Category: Just thinking


I’m broken.

Inside.

Not physically.

More mentally. Emotionally. Psychically.

And even that’s not quite accurate.

I am not sure I have ever not been broken. I think it’s something inherent in my nature. Some missing or malfunctioning part of me.

This is a conclusion I reached some time back. After one of my internal down times. Those times which lead to a lot of self-examination and reflection.

How am I broken you may wonder?

I seem to lack the ability to make connections with people. To make, keep and grow relationships. Not just romantically, but relationships of every kind.

Yes, I have had relationships. I still have some. Some of them have even been around for decades. But it doesn’t mean I’m not broken in that respect. None of them are what they could be. What they should be. What someone who was whole and functioning could make them. None of them are as strong, vibrant, evolving or active as they should be.

My entire life, for as long as I can remember, I have always felt somehow apart, disconnected, isolated from everyone around me. Not necessarily due to any overt action or lack on the part of others. Rather by my own inability to create a deep connection. I still today feel as if I go through life with some sort of invisible barrier between me and the rest of the world. And when you take a situation in which the result is constant but all the players, except one, change, then logically it stands to reason that the causative agent is that one constant person. Me. I am the only constant in all the relationships I have been in.

In romantic terms I have had two relationships that would be considered long-term. My first lasted approximately five years. It came about when I was in my late teens and honestly should have ended a couple of years before it did. But we were both young and neither of us really knew what we were doing in life, as individuals or as a couple. Those last couple of years were more habit than anything. And an inability to see and the fact that things had run their course. Hell I didn’t even know what love was, what it meant, how to really give it, or how to accept it. Sure I said the word but never truly grasped it’s meaning.

My second romantic relationship spanned 22 yrs. In that time I finally believe I learned what it meant to love; as a spouse, partner, parent. And how to be loved. Yet because of my own inner demons, because of the trans aspects of my nature that I couldn’t face, that I lacked the courage to face, a large part of me was held back. Kept within. And I don’t think you can be fully present and invested in a relationship if so much of you simply is suppressed. If you aren’t all there. If you’re expending a lot of energy internally and not giving it to those whose lives are entwined in yours. When you are so much closed off you cannot possibly know someone as well as you might, and they have no chance to even begin to know you. Because such knowledge is based on two-way sharing and communication. That my marriage lasted so long is more of a testament to the strength and love my ex-wife had than to any virtue on my part. She should have been able to know and have all of me. But she couldn’t. The broken missing parts of me wouldn’t let it happen. We still have a relationship today. One of friendship I guess. It’s based more on what we had, what we could have had, the years shared and having raised a family together. Fortunately for her, her life has moved forward. It’s grown. She has another spouse, and ever-deepening connection with the kids and grandkids. I am happy for her.

Since my divorce, some 11 years ago, I haven’t had a romantic relationship that lasted more than 6 months. And even that is stretching it. Even now, after having faced and dealt with my trans issues, I still find I can’t make a full, deep, open and healthy connection. There are parts of who I am, how I think, what I feel, what I desire; that I cannot express to anyone. Pieces of the me within that I have never given voice to, never spoken of to anyone. After the way my last romantic relationship ended, some 4 yrs ago, I even lost faith in my ability to judge people’s real feelings and emotions in regards to me. And I haven’t even attempted another relationship, or even had a date, since. And I don’t think I am capable of doing so ever again. That part of me that was willing to risk and take chances with my heart, has shrunken deep inside, and built a wall around itself. If I can’t trust my own judgement, my own heart, how can I trust anyone else’s? And without trust there’s no hope at all of ever being able to open up.

My feelings of being disconnected, broken, also extend into my friendships and familial relationships. I have very few long-standing friendships. Most of them are now long distance and people I haven’t seen in years. So as time passes the connection that was there grows more tenuous. Friendships also take work and effort to keep alive and vibrant. Yet I find I am increasingly unable to overcome my inner blockage and initiate get togethers. And when others do, I internally cringe, especially if they are group gatherings. The more people I am around, the noisier the environment, hell even the more jolly and social the setting, the more I feel I want to crawl out of my skin and vanish into some dark hole. Increasingly I seek and need quiet and solitude. Put me in a crowd of people and it’s only exacerbated. Even if I know everyone in the crowd. I can’t relax, I become ever more tense and just want to scream inside.

With my kids, well a gulf formed between us when I came out to them as trans. It was naturally a shock to them, very emotionally distressing and they needed time and space to process it all. For all I know they still are processing it. Having moved so far away hasn’t helped with bridging it either. Time has made it better, narrowed the gap. But again, how do you keep things alive when you’re not around? Due to my financial situation, I’ve been able to visit only once in the 5 years since I moved. I try to stay abreast of their lives via Facebook. And I have tried to initiate dialogue between us regarding their feelings about me and my transition. But they’ve never had much to say. Phone calls are rare. And awkward. I have never been very good talking to anyone by phone. I can’t see them and I end up being at a loss as to what to say. It feels as if they slip away a little more every day. And I do not know how to change it. I’d move back closer if I could, but it’s not possible. My siblings and I have never really shared much, never really known each other very well, never spoken about much important. Much of that goes back to the conditions we grew up in. But I know that at least in my case it largely is due to that broken parts of me. I kept to myself, bottled everything inside, never confided in anyone, never really expressed my thoughts or emotions. I still don’t.

