I’ve been doing some business books recently, Nike, Disney and the like.
The message that comes through is that work is war, that success is what counts and winning only comes through combat. You are only as good as your last achievement, so if you aren’t willing or able to battle today, well, get off the playing field and leave it to the big bucks.
What can you do for me? How are you going to meet the desires of consumers, get them to show up and open their pocketbook? Are you tough enough, disciplined enough, focused enough to fight for attention, for awareness, for seduction, for success, for life?
Every time I turn on the media I see something designed to sell, selling the program, selling the audience, selling the sponsors, selling the product. It’s a battle just to stay above water, a culture where everyone is now an independent contractor, a place where little counts other than what you can do for me, right now.
It’s the market, sure, but today it is a market where there is no room for heart unless it comes packaged and put on the block as a commodity.
There was a time when I wanted to play this game, when showing virtuosity was delightful, when I could feel like a valued part of a team. I loved corporate culture, was ready for battle and good at it.
Instead of continuing to climb that ladder, though, I felt the need to leave it, to claim my own heart and my own awareness. This was tough duty as I had no mentors, no coaches, no support system back in the day. I had to be an icebreaker.
I knew people who transitioned in place, but I saw the costs they paid, the need to stay apparently normative, fitting in boxes. Not me.
For a decade, I struggled to give back, to offer the kind of support that I had needed to others. I fought the battle, in my own way, even as I resisted becoming a visible trans commodity, getting a comforting act together and taking it on the road.
What I gave, though, I wasn’t getting back. My heart is so femme that family and nurturing was my focus, not the battle of the market, economic, political or otherwise.
My sister is forever battered by the business pressure at work, so much so that I have to take care of her while she has no energy left for me. She wants to take care of me with a bag of tomatoes, having a sense of the price I paid but unable to stop focusing on her own challenges.
I don’t eat vegetables any more, as I told her. The mail, my scripts, all that has gone away, too much fight required. I make a stab or two to connect, but the message I get back is simple: if you want to break through, want to get traction, you have to be ready to battle, be ready to do the hard work & heavy lifting, ready to take the abuse and dig through the shit to claim whatever sliver of success might be available.
I understand the requirement for naming and claiming, for being tough enough to go through the everyday battle to turn a queer life into something that can serve the mainstream. I understand how the shame culture denies those like me, mature and queer, community support. I understand how only my efforts that break through and work with a target audience count for anything at all.
For those who want to claim that it is never too late to change, I know that their real message is that it is never too late to enter the fray, to battle, to fight for your right to be whatever. The inner battle only counts if it feeds he outer battle, making a role, a place, a package for yourself that others can buy into, getting the reward of their coin.
The market — business, dating, etc — doesn’t tend to value those going grey as potential forces. It’s hard to get employed, get credibility, get connections from those who want soldiers for the battle, some easily lead, motivated by youthful needs. It take more to break through at a time when you are learning to work with less.
You may never be too old to battle, but you can be too something else to battle; too burned out, too disheartened, too hopeless, too sensitive, too abused, just too damn beaten by a life that too too much and returned too little. When you lose the will to battle, well, the point gets very blunted.
I still have energy but what I don’t have is the will to be beaten again. Trying to go to that place where the will is, well, that is a place where I have kept all the energy that the polite self-policing that a concierge has to do has to be withheld. My rage and pain will not fuel the battle for appropriate success, my intensity will not make me converts, my sharp thoughts will not warm people up to me, my deep vision will not build bridges.
I tried all that shit, I did, but I didn’t do it right, didn’t do it good, didn’t win. That leaves me a loser, with the choice of taking another tack or giving up. The only time that you have to succeed is the last time that you try, but if you don’t have the will to try again, to enter the battle smarter and more disciplined to win, well, the last time was the last time.
The battle must be joined. As long as there is life, there’s hope. Winning isn’t everything, it is the on;y thing. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.
If that doesn’t work, though, you may as well give up. No use being a damn fool about it.
Beaten is beaten.