Split Second

Waves gushing against the manufactured coastal protective rocks and a breeze as constant as the passage of time blew away days of pollen from my eyes. Even though the sun was still shining bright and hard with heat the sea air had blown away as much of my soggy head as it could. It was medicinal and even though this was just a walk to the cafe to get some ‘work’ done on the laptop, I really felt like staying and sitting on this rock all day just watching the white sea foam wash the rocks and the cormorantsdive into the sea and pull out lunch in a twentieth of the time it would take one of the fishermen on the harbour wall.

I’d brought my own salad lunch of mixed leaves in a box with Spanish omelette quarter on top, ham and a drizzle of olive oil. I found a spot, sat and eat my lunch with the drama of the sea in front. It felt good that I could do this and I imagined how I would do this sort of thing if I lived along the Mediterranean, lunch watching the sea and running in the morning along the coast. If I would do that if I was there then why don’t I do that here?

We’ve been truly and sort ofseasonally lucky with our heat wave early summer in the UK these last few weeks and I’ve been easily duped into feeling I can enjoy this sort of moment whenever I want. The problem, I am expecting, is that in a week or so we’ll have a few rainy days and the temperature will drop and things will feel just a little cooler and greyer. I’m not saying there aren’t times where I can sit in the back doorway of the house or in a cafe and watch and listen to the rain – but those times I want to do that are fewer than the days of blue skies and warmth. Blue is the natural anti-depressant, grey is the influencer and fuel of deeper thoughts.

The other part of the illusion is that my current ad-hoc work schedule leaves me with a lot of time during day-light hours where I can don’t have the rush to get ready for a daily commute let alone time to fit in a morning run along the sea thats half an hour away. In fact without some serious motivation I’m unlikely to be able to go wake, run locally, shower, commute, work. The temporary job, as defined by me, is just that; it’s a means to an end and the end will come soon as I mustmove on to survive financially. If and when the regular nine to five thirty returns then time in the morning to take in sea air before a days work will vanish; unless I relocate to the expensive sea-side locations and become financially and spatially less well-off.

Once I had finished my salad lunch and a few extra minutes of taking in just how amazing the sea was at reviving me I continued onwards to the cafe. With a free voucher for a latte I was soon on a financially frugal office consisting of a round metal table, a cigarette ash tray with an ash dune sprinkled with stubbed cigarette ends that I deployed with grace to a vacant table. Coffee cup down with a metallic clang and a near full laptop battery I worked on my own project happily and willingly. Whether the sea moment had given me fresh motivational head or that I was just more free of pollen near the water I don’t know – but it worked.

Battling these little things that bother me, like finding ways to take time out and destress before the stress starts, seems to be working. Free of my injury at the start of the year I am still running and that Saturday running event is something I feel I live for, both the elation and the friendly chat from others who are also experiencing the same endorphin rush whether they are at the back of the run or one of the insane people who practically sprintthe whole five kilometres.

I grabbed a photo someone had taken of me during the run. It had been so hot, even at that time of the morning, and my skin was glossy wet so much so that you could probably measure it in millimetres. I posted it to Instagram where I share like-minded thoughts with other runners from all around the world. Within a minute I had a few random ‘likes’ from other runners and then from a women’s 5K running training group out in Hong Kong. I smiled to myself for a moment. It was a ‘like’ from a group hoping to entice another runner along but they had mistaken my photo, which I suppose is kind of androgynous.

The thing was I thought the misgendered but correct genderedscenario didn’t amuse or validate me anymore but I suppose the truth of it is, it still does. What’s more validating than the narcissistic posting of my photos on social media and getting misgendered but correct gendered; it hadn’t been the first time. I suppose it’s all down to as I progress with the gender thingthat the validation need dissipates as we feel more genuine internally and more accepted by others. It’s just there will be times where I still need a little validation from time to time; who doesn’t, gender identity or not.

At the end of the run someone approached me with a bright smile, “Hiya, how are you doing, how did you do?” A friend of a friend that I had met once several weeks before. As we chatted in the shade to avoid any further heat and sweat still dripping from our arms I couldn’t help notice that every few words he would flicker a glance at my legs. It was as if he was fighting between looking and not looking. My legs without hair with my now summer running shorts. I guess with those who don’t know about the gender thingand are who are only aware of my birth gender there is an idle curiosity to what is going on – even if just for a split second.

Until next time.

Hannah x

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By The Book

The vibrant sun drenched reds contrasted against the ice white plate with cured Serrano ham and different chorizos. The smell of the meats and green basil rich pesto drizzled on top rose from the plate and took me to Italy in a second. Hot Spanish omelette contrasted the freshness of the cool salad leaves and the sun-dried tomatoes gave depth and richness. It was just a meal but it said a lot about my aspirations.

The day was hot and even the occasional choppy breeze, that would quickly fade to stillness, made no change to the feel of the temperature – it was still hot and continental. It felt like part of the life that I aspired to had been brought to me, here, in the UK; all I would need is a gentle lapping ocean flung against the bottom of the garden and I’d be complete.

The thing is, about my aspirations, is that my tastes are simple but the ingredients are expensive. To relocate to a Mediterranean villa where mornings are yoga stretches on the patio and pre-lunch times are a quick swim in the pool before returning to a laptop under the sunbrella or at a local cafe to write for income; already the spend has far exceeded one point five million Euro and I’ve not even mentioned the family cost.