It’s ironic really. Most people would think I am fairly open. And in some ways I am. I do not live in stealth. I am open about being trans, about my history, about who I was. But most of what I think, feel, am is kept within. I cannot find the means to share it. With anyone. I cannot seem to forge that connection that would be real enough, strong enough, where I felt safe enough to do so. Not even sometimes within myself.

Why not? Fear is part of it. Fear of judgement, rejection, further isolation. Of becoming even more of a societal pariah.

A lack of the ability to put much of it into words is another part.

I can also be a bit of a living contradiction. Parts of me yearn for deeper connections with friends, family, to be able to simply put myself out there and meet new people. But I find myself blocked. Locked up within.

I see other people who can go out and simply enjoy new experiences and life. My roommate for example. She’ll go places and to events without knowing anyone who will be there. She’ll go to poetry readings, activist rallys, new social awareness websites and make several new contacts each time. And she’ll develop those into friendships of varying degrees. If I went to any of those events, I’d end up being the silent person in the back who didn’t speak to a single person the entire time. Almost as if I were invisible. Sure people see me. But I don’t register with them. They feel no urge to meet me and I am too bound up internally to initiate any sort of contact. I grew up being taught not to impose on others, to not bother other people. So unless someone approaches me, I feel somehow I would be imposing on them. I know it makes no sense but it’s how my mind works.

And like anyone else part of me desire recognition for things I do. Yet I hate being the focus of attention. So I shield myself. I stay withdrawn and I avoid. It’s only gotten worse since my transition. I already get enough curiosity stares and social isolation being trans. Factor in being overweight and “mature” and there’s even more social dismissal.

I am broken. I am missing a crucial factor in the ability to make connections, to have them grow and thrive past a certain point. I remain locked within. Most of who I am will never be known. And I really don’t think it matters to the world at large.

 

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Well I’ve been working at my new job for about 6 weeks now. It’s been good. The people I work with are great. The clients I’ve had have been nice. The clients of other staff that I’ve been introduced to have been fine for the most part. I’ve been open and out about being trans and it’s been no big deal, just another facet of me. I guess it was just a matter of time though before some sort of ripples disturbed the unusually placid acceptance I’ve found.

It not been anything upsetting, or outrageous. Far from it.

One of our recently hired team members starting asking me a few questions about my being trans. She explained that she’d grown up in a small town and simply had never met or known anyone who was trans before. She said if it was too personal to just let her know. What I told her was that I have no problem answering questions that are asked out of a genuine desire to learn and understand. The only ones I did not appreciate occur out of some voyeuristic desire to have their curiosity titillated, when it becomes more about the person seeking some sort of thrill and not really caring to understand. However unlike many other times when the questions tended to be about surgery, medical or sexual issues, she was more interested to know how my daughters and family felt about my life path, about how my being trans impacted them. I didn’t have any sense of morbid curiosity from her. Rather just a concern that the people who were closest to me had been able to accept me and the course my life has taken.

A few days later the topic of job discrimination came up at work. A colleague that I met at a recent class had expressed she was surprised I was working at a salon that wasn’t already busy. She felt given my depth of knowledge I should be working for a dermatologist or plastic surgeon. When I shared this with my co-workers, one of them said, “I don’t know why you aren’t, but we’re glad you’re here instead because we’re lucky to have you.” When I said that I had interviewed with several over the years, I’d never been hired. What works against me is my weight, my age and the fact that I’m trans. Even if they interviewer isn’t sure they often sense there’s something different about me and people do not like to deal with different. And I do not fit the image many such places want – young, thin, pretty, attractive. My co-worker was surprised that people would refuse to hire me because I’m trans. She said, “What would that have to do with anything?” It had never occurred to her that transpeople would be discriminated against. She’s experienced discrimination for being African-American before, and our receptionist schooled her on the existence of age discrimination (she and I are in our 50’s). I said that while I will never know exactly what it has been like for her to be discriminated against because of her race, I do know how it feels because of other factors. We all agreed such discrimination is often subtle and impossible to prove legally. Yet she was further amazed when I explained to her how few states, and countries, have any protections in place for transpeople. That in most of this country we can be denied employment, fired, denied housing and even medical care. Simply for being trans and that with no laws protecting our rights, we have little legal recourse. We are one of the last segments of society that it is legal to discriminate against.

Another day while having lunch, one of the stylists shared with me that he’s been asked by a few clients, “Is that a man or a woman?” Why he felt the need to share this with me I do not know. Yet his response to said clients shows his support. Basically he told them I am a woman. His point of view is that if someone presents themselves as male or female, that is what people need to accept them as, regardless of what their birth sex might have been or even what their genitalia may or may not be (No one has asked if I am “complete” or cares whether I’ve had surgery or not). He asked his client, “Why should it matter to you? Unless you plan on dating her or sleeping with her, all that matters is that she is an amazing esthetician.” (of course I cannot recall what he said word for word but am relating things as accurately as I can) Ah but if only everyone could be so open-minded, accepting and stay focused on what is, and isn’t someone else’s business. Unless you plan to sleep with someone, or become romantically involved with them, then their gender and intimate physical details are not only none of your business, but should not concern you. The same goes for people’s sexuality, race and religion.

