Permission For Authenticity

Who do we need to ask for permission to reveal what we have been taught to hide?

Hiding the parts of us that don’t fit neatly into the expectations and assumptions of others is something we need to do “for our own good,”  or so we are told from a very early age.

Everyone around us feels entitled to tell us what we are doing wrong, how we are standing out, how we are embarrassing them, how we are making life difficult for ourselves by not simply hiding the parts of us that don’t fit in.

Parents, teachers and especially other children know the rules and want to call us out when we break them, even when we transgress by just trying to tell the truth about the contents of our own heart.

We may know who we are, but when we face that dragon Joseph Campbell spoke about, the dragon with “Thou Shalt” written on every scale, it becomes easy to lose our own authentic voice.   Those around us who fear that dragon find it easy to demand that we don’t bring unwanted attention to the family, find it right to shame us into playing along to conceal anything that might bring disorder.

Trying to fit in demands we silence the different inside of us, demands we hide our differences, demands we bury what is different about us deep in some locked compartment.   We have to kill off a bit of ourselves to avoid being wrong, poison our heart “for our own good.”

What we have hidden, though, is never gone.   It is always written deep in our creation, always burning in our soul.   No matter how we try and find commercial substitutes for the red shoes that dance in our own deep Eros,  our heart still holds who we are.

The gift of a lifetime is becoming who you are, Joseph Campbell tells us.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.

Living never wore one out so much as the effort not to live.

Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat.

Perfection is static, and I am in full progress."
-- Anaïs Nin

Someday, if we are bold, courageous and truthful, we know we have to blossom. We have to reveal what we tried to hide, pull it out into the open where we can sort it out, disposing of the dross and claiming the gold that was always inside us.

Whose permission, though, do we have to get to break open?   Who will support us when instead of hiding all our big, intense, scary and truthful bits, the ones we were told to secrete “for our own good,” we instead start to unpack and explore them, bringing them into the light?

One cannot emerge as transgender and still be “nice.”   We have to break the rules about simple separations, separating male from female, normative from aberrant, appropriate from weird, good from bad and so on.   The boxes that were built to enforce the rules have to be broken.   The dragon with “Thou Shalt” on every scale needs to be slain, all in the quest of going deep and finding authenticity, claiming our authentic voice, discovering our authentic gifts and trusting our authentic truth,

No matter how much we try and run from box to box, trying to remain concealed in social constructions, if we had simply fit nicely into any of them that existed we would have slipped into them long ago.    To emerge is to move beyond.

Whose permission can we get to break the rules, to move beyond niceness, to transgress being appropriate, to shatter the expectations & assumptions of others, to transcend the fears of others, to claim our own authenticity even in the face of those who feel entitled to silence us “for our own good.”

Emergence is messy, just like growth and healing are always messy.   We cannot both shatter the walls that constrain us and clean up that shattered mess at the same time, cannot both breakthrough and stay constrained simultaneously.    Our truth will always challenge others, even as we struggle to find what of it is fundamental and what of it is residual pain, loss and rationalization that comes of working to deny ourselves for so long.

To stay afraid of what lies within us, always moderating and attenuating every expression because it might be seen as too inappropriate, too big, too intense or too queer is to stay mired in fear rather than exploring our own authentic self.   For those of us who were pounded into silence, who were shamed into an attempt at invisibility, who were told we had to learn to deny & hide “for our own good,”  that modulation feels like a continuation of the death we learned to play at everyday.

The permission to emerge, to break out and to break through, isn’t permission that we can find from anyone in polite society.   There is no right way to explore your own gifts or to claim your own authenticity.   Each one of us has to find that balance for ourselves.

The permission to be who we are in our hearts comes not from social rules or identity politics, but from the spark of creation that we have always carried inside of us.   We co-create our life, but only when we move beyond “Thou shalt” to discover who we really are and to share that deep understanding by acting from a place of authenticity in the world, even when that authenticity isn’t nice or polite.