It’s the conflict of my aspirations with my emotions. The thought of being so far away from my family that it overrides the actual reality that I couldreallybe home on a plane in little over an hour and if I were that well-off to buy some premium property then I’d probably be visiting homeas often as I do now. These dream ideas of living along the azure are of course short of a lottery win and further away from reality than they are as far away from here; given I have little money right now. The thing is I see some people, when they reach whatever age that it is that is important to them, decide that these dream life styles to settle on are so far away and unreachable that they give up and settle on what they have with the monotony of everyday British culture. Work, TV, Pension (if you’re lucky) – death? I never want to do things by the bookand sometimes I just want to be left-field whether it’s the things I buy and the material objects I own or the things I do. Giving-up just isn’t me.

Some sea salt crunched between my teeth as I eat the salad leaves. Flavours from the red stalks enriched by the salt; I really had brought a little of my dream to my own home for a moment. The thing is, the more I think about it, as balanced as I can, I have the dream correct it’s the work balance and work itself that is keeping me from moving to where I want to be and more importantly me and my own body that’s holding me back. That’s not gender but lack-lustre. There will be days when I want to write solidly or start some project that might make a difference to my future but tiredness will just get the better of me or I’m run-down and just can’t function mentally to get anything solid for my future. Fatigue is my Achilles.

Saturday evening and I find myself in the garden again and even though the sun has departed westward the sky is still a bright blue with only the faintest hint of the dusk about to fall, the heat still present and close. The air is fragrant where someone has watered their lawn and the smell of fallen pollen has risen. A clank of cutlery on plates a few houses away break the dull noise of near-by roads along with magpie squawking that reminds me of the wild parrots in the trees of my last holiday.

Were these hints at what to do or hints of what I have means I can have them here? “The grass is always greener.” “A change of pasture makes fat calves.” Proverbs, useless answers for everything and a proverb for every opposing proverb. The fact is what we do is as good as what we make of it and if we don’t at least try we won’t know for sure whether it’s right – and if it’s not right then we do something else or change back and do what we were doing. Live where we were living, do the things we do and eat and drink what we know. Not everything is a one-way street. There, I’ve done it, made a proverb. “Not everything is a one way street.” Tut. I’ve defeated my own nonsense with more nonsense.

I’ve had a break from my career. It was more of a test the water break. I took a year out in the past and enjoyed every minute and it rejuvenated me for a while. It helped me see what I did and didn’t like about working in new-media, how I fancied a change and that, to some extent, my career had run it’s course.

On this break it was about trying out other things. Looking for what was out there and seeing what I wanted to do. The job I’m currently doing, all that setting up stuff for those international stars, was a temporary job that was carefully selected as it might stir up some ideas about working in another industry. It certainly did that and although it was never going to be a long term thing, and I enjoyed it for the most, it was also underpaid with an undercurrent culture, in certain parts at least, of racism, sexism, homophobia and drugs. So while I’m certainly looking to move on it also told me one important thing, I cando something else and there areother things I can do that are interesting and motivating. Christ, anything that can get me working through the early hours of the morning on an eleven hour shift must have intrigue.

I’m a realist. Some finances are just so high to reach for some dreams but I know some dreams do come true. Plenty have for me, some small, some life changing, and very few came my way without making them happen, taking a chance, grabbing onto them and not letting go and they usually fore-fill more than the dream but just in a different way. May be I should just make more things happen. May be there are certain plans in my life that need trying.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Too Settled

It was just a film where the protagonist walked out onto the balcony of his luxury old building apartment in the morning with a vista and vibrance of the city. So busy and full of promise you could taste the coffee in the air. It’s been ten or fifteen years since I lived in an apartment and suddenly it had hit me that I might just be settled – too settled. I’ve thought recently how I couldn’t imagine going back to the city and an apartment with it’s space seemingly reduced by clothes drying on a stand, noises from above below and the sides and it’s restrictions of strictly no pianos. This film though had made me question, at least for a short moment, had I settled too much.

Of course when I look at that scene it’s the excitement of a living city I miss rather than the abode. The difference is instead of being able to walk out onto a balcony in the evening and soak up the noise of the city and people almost always around, in the house I can lay on the decking with the darkness of the countryside and watch the stars in full panoramic view. The city where sparrow hawks and buzzards are replaced by seagulls and discarded hamburgers. It seems to be yet another fork in my life where I question, just for a moment, whether I continue in one direction or switch to another, even if it’s something I’ve done before. Both are inspiring – just in different ways and are always what you make of it. Should it just be one or the other though?

I took a temporary job a few weeks ago on a whim of interest and in the hope to at least take the sting out of dwindling finances and an increasing credit card balance. Comfort decorating and packing up for international stars. I saw another world where one minute I’m arranging a dressing room for a double-platinum awarded celebrity the next I’m walking along a quiet city street back to the car wondering if that really just happened.

I had a telephone interview for a new-media job. In my financial desperation I had applied left right and centre to get back to the industry, which I had left behind last year, which would make me comfortably well-off again without the need to worry about enough money for the rent and whether I should downgrade my tinned tomatoes any further but just as he started talking acronyms and personal development I suddenly felt uneasy. I thought for a moment, ‘how on earth would I handle this.’ While he spoke a thought flashed in my head of being sat at a desk, immobile, staring at a computer screen with the murmurer of other people in an office and the clock ticking down the seven or eight hour stretch with the hour hand holding back the minute hand and the second-hand bouncing on the spot like the battery was in it’s last throws of death. It was a far distant quiet monotony away from hanging velvet drapes and moving a chesterfield leather sofa so an A-list rock star can feel comfortable for a couple of days soaked in incense drenched air. This was a real fork in the road. One big bright letter Y shouting clearly in a thick American accent, “This way or that? Wadaya want!”
“Don’t take too long though, the offer closes in two days.” my insecurity would warn.

