Thursday, March 31, 2011

E by my side

E's a funny thing, it gives you what you've dreamed of having your entire life.  And yet, it takes things from you as well.  M and I where talking the other day ....

One thing I've learned on the trip as short as it's been so far is that in order for M and I to survive we need to talk to each other all of the time.  Things change so fast and with such force that it's a constant danger for the two of us to get lost in this darkness and split apart from each other.   It's sheer luck that one of the things E gives you is a new gift for gab.  These days you can't shut me up, I'll talk more in one day now then I did in a month before the journey started.

... she said that she misses the old me.  That's she's already started the grieving process for him.  It's a scary thought to think your wife and partner for life misses you.  Where did I go?  I'm still here, right where I was.  But yet I'm not.  I can feel the changes hitting me already.

E has taken my self confidence and my cocky swagger away from me.  I question myself a thousand times a day now, am I doing the right thing.  Am I making M happy, is K OK with all this, are the boys going to be OK?  But little ones too, Is this what M wants for dinner?

But E's given me things I cherish everyday, openness for one.  It's so much easier to let everyone know my hopes, dreams and fears now.  Even my failures, before the E my failures were my mine and only mine.  You learn from failures no doubt, but no need to broadcast them to everyone.  Now, there's no shame there it's just another day.

E's given me laughter.  Several times since the journey started I've laughed so hard my side actually hurt.  Hurt like you were a little kid again.  It's been years since I've laughed that hard, and yet E brings that laughter right out.  The laughs start coming and they can't stop. 

Mostly E has given me happiness, I don't wake up in the morning dreading the day ahead, now things just happen.  I wake up and get dressed, my biggest worry getting dressed now is if what I want to wear is clean.  And that's a good thing.

I still have no idea where this is all going to go but I find myself smiling in the dark.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Two worlds colliding

Had coffee with one of my FF friends a few weeks ago.   Most Mornings I usually try and stop at Starbucks on my way into work.  Most days it is the only few minutes of the work day where the phone's not ringing or an email needs to be returned.   This day FF saw my car in the parking lot and decided to stop in and catch up with me.  We live right across the street from each other but still have a hard time making time to visit.

She came in and we hung out for awhile.  She's one of the few friends who has always known me as Dana and is usually caught off guard when people refer to me as the old me.  As we sat there I realized I was very late for work so I called K to let her know I'd be late.  In typical K fashion she decided to join the party and said she'd be right over to get some coffee and hang with us for awhile.

Now the problem is I have multiple worlds.  I try my best to keep my worlds separated.  I have my FF friends who for the most part see me as Dana, and I have my work who see the old me.  K is the only member of both worlds.  She's my best friend and has known Dana since the beginning, but she is an important part of my work world as well and she sees both sides of me.

So K and FF are sitting there with me and I'm not sure how it started but they both start comparing notes on Dana, sure fire problem.  Sure enough it turns out the they both share a similar thought.  They both are bothered by the dual identity I carry with me, sometimes the old me, sometimes Dana.  It confuses them they say.  They both agree they never really know who's going to show that day.

Here's the problem in a nutshell.  I've had to separate the two sides for so long that I'm not sure how to only present one.  For years I've hidden Dana even from the ones I love in order to protect them and myself.  Everyday for years I'd wake up and review my day.  Thinking out who I'd meet and where I needed to go.  Need to go to the store, see a customer, old me.  Stay home, no deliveries at work, Dana.

There's two parts to this, first I'd do this to hide Dana and keep my secret a secret.  But I also found myself thinking I don't want to burden K, or M with the embarrassment of being with Dana in public.  It must be hard to be seen with me and have to explain this to whoever we might run into during the day.

I didn't want to push my problem into their lives anymore then I already have.  But here's the rub, neither one ask for the this treatment.  I'm only doing this to protect them from me because I'm scared.  I'm scared to leave the cocoon of the house and office.  I'm scared of forcing them into my world for fear I'll scare them away.  I still see all the struggles as a fault, as something broken with me.  I try my best to hide the struggles from them lest they see the real me.

So K's comment that never knowing which me was coming to work that day surprised me.  I never stopped to look at it from K's or M's view, how not knowing who they are going see next would be hard on them.

I still need both worlds there's no ignoring the fact that I can't turn off Dana and be the old me.  And, there are times when the world needs the old me and can't handle Dana.  What I need to work on is find a way to give the ones around me consistency, Dana here and the old me there, 100% of the time.  Give my loved ones some stability and consistency.

