A penny for your thoughts? Hmm, now that you mention it actually, my mind is so abuzz that a penny for each thought whizzing through my head might result in a decent windfall. This time of year is always a little frenetic in our house. Two Jewish professionals and the Jewish Holy Days that seem to go on and on and on, combined with start of school and 3 out of 4 birthdays in the house (4 out of 5 if you count Cleo whose birthday is also September) and you’ve got a recipe for insanity. It’s really no wonder I’m jiggity.
I turned 50 this year. And I can honestly say that this is the first milestone birthday that has bothered me. I feel old. Not old as in less strong or energetic, but old as in a sense of crumpled, crushed, dilapidated, wasted. Wasted as in what the hell have I been doing for 50 years?! Who the hell am I?! What difference have I made?! What the hell happened?!
**Major disclaimer: I love my wife and children more than I could ever have imagined loving anyone or anything. THEY are not the wasted problem with my life. In no way, shape or form do I regret anything about them or my life with them. My disappointments in my life are about ME. ME and my dysphoria. Me and my shame. ME and my hidden unloved self. ME. Not them.**
This has been a very difficult post to write. Mostly because I know how Emily will read it despite the above disclaimer. Also because I clearly am still struggling with underlying depression. I just thought I’d have more shit figured out by now. How can I have lived this long and yet still be so unenlightened?! It’s like when I realized that the mean kids and bullies from junior high school could also be found in the workplace, the grocery store, the gym and just about everywhere else in adult life. I’m shocked that I would be shocked. But I am. And speaking of school days, my high school yearbook aspiration was, quote, to be happy with the person I become. Ouch.
Ram Dass is often quoted as saying, “We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience.” This clearly explains why things are not working for me. My spirit, something free and boundless, which I am eager to embrace, is being ground down and all but tamped out by an ill-fitting, incorrect physical embodiment. If I could experience things only through my spirit I might be just fine. It is this damn body, this being, that filters all of my experiences through its wrongness that makes me weary, debilitated, tattered, frazzled, fried.
In these last few years, since realizing that I am transgender, I have worked very hard trying to figure out how to work with what I’ve got, changing what I could, breathing deeply into what is hard. I have meditated, prayed, chanted and attempted to sing my sorrows away. But as the last note of the chime fades, as my eyes open and focus, my soprano voice still tethers me to this imprisoned incarnation. My spirit plummets, shrivels.
As my 50th birthday approached I started to feel the twinges of regret, doubt and sadness. I am still not happy with the person I am. Only it’s worse now that I am so keenly aware of it. So I attempted to quell those feelings by considering ways to connect with (if not wholly embrace) my body. I went as far as to contemplate designing and getting a tattoo with the hopes that pride of ownership might be found in artistic glory. I have one tattoo (a blue Keith Haring dancing figure with a heart) that I love. But when I presented my idea to Emily it was met with the same unenthusiastic underwhelmed disappointment that she faces my transgender feelings. “Tattoos are not in our value system”, she told me as she envisioned the unwanted influence it would have on our children. She did ultimately say, “It’s your body. Do what you want.” Hmmm, I’ll have to chew on that a bit before deciding, but thanks for that impassioned endorsement. I actually think tattoos are amazing and bold and quite beautiful. And while I, myself, might not choose to have a portrait of Elvis printed on my thigh, kol hakavod (more power to ya!) to the person who decorates a body that they actually inhabit with joy.
And as if I needed another reason to be angry about my body (and my age), I’m still nursing this sprained MCL in my knee. Hockey, (yes, yes, Hali, we all know, your one true joy in life), has been significantly limited by my pain. While my age has made recovery inch along at a snail’s pace. I know this much about myself: I do not handle discomfort, especially sustained discomfort, well. I think Emily would say that is a major understatement. So this has weighed heavily on my mood and spirit on top of everything else.
Yet, at the very same time, on the complete other end of the spectrum, in that Dickensian manner of it being both the worst of times and the best of times, it was also the best birthday I think I have ever had in my life. I know, it sounds strange after all that whining. But it was. Emily was amazingly attentive without too much focus. She made a small deal (because I hate a big deal) that felt really loving. It was all very low key and no pressure. Just family. And lots of love. And Emily got me EVERYTHING I could possibly have wanted.
And on top of that, I did learn, in a very concrete way, that pennies do add up and that maybe I should just breathe deeply and let them. I have had an empty Poland Springs plastic gallon water jug irritating Emily (not its purpose) sitting behind our front door for years (it has moved from house to house with us). Every day I methodically empty my pockets as I enter the house at the end of the day. Spare change, only the silvers, goes into that jug. I’ll spare you the most simplistic details, but suffice it to say I had close to 400 dollars in that jug! And so was able to purchase a brand new decent set of goalie leg pads for myself 🙂