One would pay well with security and regularity. The other paid badly and the long hours and late, chopping and changing between day and all night which would leave me drained but in the knowledge I had worked for every single penny. Why did it have to be a perfect two prong fork in the road though? Why could it not have many fingers stretching out to different opportunities and in the mean time I would do what I could to tame the bank and all it’s direct debits. Whatever my decision I don’t have to let the whole gender thing dictate what that might be.

Walking home through the city streets in the early hours of the morning after work lit by modern sharp white street lamps with young drunks in doorways clad in sequins and nylon barely able to stand with a stolen wine glass in hand. Conversations outside a bar over a thick wooden table in the night air with the lead in conversation casually holding a cigarette in one hand and adorned with a ironic beard. I realised I was missing those going-out days. Sure I socialise with people who matter to me from time to time when I can but there was something missing from my life, I don’t know if it’s mingling with people from work – after work, or those days of the people I would socialise with who also struggled with the gender thing, ‘friends of circumstance’ as I would like to think of them eventually, and even though most of them would appear to not be suffering at all and on a night out would appear confident and fun, I could tell from what they would say off-line from the night out that things were still difficult whether it be internal conflict or relationship conflict all just because of gender.

There again when I see that care-free socialising around the city I do wonder if it’s just that I’ve matured and things have moved on for me. My twenties long since gone with my thirties not too far behind. I don’t think I have any regrets from those days of socialising regularly out on the town but, may be, neither do I need to return there. May be I just see people free to socialise as who they are and that may be I still don’t quite have all that freedom yet. Then again the changes in recent years have been so subtle that may be I haven’t realised I am more me that I care to think.

I think whatever I do next I will at least have things to write about and stories to tell in the future. I need to be true to myself and hopefully have the energy and enthusiasm to sustain it. Sometimes, when I’m thinking about a decision like this, in the same way some people say “When you’re eighty years old and look back, what would you have hoped to have done with your life?” I quite like to think, with a more in the presenttense, “if I had enough money that I didn’t have to worka regular boring job, what would I do with my time.”

Until next time.

Hannah x

Twenty Past Nine

Twenty past nine I walked the length of the patio in the garden. It wasn’t summer warm yet, it was even enough to raise goose bumps on bare arms, but the sound was just that bit heavier. The sun had left the air somehow denser and the noise of Saturday evening was just that bit different. I took a sip of some mild smooth wine from an oversized glass. I noticed a twitch of curtains from one of the neighbours a few houses down, they paused with a look and then quickly shut the curtains when they realised they were spotted as if they had innocently continued to close them. What was so interesting? A person wandering around their garden with a glass of wine? Curiosity?

A solar lamp plinked on as dusk set in. It had been a day of everything and nothing. I thought about how I felt before the running this morning and after it. Before, it can be whatever confidence I have minus self doubts but after it was like some kind of enlightenment. I know I’ve experienced it before but it still amazes me even now how the rush of oxygen around my blood flow and probably endorphins seemingly make my feminine side seem indestructibly confident.

After the run I sat there sipping from my chain cafe latte cup and taking a bite from a pastry treat that, in my belief, makes me run at least a minute faster. In my running tights and hair tied up in a high ponytail thinking how normal things are, still, without a thought. Only now am I thinking about it in retrospect. Those endorphins in little over twenty minutes seem to do what a year of therapy might do much like learning a language in the country of origin can do in the space of two weeks compared to six months of a head in a teach yourself book and a CD repeating out ‘useful’ phrases.

That southerly star seemly plinked-on low in the sky as dusk turned to a dull of no return. Back again bang on time. I almost felt like raising my glass to the star in a kind of hello nod; “you again.” While I had sat at that cafe I noticed a woman, sat not so far away, take a sneaky glance at my hairless legs below my cropped running trousers. In times past I might have urgently hid my legs around a chair somehow or had got up and moved before they could focus but now it was just something I’d noticed and thought ‘Well I know what she’s looking at.’ and not even flutter my heart rate. The only thing fluttering heart rates was the coffee.

Despite everything and how far the journey has gone and confidence has been absorbed there are still doubts about the gender thing. There will probably always be doubts, no matter how small, because after all we don’t know what the root cause is, if in-fact there is one, of gender dysphoria; another phrase slowly becoming a hint of uncomfortable and unpopular. Gender Affirmation seems to be the new black and why not when the second half of it is positive all by itself. When we don’t know what the cause is then all we have to go on is our own innate core feeling. Driven by the heart rather than science or the head; of course there will be doubts.

I pulled the pattern ribbon hair tie let it slide the length of my ponytail and allowed my hair to fall for the first time since the morning. I realised what that meant. My hair relaxed and loose was like how I felt when I come to terms with the gender thing, just like those moments when rather than hiding away I let those people look. That was it. It wasn’t that I was now complete and that everything was now sorted, far from it, but I was in a place where I let myself, on most occasions, relax about it. That’s not even to say it doesn’t cause stress at time but it’s not like it was. It is what it is and these things will take as long as they take and for each and every person going through this will have their own time to figure things out.

I guess the journey is one without an itinerary. Who knows where it will end and may be that place will be one that differs to what I think it would be. I have these little plans to introduce little parts of me to important people in my life as a way of increasing awareness of this other part of me but at the same time I’m reminded of that scene in the first Bridget Jones movie. Shazza, you know, the journalist who likes to say fuck a lot, when she says “I mean there’s been all these bloody hints, but has he ever stuck his fucking tongue down your fucking throat?” Of course she’s talking about something completely different but the essence is the same. All these hints of three quarter length running tights, but has he actually said what it’s all about?

