the nature of mansplaining – take 1

Let me mansplain something to you about mansplaining.  No, that doesn’t sound right.  I’m pretty sure I am not a mansplainer by either nature or nurture.  At least I don’t think I am.  I hope I’m not.  My brother Peter has always been prone to offering unsolicited advice on topics he has (literally) no familiarity with, which I have to say has always fascinated me.  We used to just call it unsolicited advice, but now we call it *mansplaining*.  I like the term  *mansplain* better because number 1, solicited or not, it is never *advice*.  It’s always a condescending patronizing lecture.  Often a painfully slow meander down a narcissistic arrogant boulevard that goes unendingly nowhere.  Also, I find, in my own experience, that a far greater number of men end up engaging in this act of pedanticity (a word I’m pretty sure I made up to mean the irritating habit of being pedantic – assuming you know more about just about everything and feeling the need to explain just about everything to the rest of us dummies who clearly need your expertise and advice on just about everything).  But I digress.

I have long been interested (read that: exasperated) by mansplaining.  Even before there was a name for it.  In part, because I am one of those poor souls who seem to be a magnet for mansplainers.  I don’t know why.  Maybe I have a naturally stupid look on my face (instead of resting bitch face, maybe I have resting stupid face) that compels people to explain things to me.  Or perhaps I am just too unassuming and people misinterpret my openness and curiosity for bewilderment.  Whatever it is, I am often on the receiving end of a mansplanation.  And quite frankly, more often than not, the mansplanations are; (1) boring, (2) something I already know – oftentimes better than the person mainsplaining to me, (3) something that the mansplainer has absolutely no knowledge or experience with, and/or (4)  something I wasn’t interested in to begin with!  And I end up held captive because I’m just too – polite? demure? afraid to anger, offend or shame the mansplainer? much of a wuss? – to interrupt and say dismissively, “yeah buddy, I already know all that”.  Because we all know the mansplainer’s response to that – I end up being the bad guy.

Hoo boy, this is going to require more than one post.  I want to know what the thought process is that leads to and accompanies people who mansplain.  It is definitely an unfortunate tendency, at least in my opinion.  In addition to finding it highly tiresome, I end up feeling trapped, claustrophobic, as if I am about to suffocate, unable to disengage myself from the mansplanation.  I guess what I need more than the knowledge of why people mansplain, is the ability to get the hell away from a mansplanation once I’m stuck having to listen to one!  Or better yet, the understanding of why people tend to mansplain things to me so I can give off different vibes in the first place.

I’ll give you an example:  As you all know, hockey is the love of my life.  I currently play on a few mens’ leagues.  I am generally the only non-cis-male on the ice.  In each game I am one of 2 (out of approximately 25) people who play goal.  I am frequently the recipient of *feedback* or *advice* on how and where to play my position.  Now, I’m not opposed to getting advice.  I am relatively new (only been playing goal for 2 years) to the position.  I have absolutely no problem (and actually welcome it) when the other goalies give me help, suggestions or recommendations on how to play the position.  What I do take issue with is that I am frequently receiving instruction from men who have NEVER PLAYED GOAL!  Some, who are, like me, novices to playing hockey at all.  So you say, well maybe they have WATCHED more hockey than I have.  I thought that too at first.  But then I watched as total beginners have wobbled out onto the ice, careening into the boards, barely able to skate never mind play and no one gives them any help, feedback, lectures, advice, or suggestions.  Defensemen lining up near the forwards.  Forwards lining up on the wrong side of the red line.  There’s one guy I refer to as “crazy-legs”.  The guy is downright hazardous!  Falling down all the time, crashing into members of his own team, losing his stick, skating into the net and even scoring on his own team, perpetually off-sides.  I have never once seen any man on either team approach crazy-legs and *help* him by explaining anything to him.  Even small easily explained things like being “off-sides”.  Not a word.  They just let him have at it.  And sometimes I fantasize about dropping my stick and my gloves mid-mansplanation, taking off my helmet and saying, “Here you go pal.  You wanna show me how it’s done?  Why don’t you take a turn between the pipes while guys fire 100-mile-an-hour slapshots at your face.”  Perhaps something like this?

I’m thinking about this all now for a few reasons.  One, I feel like I’m beginning to take up a little more *man-space* in the world lately and I don’t want to end up a mansplainer.  Two, I feel less tolerant being the recipient of mansplanations since starting on testosterone.  And I don’t know exactly what it is.  As in is it mind over matter.  I just know I have even less patience with unsolicited avuncular advice and rambling than I ever have (and I didn’t have a lot to begin with).  It certainly is something I’m going to have to continue to consider.

 

 

 

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plus or minus 30

I know it’s been more than 30 days.  And, as they say, the best laid plans… often go awry.  I had every intention of writing about my feelings and reactions and responses to testosterone on a regular basis, in real time, as changes happen.  But change is slow.  In my case, nearly non-existent.  I could just have you reread my day five post and you’d know pretty much all there is to know.  Five days or thirty days, I’ll say it again, I’m not on enough testosterone to make any real discernible difference.  I mean, outwardly at least.  Inwardly, the initial changes of “feeling like I’m running on the right operating system or with the correct gasoline“, and feeling upbeat and happy continue to prevail.  In addition to the placid waters of my soul, much of my internal critical dialogue remains quiet.  It’s hard to adequately describe or even explain.  It isn’t that I don’t have any inner repartee.  I do. I still think to myself, in my head, and comment or wonder over things, but the judgement and derogatory disparagement has lessened to a great degree.  I can look in a mirror, for example, and wonder if what I’m seeing is what is real or if my dysphoria simply does not allow me to see what my body truly looks like.  And even though I’m pondering this question, I can move on without an answer and, more importantly, without self flagellation.  I wonder if my original primary pundit with all its negativity and scathing critique and now the testosterone tranquility is specific to me, and if not, what this means on a grander scale.  Do most men simply not have that inner running negative commentary about themselves?  How glorious for them!  And are most women subjected to the ever-present litany of antagonism that erodes any sense of self-confidence or appreciation?  How awful.  And , the age-old question, is it nature or nurture?  Or should everyone just take testosterone?!

