Chemistry and Smiles

images2I have never really been acutely self aware, Its only in the time since I began to transition that the thousands of moments that make up each day have stopped sliding by unnoticed.

In the year before my gender confirmation surgery I walked, almost every day. I was trying hold back the ravages of time, strengthen some abdominal muscles to make my recovery easier. I walked 5 or 6 miles four or five times a week and over the course of that year I walked over a thousand miles. I think it definitely helped as I was up and walking again within a few weeks of my return home.

I was doing well, but as usual a storm was brewing on the horizon. The anti depressant I had been taking wasn’t working anymore and a change in medications was a disaster. Then there was the election which made me insane. In August of that year it all caught up with me, I stopped walking, my diet went to hell and I started smoking again. How I thought that would help anything is beyond me, but I never blamed the depression I was dealing with or should I say not dealing with. My Zoloft experience, otherwise known as my Zoloft detour into the night of the living dead convinced me to skip the antidepressants completely. It wasn’t long before I was back on the roller coaster again, up and down, up and down.

I have said that I’m not absolutely opposed to taking medication to ease the wild swings in my world, but I’m not willing to abandon all of my joyful moments in order to avoid the sorrowful ones. So it was, that after a number of months on the emotional carnival ride, I was forced to reassess my situation. My conclusion was that I had only one course of action and so with a bit of mild trepidation I agreed to try another antidepressant. I know that all these negative thoughts and self destructive habits all boil down to an upset in the chemistry of my brain. Although knowing and accepting are definitely two different things. Back to the chemistry lab I go…..

Well I’m happy to report that the first week has found me back to my old self, or at least on the road to that destination. I’ve begun walking again, it’s been two days since I’ve smoked and it even seems that I have lost a couple of pounds.

So here’s to a long and satisfying run with this miracle of modern chemistry.

 

 

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Have I Ever Told You I Love My Name?

 

Rachel

 

 

 

 

 

Have I ever told you how much I love my name?

From a time when my feelings existed without explanation

Before coalescing into my truth, it existed as a tiny sound

Whispered for a lifetime in the depth of my dreams.

 

Have I ever told you how much I love my name?

Now fully grown it stands resolute in the face of resistance,

No longer willing to be kept silent by fears real or imagined.

It rises slowly at first, finally escaping as the full-throated declaration of my being.

 

I must have told you how much I love my name.

It’s a joyful sound to my ears, as it breaks free and bursts forth into the world

It rolls from my tongue without an instant of hesitation

A sweet sensation sweeping across lips fixed in a satisfied smile.

 

Have I ever told you how much I love my name?

As my hand hovers momentarily suspended above the page,

My imagination traces the letters in the air

Fingers absentmindedly caress the pen as I stare at the line on the bottom,

 

In language direct and simple it states, sign here;

But silently it also asks profoundly, who are you?

I reply, I am Rachel, and while I was not always Rachel to the world,

I have always been Rachel where it mattered, in my heart and soul.

 

This worldly reality given form at the insistence of my dreams,

It is given its final substance by these six simple letters.

I smile broadly as the final loop finishes with an unwavering flourish.

And so it is, the past corrected, today affirmed, Rachel’s legacy is assured.

Am I Old? or I Am Old!

I look down at the bruise on my arm, I haven’t the faintest idea where it came from or what caused it, which speaks to several points. First, that it looks like my mothers arm when she was older and secondly, things like this never happened when I was younger.

If you asked me how old I am I would say 39. That is how old I feel. I’m attracted to women for the most part and they all seem to be about 39 or close to it, just coincidence? The calendar has another idea, it shouts out that I’m 64, when I insist that can’t be true it begins to roll through the milestones of my life my marriage at 28, birth of my daughter at 32, the jobs, the moves from city to city, each with its corresponding year attached. I add them up again and again, the result always comes out the same.

My mind still resists the facts. If they hold true then I have missed most of my life. Now that I have finally found the courage to live the life I deserved, time is running out. There is so much I want to do, so much I want to experience as the woman I am. Experiences that I was always denied. I want to be in love, I want to be desired, I want to be cherished as the feminine soul that I am.

All that came before this time was akin to a prison sentence. Time stretching out before me without an end, a time to simply be endured. Now is the prize to be savored, but as much joy and satisfaction as I draw from this moment and as insistent as I have been about never wasting precious time on regret, it appears that it is not possible to keep the “what if” questions from arising. It is such helpless feeling, there is simply nothing that can be done, no way to redo the past, no way to recapture my lost youth. It is not only the youth that escaped, I would not go back to my childhood as it was, that is not what I long for. I long to go back to my childhood that never was.To have grown up as the woman I knew I was, but when I was young, this metamorphosis was not even a remote possibility, there wasn’t any sense in dreaming for something that could not ever going to happen, but….