Moving beyond the fear of not fitting in, the fear of not being able to hide, the fear of shining in the world with an authentic truth is not easy or simple.   It is a place of loneliness, a path that demands balance between assimilating and standing proud.

There will always be those who feel entitled to try and silence authenticity that they find scary or ugly or inappropriate.  Rather than affirming diverse truth, they will work to enforce the beliefs that comfort them.

Yet some people will always choose to shine, to claim and show their authentic truth.   It is these people we need to remember and support as they search for a truth that moves beyond separations to enlighten the connections that touch us all beyond the boxes of niceness.

(Written in mind of Transgender Day Of Remembrance 2019, #TDOR2019)

Simple Comfort

As the manager of a MAC cosmetics counter, Sarah understands trans in a simple and powerful way.

Trans is a need to be comfortable in your own skin by showing who you are on the inside on the outside.

Simple, yes.   And also very complicated, because to do that, we have to negotiate all the myriad things that cause us discomfort.

This means that discussing trans turns into a discussion of what causes us discomfort and the tools we have to build to negotiate a society where group identities, belief systems, imposed stereotypes and binary “us vs them” assumptions shape and limit the ways others can be seen.

I know that my life and my work has focused on using my mind to address the systems and limits which say that trans discomfort is good, right and proper, along with understanding and exposing the strategies that transpeople use to justify and rationalize their own trans expression while still attempting to cling onto normalcy.

But Sarah, well, she looked into my eyes — “those eyes!” —  saw who I was and she wanted to help me feel more comfortable and powerful facing the world, just like she would with any other woman who came to her counter.

It felt simple, affirming and amazing.  Thank you, Sara.

This doesn’t always happen.   I’ve had MAC artists who I could see try and figure out if I was a drag queen or a crossdresser, needing a label to guide them.   I’ve even had those who told me I educated them, even if I wasn’t ready to hear that.

The moment of simple comfort of being seen and accepted beyond boundaries is so rare for transpeople that it can often seem impossible.   Even in LGBTQI spaces, having to claim our identity within expectations is usually demanded and when we challenge identity assumptions we are erased and diminished.

Trans, at least at heart, is not a considered choice.   It reflects an inner knowledge, a core truth,  the powerful Eros of our heart.   Our trans nature just is, at least until we hit society and then puberty and then the rest of the demands of a culture in love with either/or.

Trans expression, though, is always a very considered choice, squeezed out into shapes that feel socially mandated: drag, sissy, crossdresser, transsexual and so on.   Pick a box and squeeze yourself to fit in it, often demanding to be seen in the way we think we should be seen.  Explicate yourself!

My life has been much more a consideration of trans than an expression of it.   Claiming how I identify was more important than just being who I am.  Rational descriptions of my current position, assertions that justified my choices are more important than the choices themselves.  I had to be on guard for any challenge that took away my standing, had to weave between identities that others claimed ownership of, had to respect the beliefs of those around me as they judged not my choices but rather whatever motivations behind those choices they assigned to me.

I was expected to base my comfort not on how I showed my nature but rather on how well I could explain my choices, not on my essence but rather on the conceptual structures I built around that essence, not on who I am but rather on how well I could make others comfortable with my choices.  Finding comfortable armour was much more valued than that ultimate trans surgery, pulling the stick out of your own ass.

Based on their own internalized system of what is right and correct, others first assigned me a box and then kept me there, adding details as they needed to.   Guy-In-A-Dress?   Check!  After all, what else could I be?  My every choice was seen as a political act.

Sara, though, looked into my eyes and knew what I was: just another woman wanting to look better and feel better about herself.   The truth was right there for her to see.

It’s easy for others to respond to my armour and what they need to believe is behind it.   It is often difficult for them to respond to the girl who has been trapped behind this trans-defence, stuck in a male body and the expectations dumped on it for a long, lonely life.   I know why I carry the armour, know why I have spent years trying to reduce it, working to show what is inside me, but I also know that whatever I do, I am going to be subject to the internalized assumptions of my audience.

