"The unexamined life is not worth living" Socrates

- - scatterings of ideas sent to my younger self, a sensitive girl who was fooled into believing she was a boy because of anatomy - -

Friday 29 April 2011

Here There Be Dragons...

I used to love the "Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" as a youngster. My favourite part, narrated by Edward Everett Horton (a wonderful kindly voice), was called Fractured Fairy Tales:

For your entertainment then, a cautionary tale for seekers of all kinds who might consider innocently wandering about.

ONCE UPON A TIME in a land not so far away, there lived dragons; fearsome creatures, who seemed to serve no useful purpose, other than to scare others who happened to come into their sacred land by breathing out great flames, and roaring mightily as strangers approached.

One day, a seeker arrived in their land. One of the dragons caught the scent, and slowly approached the stranger, roaring loudly the whole way (of course). Preparing to take in great quantities of air in anticipation of an exhalation of flame that would reduce the intruder to harmless cinders, the dragon was interrupted by a voice, neither frightened nor bold saying "Pardon my intrusion into your land, but could you tell me, has this always been such a frightening and forbidding place?"

As though stunned into submission, the dragon, for the first time in a long time, paused to give a thought (other than 'burn baby, burn') to a question. It was a puzzling feeling to actually have to recall a moment before the present for the dragon, but it was not impossible, because dragons (contrary to popular mythology) are not numb-sculls at all, but are in fact highly intelligent creatures.

"You are not supposed to be here!" roared the dragon as she began that great inhale once again, only to be deflated once more by "Why do you want everyone to run away from you?".

'Stupid outworlder', thought the dragon, but it was a good question and as such, managed to get past the main over-riding thought (burn baby, burn) to the inner sanctum under the ruffled crown she wore just above her eyes.

For a moment, just for a moment, the dragon considered that possibility of a 'tête-à-tête with an outlandish outlander. The image of that diminutive seeker and the great and powerful dragon, sitting side by side chatting about the history of dragon land and its relationship with the outlanders was enticing. But, what would the neighbours say? And if you chat with one, and start to understand that one, won't others come by and next thing you know, your whole beautiful dragon place is over-run with would be seekers. What would the neighbours say?

It was over in an instant, and the dragon went back to, well, whatever it is that dragons do when they aren't incinerating seekers.

* * * THE END * * *
It is better to have sought and singed than never to have sought at all

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Far From Perfect and Loving It

"Know your enemy" has always seemed like a maxim to me, but sadly, in the past year, I have found that "ignorance is bliss" has resonated more strongly as I desperately tried to put the genie back into the bottle. Lately in a somewhat hopeless state, I have found myself slipping back into unhealthy habits that dominated my life in the past.

In her book "The Gifts of Imperfection", Brené Brown writes "From the time we wake up to the time our head hits the pillow at night we are bombarded with messages and expectations about every aspect of our lives".

The messages surround us; from programming and advertising on television, articles and advertising on internet and magazines, and so on. Brown quotes Jean Kilbourne; "Advertising is an over $200 billion a year industry. We are each exposed to over 3000 ads a day. Yet, remarkably, most of us believe we are not influenced by advertising."
I find that so many of these messages are gender-targeted and of course my wiring causes all those that are targeted 'female' to hit me hard. It may be that others are not even aware of them, but those who fight the pull of the "wrong gender", cannot escape ourselves when exposed to these constant reminders of our inadequacy.

As though my maxim at the beginning is mocking me, my lack of self-control brings another even more painful shame. If I can understand how insidious these distracting messages are, why can I not find a way to ignore them.

And so, like any cis-female, it seems I need to develop effective means to build a positive self-image that does not depend on fighting against, or at least, is somewhat more impervious to the assault by media on our psyche.

As Brown points out, the natural response to the pain of our feelings is to look for a way to numb them, whether it be by the application of "alcohol, drugs, food, sex, relationships, money, work, caretaking, gambling, staying busy, affairs, chaos, shopping, planning, perfectionism, constant change, and the Internet". I do not know about you, but I found myself in that list several times. Some of them are obviously addictive. Some came as a surprise to me.

And so I find myself realizing that instead of attempting to put the genie back, I need to live with, or even become the genie. I find myself trying to recognize the pain, and rather than numbing at those times, remembering to 'lean into' that pain whenever I can, and when I must numb, realize that is what I am doing.

Becoming the best person you can be is a journey. The destination is unknown, but by paying attention to the scenery I am getting more out of my life right now. It may sound spiritual, but knowing that being flawed is a shared affliction helps. One thing is certain, I do not find myself judging others these days.

Finally, Brown points out that when we numb to lose the pain, we lose the joy too. More than anything, I need more joy in my life.

Monday 18 April 2011

Staying In Control

There are so many familiar stories in this strange and wonderful land of Blogistan that fairly early on, I actually believed eventually I would find 'the answer' to my particular set of questions. After some time and soul-searching, it dawned on me that we must plot our own course; nobody will or should do that for you.

Of all the bloggers I have met, Calie comes the closest to saying the things that are in my heart. In her most recent post, she set out what she calls a 'disclaimer' that I completely share:
"I have not begun to transition.  I have never been on hormones.  I rarely crossdress.  I'm transgender."