Things change, people change, society has certainly changed. I now live my life as I should have lived it all along, however so many things are pinned to points on life’s timeline. I struggle to accept that those days are long gone. Proms, college, weddings, the milestones of a life as a woman. I can only watch as others move through life’s events  and hope that they are as appreciative of their good fortune as I know I would have been.

What really hurts are those years when these changes were possible, when I knew they were possible and yet I still could not muster the courage or the will to commit to that first step. That ten  years feel like they belonged to me and I feel now as if I squandered them. If I could only have those years back, but there is no bargaining for such things, leaving me to grapple with the question,

Is what I can have going to be enough?

If not what then?

 

 

 

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Have you ever noticed just about the time you think you’ve got something figured  out, the Universe will share with you it’s law of the unintended consequences.

Such was the lesson that was shared with me yesterday. I took a huge risk last week when I told my story standing at a microphone in front of a room full of people. I thought that the risk I was taking was that I might have a meltdown in front of strangers,  be humiliated by forgetting the words or not being able to speak them coherently. As you might have guessed by now, that was not the problem

The story was very well received, More than a few people stopped to speak to me afterward to tell me how much they had enjoyed it and that they had found it moving. The one person that was not in attendance that evening was the woman at the center of the tale. She was out of town that night, so I sent her a message that I was going to tell this story, that I wouldn’t use her name but I wanted her to know, none the less.

She sent a note back and asked me to send her a copy  which I did. I will say that I was somewhat apprehensive because its personal nature and my hope that she remembered our history the  same way that I did.. Apparently I was correct to be uneasy. A week later an email arrived saying that said she had  finally had time to read it; and it went on to say that putting these feelings into words made her discomfort worse.It made real the fact that we do not feel the same way about each other.

I think she knew that all along but I thought that my actions had shown clearly that I did not have a problem treating her simply as a friend. I have considered it a wonderful gift from the Universe that I could be in her presence without my feelings for her being a problem, but

She does have a problem with it, her spending time with me now is uncomfortable.

The one thing that she always tried to get me to understand was that even if we did not agree, each of us is entitled to our own perspective, to our own opinion. It took my living as a woman to finally understand the way I had been dismissive of her point of view and her opinion.

It was a lesson well learned and even though I don’t think it’s a problem, she is uncomfortable and I will respect her view. She is an extraordinary individual and the only thing I have wished for her is that she be happy.  I told her that I am still here as a friend if she ever needs me but that I will not contact again.

It seems that there will always be a price to be paid, and sometimes the cost isn’t known until the bill comes due.

 

Something Changed

As my therapist started to tell me the arrangements she had made. A backup plan to safeguard my sanity during her vacation absence, I said don’t worry it’s OK, it will work out. I watched as her composure changed ever so slightly. What she wanted to say but was prevented by simple professional good manners was “What the hell did you say?” Granted she hadn’t heard anything even remotely like that from my lips in almost six months, but today something had changed. I repeated myself and assured her that she had in fact heard me correctly. Breaking into a bigger than usual smile, she grabbed her recorder and asked if I would like to repeat it one more time so she might preserve it digitally for all time. It was an acknowledgement that indeed something was different. It had been only a few days since the last of my classic melt downs. The day when all of my elaborate plans for my near term future simply blew up.

I had melted into a puddle of oh woe is me, what will I do, there is no hope, I had a week to get out of my apartment, I hadn’t finished packing, I had nowhere to move to and my son in law had shown himself to be a transphobic ass. I had also lost two friends that I thought would be lifetime friends but turned out to be moving in a different direction. It was several days filled with one problem after the other but instead of the usual response of let’s see how far down Rachel can go. I decided not to go there.

At a previous therapy session it had been suggested that perhaps I could use additional help for my ongoing mood swings, depression and suicidal thoughts.  It had scared me so badly, that thinking about it makes it hard to catch my breath. In retrospect, it might have been just the wake-up call I needed. I spent hours thinking about where I am and where I had come from, was I making this worse than it needed to be? The events that had struck my life were all real but did I exacerbate the resulting emotional toll? The conclusion I came to was that yes, I was indeed a co-conspirator in this drama. What I’m not sure of is why now, did I wring all the available sympathy out of this misery or could it be as simple as some change in chemical balance? Does it matter, not really unless I want to spend my time worrying when the problem will reappear.

I have decided that I will accept this as a gift, I have had ten days in a row of smiles and positive thoughts and I’m slowly beginning to remember the previous three years. Years where I would tell anyone that would listen how my life was awesome, that some days invariably sucked but that my life was still awesome.

Here’s to a return to awesomeness and acceptance.