than exploring, tasting and feasting on what is really offered to us with gratitude and gusto.
Reality is a wonderful thing, even if it is beyond our expectations, our imaginations or our desire. Only by engaging it rather than just trying to pick out what we judge to be the good parts can we actually get a whole life out of it.
Every coin has two sides. Every choice has a price. Every gift is also a curse. Every action comes with a lesson.