For some people going through the whole gender thing they want this done over night. They want to tell the world and they want it done now. For others they want to drip feed it little by little because it’s more comfortable. I fall towards the latter in a well thought out and methodical way. Either is fine and, because it’s what suits me, may be I should enjoy that part of the journey and not worry about taking my time.

The darkness fell completely across the patio and the wine glass dregged empty. Twenty past eleven.

Until next time

Hannah x

Throwing Silver Stars of Confidence

It darted about seemingly random in the ever increasing dusk and just as my eyes could focus, like a shooting star, it was over before I could think about it. The bat flew like it was on the edge of being able to remain airborne fluttering it’s wings in a way that was between moth and bird. I sat their quietly in the garden. A small drop of wine in an oversized wine glass sat on the ice white table cloth. With rising moisture from the fields in the distance and the dusk falling heavily the warm dusty grey-orange along the horizon of hills changed to greys like an incoming fog but of darkness with dotted sheep and lamb clearing their ground returning home.

The tea light candle with a flame that had been barely noticeable was now bright across the linen feeding steadily from the wax and fluttering when the gentlest of breeze would wander across the table. Peace and quiet, stillness and calm. It kind of summed up how I had felt this week and the weekend. I had attended the running event again but with a family member. It didn’t cross my mind whether I should or shouldn’t use my female running clothes that I had grown accustomed to wearing. It was just natural and innate and I’d be wearing them with someone who mattered and who hadn’t seen them before. I checked with myself, ‘should I be worried? Should I be making some self-informed decision?’

Comfort had overwhelmed any question, in fact I didn’t even carry out that self check. The thought went along the lines of ‘put those three quarter lengths on and go and enjoy your run as normal.’ In fact when it came to getting out of the car for that split second moment when there was no going back, and it didn’t even feel like a no-going-back moment, the only thing it came to was a brief glance at my legs – and that was that. No conversation, no foul sour looks, nothing. Just an enjoyable day and while it seems like such a small insignificant moment it was a big telltale non-reversable pin in the life and journey board.

It was beyond questioning and introspection and, while there was still such a huge journey ahead, if I continue with this ticket, I felt something I’d not really felt quite so vibrant before and that was a confidence with how I decide to present myself for myself. Happiness in the form of comfort. Less about other people and what they would think. A pace of change that seems to be just at the right speed to feel right about it even if, like many, I want it all tomorrow.

It is also not just about no longer being able to imagine going back to a fully male life of shirts and hairy legs it’s also not going back to those early days of odd special nights out to be me only to return early hours of a Saturday night and Sunday morning only to put that part of me away again, not just clothes in the cupboard but pushed to that hidden locked away part in my head.

I cherish some of those early days of being able to get out and about, as I think I would, with friends who were in a similar dual life role of secrets and street light nights. Pounding hearts moving between bars or from the car to the door of and even more public pub. It was an exciting and self discovery time but as much as the actual moment felt right at the time it was far from real. An extension-closet as one of my friends had once said and that I have mentioned before. Those times are now solidified in my history and I genuinely feel I have moved on from that time; as relevant and needed as they were. Real life and real times, real people who really matter. Occupation of my time in the way I want to be.

It crossed my mind today while I was on another run and now my running clothes were normal to me that would this be as good as it gets? Would this be where it settles rather than the journey continuing; after all they do say that happiness is in the journey and not always the goal. Did it really matter if I did settle at this point and there were no further inroads to make? It would certainly have a lot of positives, no distressing getting used to Hannah for more friends and family or painful operation if it went that far.

I think the answer is that the time my conflict ends will be when my inner mental self image aligns with my outer shine. When all the simple things I wish I could do that have some connection to my outward gender have been fore-filled and that I can do regularly and not just do those things but do them without questioning and not even be self aware about it. It’s about self consciousness or self confidence in fact. What more could I really want other than being and being it confidently without fear. That fear has diminished so much in recent times so much that sometimes I feel like someone is watching over me waving a little shiny wand throwing silver stars of confidence at me just when I need them but not so much I become spoilt and lazy with it.

I woke early automatically on the bank holiday expecting the thumping on the stair of the noisy early rising kid next door but it was silent. I pulled the curtains and opened the window to gauge the six am temperature. A gentle honk of a lone goose call echo’d in the morning air as it flew over the houses with it’s neck out far in front guaranteed to arrive long before the rest of it’s body.

Running was a big part of my mental health right now and the crazy idea of running early through the forest just felt right. I pulled on my most comfortable running tights and wriggled into a loose white crisp t-shirt and headed for the trees and medicinal morning pine air. The carpark was empty and I was too soon at the peak overlooking the country side through the cutting where the forestry had been hard at work turning trees into logs. It felt like a moment of change, partly through the outward hints to family but also just that oneness that had been so together recently. I placed the mobile phone on the floor taking time to patiently balance it against my water bottle and set the camera to record that moment of a natural high in nature.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Reverse Masculinity

I stepped out onto the decking and felt the lines in the wood through the bottom of my ankle socks. Sharp pin holes of light cut into the newly blackened clear sky and the air cool but still thick from the first real hot day of the year. The sound of a racing motorbike echoed through the countryside from the dual carriage way and a hint of alcohol drifted from the top of my glass of spirit.

It may be late-ish on a Saturday night out in the sticks-ish, but the air felt full of life. The thump of a taxi door. People shouting “byeeee” and the hum of a car bouncing off the houses as it pulled away. The grey sound of the carriageway so detailed that it felt like I could almost hear the individual tread of tyre on tar. I looked around the surrounding houses. A warm orange glow through the closed curtains and open windows of a darkened bedroom to release the captured heat of the sun that had built through the day. The rest was just street lights, shadows and the night. A particular star to the south near the horizon beamed so bright and hung as if it were nailed to the sky giving solidity and security knowing that while many things might change the chances are that it would be there right on time the next night, every night.

