I’ve been told, more than once, by my beloved and well-respected therapist that “fat” is not a feeling. I have a long complicated history with feeling fat and have struggled with anorexia. And I’ve learned, much to my astonishment, that I am by far not the only trans-guy to have dealt with an eating disorder. I look forward to exploring that and writing more about it in another post. In the meantime, what I’m attempting to interpret right now is, what am I actually feeling? What is leaving me with this residue of inner jumble? What is this familiar discontent? There are so many answers to the question, “how are you feeling?” that are not “fat”, “stupid” or “with my hands”. I’m trying to decipher what is actually in my heart. Who am I? What does it mean? And what do I do with it?
I’m reading Pema Chodron “Start Where You Are” (for about the 75th time). In the opening chapters of the book, she claims that much of our suffering comes from always running away from who we are, always wanting to be who we are not, always striving to be something other than ourselves. Just like Torah, every time I read this book, from my newest place in the consciousness corkscrew, I relate to it a bit differently. So now I’m reading it with a trans-lens and I’m really struggling to understand it. She writes about the importance of accepting who you are as you are and simply breathing into that with gentleness, gratitude and love. This feels like a setup of sorts, a conundrum at best, for trans-folk. Is what I am female (as my outer limits (and the assumptions of many) define me)? So should I be breathing into that and accepting that on some deep level? Just considering it makes me physically jerk and splutter with prodigious discomfort. Or am I male (what I experience myself to be inside)? And if so, how do I breathe into that reality, given that I am one of very few who grasps that actuality (old people and young children being the others)? Perhaps Ani Pema would say, “who really cares Hali?! you’re getting caught up in the story-line and missing the whole point (again)!” No, she would never be that harsh.
I feel like a dog chasing his tail. What came first, the chicken or the egg? If a tree falls in the woods and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a noise? If you bury a pig and then plant an apple orchard over that space, are the apples kosher? I’ve never been one to be at all enchanted by koans. I’ve often equated the study of talmud (like koans) to the examination of belly-button lint, with no real connection to anything actually meaningful, or with a point. So is this gender question in that realm? An existential angst I bring on myself? I feel like I’m missing the forest for the trees.
Have you ever seen the movie “King of Hearts”? I remember being very affected by it when I saw it in college. And ripples of it touch me even now so many years later. Ram Dass recalls a time, coming home from the ashram, when his father looks at him and irritatedly says, “Richard, come down to reality.” To which Ram Dass replies, “ok dad. which reality?”
I would agree with Pema that we can never connect with our fundamental wealth as long as we buy into what she calls the advertisement hype that we have to be someone else. For transgender people there is more to this dilemma than meets the eye. For me it isn’t so much that I’m running away from my real self because I don’t want to be me, or that I want to be someone else. Being the real me doesn’t make sense in the world in which I live! The question of whose reality is real stands in my way. And where does this all leave me?
Once again and still, I have no answers. I guess Ani Pema would tell me to slow down, breathe, have some compassion for myself, and simply start/be where I am. And so it goes.