Every day is a struggle and I still struggle with this every morning.  But now I think of K and M and try and give them the one they love, struggles and faults and all.  It's darkest in the morning, never knowing the direction to go that day.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Karma's a Bitch

Before we left on this journey M and I both packed our bags with things we might need along the way.  M packed a flashlight.  Now you might think, as I did, that was to light the way.  A flashlight, what a great idea we'd be able to see the way for the whole trip.  Maybe not the entire path all at once but we'd be able to see what the next step would bring.  But she's been on these trips with me before.  In fact her whole life has been a journey in the dark, never knowing where we are going, never knowing what's next.  Just trusting me that we'd have what we needed to get by.  No she said, the flashlight is so we can always see each other and find one another no matter how dark the night.

Me, I packed Karma.  I've learned to trust Karma.  Most think of Karma as a punisher, something to fear.  How many times have you heard, 'that's bad karma'.  But that's not what she is.  She's just honest, all the time, it really is quite simple.  If you do good things, good things happen.  If you do bad things, bad things happen.  That's it nothing more, nothing less.  There's only one problem, she has no sense of time, none.  Bad things you do today might not cause bad things to happen until years later.

But why pack Karma you say.  Well she's a powerful friend if you give her your complete trust.  See, once you trust her it relieves you of your duty to judge, yourself or others.  Without her, your forced to protect yourself from bad that's done to you.  Someone cuts you off in traffic, without her you have to get mad, to honk your horn, to raise your finger,  to let the other drivers know you won't put up with that.  But trust Karma, she knows.  If the driving was done with malicious thought it's just a matter of time before that driving causes an accident with $1,000's of dollars spent.  See Karma relieves me of the duty to get even, to settle the score, to make things right.  I know she's there, I know she sees things I can't. 

I've had this struggle my entire live.  Because of these struggles I've received my share of hate, direct and indirect. Hate hurts.  It hurts more then most know.  I've learned that to respond to hate with hate just causes more hate.  That's what Karma does.  But she's shown me through the years that the hate given to me is really kept with the one giving it.  They boil with it, they surround themselves with it. Karma relieves me of the duty to fix them, of evening the score, of fighting with them.  That's what Karma does for a living and she's really good at it.  See most of the time she's my friend.

So we pack our bags, we're ready for the journey, excited in a way.  But before we even take that first step, M starts dragging.  A series of things really.  Her work starts to become tiresome, R has some issues that need a parent's hand, she has what could become a serious health issue.  All this right before the holidays.  The holidays have always been hard on her.  See we left our families on the east coast 25 years ago and never looked back.  She misses what the holidays might have been had our families been different.  Plus add to all of these new issues, me.  You 've got to admit the path from man to woman is huge.  It's a 11 on a scale of 10.

She's suffering.  I can see it.  I tell myself that throughout our entire 30 years together I've always been able to make her happy.  I know I've been given the keys to her heart. I know that if I put the work into it, I can lift her up, I can fill her with the love she deserves.   But now as we start this journey I can't.  I keep giving love, support, energy, and she's still suffering.  All the sudden, not even one step into the darkness, she's worn out, tired, and cold.

I've said before, the E steals your self confidence.  I know that the heaviest thing on her plate is me.  The E has convinced me I'm the one stealing her happyness from her.  But at the same time E has given me a gift, it's given me an openness, a sense of hope that I've never had before.  It was never hard to love M, from the very first day it was easy.  But I didn't always work at it, didn't always put the little effort it took into it.  The E has given me the gift to love freely, to open up and expose my heart to her, to give her love everyday, expecting nothing in return.

A few weeks ago, we were able to take a small vacation from her work.  She had a few days of nothing.  Funny thing happened.  Her work environment shifted for the better, R is doing much better now, the health scare turned out to be minor and is completely resolved. Me, well the 11 on the scale to 10 is still an 11.

We were only a few steps into our journey.  It was dark, cold and wet.  She reached for that flashlight she packed so that she could see me, find comfort in my strength, take shelter in my arms.  But, the devil stole that flashlight out of our bag.  There are to be no lights on our way, no shelter from the cold.  Those are the rules.  The flashlight is gone.  

Karma though, she is still my friend.  I trusted her, I trusted that if I could keep giving M my love every day, that love would come back.

The flashlight is gone, the path is still dark, very dark.  But I can feel her hand in mine, and a funny thing, there's just enough light to see a smile on her face.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Glimpses of light, surrounded by doubts

I fly a lot for my work.   A trip or two a month, usually.  When I can I like to fly as Dana.  Just to set the stage my hair is long, I'm on the thin side and I'm just short of 6 feet tall.  I'm wearing designer jeans, a red turtleneck, a beautiful scarf and my hair is down and styled.  But I look in the mirror and still see who I was.