It’s funny but the night air, especially when after a long warm day, can kind of make me contemplate what may happen in the future. What had sparked it off was a photo I saw that a runner had posted to Instagram, just simply a ‘mens’ deodorant. It’s not unusual for women to use mens products and even clothes; christ even some female clothes are styled as Men’s fit, though still essentially shaped for women – the Boyfriend Shirt, with it’s big lapel pockets and over length or jeans in a straighter cut.

What would this mean for me. Would I, if leading a fully fledged female life, want to reverse hints of my gender? Would I want to buy a bottle of spicy ‘Men’s’ shower gel or wear an oversized shirt in a female wearing male clothing ironically kind of way? How comfortable would that actually be spending all those years getting over the anxiety of being able to wear anything like clothing and eau de perfume only to then, on occasion, switch back to certain hints of masculinity to then be anxious that other people might think that I was no longer authentic.

I think the answer is more simple than I would at first feel. The one thing that happens when becoming more confident about expressing femininity is accepting ones self to such a degree that confidence means not caring what other people think; and the chances are that most people either didn’t care to think about it or really don’t mind. Loading up with all that confidence and being at one with yourself just means that anything I would be doing that would seem to reverse a little of my gender I know I would be doing it for myself and meant little more than just liking whatever it is. Besides all that, I don’t really like narrow cut jeans but sometimes an oversized check shirt is just nice to slum it in.

Sorting out the whole gender thing is really more than just changing gender. It’s about being comfortable with all the decisions I make and the things I do and not worrying about what other people want out of me. I may have a way to go still but it’s so clear as that night sky that what is built up in that transition is a comfort about myself that is not reversible. Sure we may have small set backs and dents, but the steps forward are usually in credit to those backwards.

It’s not just confidence in showing femininity in presentation but in expressing myself in so many other ways. When I had those sessions with the psychologist a few years ago I said how I played piano but how I didn’t feel I could call myself a musician – I really couldn’t even write it down. A profile on some social media, I might if I felt brave enough say, “play a little piano.” By the time those sessions had finished I was able to play in front of other people without feeling self conscious about it, I really could write down “Musician” and not feel I was faking it. This goes across my whole life from work to socialising. May be it’s just part of getting older and maturing and it just so happened to coincide with the gentle process of a transition but for me the barriers were so strong and vivid I knew there was an actual change in myself that I was aware of.

So there is more to changing gender than just gender and it’s not about changing who I am, it’s about bringing out those parts of me that are suppressed. We all have the masculine and feminine and we are all balanced with that in different amounts to each other. It doesn’t matter what part of the masculine that is reintroduced, if at all, what matters is happiness, comfort and oneness.

I took another look into the night sky now devoid of any hint of twilight and only polluted by the distant city glow. That star still hung there and reminded me how far I had come and how solid my changes were. How irreversible those changes are because they’re things I want. That star was just a little higher than it was earlier. Moving firmly and poetically upward. Hopefully, like the star, I will return tomorrow evening feeling exactly the same but may be just a little higher and brighter.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Il Tempo Non Esiste

I rubbed my finger slowly along the top of the TV. The dust collected under the tip of my finger and I brushed it off and let it fall randomly to the table. The dust was there and only I could clear it. Each day that I looked at it and thought, ‘That needs doing’, and just guilted myself on how much greyer it looked as another fine layer was added. I grabbed a duster and wiped the top, the back, side to side across the screen like a professional window cleaner removing that layer of water much like, in turn, a barber with a cut throat razor. It was thoroughly cleaned and I felt better for it but I wasn’t clean inside and whatever it was that was paralysing me from doing anything was still hanging on.

Time to do everything but too scared to do anything. Learn Italian or relearn French? No, I’ll do neither and sit around worrying about my future. Write and record the rest of those songs so I can at least try and do something with them. No, the pianos not in tune enough. Get on with telling some more people about the gender thing. No, I have money and a job to sort out. On the face of it I probably have my priorities correct; spending time looking for work to support myself rather than these things of interest and putting a pin in the whole gender thing for now because it will just add more stress to an already complex stressful time. The thing is I feel I need something that is progress to make me feel worthwhile and as if I have purpose.

I was watching a short film and the Italian actor said, “Il tempo non esiste.” It was just at that moment when that unravelled for me. It was what I am searching for in life. It’s not so much about slowing down or ducking out of the fast lane. It was exactly that, Time does not exist. A life where pace is at the same pace as me. Not struggling to catch a breath or barely breathing while a problem is solved. A life where time doesn’t matter because life is good and nearly each moment is enjoyable as the next. It brings pictures to my mind of freshly ripe tomatoes, peppers and pasta dusted with flour. Ripe lemons and bunches of olives hanging from trees in the morning sun. Bright houses and blue skies to light them. People who always say hello and have a moment for you.

The problem in my western culture is that the majority seem to like to accept the nine to five, which in reality is now eight to six basic and you’ll go when we say you can go. That majority trudge to work each day, process everything we have to process for society to function in it’s machine-like fashion, and go home to do what little we can before the rinse–repeat for the weekend. It’s safe but who is working who, society for us or we for the machine society. It works, that’s the problem, but when will the machine run so fast that it falls apart. Life should be challenging but it shouldn’t be destructive.

