Emotions are like laundry. No matter how many loads you wash, dry and fold, no matter how many trips to the basement or the laundromat, you’re always creating more. You’re never quite caught up. And you are definitely never ahead. My emotions pass through so quickly, I sometimes wonder if I’ve had time to actually feel any of them never mind deal with them.
What does it mean to be trans? Never mind what is it like to be trans. What does it mean to be trans? I’ve spent so much of my life feeling wrong in one way or other. Awkward and different. Never quite right in my own skin. But I never realized it was a literal feeling and not a metaphoric one. I’ve always related to women more as a man. I’ve never related to men at all except in my mind to compare myself to them.
Comparing myself. Yes and yes. The crux of my problems in more ways than just gender I’m afraid. I’m so busy comparing myself, and let’s be specific here… comparing myself and finding myself lacking… that it is impossible to truly be IN any moment. A dear old friend, Sharon, called those insanely irritating mocking voices in her head her “committee”. Whenever she would feel overly self critical and ashamed, she would stop and announce, “I’m sorry, I can’t concentrate on reality because the committee is in session.” Does everyone live in their heads so much or is it just me and Sharon? Trapped in a small dark room with their committee? Derisive, unkind, scoffers who live in my head. Anyway, that is how I have mostly lived my life. In the light of negative judgement coming from within.
I’m not sure what came first, the proverbial chicken or the proverbial egg. Did the judging mockery begin only after I was aware of the discordance between the me in my head and the me in the mirror? Or was my committee installed by a vicious malevolent mother even before awareness of gender confusion?
Well, the thing I’ve told myself over and over throughout my life is the lesson of the Buddhist story about being hit by an arrow. You have a choice. You can spend your time wondering who let fly the arrow and why they targeted you, or you can spend your time dealing with the arrow, getting it out and taking care of yourself. So I try not to spend too much time wondering where it came from. Instead, with the negative critical judgments I have been trying to practice Tonglen. And in the last 10 or 12 years, that is how I have attempted to transform those feelings into something positive, something good, something useful. Tonglen literally means “giving and taking”. It is a Tibetan Buddhist practice of opening up to pain, holding it, and offering peace from whatever suffering there is. The most simplistic example would be: I feel shitty about myself. Acknowledge that. Then the stark realization that I am, by far, not the only person who feels this, or has ever felt this. So many people. So much suffering. Deep breath in. Hold that reality. Breathe out. How many of those people have burdens in addition to this one? How many are less equipped to manage or navigate, never mind overcome their distress? How many face hardships beyond this I cannot even begin to imagine? Breathe in. Consider: I am feeling this way, and while it is painful, it is certainly not more than I can bear in this moment, and as long as I am feeling this way I may as well offer myself as a vessel to hold the pain of those others as well. If I can just acknowledge their pain, even for a few precious seconds, perhaps it would offer them a breath of tranquility. Breathe out: sending some small measure of serenity into the Universe, to those who need it. This is, of course, my own simplistic watered down interpretation of the teachings. It doesn’t always work. I can’t always access it or engage in it. But over and over I push myself, have pushed myself to try.
Now, recently, there has been a shift in my life. A slight shift, but a difference that can actually be felt. I’m finding myself less in my head, less in my body even, and just simply in the moment. Not always, for sure. Not often or even sometimes. But more than I have at any other time in my life. More chicken egg stuff. Is this a result of the surgery? The culmination of so many years of practicing Tonglen? A maturing with age? Am I actually even responsible for, actively doing something, to cause this shift? Don’t spend your time wondering about things that are not important Hali, simply be aware. Ok, so I’m aware of this slight shift. I’m feeling larger. Not necessarily physically. But emotionally. More expansive. More open to possibility. More positive. It is startling to all of a sudden realize that a lifetime’s way of thinking is beginning to change.
It is truly a wondrous thing, even for brief moments, to be unburdened by that self criticism. In those moments I’m free from the definitions of who and what I am or have to be. I am evolving, changing, growing, transforming. Yes, transforming. Trans. And right now I’m trying to just notice it, acknowledge it and be grateful for it.