Many transpeople get angry and lash out at other transpeople who seem to be setting up expectations and rationalizations that we find onerous, heavy to carry as they create noise in what we are trying to express.  For me, it is important to stay compassionate to all expressions, knowing that underneath whatever justifications they wear, every transperson is just trying to tell some deep and profound truth about their life.  (I will admit that when their stance is to deny that essential truth — “I’m just doing it for the show” or “Just having fun” or “Not really queer!” or “I fixed my birth defect, so I’m cured!” or such– I do find that posture very irritating.)

I know that I am supposed to be a grown up and deal with the world in a grown up manner, having a thick skin and striving to be “appropriate” in all my choices rather than pushing people’s buttons and challenging their comforting beliefs in separation and motives.   I can do that, but only at the cost of wrapping my essence in so much damn tip-toeing around that I lose touch with any power or beauty.

There are moments, though, such rare moments, when someone like Sara looks into my eyes and sees through my history and biology to the tender essence within.

Trans is a need to be comfortable in your own skin by showing who you are on the inside on the outside.

Simple, yes.   And also very complicated, because to do that, we have to negotiate all the myriad things that cause us discomfort.  We end up bound in armour.

But not, thankfully, to some precious people like Sarah.

Thanks.

Terrifying Energy

When I was a kid — and still, today — I abstained from recreational chemicals.

After all, if I was so buzzy just with the spirit my mother in the sky gave me, what would I be like on drugs?

At a very, very young age, I understood that my big challenge was keeping myself enervated, attenuated, suppressed, under control.   Those around me, especially my Asperger’s parents, but including teachers and other kids, found me intense, overwhelming and scary even when I was stoically exerting all the self control I could muster, so how would they find me if I just let loose, let fly?

I am smart and queer, with a kind of x-ray vision that just tends to push buttons, as I was taught early by my dialed back father and narcissistic mother.   Sometimes I wonder what I would be like if those around me engaged and encouraged my stories, but that is as unknowable as who I would be like if I actually had the drive and equipment to be cocky.

What I learned to fear was losing control.   I needed other people, needed to stay connected to them, needed my tender feminine heart to nurture whatever links I could find, so I learned to play small.  I spent years learning manipulation, trying to make others like me, but that path was corrupt, a dead end, and I had to learn to let it go.

I know who my losing control hurts.  It hurts me.

Even today when I start to feel my heart and mind spin, keeping me awake, on edge, excited and maybe a bit hopeful, I know that when I hit a barrier, feel a crash, I am going to have to take care of myself, all by myself.  I am going to have to reach deep down and salve my own splintered soul, bind up my own wounds, attempt to stroke my own broken heart.

As a wounded healer, I know how to be there for others, even how to encourage them to play big, to go for it, but finding the support and mirroring I need has always escaped me.   People tell me to cut back, to be less visceral, to not bounce, to stay within their comfort zone, to be more normative, and that call has always cut me much more than it has soothed or even empowered me.

To be terrified of your own inner energy, of the power that can both cut through knots and slice you away from social love, well, that is quite a daily burden.   To again risk using your gifts is to risk again being destroyed by the social reaction to them.

The number of nights when it has just been me and my mother in the sky, nursing to my own soul in hermetic discipline is innumerable and ultimately draining.  I am worn down.   My low levels of latent inhibition, my inability to slough off what most would rather not remember, my powerful memory means that many, many, many moments of transcendent pain are etched deeply in my soul.

I, like most humans, need mirroring that affirms my gifts and helps me use them effectively.  The most painful thing is not to be able to give your gifts and have them accepted.  Encouragement to risk again, feedback on more effective ways to share and understanding solace when you miss the mark is life-giving, what I work hard to share with those I love and who are committed to change & growth.   Our body keeps the score and the older you get, the more that score mounts.

My stoicism is part of me, a honed discipline I am proud of.   The fear that drove me into that choice so early, though, is also part of me, and it profoundly aches every time I think about my own very deep, very unfilled needs.

Very early, I was taught to be terrified of who I am.   I learned that showing it could easily get me creamed, and that others would see any attack on me as my fault, because I triggered the emotions of others.    I was to blame, stupid me who always, always deserved whatever crap I got.   Target patient, scapegoat, just too everything.