In my 5-day post I began with the feeling that the writing should have come more easily.  I believe the exact phrase I used was “easy-peasy super-cinchy“.  More than one person pointed that out to me, suggesting that those were not very *manly* descriptors, gently poking fun at me for my frilly, feminized language.  In the same vein, I have also been told that men do not *tinkle* or say they have to tinkle if they need to use the bathroom.  I’m going to have a hard time changing those things I think.  I like playing with language and believe language should be colorful and fun.  Lucky for me I have my handy-dandy thesaurus.  So from now on I’m going to announce my need to micturate any time I need to tinkle.  But back to my update…

One side-effect of testosterone that had me worried was the potential for increased anger.  As I’ve stated many times, my patience is tissue-thin on a good day and I have been anxious about any additional fuel for my already smoldering fire.  Since starting testosterone, I wouldn’t say I have felt an increase in anger or aggression per se, but I would definitely say I feel more… I’m not sure what word adequately describes the feeling… I guess I would say predatory.  I’m not sure how to tease it out or label it other than that.  It’s more a flavor than a feeling, more esoteric than explicit.  It isn’t necessarily a bad thing and feels emotionally quite neutral.  It’s something a hair beyond confidence but just shy of aggression and there is a hint of sexual element in there.  It is definitely something new, something that is on my radar and I find myself noting it as I move through my days.

As I move through my days, I don’t feel that I am so different in the world, as if I present or appear any different to others.  But I do feel inexorably different within myself.  And perhaps that translates into different in the world.  I don’t know.  I’m also not really talking with people about all this, so maybe it’s harder for me to say.  Of the very few folks I’m sharing with, they say I’m just me, they don’t notice a perceptible difference.  Though Joyce swears I smell different (even though I have worn the same cologne (men’s) since my freshman year in high school) so I’m not sure what she’s sniffing.

It isn’t that I’m impatient, eager, yearning or pushing for more outward signs of change.  I’ve said from the beginning that I am comfortable moving slowly and letting things unfold gradually.  It’s more that I do feel so different internally and it’s hard for me to believe that those inner changes are not at all visible outwardly.  Remember the first time you had sex?  Actually, remember the day after the first time you had sex?  Something monumental had happened to you, your inner landscape had confetti flying everywhere.  And yet, no one could see that.  You walked around all that day with a secret smile playing on your lips, a subtle shiver running down your spine, but no one else could detect even a hint of anything.  My experience with testosterone is like that.  It is reminiscent of when I realized gay was a thing and that it might explain me (when I was 14).  It was an epiphany, such a huge revelation, a shattering of worlds, so momentous a reality shift for me.  And the fact that no one could see anything different about me was astonishing.

Actually there is one tiny outward difference having started testosterone.  The only outer physical difference is that I’m beginning to see some acne.  I had ZERO acne when I went through puberty as a girl despite the fact that I wore thick pancake makeup base for quite a while (amazing it didn’t clog all my pores with filth and ruin my skin forever).  This testosterone acne is new and weird to me.  Greasy, red zits that feel gross and yet, I can’t seem to pop them.  They’re just there.  My skin feels (though doesn’t seem to look) more oily and I’m finding myself using straight-up rubbing alcohol a few times daily to keep it at bay.  Mostly the acne is on my shoulders and hairline.  I’ve gotten a few beauties on my face.  But I don’t think the average person in my life would notice it as anything unusual.  Especially if I can restrain myself from picking at them.

All in all I feel quite content, happy, hopeful and grateful.  Amen.

I’m almost the guy on the right 🙂

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another out of the mouths…

Last week we went out for dinner with Emily’s folks who were in town visiting.  Our favorite local pub was closed for renovations, so we ended up at another small Irish pub close by.  Toward the end of the meal Nina had to use the bathroom and Emily asked me to take her (because Emily was helping Ruby).  I took a quick look around.  There were 2 young guys at the bar, us, and a middle aged woman and her mother in the entire restaurant, so I felt relatively safe.  I brought Nina into the women’s bathroom and stood outside her stall holding the stall door slightly ajar (according to her specifications so that neither of us could look at the other but we each could still see that the other was there) while she went.  Wouldn’t you know that that was the exact time the older woman decided she had to use the bathroom?!  She opened the bathroom door, saw me standing facing an open stall and convulsed, apologizing for entering the wrong bathroom.  Talking out loud to herself she walked to the next bathroom and said, “No, that’s not right”, came back to the women’s bathroom and read the sign out loud a few times (as if invoking a magical incantation), then opened the door again.  Saw me.  And squealed.  She closed the door quickly and yelled for all to hear, “There’s a man in the women’s bathroom!”  I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

Nina, from behind the stall door in front of me said in a panicky voice, “Mommie? There’s a man in here?!”  “No honey” I said.  “Well then what is that lady yelling about?” she asked anxiously.  I sighed again and opened the stall door all the way so she could see the eye-rollingly exasperated look on my face.  “She’s talking about me” I said resignedly.

In the meantime, the woman opened the door again so the waitstaff could see in (from the bar mind you!), pointed at me and said, “See! I’m not going in there while he’s in there!”  I responded as the door closed again, “We’re almost done in here ma’am”.  While Nina nearly laughed herself off the toilet.  I’m never doing that again.

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playing for the same team

I got a text Thursday night during dinner from one of the hockey leagues I play with asking  if I could play in a game that night at 10:00PM.  These kinds of (usually last minute) requests are common.  Goalies are in demand.  Perhaps because so few people are crazy enough to stand between the pipes and let people fire slapshots at them as a form of leisure enjoyment.  But I can postulate more on that another time.

This request was to play at the new Warrior Arena in Boston.  Home to the National Women’s Hockey League Boston Pride and practice ice for the National Hockey League’s Boston Bruins, this facility is seriously swank!  I got to play there once when it first opened and it was a very cool experience.  Partly because it is brand new and partly because it was built for professional use, this state of the art facility is incredible and has every amenity one could possibly think of.  As it is still quite new, it is also clean and the locker-rooms do not yet emit the graveolent stink of physical exertion, body odor and ass.

I didn’t jump at the chance to play though.  I was already tired and had my mind set on getting into bed and curling up with a good book nice and early.  A game starting at 10:00PM means leaving the house well past my bedtime and getting home around midnight after a solid hour of sweat-drenching, fast-paced, cardio workout that wakes you up and has you wired like nothing else.  It means being wide-awake in a frenetic corybantic state that can last many hours.  If those endorphins were kicking in after an afternoon game I wouldn’t mind.  But knowing you have to get up for work as you watch the hours tick by on the clock and the number of hours of sleep you will get slips lower and lower is agitating and nerve-racking.  It hardly bodes well for a productive day at work the following day I can tell you that.  Also, this game was a division above what my skill level actually is, so I was sure to get an ass-whooping, which for me is hardly ever fun.