–– ––

I flung the curtains open. It was blue skies and puffy white clouds. Breezy and still a chill but it was a sign of some better weather. I quickly got showered and changed. Three quarter length capris and a loose t-shirt. I sat in the car and turned the key, nothing. “Damn.” I pulled the bike from the back of the garage where is sat propped against all the cardboard boxes as if the front wheel was using the rest of the bike as a unicycle. I set off on the mile or two ride to my destination.

Each foot scrapped on the gravel in that kind of crunch way that it does on the drives of those rich enough to gravel them but here the wind brushed over my face making my cheeks red and the my senses heightened to the noise of a trickle of a small brook with a waterfall and the smell of the pine trees either side of the path that rose upwards presenting it’s own challenge to me. I had been here before either walking or riding but the spur of the moment and the elation of imagining what it was going to be like to run through the pine forest early(ish) on a sunny day and then the reality being just like the thought, it was incredible. It was an Il Tempo Non Esiste moment. Time really didn’t mean anything at that moment. I wasn’t thinking about jobs and no money. I wasn’t thinking about my future or worrying about my past. There was just the present. The way we should really live.

Running, for me, is what keeps me going at the moment. It’s not just the endorphins making me feel better or helping me to think through my problems at times, it’s the place I can be myself. A place I can wear things for running and be happy about it and totally comfortable and to some extent feel like who I will be if I ever complete my journey; at least complete to where the new journey begins. It’s around other people as well and now it’s second nature how I feel at that moment and in the moments leading up to it, then I really am in the right place, “Il tempo non esiste.”

When I returned to the carpark and walked to my locked bike an older gentleman walking around his van looked at me perturbed. “Is that your bike?” He asked concerned.
“Yes it is.” I said wondering why he was so interested.
“You want to be careful. They’ll have that.”
“I was a bit worried leaving it here but it’s old and not worth much.”
“Doesn’t matter to them.”
“Thanks. May be I won’t leave it here again.”
“They’ll have it because it’s there. You get some right wankers around here.”

Tempo restituito.

Until next time.

Hannah x

I am Somewhere

The living room hadn’t changed size but it felt like the walls had slowly closed in at an imperceptive rate like the moon across a black sky. Shining bright but too blinded to see the change. It was the return of nostalgia that did it. I don’t know what started it off. May be I was just in that place, you know, when the stars align or in my case emotion plus situation plus time to think, et al.

I had been mucking around on the piano and played a tune from the nineties and later on, while making my dinner, I played that tune on Youtube and Youtube decided to playlist me everything else from the nineties. The Aloof, Oasis, The Verve, Manics; they came one after another. I thought I’d buried the medicinal hit to my sadness of missing the past – for good the last time I’d written about nostalgia. I thought it had gone but it was back for a brief visit.

It’s idiotic when I think about it. In the nineties and noughties I wasn’t free to express my femininity restricted by my own guilt and now I’m free to express it I’m haunted by the times I seem to miss.

I think this time though the music was the carrier rather than the trigger; the trigger would have been my circumstances. Months on and still no change of career or even a job. While the music carried on it brought back memories of when I worked and lived in Bristol city. Security, confidence and ‘happiness?’ I thought for a moment whether I should forget the idea of some utopian job, where I’m quick to rise in the morning looking forward to work and even quicker to get to bed the night before, and may be return to somewhere like Bristol in a well-paid new media job and end up in modern apartment living on one of the quay sides.

It was solidly rose-tinted though. How can I build a new life in an old place surrounded by empty ghosts. It makes me eternally sad for something that probably wasn’t that good. When I think back hard about specific days back then, sometimes it was more dystopian and boredom. I’ve been hear before but I’d put it to bed some time ago. I suppose I’m looking for the easy way. Returning to places that I know and experienced in. Walking through that same park at lunch time for a coffee and an unhealthy lunch from a fast-food cart full of butter and salt. Stuffing my face full of sugar energy rich flapjacks through the day to burn fast and bright. Churn out work and down tools and hit the bars with work colleagues, return to some post-modern apartment only to start the next day all over again.

The thing is I’m fast approaching twenty years since Bristol and those nights would be returning to an empty flat, living alone in cold quarters. The people I knew back then were no longer there. Christ, even the company was long gone – destroyed quickly by the dot com crash. It would be a different place, a different time and I wouldn’t have the zing of optimistic youth on my side. It would just be the same old shit.

It was clear to me as the weekend approached that this was all being driven by a little depression setting in as the days had passed and it was just something I had to shake. The nostalgia was passing, it was like it had been the flu vaccine – it had the same structure but didn’t have the potency to keep me stuck in that sadness of the past, but it had left behind some damage. Running had fixed this type of thing before and it was pretty much all I had right now to put things right.

–– ❤ ––

I woke as early as I possibly could for a Saturday so I could at least eat a little and get to the running event. I checked the alarm clock and by some miracle it was early enough that I’d beaten the alarm. I pulled the curtains and looked along the roof lines of the other houses, through the gap that revealed the country field and trees up to the clouds that hung like sodden sponges on edge of letting go delivering the rain that had been forecast. May be I would be lucky and wouldn’t get soaked through.

I had doubts whether the morning run would be the prescription I would need to shake these blues that were trying ever so hard to let the black dog in. I chose the running leggings that were the most comfortable – a Ben and Jerry’s tub of ice cream in the form of sports clothing. I pulled the sock basket out looking for my ankle socks and noticed the various sets of everyday black socks. You know the ones. A multipack bought for Christmas each with a little splash of different colours so you know which ones pair up. Blue, Green, Pink, Yellow. When I’m picking a pair of those socks I don’t just grab a pair and wear them. I look at that little colour logo and decide which colour represents how I feel that day.

