I wish I could say I spent the time between being prescribed testosterone and actually getting the testosterone in some kind of humble, mindful, contemplative, equanimity. I didn’t. I was a walking bag of anxious irritation. Hey, I’m nothing if not consistent. I spent those weeks cantankerous and dyspeptic, feeling more than a wee bit sorry for myself. I tried meditating, chanting and praying. All to no avail. The disquiet in my mind only pullulating (how’s that for a good word Kris?). My friend Sharon labeled that inner turmoil *the committee*. I think I’ve written about *the committee* before. Whenever the angst in her mind became bedlam Sharon would stop herself and say out loud, “Hold on, the committee is meeting and making it very difficult for me to focus.” That brief interruption and acknowledgement allowed her to breathe, giving her the opportunity to grab hold of the reigns of her emotional state. I have used Sharon’s method for decades. Stopping to breathe and labeling the discomposure in my heart and soul has helped me immensely.
Ram Dass has similarly acknowledged this phenomenon of inner turmoil. It’s funny, I remember my initial introduction to Ram Dass. I wanted to hate him. He seemed like so many other entitled wealthy white guys, flippant about rules and casual about co-opting anything he so desired. He was born a Jew, but became a self-appointed, unapologetic Buddhist-HindJew-Christian. He didn’t seem to care that there were conflicting ideals within each of the faith doctrines he was subsuming. He felt free to take what he pleased and discard the rest without the slightest hesitation or interest in confirmation from anyone else. Fascinating. I sometimes wish for that kind of authority of self.
Even with those initial feelings about Ram Dass, I eventually became a devotee. One of the things I learned from him was to not become a connoisseur of clay feet – focusing only on the foibles of another. Everyone has shortcomings. And everyone, even with those shortcomings, has a message, is a teacher. While I still feel that in some ways he will always be a wealthy, white, cis-male, his deepest desires come from a place of love. His intentions are simply to embody love and live as love. No easy feat if you’ve ever tried it.
I actually loved how Ram Dass talked about what he calls his *neurosis* (what Sharon and I might call *the committee*). He described them as big awful overpowering thoughts that prevented him, in various ways, from living a contented life. He tried drugs and meditation, gurus and therapists, ashrams and academia to try and rid himself of these demons. When an interviewer asked how he had conquered them he simply laughed and said that he hadn’t. He proceeded (laughing) to explain that he still possessed each and every one of the neurosis he began with. He went on to say that while at once they were big huge scary monsters, he now experienced them as “little shmoos who came for tea”.
As I wallowed through my irritation and burgeoning anger at the height of the testosterone debacle, I decided to try the Ram Dass method. I was sitting in my office literally stewing in the juices of despair, mired in misery, head in hands, a veritable hot mess. I looked up and said to the fetid air around me, “Oh hello little shmoo of suffering. What can I do for you?” The wave of embarrassment was at first unsettling. Nevertheless, I persisted (wink). Suffering didn’t answer, but gave way to a spark of sadness. I took a deep breath and tried again. “Hey, what’s up sorrow?” I felt sort of, well, stupid. But I have to admit, I noticed a slight shift, a subtle difference. Acknowledging and naming my feelings has generally given me pause to reflect, offering the possibly to manage those feelings. But talking to my feelings as if they were separate from me, actually gave me something else. Distance.
From this perspective I was able to see and feel the feelings with a bit more space, more breathing room as it might be. It also provided me with options. Instead of having to manage my emotions in the moment, head on, I found I had choices. The shmoos were coming for tea, but that didn’t mean I needed to let them in right then and there. Or I could let them in, but I did not have to brew the tea. Or I could let them in and brew the tea, but put it in a to-go cup. And even if I let them in and brewed the tea and served it at my table, I need not sit down with them. It was very empowering really. And rather than raging against the shmoos, I was able to feel some compassion for them.
The shmoos didn’t actually stay for tea that day. Instead of spending my time blockading the door against them, I busied myself setting the table to welcome them. Perhaps they weren’t so very big after all.