It was actually Emily who convinced me to go, reminding me how much I loved playing at Warrior and telling me I’d have a good time.  Plus they were paying me to play.  Yes folks, every so often I get paid to play hockey (20 dollars!).

I got to the rink around 9:15 and while the parking garage was fairly full, I knew it would be near deserted when I left.  I did my best to get a spot as close to the door as possible.  A game was in progress and the locker room level was buzzing, but the upper stories of the building were closed up and dark.  I found the Shamrock’s locker-room and felt a twinge of apprehension as I pushed the door open.  Walking into a locker-room full of half-naked men (who you don’t know) takes a lot more courage than you might think.  Especially if you are me.

I don’t think I’m just being anxious and paranoid here.  Stereotypically, hockey is a tough-guy sport, a man’s game, macho madness.  And that just describes the fans!  But seriously, and again stereotypically, the guys who play hockey as adults tend toward pretty masculine.  On the men’s leagues I’ve played on in the last two years all of the guys have been cis-males, all but one white, all but one straight and interestingly (and having to do with nothing whatsoever) all have had copious amounts of facial and body hair.  Suffice it to say, I’m not describing here a group of people I feel all that comfortable around, never mind safe with.  But I digress.

Several of the guys nodded at me as I entered the locker-room and only one spoke to me as we got geared up before the game.  In the first period I let in 3 goals.  The game was faster and harder than what I’m used to.  And it took me time to get on board with the pace of play.  In the second period I did not let in a single goal.  I did take a slapshot to the mid-section and despite my chest protector and other padding I was pretty sure I had internal bleeding.  The ref skated over to check on me and in defiance of the searing pain I did a “Tommy-boy-esque” shrug and shook him off.  In the third period I also didn’t let in any goals.  As I made saves, my teammates neither cheered nor banged the boards, nor skated over to tap me on the pads with their sticks in recognition.  “Tough crowd,” I thought weakly.  This was not the friendly bunch of goofballs I was used to playing with.  But ok whatever.

It was quiet in the locker-room after the game.  We’d lost 3-2, and while I felt badly about letting in the 3 goals, I didn’t take the loss to heart as my sole responsibility like I sometimes can.  There was no banter between the guys as they changed or headed to the showers.  I am often one of the last ones changed.  I have way more pads and accoutrement gear than the skaters.  But also, I’m aware of being *different* and am more cautious about how I dress and undress.  I worry that someone will notice or question my boxer shorts.  My chest is masculinized surgically, but is not exactly a man’s chest.  I don’t have chest hair and I do have lots of scars.  I not only have scars from my breast reduction and chest masculinization surgeries, I also have a large scar running vertically down my front from collar-bone to solar-plexus from a lung surgery I had in my early 20s when my lung collapsed.  It’s an odd-looking chest I guess and I am shy about it.  In the winter months I generally wear long underwear and a long-sleeve shirt under a sweatshirt and sweatpants.  So I only need to strip down that far to put on or take off my equipment.  But in warm weather I’m not up for wearing layers.  So I keep my head down and my eyes averted and hope no one looks my way.

Various violent scenarios flit through my head when I’m out and about in public.  Especially in men’s locker-rooms.  It isn’t irrational, or paranoid and it has nothing to do with reading creepy stories about bad guys kidnapping, abusing and chopping up their victims into tiny pieces (though I do admit to reading those stories).  Homophobic or transphobic reactions to me are what I fear.  And those reactions lead to violence against transgender people all the time.  I mean often.  As in: All. The. Time.  Far more often than you might be aware.  The Human Rights Campaign tracked more than 40 fatal violent attacks against trans-people in just the last two years.  More than 40 transgender people were attacked and KILLED in the past two years.  Just stop a minute and take that in.  First of all, that is just about one every other week!  And these stats are DEATHS.  These statistics don’t even cover the countless crimes against transgender people that are not fatal.  I shudder to even think about it.  I am neither foolish nor unreasonable to be afraid.

At any rate, I was in the locker-room changing into my street clothes close to midnight at a hockey rink with a group of unfamiliar men as the locker-room emptied.  I turned to face the wall, noting in my peripheral vision that no one was near enough to me to see, and I removed my sweat-soaked long-sleeve shirt and quickly replaced it with a clean dry t-shirt.  When I turned back around 3 good-sized men were coming toward me from across the locker-room.  I figured they were heading out. (incidentally, I also always sit by the door so if I needed to I could get out quickly)  Two of the guys were really tall and big.  Wide shoulders and muscular chests.  The third guy was shorter (still taller than me) and stockier.  And they were definitely heading toward me and not the door. I suddenly became aware that we were the only ones left in the locker-room.   They were smiling, but I still found myself feeling scared.  I stood up and pretended to be tucking in the pockets of my pants as they came close to me.  They formed a semi-circle around me and one guy said, “We noticed the rainbow tape on your stick.”  Simultaneously the other two asked, “Does it mean something?” and “Is it Pride tape?”

 

*As an aside, a few years ago the National Hockey League helped to create a “You Can Play” campaign designed to welcome LGBTQ players, family members and allies to help combat homophobia.  A smart startup jumped on board and made rainbow hockey tape.  And it isn’t just colored tape.  It is rainbow-colored tape designed specifically to create a rainbow as it is wound on a hockey stick.  It’s totally cool!

My heart and my mind were racing.  Before I could answer, the tallest guy asked if I’d heard of Boston Pride Hockey.  I was flustered and confused, “As in the WNHL Boston women’s team?” I asked.  They all said no.  “BostonPrideHockey“, they said in unison.  “No, what’s that?” I asked and one guy said, “It’s a gay hockey league.”  I sat down.  They all continued to talk at once: “We saw your tape before we hit the ice and we were so excited!” – was the basic theme.  Suddenly I noticed that they did all seem a little bit gay.  And I felt a little bit light-headed.

As the adrenaline left my system I was quite sure my skin took on the pallor of chalk.  The men all stopped talking and began looking from one to the other.  An awkward silence followed.  I looked up at them. “You guys really need to work on your approach.”, I said, “I practically just shit myself.”  At first they looked bewildered.  And then they took in the scene: An empty locker room and three big men essentially cornering me.  Then they all got really gay, with a lot of flamboyantly flapping hands and coquettish prim apologies and finally with girlish giggling at the thought that they might be misconstrued as tough guys.