It’s not a thought process that is at the forefront it’s just instinctual but I’m aware of it. If I’m in a logical business-like mood, may be thinking about my finances that day, blue. If I’m feeling more feminine than usual, pink. St. Patrick’s Day, green. No other socks to choose from, yellow. It’s a bit mad but at the same time, looking at it from a gender view, I don’t think it’s the colour that is important here to indicate a female perspective but the fact that I do this is probably more telling. I think if I had more choices of my running ankle socks the dictation of choice would apply there too – in fact it does I just can’t quite connect why I pick the aqua blue and green socks some days over the black white and purple. I just do and I like that I do.

I got to the run earlier than I thought. Those Easter Saturday morning roads to the city were quiet but at the start people gathered with energy and happiness oozing from groups of people socialising before the stop watches were clicked to go and people with optimism of a personal best. Already I could feel those blues lifting just from being around other people all with the same idea to run and feel good. The rain had held off though the cold had clung on enough to keep my gloves and wooly hat on.

By the end I was happy again. I felt sociable which I hadn’t most of the week. I felt worth something. I felt it was worth putting in some effort to find me again and shake off the past because the future had something worth living for. I think as I find those little bits of me I haven’t been able to express in the past that it’s much more comfortable than I thought it might be and while I still have so much to sort out, at least for now, I am fixed, I am somewhere.

Until next time.

Hannah x.

Little Bit of Warmth

Looking through the mottled glass window of the front door into the night falling on the street that appeared black oil as the rain glossed the tarmac and the sharp street lamps added shine. My mood fell in an instant and only for a moment. Black and Dire. There is something about late night when everyone is locked away and the rain is all that is moving. Washing away the surface. It should be rejuvenating like a flowing river gushing over hard rocks but it’s gloomy, solitary and abandoned.

A week later I found myself on a cold quiet bleak bus stop alone in the countryside not far from my home. Not even eight a.m. on a Saturday, a little snow floating around, air barely above freezing creeping around my calfs below my running trousers and regret that fingerless gloves were the wrong decision.

It was a contrast between the gloomy and the bleak and, while both should have given me the same feeling inside, the bleak didn’t make me feel abandoned. I was going to the early morning running event in the city and it was me that was going. A kind of day where I wear what I want and I am who I am but without making some kind of effort to ensure that the right gender is perceived. It’s a take me as I am day and let’s see what happens. Nothing is official, at least not yet, and only a handful of people know about me – or at least a handful of people I know know about me plus a few people who I suspect do but I don’t know for sure; you get the idea.

I stood there in my hooded sweatshirt and mixed colour three quarter running tights pleased that I brought an extra hoodie which I soon pulled from my plastic bag of things not worth nicking that I’ll leave at the start. Ankle running socks and a plaited leather anklet tied with a bow that probably made me feel me more than the all my other clothes. It was the full stop at the end of a sentence.

It was hard to believe that ten years ago I would be crossing the road and avoiding a bus coming up the road. Now I was wishing it to hurry up so I could get out of the cold, buy my expensive return ticket and enjoy the hello and thank you. Getting on with my own business and enjoying life. Even the bus trip seems quicker. Before I knew it I was pressing the stop button and walking along a busy road of traffic towards the event.

There is nothing worse than the whistle going, starting the run and within twenty seconds realising that the glass of water after waking was all stored up sloshing about in an impatient bladder. Being the city it was easy to nip in to the supermarket nearby with all the other runners. I don’t know what seems so unnatural about lycra tops and trouser crowds walking through the fruit and veg isle en-route to the toilet. It feels like a black tie outfit in a rough pub.

It was the Men’s. It had to be. It wasn’t an effort day. I wouldn’t be kidding anyone, pink hat or no pink hat. But that all said, while standing at the hand dryer chasing water around my hands, I counted two men who walked in, looked around, walked back out to the door, walked back in again, looked at the urinary in a confirmatory fashion and finally made a decision to stay; one of which decided to wait for a cubical. May be I was kidding people more than I thought – at least a little.

In fact the week before at another event I was speaking to another runner. An older-than-me lady that I’d spoken to a few times. “It’s warmer than I thought it would be today. I’m going to get a coffee after this.” she said.
“I’m cold this morning.” I said holding onto what heat I could. “I’m going to need a coffee too.”
“Are you showing – ” she looked down at my running trousers, “Yes you’re showing some… legs… today.”

The answer to her query then silently seemed to answer a different question. Nothing was said but it’s one of those moments where I wondered did she just like my trousers or kinda questioned them in her own mind. It was the pause that did it.

But as the weeks go on these moments become less noticeable and when I do I just let them run. I no longer constantly worry about what I’m wearing – I just wear and forget. I wear and enjoy. I wear and be. I might look at another female runner at the start and still wish, just for a moment, and then realise the wish has sort of been granted and the worry or disappointment just floats away.

Whenever I had spoken about the change of identity with my psychologist a few years ago he would talk about subtle changes and he was so right. While I have always been who I am inside there is a kind of change because as I become more comfortable with bringing my identity to the outside my identity changes when it comes to confidence, comfort and happiness. It still amazes me, even now, there are still subtle changes I hadn’t noticed say a few weeks or months before. Little bits of warmth inside when I suddenly recognise comfort in myself when I’m doing the things I love.

When it comes to making a decision about my future, isn’t this comfort a really important decision-making evidence. Worthy of supported documentation. In fact, when I think about it, it’s pretty much one of the most important, real, genuine and authentic gender things. I can’t think of much else that gives such an on-the-nose, qualified reasoning, other than what makes someone happy and function well. Running makes me physically healthy, my gender identity makes me mentally healthy – that’s when I get to be that gender.

Until next time.