I am no longer terrified of who I am.   Rather, I am terrified of having to heal another wound, of having to pull off my concierge face and patch up my own broken heart again as it is pierced by my shattered dreams.   I am terrified of being alone and lost in my own pain with only my thoughts, my discipline and faith in nature to pull me through.

Like anyone who has learned to self-police, I over control my choices, dialing back too much, staying small and safe while avoiding risk.   We need each other to give us broader vision, to see what is possible and help create.   That’s one reason why women need girlfriends, especially those of us who never had the kind of peers who could help us blossom beyond hard lessons.   The hardest thing about trans is doing it alone.

It is my own heart, my own mind, my own soul, my own divine energy that terrifies me now.   I have been though my own hells, but the hell of other people, well, that still lurks.

Somehow, I have to believe that there is a kind of imperious performance that can this old body can play which can ground me in connection rather than just leaving me in the old, painful internal spinning.   There have to be wins available to me beyond a scarred history of loss, if only I can modulate my own energy in a way that lets me find them.

I am terrified of my own energy.   Yet, as the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas reminds us,“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

Another new choice, another attempt?

Is there really any other option?

Lone Voice

We join a group by assimilating, by showing that we share the goals, characteristics, values and history that bring the members together.

I listen like a girl, listen like a woman, listen like a mother.  Listening is the essential receptivity of femininity, even more than the sexual receptivity that is so often seen as basic.   Whoever we are, we spend much more time communicating than we do copulating.

The problem is that I don’t speak like a girl, like a woman, like a mother.   My content is feminine, laced with reflection and consideration, but my style is quite determined, authoritative and sly.

That style comes out of figuring out what works for me with this body, this history and this energy.   Being cute, for example, never worked for me, nor did looking for kindness.   The heavy expectations of manhood were dumped on my broad shoulders and I was never, ever allowed to forget that.

When I was a kid, I craved the feminine, being sent to therapists in 3d, 5th and 8th grade.   I tried to compartmentalize, but as in my 30s, I started exploring androgyny, the beginning of a journey that lead me to my current understanding and expression, which is unique, individual, assimilated and queer.   I found ways to own my own power which meant not surrendering my voice to any group, not staying small, at least in my vision and knowledge.

This lead me to “The Loneliness Of A Long-Lost Tranny,”  which has been the tagline of this blog since I started it fourteen years and over a million words ago.

It’s not that I want to be lonely & lost, it is the problem of finding community.

I am told is what part of me I need to suppress to fit in to any group.  My reduction is not based on clinical depression, rather it has always been based on demands & expectations of suppression, having to hide, to deny, to kill off the parts of me that do not easily fit in society.

Moving beyond suppression demands finding a group that allows me to assimilate as me, as all the parts of me, yin and yang.

 

And I just have to say, I’m grateful to be working. I’m grateful at 50 to be getting the best parts of my life. And that’s great, but in my heart, I’m so sad. I lost my sister Alexis. And trans people are still being persecuted. And I’m in mourning every day of my life, Alexis, and I will be the rest of my life for you, until we change the world so that trans people are not persecuted. And give them jobs. They’re human beings. Let’s give them jobs. Let’s get rid of this bias that we have everywhere. Thank you

Patricia Arquette, Emmy Acceptance Speech, September 21, 2019.

 

The price of a lifetime of suppression is very, very high.

Today, there is much focus on trans-kids, young people who claim their gender in new ways.   Yet every transperson was a trans-kid at some time, and the vast majority of us were not embraced, not acknowledged, not facilitated in finding our unique heart and individual power, but instead were required to fit into moulds that eased community expectations rather than let us find ways to be seen, understood and valued for our unique contributions to the group.

Learning what we need to hide to fit in rather than what we must reveal to own an authentic queer voice is life destroying.    And having people around us who need us to stay small and simple, just as we need connection, is so lonely that it is soul destroying.    They may need the beasts of burdens they have come to expect in their assumptions about us, but we need liberation beyond, affirmation of essence, transformation emergence and trust.