 

It is, indeed, Pride tape on the handle of my stick.  And I had never thought about it being the reason for drawing added attention (negative or positive) to myself.  I guess it’s something I’m going to have to think about.  In the meantime, they ended up being really nice guys.  We chatted for a while and they asked if I might be interested in playing in the Pride league.  Another thing I will have to consider.  Then they walked me to my car and made sure I got on the road safely.

 

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carnival life

It had been several months since I’d last been in touch with my brother Peter.  We go through periods like that.  Especially if he’s *not in a good way* or trying to hide something from me.  Sometimes I just don’t know where he is or how to contact him.  He’s had at least a zillion phone numbers in the last half dozen years.  He steals a phone off some bum (his words not mine), or *finds* a phone.  Calls me on those and asks what his new number is.  Or he gets a pre-paid track phone, each one with a new different number.  He keeps losing those or breaking them or… they get stolen off him by some other bum.

Sometimes we don’t talk for a period of time because one or both of us has reached our saturation point with the other.  We live such completely disparate lives it is nearly impossible to understand one another.  I try not to, but I do judge him.  He has taken a perfectly good mind and healthy body and abused it to a mushy pulp, a complete waste of a life.  And I get angry with him for all the idiotic choices he has made over the 48 years of his existence that have brought him to the nefarious caricature of a human being he has become.  He, on the other hand, cannot understand how I have become such a judgmental hoity-toity douche, having come from the same family, same humble beginnings, cut from the same cloth.

Anyway, I forget what prompted this last sabbatical, but I know I was coming to the end of my patience with the illogical meanderings of his journey.  A few weeks ago I officiated at a funeral and the burial was at a very small very old cemetery in a rough section of Brockton (as if there is any other kind of section of Brockton).  I’d heard via the grapevine that he’d moved out of the rooming house he’d been living in in a nearby town and was living somewhere in Brockton.  So, while waiting in the procession I texted the last few numbers I had for Peter.  He responded quickly and after a brief back and forth he gave me his address and invited me to stop by.

Curiosity killed the cat.  I wish I could have been satisfied to know he was still alive and left it at that.  After I finished my work, I punched the address into my GPS.  I was heartened momentarily as I drove, noting that the neighborhood didn’t feel or look grimy, run-down or unsafe.  Until I came to his address.  The house was leaning awkwardly and could have used a coat of paint or five.  The front door was ajar and seemed to be precariously hanging off one hinge.  Peter popped his head around the door smiling, sliding his way out so as not to disturb the door’s delicate positioning, waving happily at me, and came to meet me at the curb in his stocking feet.  I was dressed for a funeral.  He seemed dressed for a day at the dump.  He didn’t seem to notice our disparities and proudly took me by the arm to show me his abode.  Rickety stairs lined with hypothetical walls of broken plasterboard wound up and up and up.  Gaping holes where discolored diaphanous cobwebs poked through made the stairway look like insulated moldy Swiss cheese, only less appealing.  I followed Peter as he passed hallways and closed doors.  He chatted happily as we went, telling me he rented a suite on the top floor for much less money than he was paying for a single tiny room in that rooming house.  Of course the story went something to the effect that he was in a much better position here thanks to his canniness, street smarts and superior skills of negotiation.  The rooming house, in my humble opinion, seemed like a good place.  It was clean and safe, he had his own room and a landlord who cared about who lived there.  This place screamed “CRACK HOUSE” even to someone as naive and inexpert as me.  We arrived at the top floor, where we were unable to stand upright due to the slanting roof.  This space had never been finished, unlike the rest of the house that had at one time been finished and was now just dilapidated.  Planks and studs and hundreds of sharp ends of nails stuck out perilously everywhere.  This was what he termed his “sitting area”.  A short way across a landing was exposed plumbing.  Or, as Peter nicknamed it, “a future bathroom”.  A moldy, dirty clawfoot tub lay on its side next to a toilet of similar quality.  Pipes and tubes jutted from floor and wall were closed off with dirty rags and rubber bands.  How I kept myself from gagging (never mind outright vomiting) was nothing short of miraculous.

At the center of the house, where we could finally stand up straight, was Peter’s bedroom.  Lined with a soiled, revolting, filthy rug, which was festooned with cigarette butts and burn marks, the room stank of malodorous rankness.  The air was stagnant and I breathed through my mouth as I stared around the room in abject horror.   A naked bed with metal frame and verminous mattress with stains all over it sat at an odd angle in the middle of the room, a dirty sleeping bag lay carelessly atop it.  A broken end table/nightstand lying on its side, bleeding fragments of pressboard was the only other *furniture* in the room.  The detritus of unclean living.

To say my skin crawled would be an astronomical understatement.  It required every bit of control I had to keep from sprinting headlong down the stairs to my car.  Never mind the herculean effort of forcing and maintaining a blank non-judgmental expression on my face.  I left as quickly as possible, shaking with disgust.  How does anyone live like that?!

A few days later I got a text from Peter, “Hey sissy!”  I cringed.  Thankfully, he got right to his point.  He, desperately (according to him) needed a ride on Monday to Chelsea (20-odd miles from his place) to pick up his check, which he assured me he could cash on the spot and out of which, he promised me, he would give me gas money.  In a deja vu kind of fashion, he told me via text (the same story he has told me repeatedly over the years) that he had not eaten in 3 days and that he didn’t have a dime to his name.  He explained in technicolor detail how he would have to spend the remaining days until he got his check and could eat again.  I was thankful this was all taking place via text so he couldn’t either hear or see my eyes rolling.  Monday was July 3rd and I was actually not going to work because of the holiday, so I could, without too much disruption to my life, give him the ride.  He responded with fulsome appreciation.

At some point between that day and Monday Peter texted me again.  Great news!  He wouldn’t need the ride after all.  He’d gotten himself a terrific job, a great gig, that was going to turn his life around (at least financially).  This news was too exciting for him to share over text, so he used his precious last few phone minutes to call.  I really tried to prep myself.  “Get this…” he said, “Remember the Brockton fair?” {Indeed I did.  A carnival of ignominious inferiority catering to the unwashed masses.  Unsafe in the 1970s}  Well the great news was that Pete got himself hired as a carny with the Brockton Fair!  From the exuberance in his voice you would have thought the guy won the lottery.  He was going to be making sausages and running games, calling out prizes (Winner! Winner! Big One!!!) and maybe even operating the rides!  If he was really good at it (which he had every reason to believe he would be), he might even travel with them.  Who knew where this could go?!