Hannah x

A Gender Thing

It may have been a chain cafe that was third inline to the cafe-king throne but beyond the branding it fitted in with the market town that, beyond the typical high-street checklist of stores that are rubber stamped throughout Britain, the cafe’s brown leatherette arm chairs could have been right out of the dusty genuine antique shop around the corner. The coffee was strong and bitter and the window seat gave us a chance to gaze out of the window, recover from the day trip drive to this town and decide where to spend our time after the people watching and coffee. I always want to spend my time wisely without taking away the excitement of spontaneity and discovery, especially so when I take a day trip with my parents. There is also a certain amount of redaction of ideas because, really, they like their comfort zone.

It was midweek, coming to the end of winter and a lack of tourists. Everything was just normal. A worker in a sharp grey suit nipping out of an estate agent for a premature baked pastry lunch at Greggs and a coffee to keep that youthful energy even more unnecessarily hyper. The upper half of the high street buildings were Cotswolds old and the bottom half branded with the likes of Boots, Starbucks, Dorothy Perkins and White Stuff. As a tourist it was a case of looking above the shops to work out what was old and what was not. What had been rebuilt in-the-style because the carved date under the roof was 1980 rather than 1880.

We exhausted the historic town hall and the local pristine church of pale stone set within regimental two inch high lawn shadowed by two hundred year old trees on a day that had a full blue sky but still a cold edge to the February breeze. My Mum had disappeared around the corner of an alleyway. She had found something and called me. She called me a few times ever louder each time until I came. Around the corner was a single large covered market stall.

A display of glassware made locally. Expensive glassware. My Dad had wandered down soon after me and wandered straight in. I returned to the entrance as I just didn’t want to get straight into conversation with the man who wandered over to chat with my parents and, I expect, attempt to sell something. I looked at the items around the doorway.

“Hello, wonderful aren’t they.” he said in a west-country accent that was less farmer than Bristol but still recognisably so. My Mum as always was polite to engage, “Oh this one is lovely.” My Dad nodded while I, with my back to them, still continued to look at a purple glass decanter thing that caught my eye.

“What about the young lady? Does she like this sort of thing?” he asked. I may have not been looking but a sixth sense kicked in and I could just feel the confusion from my Mum.
“The young lady, your daughter?” he suggested.

Happiness and a smirk rose and spread edge to edge of my face. “It is your daughter isn’t it?” he said trying to nudge a reply from my Mum.

Mum had remedied the confusion, “Oh that’s my son.” she said nicely. I flicked my ponytail with my fingers as I turned and remarked “It’s the hair.” in some kind of effort not to make the man feel awkward about some kind of mistake.

The moment was, of course, over within a flash. The man was a nice man. Not just because he kind of made my day but he was funny, interesting and didn’t feel embarrassed by my Mum’s correction. While we walked around the town for the rest of the afternoon there was an alfresco elephant in the room. I thought about joking about it but then I didn’t want the gender thing to become a joke. It’s not the first time this has happened around my parents but it’s rare that it’s so obvious. Dare I mention it though. If I bring it up what possible reason would I be bringing it up for and what would I get out of it? If I joke about it, it makes it a joke.

There was no point in saying anything. I’ll just smile to myself inside and let it ride out. I know I get technically misgendered which to me is correctly gendered – plenty of times. I suppose that on this occasion it was around people who mattered to me but it wasn’t really a time to talk about it and after all was it anything special, what had happened, other than an amusement to me because I know something other people don’t?

We got into the car ready to set off for the journey home. Seat belts on. Car started. Travel sweets ready. Pay-and-display ticket pulled from the dash and stored somewhere else in the car which in retrospect would have been better off left on the dash. “Daughter.” Mum chuckled. “I wouldn’t swap you for a daughter for anything.” she ended. Ouch.

I made light of it again later that day when she retold the story to someone else in my family and I wondered to myself why I had even stuck to that moment. After all it happens a lot and it was nothing new. I guess when it’s around my parents it’s a little bit of a litmus paper. A little check to see what they might think. The problem with these moments is those tests can give magnified false positives either way. I suppose I was also pleased that it wasn’t just the man seeing the back of my hair because he had seen me before when I first walked in. There was something of a little acceptance.

It was only a week or so later when out running that I realised my phone had just fallen out of my pocket. I frantically looked amongst the almost black dead leaves on the side of the path under the park trees that made the grass almost black looking for a black phone. I stopped one of the other runners. “Excuse me, do you have a phone on you, I’ve lost my mobile.” I asked desperately.

“Yes. You might have left the ringer off though.” he said almost squeezing out what little hope I had left to find my phone.

I gave him my number and he typed it in. The screen said “calling” and I heard the music jingle from within the leaves and earth but I didn’t look around straight away. I spent just a second or so mesmerised at his mobile screen, “Calling, Hannah James”.

‘Do I know him?’ I thought, ‘No, only one person who knows me as Hannah would be likely to have me in their mobile phone as Hannah and I didn’t recognise this man. I recovered my phone and we walked along the path with his friend that had been running with him. I thanked him and he started telling me about an app he has on his phone. “Yeah this is great, so like when I called you it showed Hannah, I can tell who is calling me even if I don’t know them and calling numbers I don’t know. They collect the details from all sorts of places, other people with the app I expect.”
“That’s really handy.” I said. He hadn’t said a word about ‘Hannah.’ He didn’t say, ‘was it correct?’ or ‘is that your name?’ or ‘why it’s showing Hannah I don’t know. What’s your name?’ It appeared that Hannah was just accepted. There was a genuine correct-gendering and it felt nice – even if technology is insisting on telling the world about me.

Until next time.

Hannah x