"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 - -

Sunday 5 August 2012

A Woman Named Beth

I was expecting to see the boy again. It was the smells and sounds that took me back to my youth that made it harder to recognize the woman stretched out on the blanket at first.

Wavy blonde hair hanging just above her shoulder was framed by a colourful golf visor with no logo on it (my kind of person obviously) . The white coverup showed a royal blue bathing suit underneath and her feet were bare. A pair of sandals with jeweled bands were lying close by the bottle of spf60 sunscreen and not far from the ~ I Love Bermuda ~ beach bag. The overall impression was all woman, but unquestionably, all me.

This was dream-time, and I had asked for what was to come so many times that it was a surprise to realize it had come this night. Going to sleep, there was a calm reverie; walking down my childhood beach as my young self, yet as the dream I was currently having began, I was that same man who shows up in the mirror every morning, not the young me and definitely not the person who inhabits my heart. This dream was to be about contrasts, and the woman I was looking at took my breath away as I began to grasp how the results of such small difference happening at the microscopic level so long ago had cascaded down the decades.

She was on a very familiar and very old beach blanket with lots of other goodies spread around her. A phone, cooler bag, an ipad that she was busy working on beside that colourful beach bag with a copy of "i of the vortex" by Rodolfo R. Llinas sticking out.

"That's a really interesting book isn't it?" I remarked, pretending to have just been walking the beach, when in fact I had simply materialized behind her.
Looking up at me, obviously surprised, she did a double take, then looking back and forth at me and the book, said "yes, very". Staring deeply into my eyes then up and down with a 'deer in the headlights' sort of urgency she just as quickly apologizing, explaining "Oh my, you really startled me! Usually when someone walks down this beach I see them long before they arrive. It isn't just that though. Your eyes, mouth and nose are so much like my father who passed away ten years ago. I am sure I know all my relatives, but... "

Shaking her head side to side and looking out toward the water, she unfolded her body and stood, offered her hand, smiling and said, "Please, shall we start over? I'm Beth." I told her my first name and she shook her head again. "That is so strange! That was my father's name too and you do look so much like him; taller and more hair by far (she chuckled at that as she took in my lengthening gold and grey mop), but your face… oh dear I am going on aren't I?"
Her image shimmered for just the shortest of moments and it felt like this dream was about to end, but then it became clear again, as she looked up smiling a smile of recognition, "This is one of my lucid dreams! I haven't had one of these for so long. This is just like Richard Bach's One... you look like dad because you are an alternate me! One with some obvious and startling differences!" I laughed at myself; as me and as her and we joined hands as we laughed together at the absurdity of such a thing being possible. Laughter turned to hugs and we sat together on that old blanket, quickly losing ourselves in conversation so intimate, deep and open, the sort only old lovers usually have.

So went my dream-time 'afternoon on the beach' with the woman I could have been. She was born Elizabeth Anne _______ (my last name, of course) on my own birthday (of course). Telling her my own history, she accepted the situation in a way I thought only I could, but the books we were currently reading and discussions of other books, both fiction and non-fiction we both read over the years revealed how alike we truly are in spite of different life experiences. We showed each other photos of our children (two daughters and one granddaughter in her case) and brought each other up to speed on an alternate lifetime.

She had been a professional dancer just like mom, doing lots of stage shows, but had gone to university too, creating a successful career as a physiotherapist. She was so jealous that in my world dad was still alive, but very disappointed that I had never had a positive relationship with the man she idolized up to and obviously since his death, a man who had accepted, encouraged and cherished her. She was now using my father's home that I never visit any more as her summer get-away.

Beth was as fascinated at the choices we had made as a man as I was hers. She looked so sad when I answered her question "Didn't you want to be a dancer?" with a description of how mom had told me no when I told her how much I wanted to learn to dance. Of course, when I told her of my own musical endeavours, she brightened. "I have always thought it would be wonderful to play an instrument of some sort." "You should start now." I told her and she gave me the answer so many do at our age; "It is too late to try something so different, isn't it?" To which I replied (physician heal thyself) "it is never too late to learn and grow."