I got off the phone a little sick to my stomach.  Not that I had wanted to chauffeur him so badly on Monday, but the thought of him being a traveling carny felt like a new low even for him.  I shouldn’t have worried overmuch though.  Sunday night I got a text from Peter.  He was going to need that ride after all.  The carnival thing wasn’t going to work for him.  Apparently, those carny guys work long hard hours, which isn’t exactly up Peter’s alley.  I mean, they expected him to do actual real manual labor?!  He’d rather just have a ride to get his check thank you.

 

 

Posted in brother's keeper | 2 Comments

do gooder

It was an unusual site in the small well-to-do city in which we live.  To see a woman and child pan-handling outside the local grocery store.  I’d just sent Joita and Nina in on a small shopping expedition and they had come back overly successful.  Which means they splurged (with my money) and bought a treat (this time chocolate mochi ice cream) in addition to my short shopping list.  As we drove out of the parking lot, laughing together over their pulling a fast one on me, we all momentarily froze as we noticed the slight woman and her young daughter.  The woman was oddly dressed in mismatched clothing, too warmly dressed for the day, sagging socks and outdated sandals.  The girl, no more than 10, similarly dressed.  The woman was holding a sign saying she’d lost her job and asking for help.  I honestly wasn’t able to read the whole message as I drove out of the parking lot.

The mood in the car abruptly changed from jocularly silly to pensively serious.  Nina broke the silence, “Mommie, we have to do something!”  And then she just kept saying how sad she felt.  Joita stared straight ahead.  As typical Joita, I wasn’t sure whether she was just disassociating from the discomfort or whether there was more because the woman and child looked Indian, like her.  As we drove the few blocks to our house Nina kept up an insistent patter of angst, verbalizing the rumination in my own head.  But she kept begging me to go back, to help, to do something.  Joita said, sort of under her breath almost as if to herself, “It’s probably a scam.”

So then I had to explain what a *scam* was to Nina.  But my explanation only deepened my own discomfort.  In those few short blocks my mind was blasted with fleeting firecrackers of feeling and question:  My safe, happy family;  My own brother;  My desire to “do more” in the world;  My white skin;  My own otherness.  Nina’s question, “Why would anyone *scam* for food if they didn’t really need it?” brought me back into the car and out of my head.  Why indeed?  And so what if she was *scamming*?  As if *scamming* were another word for amusement or avocation.

I dropped Joita and the groceries off at home, turned the car around and went back.  I wasn’t sure what the right thing to do was.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do either.  I parked and approached the woman with Nina at my side just as another (white) person was handing her a folded up twenty.  What could I offer this woman?  I thought of my own family, with both our privilege and our difficulties, working hard to make ends meet with only one income currently.  I thought of Peter and scams and cash.  And then I was standing in front of this woman who had, I noticed, subtly put herself in front of her own child as I approached.  And I found myself asking, “Can I buy you some groceries?”  A flash of something between shame and relief passed across her face and with head bowed she nodded yes, folded up her sign and began to walk toward the door.  She stopped, suddenly unsure, and hesitantly asked, “Groceries is food?”  Her accent wasn’t Indian.  She sounded more Latino.  I wondered if that would have made a difference to Jo.  It didn’t make a difference to me.  I held out my hand and said, “My name is Hali.  What’s yours?”  We introduced ourselves and our daughters.

Then we walked through the automatic sliding doors, two parents with their children and I wondered if my feeling that others were watching was real or imagined.  I felt shame.  And I wasn’t sure if it was hers or mine.  She took a basket and looked at me.  I motioned toward the aisles and said, “I can wait here. Get what you need.”  Was that the right thing to do?  The kind thing to do?  Or the white condescending thing to do?  She smiled and nodded and headed off.  I stood stupidly aside, feeling awkward.  The silence in my head was deafening.  Should I have gone with her, to make a connection, like a new friend?  Should I have made *small talk*, gotten to know her?  Was sending her off on her own a kind thing, done for her comfort so as not to have her feel watched?  Or was I sending her ignominiously away so as not to be associated?  Should I have asked about her job or what she liked to eat or cook, what her daughter liked?  Every musing and rationalization felt wrong, racist, supercilious.  I felt like I was wrapped in (white) cling-wrap and couldn’t stop sticking to myself.  This *good deed* thing was no cakewalk, should have perhaps come with instructions or maybe a warning.  Was I just being paternalistic and patronizing?!  Was this my own brand of wearing a safety pin?  Was it my privilege or her lack of it that was chafing me?

stolen from the internet, not her sign

As I waited for Anna to shop I checked my phone (an interesting antidote to making actual human connection).  There was an article, which I saw only the headline of, that announced that one of the New England Patriots football players had run up a tab of over one-hundred-thousand dollars at a Vegas casino in one afternoon.  What the fuck kind of country do we live in where a woman cannot afford to feed herself and her child and is forced to beg for food while someone else (in this case, interestingly enough, a white, straight, Christian cis-male) earns so much money that he clearly doesn’t know what to do with it and is forced(sic) to throw it away?!  I felt the familiar spasm of pain, that my soul is simply too fragile to sustain existence here, overwhelmed with equal amounts sadness and anger.  I am one tiny puny person in this vast Universe and nothing I can do will make one whit of difference.  And at the same time I cannot breathe in the fetid miasma of inequality and do nothing.

Anna and her daughter rounded the corner heading toward the registers and Nina went to stand next to the little girl.  As children do, arms swinging, bodies swaying, they leaned shoulder to shoulder, bumping together shyly smiling at one another without the need for words.  I focused on not focusing on what Anna had bought.  It wasn’t my business if she’d filled the cart with sugared cereal and chocolate.  But she hadn’t and I did notice that even though I didn’t want to.  I paid without making eye contact with the cashier and he handed the bags to Anna.  We walked awkwardly toward the door and stopped still inside.  I didn’t want her to need to thank me.  I reached out to touch her shoulder and she leaned in to hug me.  It was awkward this delicate dance.  Patting and hugging and leaning in and backing off.  We eventually fumbled our way to a hug, stood holding firmly to one another, we breathed and I wished her well.  It was the most genuine and equal simple human contact.  We came through the door and parted ways.  Nina and I went to our car (Nina still smiling and waving back and forth with Anna’s daughter) and Anna crouched on the pavement outside the store with her head in her hands.

