I know how I gird for battle.
My heart gets locked down hard and my head gets locked in.
Instead of using it to guide me, I deploy my heart as a sensor, giving me important messages about both my emotional status and the emotional status of those I am dealing with.
By using my head, I can make smart choices about the attacks I endure. I can use the jujitsu to redirect them back onto my attacker, fending the blows and keeping them off balance.
Rather than acting out I can stay rational, balanced and gracious, which really can piss off people who want to take control by the force of their own rage.
This a technique I had to learn very, very early. Acting out was what my mother did to everyone, as she had no other way to express her emotions, especially her feelings of being disconnected and hurt.
It is a very grown up technique, very mature.
The problem, though, is that employing it always comes at a cost. To stay attenuated, rational, throttled back, limited and considered means I have to take my emotions, my intense and powerful energies, and keep them bottled up.
My sister recently told me the story of when she was doing Wave Work, a kind of body work, over 15 years ago.
As the practitioner went over her, she felt a kind of a growl unlock in her soul, a deep booming sound like the muffled roar of an animal warning others not to come close, telling that there was rage bottled up within that could explode in attack if not respected.
This wasn’t a sound that she could make in the world because she grew up learning to stay hidden and safe from a mother who could slash out, one who had no idea that part of her job was teaching kids to stand up for themselves, to fight for what they needed in the world.
When I tried to teach her my fighting techniques, my sister shut down, knowing that her battle wasn’t with me. She knew I was trying to help, but it wasn’t at all what she needed.
On that table, though, her growl was unlocked, her own energy released.
When she sat up, she looked down at her hands and saw flashes of colourful energy coming from them. As she slowly waved her arm in the air, she could see the sparkles create trails, glittering in a following arc.
“Yes,” her practitioner told her, “they really are there.
“You are full of that energy. It is richly within you.”
Both of us, though, learned to put our heart on lock down, absorbing all that energy rather than letting it flow in the world, empowering us to follow our own shimmering hearts.
Our training was to hide our heart energy rather than following it, to become introverted rather than extroverted.
For me, who has a performance streak, I found a bit of balance, but for my sister, whose nature runs to introversion, combining the training with that means she can easily get swamped by her feelings.
When I first started walking in the world revealing my trans nature, I learned that I had to be ready to defend myself from those who saw my act as indecent, political or sick. It was easy to see why so many other transwomen ended up carrying around in their own sealed world, their own lucite bubble to keep them protected from all the flying shit.
My expression is part of my service, bringing that blend of head & heart to help heal, but it wasn’t part of my indulgence. I didn’t need to be wearing specific clothes to feel present, authentic or happy.
Not having to stay bracing for blows all the time, ready for the “third gotcha,” meant I could be more open, more vulnerable, more present. It meant I could live more in my heart and less in my head, using my strength to take care of my parents and such rather than just defending myself against those who chose to act out against trans expression.
Bette Midler recently recalled a tweet (though without apology) that suggested since “I Am Cait” is cancelled, Jenner should “go back to being Bruce.”
The amazing Alexandra Billings replies that while we may change presentations, we are who we are, always have been and always will be. There is no going back to a time when we weren’t trans, only back to a time when we didn’t show it in the world, didn’t make others see it.
We are trans everyday of our life. I know that I have been trans every day of my life, no matter what other people saw or wanted to see.
The battles that I really needed to fight, the ones that demanded my attention and my scarce resources were not the public ones. I had to go deep inside to do the inner work, had to participate in my family, had to care and think and write.
To move to another stage, though, I need to be more present and visible in the world. That means I have to gird for battle, have to be ready to take the blows.
Living with a locked down heart, though, sounds horrible to me. And while I have tried to search for other defences, well, getting mirroring for being bigger, more exposed and more dynamic isn’t something I have found anyone to support.
Who heals the healers? Where is the safe space for rest, affirmation and nourishment? In my family, it only existed inside of us; there was no one to help.
I know how to battle. Callan is, I found long after choosing it, a feminine name meaning “powerful in battle.”
How to heal from battle, though, well, that has always been a cost. And, like any human, the older you get the more you carry, the more healing costs you, and that shows in my choices.
All that energy is in there, those flowing colours ready to come.
The fight, though, to get them out in the world, beyond the training and expectations that they should fit nicely in other people’s expectations, though, well, that takes a battle.