Her logical organized side immediately latched onto my love of teaching and she admitted a flirtation with setting up a dance school had never got off the ground. "There was always something else that we needed money for as the kids grew up, went off to university and got started in the working world." I remembered how quickly my own middle years had flown by with needs and dreams being put on hold until they seemed of little importance and then it felt as though it was too late for them.

The afternoon stretched on and on. Finally, I asked the question that had brought me to her here in dream-time. "Beth, have you ever wondered what your life would have been like if you had been born a man?" "No, never, but it seems I have got to know the answer to that today anyway haven't I!?" she replied with a glowing smile and a squeeze of my hands. Looking serious all of a sudden, she quietly observed, "I am guessing you have wondered about life as a woman. Tell me why this matters to you."

As I explained as best I could about my struggles, she nodded to encourage me, gave me puzzled looks to get me to explain more, but did not interrupt once. My what a good listener she is; so much like mom. Her eyes looking straight into mine told me there was no need and no point in holding back from this person. When I decided she was at the point of overload, holding both of her hands and sitting quiet finally, I looked at her, and waited for her comments or questions to come. She shook her head and looked down,
"I so wish there was something magical to tell you about womanhood that you don't already know. I get up in the morning and never have anything like these thoughts you talk about having each day. I am who I am and have done my best to be a good person for sixty years. I worked hard most of my life. Being a working mother wasn't easy. My kids have been my greatest joy; the centre of my life, especially after Jeff and I separated. Now, finally there is time to relax and take some time for myself. I love golfing with my girlfriends down here, and we travel together in the winter months. I take my granddaughter Tess on outings and of course my girls and I get together as often as they will have me!" We talked then for what seemed like hours about family and friends and life.

As the sun hung low on the horizon, I helped her pack up her things and we walked back to the old tin boat tucked into the reeds right where I remember dad always left it. We hugged for all our might. Tears of joy came easily as I woke and said goodbye to a bright summer afternoon with Beth.


  1. Beautifully written, Halle. I can see how you work up with tears.

    Did you get sunburned after all of those hours at the beach? :)

  2. hehe, magically, no sunburn. :)

  3. Deep alignment to self produces best writing. Can't recall who said so but you confirm it.

  4. These words of yours touch me deeply Ellena. Thank you so much.

  5. What a wonderful story Halle, full of depth and meaning. An insight to true self.

    Shirley Anne x

  6. Perhaps accepting who we might have been is part of accepting who we are, or can be?
    Either way, thank you for your kind comment Shirley Anne.


  7. Halle, this is just exquisite! Thank you for sharing it. About two years ago (before I was fully out to myself) I began writing what I thought at the time was a fictional story about the life of a middle-aged woman named Laurie from her childhood. After I had written about 24 pages, I realized nearly all the experiences I had written were really my own, and that I was Laurie. It was the beginning of my self identification process. As Shirley Anne said I found my true self without realizing that's what I had set out upon.
    Love, Laurie.

  8. There is certainly a lot of Beth in me as you suggest Laurie. I wonder if you were given the idea of writing about your young female self by a therapist as I was. When I first wrote young Beth's story, I lost track of her at about the age of eight; there were simply too many futures I could imagine for her that had nothing to do with what happened to me.
    Strangely, this part of Beth's story came to me in a very short episode, almost in a flash of insight. I wrote the original draft in a half an hour. In some way, I am convinced in some alternate universe, Beth really does exist.
    I am still working out what her life story has to offer me; perhaps as you say, a glimpse of my true self.
    Thank you so much for letting me know you have enjoyed it.
    Love to you too!

    1. Halle, no it wasn't a therapists, just inspiration. It amazed me though as started writing memories came flooding to the surface and connections started being made that had never occurred to me before. It was so illuminating! I love the Lady I have discovered, and am amazed at the suppressed little girl that grew up with me!
      Much love and admiration, Laurie.

    2. Laurie, perhaps, like me, you had suppressed most childhood memories (a little girl who had to be exorcised) in order to get on with your life as a man. The recovery of my long-lost child has been a huge step in understanding myself while stripping away the male façade.
      Those connection you and I made with that little girl are what really define us in so many ways.