I am neither paladin nor profligate, savior nor scoundrel.  I continue to be unsettled by the disparities prevalent around me, questioning my place and role in all of it.  Did I do the right thing?  Perhaps there were several options for *right thing*?  I hope I did at least one of them.  Can I be fairly confident that I didn’t cause pain or harm?  While the road to hell is said to be paved with good intentions, I can only hope that my good intentions outweighed the mistakes that may have caused pain in the execution of trying to do the good/right thing.  And what did I teach my children?  I hope my children learned from the good, the bad and the awkward of my example.  Maybe, hopefully, they will be the generation that gets it right.  Still thinking about the whole encounter the next day, I realized the mochi sat untouched in our freezer.  I guess none of us had the stomach for extra.

Posted in everyday stuff, feelings, foodstuff, parenting | Leave a comment

t plus or minus 5

I don’t know why I’m having such a hard time writing this post.  The reality is that it should be easy-peasy, super-cinchy.  It should have written itself now that I think of it.  But it hasn’t and it isn’t.  And I still don’t know why.

The truth is that I am extremely happy in that tranquil, halcyon, “everything’s going my way” kind of way.  I’m walking on sunshine and *peaceful easy feeling* is the soundtrack of my current personal narrative.  I have yearned and wished for this kind of serene happiness all my life.  I have often whined and ranted and lamented and basically bemoaned the fate of my ill-content, my fragmented fractured existence.  If only I could be this coherent, this content.  And now I am and well, the words just won’t come.  Or I seem not to want them to.  Or I don’t actually want to share.

Perhaps I’m afraid that the blessing of bliss is fragile and not to be spoken of lightly.  Maybe I’m just worried that if I name it, it will go away, disappear, shatter, or I’ll simply wake up to find it has only been a fleeting, unattainable dream.  Then it also seems too intimate, vulnerable, sacred to share so glibly.  The few I want to know I have spoken with in hushed reverential tones.  Otherwise I’m simply holding this peace gently in a heart filled with gratitude.  I do not wish to put words to it.

Suffice it to say that the testosterone is doing exactly what it was supposed to do, everything I hoped it would do.  As I’m on the absolute lowest possible dose, and have been on this absolutely lowest possible dose, for all of 3 seconds, there is exactly zero (as in not one iota) of discernible difference if you are not me.  There is literally not one more or one fewer hair on my face, head or body.  There has been and will be no physical manifestation of testosterone for many moons to come (possibly years) and I am just fine with that.

If you are me, however, your system has been rebooted internally and you are running smooth as a cucumber.  Or something like that.  I imagine that all along I have been an unleaded (or diesel) engine that has been forced to run on leaded gasoline my entire life.  And now I have been given unleaded (or diesel) gas.  And while my engine still has some spluttering, unclogging and filtering to do, I’m finally able to function the way I was meant to.

 

The inner calm is both something very different and amazing and a little bit unnerving.  A sense of harmony and tranquility and yet, just simply me.  I can’t see any difference, but I can certainly feel it.  My mood is positive and upbeat and I feel a calm serenity like placid waters.  The usual chatter of anxiety and criticism that is constantly running through my head has been suddenly subdued.  I actually and literally don’t even hear it anymore.  That’s the unnerving part.  Something that has been so much part of the fabric of who I ever have been, a constant companion within, abruptly absent, without a trace.  And with that, some small measure of, I don’t know.  Would I call it confidence?  Definitely equanimity, composure and unity.  Hallelujah!

On the 5th day Emily became aware that something was different about me.  She noted my positive bearing and openness to something (I think it was my acceptance of her offer of greens in my morning smoothie) by jokingly questioning, “who are you and what have you done with my spouse?!”  I smiled felicitously and said, “I’m good, no?”  She smiled lovingly and warmly at me, saying how nice it was that we were connecting and getting along so well.  And then the thought struck her, cleaving the beatific smile clean off her face. “Why?! Are you taking it?”, she asked accusingly.  When I said yes she looked momentarily stung and a bit sad.  A pang of guilt struck me as we looked into one another’s eyes, each holding the fact that I’d deceived her.  We both cringed, feeling shitty, if for different reasons.  It was Emily who recovered first, quickly realizing that in the mere seconds before her realization she had been saying very positive things about my disposition and attitude and feeling very good about me and us and feeling more connected.  She smiled tentatively and I sighed with some small relief as the distance between us dissipated.  We couldn’t talk more in that moment because the kids were milling about and we were trying to keep the morning moving.  But Emily (as usual) had bridged the gap and we went ahead still linked, however fragile the thread.

 

Posted in no man's land | Leave a comment

sometimes you win

Sometimes you win.  And sometimes you lose.  And sometimes you win the battle but lose the war.  Or something profound like that.  With spring weather kind of sort of here, I’m feeling a bit philosophical i guess.  I’m just realizing (an epiphany for me – probably old news for most) that life is a lot like gardening.  Emily, whose birthday is in the spring, already knows this.  And she’s been trying for years to teach it to me through her love of nature and all things horticultural.  Like gardening… parenting, partnership, any of life’s other important components, isn’t completed or accomplished in a day’s work.

It has taken me a very long time, my entire life in fact, to grasp this concept.  And I’m not at all sure I’m willing or able to embrace it, even with my budding understanding.  I want to go out in the glory of the spring sunshine, work in the yard pulling up weeds, mowing, mulching and edging the walkway, and after a solid amount of time and with gratifyingly sore muscles and sweaty body I want to have a perfectly manicured lovely green weedless yard (I have an eerily similar wishful ideology about exercise).  But it just doesn’t work like that, and the sooner I accept that fact the happier I’ll likely be.  No matter how long I work in the yard there will still be more to do, more weeds popping up, more dandelions multiplying, and more lilies to dead-head.  It feels so relentless and ceaselessness (not unlike children’s whining) and at the pinnacle of this frustration I want to throw in the towel, asking myself, “Why bother?”  