Having to be both far enough ahead to be healed and far enough behind to not be challenging, the one who negotiates and quells the fears of others even as they cling to the small talk, small thoughts and small terrors of normativity is too much to ask of any individual.

We join a group by assimilating, by showing that we share the goals, characteristics, values and history that bring the members together.  The smaller those expectations are, though, the smaller we have to appear to be to pass through the screening.

People who found that being constrained by the demands put on them based on their genitals just were too confining, people who have the experience of moving beyond and are able to share the experience of that journey, well, we have trouble playing small enough to just fit in at the local senior centre.

The price of suppression, playing small to fit in, is crushing,   And the price of claiming, facing down the dragon with “Thou Shalt” on every scale to claim the gift of a lifetime, who we truly are, is desperately isolating.

Trying to do both at the same time, to stay connected as a woman and stay free as an individual is just totally exhausting, without any place to feel safe, to land, to be fed and cared for.

I listen.   I speak.   I am deemed “too much.”

And all I have left is my lone voice.

Bloody Magic

Magic, from the outside, looks magical.  Bam!  Poof!  Alacazam!  Transformation happens, amazement ensues, and everybody is happy!

Is there any wonder why people who never really wanted to be a tranny in the first place (2006) dream of that kind of magic happening in their lives?  They want the magical transformations that they imagined, and dammed be anyone who challenges that dream, who bursts that balloon, seeming to steal their dreams.

Real magicians, though, from stage illusionists to shamans, know that magic is always damn hard work.  Someone has to fold themselves up tiny in the box, or go on the dream quest, or be there when people time and time again come for healing.   Lots of time, effort, blood, sweat and tears go into mastering magic, into making it look effortless and elegant.

Magical thinkers, though, get very upset when reality intrudes on their need to believe.   They cling to fundamental tenets, thrashing to silence anyone who tries to reveal the hard, human truths behind the mysteries that they crave.   They can’t speak from experience, sharing their truths, they can only speak from desire, desperately trying to wall off their dreams from the scary pull of cold reality.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda, is compelling stuff.  It’s easy to think that the pressures which affect you are just wrong and the world needs to change to satisfy your imagined perfection, avoiding any discomfort you sense.   The way things should be is easy to imagine, and if only everyone else would just do it correctly, the way you say, everything could be great, with no reason to look back and have to face our less than perfect choices.   After all, if you and your peers all agree, how can you ever be wrong?

No matter how magical anyone else looks to you, change is hard, taking time and work.  We live in a tangible world where every choice has a cost and nothing comes for free.   To go one way means not going another, at least for now, facing the discomfort and prices that need to be paid.   If you understand it or not, the world works the way it does for a reason, usually for considerations that are only revealed with time and effort.    As nice as you think it might be if the world were simpler, if others seemed to think more like you, they have reasons for their choices, often good reasons.

Magic may not come from taking a short cut in the world but instead from understanding it so well that you can polish your skills to create change, but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t magic.    The power of transformation is magical, even if it comes from discipline, precision, learning and commitment.

Many want to know the secrets to the magic, but magicians have learned not to give out the secrets.  Some think that silence is a kind of elitism, but anyone who has struggled to learn any kind of magic knows that the only way to be able to make magic is to own your own magic.   There is no simple secret to magic and when muggles learn that, they are often upset or angry.   Even when they are told the truths behind creation they don’t understand the path to the power, instead wanting to have their magical thinking validated and affirmed.

This is one reason why so many transpeople who have claimed their own magical emergence just go silent and fade back into the woodwork, not wanting to be attacked by fundamentalists as demons or by wishers as dream destroyers.   People don’t really want to see the hard work that goes on behind the curtain, instead preferring just to hold magic as something outside of the truth of sweaty, bloody, struggling humanity.

