Thank you.. I wanted to tell you I needed to imagine to myself what you might do with regards to my dad when he was getting a bit upset when things got overwhelming and I was so overwhelmed too.. It helped.. To go onto a different mode for him as helper.. To put that face on.. Normally I have been fortunate to be able to be pretty much myself with him since my mother died.. But this week that wasn't working for him.. And therefore not for me either.. So I told him we had both forgotten to go with the flow.. He laughed.. (From my sister's friend)
How do you gain the trust of people who have limited Theory of Mind (ToM)?
You have to become predictable.
This is the call of the caregiver, taking care of children or seniors or anyone else who is facing life challenges that consume them. Their life is about them, so your job is to get out of the way when you are being nurse or mom or manager.
I call this Concierge Mode. I had a style that worked, not a boring style or one without personal flair, but one that was always focused on serving, be that entertaining or comforting.
My sister still loves it when I take care of her. It feels safe and comfortable, because I am there for her in a predictable way. She knows how much my parents came to trust me with their very lives and she knows how much of myself I had to put on hold to take that responsibility.
That’s something her friend is having trouble doing with her aging father, even if she did it with her students. And its something that my sister has not mastered, leaving me to be slammed and jarred by her breaches of my trust.
My role for the past year and a half has been being compliant and and unchallenging to her, attenuating my life to keep her comfortable and functional. She gives very little indication that she understands what is going on inside me.
I know how to be consistent and predictable, an iceberg, as a former partner said; solid and safe, even though I do tend to move around a bit.
To claim myself back, though, I need to be able to break out of that predictability and become new.
To be a woman is to make the choices of a woman. My training and habit, though, is to make the choices of a gender-neutral caregiver who modulates themselves to be predictable for others.
To continue to be as reasonable and predictable as the persona I developed to care for others is to lock myself in the same box that has kept me struggling for decades.
Credibility in world comes when your choices match your assertions. That’s what people read as authentic, some essential truth that runs through your entire presentation.
I cannot both make the choices of a predictable, rational, attenuated caregiver and also make the choices of a transwoman claiming her own space in the world. As I told Ms. Rachelle years ago, I cannot both smash through the walls and also clean up the pieces after to make everyone comfortable.
I’m pleased that my sister’s friend learned some technique from me that helps her and her father deal with the medical challenges we face as we get older. I’m happy that I mastered that technique to give my own parents a large number of good days.
Being predictable, rational and attenuated, though, is a strait jacket that I know how to manage but that doesn’t let my heart show itself and expand.
One of the biggest cliches I grew up with is that transpeople are just self-indulgent, following their own Eros, unpredictable and irrational. I took that on board, working hard to use my own discipline, my aesthetic denial to become solid and predictable, even as my hidden heart wanted to wink, giggle and dance.
In the end, I suspect that I, like everyone else you will ever meet, am just human.
My experience, though, is that people want something other than that from me, something predictable.
A woman is someone who makes the choices of a woman.
And those choices aren’t always predictable, even to her.