Again though, he really didn’t need to share this with me. How he interacts with me on a daily basis tells me he is accepting and supportive. As a transwoman I know that there will be people who do not know what to make of me, may actively dislike (and yes hate) me without ever knowing me, who may disapprove of me and who will judge me in the most negative ways, simply because of their own ignorance and prejudice. I will run into it enough and have to face it in direct encounters. I don’t always need to know about incidents I missed.

Yet in each of these three occurrences, the end result has been those I work with achieving a bit more awareness and their reactions demonstrating true acceptance and support.

In a similar vein, back when I was working at another place (a hellish blend of retail and salon run by one of those Wicked Witches of the South who my very existence drove batshit hostile) I remarked to my then roommate (not to be confused with my current Wonderful Roomie) that clients all seemed to love me and that despite Wicked Witch’s hostility, my co-workers did too. The only co-worker exception was another Mini-Southern Wicked Witch. While I was sharing how good it felt to be accepted and appreciated by clients and co-worker’s, Former Roommate felt the need to say, “They probably don’t. More than likely they just think it’s cool to be able to say they know a tranny as it’s all the rage and the In Thing in the media.” I have no desire to dwell on whether or not her assessment was right and I was deluding myself into feeling liked, or whether she was just envious and full of crap. What did, and still does, bug the heck out of me is even if she knew her assessment to be true, why on earth would she feel she had to say it? Why would you in essence say to someone who was supposedly a friend “People are only acting nice to you because you’re an oddity and part of the latest social craze. They really loathe, pity or despise you.” Why make it a point to cast a pall over another’s good feelings, especially when they didn’t ask your opinion as to whether or not what they felt was real?

So people I ask you to think before you speak and ask yourself, “Why do I feel the need to say what I am thinking and will it make the person I am saying it to feel better or worse and will it make their life better or not?” Sometimes things are better left unsaid.

Swamp Bucket

I was thinking about the whole “Bucket List” phenom the other day. I thought, “Why don’t I have a Bucket List?” So I figured I’d make one.

1) Win the top prize in a lottery. This is the big one because it makes so many of the others possible.
2) Hike the Appalachian Trail through from Georgia to Maine. Preferably with a friend or 2. Tough to do unless you can afford the months without income and the proper equipment.
3) Become physically fit enough to handle said through-hike. This may be tougher than winning the lottery, as it means daily exercise and avoidance of foods I crave.
4) Buy a modest sized RV and tour all of North America. Special focus on major natural wonders, touristy spots and places profiled on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Again preferably with a friend or 2. And again having the financial resources to not worry about working or expenses.
5) Retire. Seeing as I have no savings, no retirement fund and am unlikely to earn enough between now and 72, I either need to accomplish Goal #1 or find a way to live within the income from Social Security.
6) Move back Home. This entails either accomplishing Goal #1 or saving enough to cover the cost of relocation and providing enough to live on until I can find another job and build another clientele. “Home” preferably being NH and close enough to my kids, grandkids and extended family to be able to actually see them regularly. If Goal #1 is accomplished, then Home will possibly include both a place in Boston’s Back Bay or Beacon Hill area (or possibly in downtown Portsmouth, NH) and a cozy place up in NH with space for visiting guests.
7) Learn how to REALLY decorate cakes with skill. I do OK now but only if it’s simple and basic. I have the flavors down pat. it’s the eye appeal that is lacking.
8.) Go back to school and learn to be a chef and/or pastry chef. But only if I can achieve Goal #1. I don’t wish to do either for a living. Just for my own edification.
9) Get down to a healthy weight and somehow get rid of my excess belly. While this might look like the most reasonable goal yet, it means huge sacrifices. In the form of calories. Deprivation of my sweet tooth. Surrendering that last hour of sleep and replacing it with (shudder) exercise.
10) Write & Illustrate a graphic novel. Just to see if I can.
11) Write a regular novel. I’ve had a few plot lines bouncing around inside my head for years. Sometimes they give me headaches.
12) Write a cookbook. Basically a compilation of my own recipes and dishes from my childhood and that my kids grew up with. Not for sale, just for history and to share with friends & family.
13) Visit Ireland. My ancestors are from there and it might be nice to actually see where they came from.
14) Visit each of the people I’ve come to know online, and who I consider friends. And see if the friendships survive real life.
15) This is probably the most important goal of all: Make sure that everyone who is part of my life; friends and family, know how I feel about them and what they mean to me beyond any shadow of a doubt. In the end, how you impact the lives of others is the most important thing you leave behind. Sometimes we don’t know the ways we influence people’s lives. I figure they all deserve to know how they influenced mine.