Into A Corner

Sometimes the streams within you converge and you feel very present, very connected and very affirmed.

My life, though, has been about divergent streams, about a very sharp distinction between my rich, playful and cerebral inner world and the roles I have been expected to play in the common, insistent outer world.

With a powerfully femme trans heart and a body clearly marked as male by puberty, a lifetime of challenge comes with the territory.   For me, though, having to find my own groove in a family lead by Aspergers parents who didn’t have the skills to understand their own feelings and needs, let alone the inner life of their children, made choices almost impossible.

Who I had to be on the outside, the role that became concierge, negotiator, and servant, was always very different than who I was inside.   While I tried to use my outside skills to get what I needed inside, attempting to manipulate people to make them happy and be there for me, that was always a dead end choice.   My inner world was alien to them, so there they could never go.

I learned early they weren’t going to get the joke, were going to see me as a human doing rather than a human being (2006), weren’t going to be able to understand the value in my depth, weren’t going to be able to explain why they treasured me.

I could join them in their world, a world of action and assumption, of convention and constraint, but no matter how clearly I worked to show myself they weren’t going to be able to join me in my world, seeing and understanding my own hidden heart and mind.

Flying though Atlanta reminded me of the dissonance I have always carried.  On the outside, it’s just getting in the stream, following the rules, being compliant and doing the work.   On the inside, though, a tense and brittle woman felt every bump, every terror, every hit acutely.

Learning to toughen up and do the work was always what was expected of me.  Over decades I understood my role as service, meeting the demands and requirements of those around me, entering their world to be a good, kind and useful helper.

The world demands a battle and a battle demands armour.   It is not a place for the tender hearted and fragile.   The armour people expect of me, the way I need to take power in the world, has always been related to the expectations put onto my body, onto the demands that come with smarts.

Guerrilla power was always key for me, slipping feminine and sly content under the conventional assumptions placed on me.    I kept my heart under my tractor cap, refusing conventional man power structures and being denied conventional woman power.   Idiosyncratic and iconoclastic, I stood as a weird and wacky individual, hoping someone would see why I was also wonderful.

That wish rarely came true.   Others understood my service, but not the heart, the mind, and the pain beneath it.  Changing my clothes didn’t reveal much, no more than all the symbols I so carefully curated over decades, trying to express an inner me that no one wanted to see.   Challenging their assumptions and expectations meant I expected hard inner work from them, and as the smart one, they saw that as my job.

I know how to service others, to be there, but after a lifetime of doing that work, the cost to do it now is so high that it feels destructive, tearing apart the tender threads of my reclaimed heart.  Doing that again opens the wounds between an outer life spent living in the assumptions of others and an inner life struggling to tend to a heart that has been spiked & shattered by a life of denial, compartmentalization and destruction.

To enter the outside world requires the obligation to kill myself once again, murdering my tender child, playing a role that constrains my power and grace to a hidden, subverted and clandestine factor.   I need to be, for most intents and purposes, who others expect me to be, sliding only little glimmers of my heart surreptitiously into the conversation.  I am too hip for the room, too big, too weird, too meta, too scary, too intense, too cerebral, too challenging, too damn much.

I find myself expounding the same pains I first wrote of over twenty years ago, in much the same ways, and still having no way to move beyond, to be seen, understood and valued for the unique gifts I bring to the world.   Will going back in a new way make a difference, finally allowing my heart to be present?   Or are the same kind of assumptions that limited me then still a barrier for me now?

The divergence between the possibilities in an outer life, which must be constrained by the needs, expectations, metaphors, and conventions of the world, must be expressed in targeted and tiny battles, making small and incremental changes while working in the cultural context, and the demands of an inner life, deep knowledge that courses through my soul, comes back to slap me every time I step out of my cloister.

We live in a majority rules culture and the individual who can’t go along to get along is written down as eccentric, deviant, cracked.   I know this.  That’s why I try to play along, finding the joy and fulfillment that others tell me they find in a forcefully driven outer life filled with company and activity.    Their needs for outer connection lead them to their own happiness.

When I was a small child, though, left to the narcissistic mercies of an Aspergers mother and the emotional distance of an Aspergers father, I learned to rely on inner connection, a relationship to a broader and more demanding truth.   Instead of rules I had koans, puzzles that demanded higher understanding so my heart could survive the outer battering.

Learning to keep a public face apart from my screaming heart turned me into “quite an actress” as my sister says.   If it is hard for me to navigate that dissonance, it is even harder for others, who have mostly never had to do the therapeutic work of understanding and owning their inner selves.

Having to learn to be my own companion, listening to and understanding all the voices inside of me has been the challenge of my lifetime.  I know, though, that truth lies between the absolutes in the liminal spaces where contrast creates shimmering ideas.

I no longer have the strength or willpower to do the kind of external work I did for my parents because I know the kind of denial that work takes, and have the damage that denial caused writ deep on my body.

Any idea that I can find others who can enter my increasingly complex and personal world seems beyond.   I tried for years to connect with others though compartmentalization, but only coming out to myself, taking the inner journey, allowed me to find peace with my own liminality.

I know that others want to be there for me, want to offer me the kind of joy they have found.

It is the kind of enlightenment I have found, though, that keeps me stable and joyous, even if it also keeps me lonely, a hermit.  The price of living an outer life, in the expectations of others that have always seemed to cut me rather than embrace me, is just so high that it leaves me crushed.

The divergence of inner and outer leaves me in a corner, feeling the ripping separation whenever I have to put on a face that services others.  The cost of being in their world seems nothing to them, of course, but it demands a huge amount of me.

Sometimes the streams within you converge and you feel very present, very connected and very affirmed.

My experience in the wider world, though, is mostly of divergence, of a demand for disconnection and invisibility.   My depths exist only as noise for other people, frequencies that just annoy and rankle them, a kind of hum which distracts from their pleasant habits.

I learned early that trying to express a trans, liminal nature in the world would mostly get you creamed.  Divergence was the expectation I learned to live with.

And that truth has left me alone, in my own little corner.