I always loved magic, but I never fell into believing that there were magical solutions to human challenges that created change without work or manifested transformation without discipline, loss and suffering.   “Grant me the courage to change what I can, the serenity to accept what I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

People heal and grow in their own time and their own way.   For people like my Aspergers parents, change was always slow and difficult because they just didn’t have the theory of mind to get out of their own way and learn from those around them.   Their patterns were solid and fixed and if the world didn’t understand, well, that was the world’s fault.

I needed magic, though, needed it badly.  I had to gain a clearer view, see the patterns, understand the emotions and work the process if I wanted to get comfortable in my own too queer, too smart, too visceral skin.

From my earliest days, I was the target patient in the family, the scapegoat everyone called “Stupid,” identifying issues and trying to find a better way.   This lead me to the role of wounded healer, the kind of magician who finds miracles, new ways of seeing, inside of struggle.

In my breeches role as concierge, magic was part of the mandate, understanding what those I loved needed before they did and making sure I offered it up to them.   Like any shaman, I crossed boundaries they saw as solid, entering their world to offer bits of comfort and wisdom that could support their growth and healing, no matter how slow they went and how much patience that meant I had to magically muster up.

I don’t talk about bloody magic to bash the magical dreams of others.   I talk about bloody magic because that is the gift that other wise humans have passed to me, bits of stories from their path that helped me find and own my own path to whatever magic I could scrape up in this finite world.

Before and after may always seem like magic, but all magicians know that it is the between where the work and mastery come in.   That process can only be entered, though, if you let go of magical thinking, wishing for easy & instant, and engage the real work of bloody magic.

Bisexual Pride Bit

Was challenged to write a bisexual pride bit for someone. . .

When I was first coming out, I knew that my desire -- my love -- didn't fit neatly in one box or another.   It crossed boundaries that many around me saw as fixed and hard, like somehow the world was defined by either/or, by one or the other, by dark and light, by truth and shadow.

At that time, I thought that this meant that I was bisexual.

As I started to explore my own desire -- my Eros -- I started to let go of standard patterns of relationships.   Moving beyond gender conventions that trapped me and everyone else into "knowing" what people should be because of their reproductive biology, their genitals, I found pleasure and power in taking people as I met them, embracing them as individuals rather than assuming who they "should" be.

At that time, I thought this meant I was bisexual.

Freeing up my love didn't just free my choice of partners, it freed up my mind, my expectations and my own heart.   I was able to explore my own nature, reflected through the kaleidoscope of those I met who were open to the possibilities inherent in the rainbow of humanity.   I moved beyond my own expectations of who I could be, performing new ways of being loving in the world.

At that time, I thought this meant I was bisexual.

The emergence of my own feminine heart led me to a wider public expression of my own truth, my essence affirmed and supported by those who loved beyond boundaries.   As a transgender woman, I knew that my lovers had to be in touch with their own bisexuality, able to love all of me beyond gender boundaries, meeting me as the individual that I am just as I met them beyond projecting my own expectations on them.

Today, I know that means I am bisexual, needing love beyond boundaries and assumptions.

Bisexuality allowed me to explore the rainbow, not just the rainbow in my partners, but also the rainbow in my own heart.  Bisexuality gave me the ground and the confidence to claim my own nature even where it crosses conventions, and my bisexual partners are able to transcend, to love someone as they are, not just as how we would have them be.

I know that I am bisexual because I own the rainbow in my own heart and because I delight in the unique rainbows I find in my partner's hearts.   

That's why we are here today, because transcendent bisexuality means we celebrate the rainbow in every heart, celebrate the rainbow in our own heart.

Today I know that I am bisexual because I let the rainbow in my heart shine, because I see the rainbow in your heart too.

Are you ready to be bisexual and own the rainbow?

Divine Discomfort

We humans are very, very good at avoiding discomfort.   We know very well how to stay inside our comfort zone, no matter how small, how twisted or how limiting our habits and expectations have made that space.

Discomfort, though, is required for growth.   If we only do what we are already comfortable doing, instead listening to the resistance of our ego, nothing will ever change.  After all, the only way change can come is when it starts with new choices by one human, usually you.