There are those who will deride one who says they can actually make a choice about transition. They warn that when your bell rings, there is nothing you can do; you will transition or die trying. That is a fearful image. It is one I cannot reject. I really do not know how bad anothers pain is. I cannot even quantify my own terrible distraction that comes with my condition. I can tell you about the other symptoms that have abated because I am still in control of myself and have accepted that the need to continually work on this is part of who I am. There is a better person here, still living as a man. I may or may not be the best I can be. I take my life day by day.

In the same post Calie explains how strong the drive can be to transition; "the feeling … can be over-powering, unbearable, and overwhelming.  It can dominate your thoughts and time, and completely destroy your life if you don't take steps to deal with it."

No matter what I am doing, no matter how engaged I am in that activity, the fog follows. Sometimes it almost clears for periods of time. Those times I have learned to take careful note of what has given me that respite.
In a much earlier post, Calie described her TIDE discipline, a strategy that helps her continue to live as a man when every inclination says otherwise.

The easy parts of TIDE  for me are "D - diet and eat right", and "I - immerse myself in work and hobbies." Less effective for me is the "E- exercise and stay healthy" because of a life-long dislike for exercise for its own sake. I enjoy some healthy activities; walking or snow-shoeing, golfing, curling for examples. Unfortunately, these are not vigorous enough to distract me completely, but they help. In fact, sometimes it is very distracting  when groups of women are involved in the same activity and I feel the disconnect from my natural desire to be 'one of the women' that comes from having to act like 'one of the men'.

The first letter of TIDE, "T - Trans friends who understand me" has so far had mixed benefits for me. On-line I could not ask for better friends (you all know who you are! )In order to spend time with non-virtual trans-friends, it is necessary to find and make contact with them. Our nearest population center is a very small town where my male side is pretty well known. The risks are just too high to send out an open invitation.

One invitation to join a correspondent (and now fellow blogger) and her friend was squandered last year because of my reluctance to drive for three hours. I have wished many times that I had simply made that long drive just to benefit from truly getting to know and to be with her, someone who I would immediately understand, and who would understand me. I know that such an opportunity will not be wasted again. We all need to support one another, and learn from one another. Besides that, I believe life should include fun, and so far there has been way too little pleasure from this part of my life.

As Calie suggested, "pure will-power" is definitely part of the way I live one day at a time. It would be wonderful if the list of useful strategies to combat that strong drive to transition was longer. You can be sure I will add to it and share it here if and when I can.

Wednesday 13 April 2011

A Work In Progress

A sad event took place for my wife a couple of weeks ago. She felt devastated because while out shopping, wearing a set of earrings I had given to her on a significant birthday, she somehow lost one of them. After doing everything that could be done in an attempt to find the missing item, resigned to its loss, she confided to our daughter that she was dreading telling dad. "You needn't worry about that." my firstborn explained, "Dad is the sweetest person. He would never get angry about something like this."

After many hugs to console her on the loss of a 'thing' that can be replaced (well, we hope so anyway; the search for a match is proving difficult), she told me what our daughter had said. As you can imagine it moved me so much to know that the very best part of my stealthy self-improvement project is touching loved ones too. You see it really is not that terribly long ago that my wife would have been correct to dread telling me such a thing.

Somehow, self-acceptance, and self-confidence has translated into a general feeling of understanding (dare I say, empathy) for others too.

Oh, I still get angry. I am definitely a work in progress, but at least the direction is a good one that has been noticed and appreciated.

Tuesday 5 April 2011

And So It Goes

In every heart, there is a room...

A year ago yesterday I first ventured to share an idea or two here, hoping to get a few back. My thanks for all of it, especially to the few who challenged me to grow.

Now, a year later, changed so much, and you're the only one who knows…

And So It Goes, Billy Joel

In every heart, there is a room,
A sanctuary safe and strong.
To heal the wounds of lovers past
Until a new one comes along.

I spoke to you in cautious tones,
You answered me with no pretence.
And still I feel I said too much.
My silence is my self-defence.

And every time I've held a rose,
It seems I only felt the thorns.
And so it goes, and so it goes,
And so will you soon, I suppose.

But if my silence made you leave,
Then that would be my worst mistake.
So I will share this room with you,
And you can have this heart to break.

And this is why my eyes are closed.
It's just as well for all I've seen.
And so it goes, and so it goes.
And you're the only one who knows.

So I would choose to be with you.
That's if the choice were mine to make.
But you can make decisions, too,
And you can have this heart to break.

And so it goes, and so it goes.
And you're the only one who knows.

Monday 4 April 2011

Just a Phase?

My recent life of self-examination has taught me there are some things that are part of my nature. They fall into the "what you are", not the "what you like to do" category of activities. In that second group are activities that result from my 'sensation-seeking' nature.

Yes, I love new experiences: the feel of a texture, the smell or taste of some recipe never yet experienced, the sight of some new vista challenging me to attempt to capture it either in the lens or on the sketchpad, and for me the most seductive, a combination of sounds first heard and interpreted (I love Bach fugues); new sensory experiences delight me.

It is only natural then, that it should occur to me that all of this 'gender-confusion' might be part of that. Maybe I could be lucky. Maybe feminine feelings and pursuits might be something I needed to experience and just get past. Perhaps 'all of this' was 'just' about trying out some new stuff.

Did I mention there are some things that are part of your nature?

One more theory has made it into the trash-bin. :-(