Anyway back to the story, I like to be last on the plane.  I figure I'll be sitting in that seat for the next 4 hours so why sit there any more then I have to.  It's reserved just for me, there's no rush to get to it.  So I'm walking down the aisle last in line and sure enough some one's in my seat.  I do the usual thing and tell him he's in my seat and ask if there's a problem.  He says he'd like to sit next to his wife and asks if I'd seat in his seat just across the aisle.  I look to see an empty seat, and a woman sitting next to it.  After all these years of flying I've learned an aisle seat with a female companion is as good as it's going to get.  So I switch seats with him. Turns out the woman next to me had switched seats with the wife earlier.

We fly for four hours, meals are served, drinks are given, chit chat with the woman next to me, and the plane lands.   The man gets up and leads over to us and says 'Thanks for switching seats with us ladies'.  'Ladies' did you hear that!  'Ladies' he really thinks I'm a woman.  I mean he thought I was woman.  Just a glimpse, that's all I got but it's a glimpse, this might actually work, this might become me.

Surrounded by doubts. 

Now my FFs and I usually have gossip hour over coffee on Friday mornings.  It's a long standing tradition dating back to when the boys were in grade school.  Most of the time it's laughs, round table discussions on Survivor, or whichever reality show is on.  Some times it gets heavy and serious problems are let out, dissected, and pondered.   But always in a loving way.  I'm asked how things are going and expose my latest deep thought of the week.

When we started this journey I knew it'd be hard.  I knew there would be long periods of confusion.  But it occurred to me this week that it would be hard on my friends as well.  I never stopped to think how hard it would be for my friends to come with me on this trip.  They have all known me for decades, they knew the struggles and the dilemmas.  But I failed to see how hard it would be for them to see me, actually see me, as a woman.  As a member of their club.  All these years I've sat at their table as a guest.  The odd 'man' out, the one who thought like them, enjoyed the same things they did, drank the same wine, had the same problems, but still not a member of the club. 

Earlier in the week I was in the office with K, and a friend of hers comes in to say hi.  I've met her once before at a party.  Now I usually work as Dana, I'm clearly Dana, I'm dressed as Dana, I'm thinking as Dana, I'm being Dana.  K introduces me as the old me, and uses the dreaded pronoun, 'he'.  It's a knife to the heart.  She meant no harm, she talked of me as she has for the last 20 years.

E does funny things to the brain.  I can't let this go, It still hurts and still causes the eyes to well up.  But, my deep thought of the week is how hard it will be for her and my FF's to think of me as a woman.  To actually have 'she' come out with no fore thought.  I'm not sure it's doable.  I worry about everyone in my life, can M change 30 years of conditioning, can K change her deepest memories of me to 'she' and 'her'?  Will they put the time and effort into our commitments to each other?   How much effort can I ask of M and K and all my FF friends.   Is it possible?  If not, can I get to the point where it doesn't hurt, where the knife doesn't go to the heart, but the head deflects it.

Just when I need that self confidence I've had my entire life, that ability to protect the heart with the head, E steals it from me.  I don't think it's coming back. 

I had a brief glimpse of light, but it's still dark and I can't see anything at all. 

A Path With No Maps

I'm lucky I suppose, I've lived with this my whole life.  Struggled with the feelings, enjoying the gifts and cursing the demons of this for the last 40 years.  Last summer with my boys on their way, my work successful, my life in the suburbs as great as anyone could every dream of, I decided to risk it all and become the one person I've struggled to be my entire life, a woman.

As I worked through the process of all this, the therapy, the endless doctors, the blood tests, the deep emotional talks with M, I really thought the journey had started.  I've  come to realize now that we were just packing our bags for it, it was still light out, we knew the path, every milestone had directions to the next step along the way.  You get the letter from the therapist, you see the endocrinologist, you see the endless doctors to make sure your body is up to the trip, more blood work then you think you have, each step some one tells you what you need to do next to keep going.

Then boom, you've been on E for a few months, and the lights go out, the path gets dark.  There are no more milestones, no one pointing the way.  You know where you hope to be but no idea how to get there or even if you can get there.  Just hoping you will eventually find that warm dry spot in the light that you've dreamed about your entire life.

This is our journey, M and I.  It's a journey for two in the dark to an unknown place.