TBB is on her own journey, and this week it’s a literal one. She has a new posting in the Pacific Northwest, a great promotion, and that means driving across the country diagonally in just four days, eight or nine hundred miles a day on her own.
In Loneliness and Time: The Story of British Travel Writing, Mark Cocker elegantly shows how travel reveals the observer as much as more more than it reveals the observed. We express our experiences using our own yardstick, which is usually invisible when everyone around us uses the same conventions to mark out their world.
From taking valuable time to help a hotel worker who burned herself while putting out breakfast in Nebraska because it was the right thing to do to putting on makeup and keeping her voice silent in a Georgia restaurant that loudly proclaims its Christian heritage, drawing senior couples in huge F250 & F350 dually trucks, TBB shows her caring and her fears as she faces a range of America.
Using her cell phone she has brought me on some of her adventures, from passing the Bonnaroo Festival to leaving her mark at the Kitfox hanger in Idaho to the hip restaurant in Bend. As long as she is on the move, feeling the motion, she feels good.
TBB spent some time in the car with Brené Brown, or at least with the podcast of Dr. Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability.
Upon leaving her last post, many people came up to TBB and told her how she had made them feel welcome and included when they joined the ship. TBB knows what it feels like to be the outsider, so she always reaches out. This served her well as the founding chair of Southern Comfort Conference where she reached out, welcomed new ideas and empowered their creators to make them happen. Her big, open heart is always searching for the new and potent to learn and grow, to help others learn and grow.
“I didn’t always agree with you,” she told me, “but I always listened to you. When you said something that made sense, I tried it. When it worked, I started to do it more.”
Mostly, what I said to her was that the classic transgender strategies of playing small, of trying to edit ones self to try and tuck any ambiguities away, would never work for her. She is most compelling when she opens her heart and shows it to people. When she does that, her heart is open to others, open to learning and open to growth.
Being willing to be vulnerable, to be reprogrammed by an open heart is something special to find in these days when openness is often replaced by cynicism. I’ve worked for a long time to slowly help the ones I love reprogram themselves by seeing the world in a new, integrated and open way, so I know how special that work is.
I’ve been playing a bit of Mission Control for her as she crosses the country, finding good hotels, special restaurants and cheap gas in the places between. One night I screwed up, booking a room in Marion Arkansas rather than Marion Illinois.
The hotel chain support said that only the hotel could cancel the booking after the deadline and I would have to call them. I knew that they had nothing to gain from cancelling, but I called anyway.
A sweet woman in Arkansas chuckled when I explained my mistake and immediately cancelled the reservation. For me, who always is looking at the downside risk, it was a lovely surprise, a puff of kindness that I wasn’t expecting. I had made an error and been given a gift, the very human gift of grace from another.
My computer is ill, with some liquid frying half the video circuits. I can still use it by going to safe mode, resetting the driver to standard VGA and using the VGA vs the DVI interface, but the frame rates are very low and clunky, with no DX drivers. I need a new video card and I do have the slot for it, but that takes an order from the internet.
TBB knows this and is feeling flush with her promotion so she offered to get me a new computer. I started to shop, but with my standard model of scarcity; what was the best I could do with the suggested budget, looking at refurbished models, component parts that could be integrated, patch ups and sales?
This is not the way TBB does things, so she just went to the Dell site and suggested a computer that was 40% more than the original budget she offered. It’s a big performance gaming system, more than I need.
“I want you to have more than you need,” she told me. “I want you to have something you touch everyday that reminds you that there is possibility in the world, that there is someone who values you for your special gifts.”
“You always seem to know what others need, but we often don’t know what you need to hear,” she said. “It is important for me, especially now that things are going well in my life, to be there for you in a way that I can.”
It’s been a tough few weeks for me, with family pressures and creeping distance. I have stayed in my dark basement— this week, my Vitamin D was found to be only one tenth of the recommended level — but seeing the country through TBB’s eyes, through TBB’s enormous heart has been a joy.
TBB is starting a new adventure, one where she is the leading a team to get a big iron baby back in top shape. Her journey continues as she takes charge, builds a team and creates more success.
As for me, I need to be big enough to take her gifts on board, to try something new, opening my heart and reprogramming myself, trusting that between showing my own gifts and the kindness of strangers, I can build a new life.