Because sometimes you lose the battle but end up winning the war.  At least I hope that is legit because that is my new philosophy going forward.  Plus, it puts failure into a whole new perspective.  And look, I’m already good at it.  And lucky for me I’ve adopted this wisdom-system just in time.  Emily’s birthday was last month.  This was a big one (50) and I put a lot of thought and planning into it.  In the end, I both won and lost.  Our financial situation is one of  desolation (true story).  Emily hasn’t worked since her contract ran out last June.  So I knew I was going to have to get creative.  But hey, creative is my middle name.  Sort of.  I decided to line up dear friends of Emily’s to fete her with nightly dinners and celebrations throughout the week of her birthday.  I thought this was both a fantastic and inexpensive (for us) idea.  I’d gotten halfway through the planning when I shared my idea with Emily.  She didn’t love it.  50 was hitting her hard and she wasn’t up for being celebrated and fed night after night, having to explain that there were no job prospects to a new cast of characters night after night.  My great idea was only making her more sad.  This was the point where I was reaching for the towel.  Fuck it then, let’s do nothing.  I’d clearly forgotten about my new ratiocination.  This was but a single weed in an otherwise lovely garden of ideas.  And so, with my new mindset, I forced myself to let go of stubbornness and disappointment.  I came up with other great inexpensive ways to celebrate.  I took the day off and spent time with Emily in our own yard gardening.  We also went to a local botanical garden together.  And it was lovely.  And, because of that loveliness, she was open to having a few special dinners with friends that week.  Yay me.

The evening of Emily’s birthday she had a wedding run-through.  I felt bad that she was going to be taking care of others on her birthday, but that’s how things got scheduled.  I also felt bad (for me) because this left me with the 3 kids all afternoon and through dinner.  Nina had an afternoon piano lesson and asked if Joita would come to watch.  So instead of being able to leave Ruby home with Joita, we all got in the car to go to the lesson.  Nina has a love/hate relationship with piano.  Like any kid taking lessons, the practicing is wearying and the progress slow.  Ruby didn’t nap (as I’d hoped she would) in the car on the way, so she was sort of a donkey on the edge spinning around aimlessly and whining during the lesson.  Nina was more distracted (and who could blame her) than usual and was making a zillion mistakes on songs that we have all heard a gazillion times.  The peacefulness of my day with Emily in nature was slipping away at a rapid clip.  Ruby was falling apart.  Joita was embarrassed by both Ruby’s falling apart and Nina’s increasing frustration with her lesson and my inability to effectively parent.  This is not a new theme.  Nina was attempting to distract her teacher by asking questions:  Why is music written like it is?  Why dots on lines?  Why 5 lines and not 4 or 10?  Why use black for the notes?  Why not just use colors and shapes?  When can she *graduate* from piano book 1?  Can she have a cake at her graduation?  How many times must she play this song?  Is there another way to play it?  Has anyone ever played it backwards?  And so on.

I was wondering if Nina’s teacher was contemplating intentionally spontaneously combusting in some dramatic fashion to put an end to our misery (his and mine) when I noticed Ruby squatting purposefully.  It was deja vu.  My head snapped up and my eyes darted around the room looking for her diaper bag.  At least I had it this time.  And it was a good news/bad news scenario.  Was the diaper bag half full or half empty?  Depends on how you looked at it I guess.  The piano lesson came to a God-be-thanked end and I hustled my brood out the door before either the contents or the bouquet of Ruby’s diaper could be appreciated.  I got everyone buckled into the car as quickly as possible, wondering if there has ever been a diaper rash fatality, and screeched out of the piano teacher’s driveway.

don’t let the cuteness fool you – she’s taking a shit

But hell if I was going to go straight home because of one loaded diaper.  I drove right to the nearest fro-yo place and found a spot.  We all deserved it.  I changed Ruby in the parking lot (in the back of the car folks… not on the actual parking lot… I’m not that bad) and in we went.  And I only needed the one wipe I had.  So there!  And even though she was still soggy, I didn’t care.  She could dry out in the yogurt store cool air.  Ruby got her very first very own frozen yogurt.  And a good time was had by all.  Until we got back in the hot car.  I forgot to mention we use cloth diapers.  So while we were cooling off and enjoying our frozen treat, the dirty soaking cloth diaper was simmering and effervescing in the sealed car.  We drove home sated and mostly happy, windows wide open and breathing through our mouths.

Posted in everyday stuff, parenting, relationship | 1 Comment

all the ladies

It has been literally years since Emily and I have had a night out without children.  As part of Emily’s birthday celebration recently, she and I went out with friends for a grown up dinner.  So it was a very special evening on many levels.  The restaurant was chosen with care and we were excited to be dressing up and getting to be adults for the evening.  A Cinderella story for sure.

We left Joita with the two younger girls, armed with pizza and a special dessert (as well as the television remote).  Emily looked fantastic in one of her casual dresses and summer sandals.  I wore black jeans, a nice button-down shirt and dress shoes (all men’s).  We were positively giddy as we skipped out of the house and hopped into the car.

The restaurant was fancy (keep in mind that the local pub is my barometer of elegance), dimmed lights and quiet despite the crowd.  A completely lovely atmosphere.  Our waiter was a young man who radiated earnestness.  He materialized at our table literally every 90 seconds to check in.  To be perfectly honest, that was kind of irritating.  If I’d wanted my adult conversation to be interrupted by someone every minute and a half I would have stayed home with the children.  At any rate, as not such a good eater (read that: I have a rather unrefined palate), I always get anxious dining in a new environment.  As this was a more upscale restaurant than my peanut-butter and jelly tastes, I was worried that the menu would be too sophisticated for me and I wouldn’t find anything.  No macaroni and cheese on the menu to be sure (even disguised as something else).  I was focused on finding something I wanted to eat, so I didn’t recognize at first why I found the waiter so bothersome.

“How are we doing ladies?” he chirped next to my ear.  “Would you ladies like to hear the specials?  Or are you ladies ready for a drink?”  “Perhaps you ladies are ready to order?”  We politely asked for more time, dismissing him quietly.  90 seconds sure does go by fast because there he was again at my elbow in what felt like the blink of an eye, “Do you ladies have any questions? Or would you ladies care for drinks now?”  We ordered drinks and listened to the specials.  He was back with our drinks lickety-split, “Here you go ladies. Enjoy.”  90 seconds later, “Can I interest you ladies in appetizers?”  And every 90 seconds after that: “How is everything ladies?  Would any of you ladies like your drink refreshed?  Can I get you ladies anything else? Would any of you ladies care for water?  Ladies, do you need condiments?  Can I take any dishes away ladies?  Do any of you ladies want to see a dessert menu?  Did you ladies enjoy your meal?  Would any of you ladies like anything wrapped up to take home?

racist mascot too

real posting in the locker room – dumbest top 5 list ever

How about “Do any of you have a pronoun or address preference”?!  Not one of my companions noticed.  Nor did I expect them to.  And even if they had, there was nothing they could have done without making a bigger deal than it was (or shaming me or shaming the waiter) anyway.  And obviously, the waiter had no idea.  And I know he was just trying to be nice and deferential and polite and all that.  And look, I’ve been on the lowest possible dose of Testosterone for all of 3 seconds, I don’t look like a man.  I get that.  And it isn’t even that I want or expect to be addressed as such.  At the same time, being called a lady every 2 minutes or so felt like death by a thousand paper cuts.  Because as much as I don’t look like a man, I’m quite sure I don’t look like a lady either.  By anyone’s standards.  I guess what I wanted in this particular, or really in any situation, was to be considered.  Have you not a flyspeck of common sense?  Use a general *folks* if you must address us as a group.  Or use no label at all.  As in: “Can I get anyone here a drink?”  Or, “How are you (interestingly, English has this as both a singular and plural acknowledgement) this evening?”  But for the love of God, please stop calling me lady.  It didn’t necessarily ruin my night, but it certainly was a major bummer.