We can always find reasons not to expand our life, not to risk, not to take a chance, not to face potential embarrassment and discomfort.   It is easy to surrender to our own inertia, to be too tired or have too little hope, to just continue making the same choices while complaining that nothing ever changes.

That critical voice inside has a point.   We do need to be smart about where we use our energy, our resources, not just taking shots that use our wherewithal up or lead us to believe that change is impossible.   Spitting into the wind rarely gets us happy rewards.

But as long as we avoid discomfort, we avoid even the chance of finding the divine surprise, that moment when our vision opens and we see the love, the awesome,. the possibilities of better in the world.    We miss the miracle of seeing with new eyes, scales falling away while beauty and potential is revealed.

It’s impossible to be in the right place at the right time if you just aren’t anywhere at all.   Braving discomfort, risking change rather than just working to avoid loss is required.

Do one thing everyday that scares you,”  Mary Schmich advised graduates.   Its the only way to expand your horizons, to really find out what you have inside, to claim that gift of a lifetime that Joseph Campbell spoke about, becoming who you really are.

I know that for me, it is again time to come out of my basement hermitage and take the risk of exposing my nature, of trying again.   I have been licking at my wounds long enough.

Performance Anxiety (PA), often known as stage-fright, is an old friend of mine, as it is for most performers.   If you aren’t a bit excited, you don’t have the energy you need.

For me, though, what I need from performance isn’t simple.   My performance is far from conventional, challenging to many, and baffling to others.  I will never neatly fit into expectations and the kind of engagement I need will never come from simply affirming pleasantries.   My distance from simplicity and cuteness makes me exceptional, like so many others.

Still, I am human and I need connection with other people.   Few may get the joke, but if I decide to value momentary comfort over exposing my truth, how will I ever find anyone who understands, who cares, who wants to play?   Only braving my own discomfort, moving beyond fears & assumptions, can allow me to be present for others and possibly, just possibly, have them be present for me.

If my experience with PA teaches me anything it is that first showing myself is always the hardest part.   Once I relax into presence beyond fear, my reflexes take over, letting me appear in a way that most would call natural or authentic.

In other words, it’s not the work that is hard, it is finding a way to open up and get into the swing, the patterns of the work.   If I just stop resisting, doors open up and I can receive the gifts waiting for me, even if those gifts include hints on how to be better and stronger the next time.

Entering the discomfort, then, is the only way to get smarter and more myself.   The only way out of hell is through, as someone said.

For me, the people I want to meet are those who are also on a journey of discovery, open to the divine surprises they find along their path.   When others take responsibility for their own thoughts and feelings, rather than seeing someone to blame or demonize, they commit to connection rather than separation.

Travellers always step out of their comfort zone, knowing that anything that doesn’t surprise, disquiet and challenge them, at least a bit, is something that they already own.    Curiosity drives seekers, rather than the simple sensation that tourists desire.   Transformation always has a cost and a value, setting us apart from those we come from, while sensation just entertains, allowing us to return satiated to the everyday norms.

Working to expand our knowledge and awareness can only come with the embrace of discomfort.   We may want to grow our mastery, learning to be more precise and effective, or to engage questions, even questions we had never considered in the past, but whatever expansion we desire, discomfort lies on the path.

Avoiding discomfort is avoiding the hard work of growth and healing.  We trade momentary ease for a more limited future.

I know that if I want a more full future that my only chance demands that I open the door and push into the discomfort that stands between here and the possibilities that lie in the treasures of divine surprises.    Avoiding those surprises through avoiding discomfort is avoiding the gifts life has waiting for me.

The youthful exuberance and resilience I once had is gone, replaced now with more wisdom.  I need to choose where and when I push through discomfort rather than just bouncing about, hoping to find an opening.

Between love and fear, choose love, opening to connection rather than closing down to pretend separation.   Have the courage to change what you can, the serenity to accept what you cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.

But always know that to get the most out of life, choosing to push into discomfort is the only way to go beyond where you are now, to make new and better choices that offer the blessings of divine surprise.