 

Posted in everyday stuff, no man's land | 2 Comments

everything and nothing

There was much bickering and deliberating in the meeting halls of my mind.  The choice no longer whether I would start testosterone or not, but when, where and how.  The easier decisions were logistical, even concrete.  Testosterone gel is applied daily and should be applied at or around the same time every day.  The application process, while not exactly micro-surgery, requires a space where one will not be interrupted, clean dry shoulders, and approximately 10 minutes.  I also needed to figure out disposal of the empty gel packets where there would be no chance of residual gel coming into contact with the other inhabitants of the house.

The bigger issue was the what.  Specifically what to do about Emily.  I hadn’t kept Emily anywhere near the loop never mind in it.  She didn’t know about my medical appointment or my getting the prescription or any of the difficulties in obtaining the prescription.  She didn’t know I had the testosterone in the house!  Thank goodness for my super secret hiding place 🙂

I will spare you the details of the long and exhausting committee meetings that went round and round in my brain late into many nights.  I ultimately convinced myself that I should start on the testosterone without telling Emily anything.  As an aside, it amazes me the things we can convince ourselves of.  I felt though that I had sound reasoning for my decision (having convinced myself of the soundness of my reasoning).  First and foremost I wanted to have my own experience of the effects of the testosterone without the pressure and influence of Emily’s fears and sadness (or whatever other feelings she would have).  I wanted a pure unbiased-by-anyone-else experience.  Second, I know Emily well enough to know that she has very strong feelings and defenses in anticipation and advance of change.  And those anticipatory feelings are not always the ones she ends up with in the long run.  Emily refers to this as *frontloading* her anxieties.  But Emily’s *frontloading* always affects me.  Time and time again Emily’s *frontloading* has either colored or completely changed my experience of something… sometimes long after her own feelings have settled and she’s gotten “on board” with a change.  {A great example of this was our move to this house.  I was totally behind the move and excited about the house and location.  Emily was devastated leaving our first home, the home we had made together.  It was clearly and loudly excruciating for Emily to leave that house and move to this one, and in having listened to her, supported her and comforted her, my own feelings for this house became sullied and negative.  To the point where three years in I still hated the house.}

Anyway, I made my decision to start the testosterone without telling Emily.  I decided to start on a Saturday morning as this is the day that the Lord has made.  Laugh my ass off, I just had to say that.  No, seriously, Saturday is the day I begin my day with leading religious services and with contemplative introspection.  Of course I barely slept that Friday night in anticipation.  I got up Saturday morning, took the dog out and fed her and showered as usual.  Then I snuck to my super secret hiding place and removed one gel packet from the box, and with that in shaking hand, I locked myself in our bathroom.

The foil packet felt cool and light in my hand and I wondered fleetingly about whether the contents should be kept cool or warmed in the hand for best effect.  I breathed deeply, focused and said a prayer.  As there is no formal prayer for such an occasion (though I am quite well aware that there is a prayer for having reached an auspicious moment), and as my heart was filled to bursting, I said the words my soul whispered.  The prayer was filled with yearning, echoing the fragile hope of a lifetime.  I blew on the barely kindled flames of welcome and acceptance, being and belonging.

And then I ripped the top off the packet.  A small clear drop appeared at the opening and I gingerly turned the packet over above my shoulder and squeezed gently.  There was about a teaspoon of clear liquid the consistency of hand sanitizer.  In fact, the look and smell was exactly like hand sanitizer (or, “hanitizer” as Joita used to say).  Rubbing it in was more like pushing it around on my upper arm (again, very similar to sanitizer).  It didn’t seem to absorb and worry flashed through my mind that I was doing something wrong.  More deep breathing and self-reassurance.  This was not rocket science.  I squeezed the remaining gel onto my opposite shoulder.  I scraped every scintilla of gel out of that small packet, using my nail and then folding it in on itself repeatedly until I was sure it was completely and definitely empty.  Then I stood stupidly before the mirror, shirtless, waiting for the gel to dry on my skin.  Until I realized I was holding my breath.

In those fleeting moments I felt absolutely nothing.  And unequivocally everything.  The *nothing* that I felt was just me.  I felt very much just like myself.  The *me* that I’ve been ever since the day of my birth.  The *everything* that I felt was also just me.  I felt like *me* only moreso somehow.  Still the *me* inside the me.  Yet something felt *right*.  I’ve heard transguys say, using a computer analogy, that testosterone makes them feel like they are running on the right and most up-to-date operating system.  Though tech concepts and imagery don’t necessarily resonate for me, I would have to say that is the best comparison I’ve heard so far.  It was the most imperceptible flick of a switch.  But something was now running on the correct operating system.

Driving to work I continued to consider my awareness that something had shifted.  I just didn’t know what.  As I drove I did a systematic mental and system check-in similar to what I sometimes do pre-meditation to help me settle, where I focus individually and methodically.  Feet and legs and knees and thighs all felt fine and the same.  Same with butt and hips and back and even shoulders.  No difference.  Arms, hands, cheeks, chin, ears, eyes and scalp all *normal*.  I chalked up the “slight shift” to a placebo effect and left it at that.

It wasn’t until about halfway through services that morning that I realized what it was that was different.  My head was quiet.  The general state of the inside of my skull is a constant flow of critique and endless chatter.  My mental energy is focused on not listening to it and/or shutting it up.  The unremitting patter of choleric analysis is ever an undercurrent in my head and always has been.  For the first time in my life my mind was serene.  I could hear myself think.  It was the weirdest, craziest and sanest experience!  There was suddenly so much room in my head.  Quiet, peaceful, gentle quiet.  “I think I’m going to like this”, I thought to myself.

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