Cafe By The Sea

The sand golden – coloured by the rising sun. Recently combed by a machine ready for the next set of sun worshipers. Long shadows from the thatched sunbrellas proving I was up early. Plastic heavy duty sunbeds stacked purposefully in batches. The metal shutters still down on the seafront Spanish shops and a gentle lapping of waves barely breaking the morning serenity apart from the small cafe on the small rocky land sat next to the sand. The sound of clanking porcelain cups and the rattle of spoons with the steam gushing from an espresso machine with the lone server setting up for the day before the chairs and bar stools are filled by slow drinking horizon watchers.

She pulled chairs and tables out on to the surrounding cafe patio that tapered to the rocks, sand and sea water. A colourful tattoos draped, tastefully, from her shoulder and down her arm. There were little other people, other than the joggers that were the only other bravest to wake to see the sun rise above the hilly coastline, where most tourists were still in bed sleeping off the drink of the night before and the most energy they would exert that morning would be the panic to get to the hotel breakfast room before they shut at ten and, with heavy eyelids, downing buckets of tea and coffee.

I stood looking at the sea in the warm air, a loose t-shirt and running shorts taking in every breath of salty ozone-rich air that I could while I had the chance. It was one of those moments when I thought this could be my life or more accurately, this could be my routine. It was one of those millionaire moments when you can imagine what you’d do if you’d won the lottery or something of equally obscene payout but the fact was, I didn’t need to be horrendously rich. The only thing that stopped me is the hesitation of risk, commitment and trepidation.

I had sat in that cafe on the rock by the sea as many times as I could that holiday and I had taken a few mornings for a walk or run, or whatever I energy I could find, to relive that half hour or so by the sea when it was serene on that island in the Atlantic. Some people might not aspire to being a waitress or barista at a cafe but at that moment, when I saw that woman serving by the sea I could see an idyllic life. Up early setting up shop before the customers came. A slow pace of life serving treacle-thick coffee and simple toasted sandwiches under the sun providing serenity to those who take a fortnight out of the manic complexity of life in the ‘first world’. It wouldn’t pay much and life would become material-less. Would that really matter? I had bought things throughout my life, objects that were ‘dream’ objects but since having done that I have found I am left with a different outlook on life. While money will always be a need, personal riches now lie elsewhere.

May be life behind the counter would change the magic, may be not. May be the dream is the place and the dream job of writing for a living could be done from the cafe by the sea – adding to the fulfilment.

I have found that I am now looking at the gap between what is my life right now and another life that I could live just like being a waitress at a cafe in the sun. In the last few years I have already rejected much of the career goal oriented life. I had taken time-out from work after saving for months on end to re-evaluate what I actually want. It’s not just down to the gender thing, that is just a part of my life and if that comes with me on my trip to changing the way I live then so be it. That said it is still a big part of who I could be if I were to find that serene way of life that I desire.

I am comfortable in my home, don’t get me wrong, I like where I live. I can drive to a beach early in the morning if I wished but things aren’t quite that easy. My work can be a little mundane, that is the work I do to keep me going but that I have slowly been trying to leave behind over the last four or five years. The beach is far enough away that to visit before going to work would be unmaintainable. I look out the window now, dull light coming from pure winter grey clouds and a fine constant reliable sheet of misty rain falling, and realise it’s not quite enlightening – comfortable and safe, but not spiritual.

Sure, a life in another land serving coffee isn’t going to service a villa and yoga next to the pool in the mornings but I have to ask myself what is it to feel rich that is beyond money and possessions. So far that appears to be simplicity of whatever I would do for a living in a nice location and the ability to see the serenity of the morning near the sea, regularly, and an expression of my gender at the same time. To me, when I write it like that, it doesn’t seem that unobtainable. If that’s not too hard then may be bringing gender identity to a balanced conclusion isn’t quite so hard after all.

Until next time

x

Purples and Pinks of Bayswater Road

It was one of those late night curiosities. You know, you finished watching a film and recognised somewhere that you think you been and want to flick through some old photos to see if it was that place. Of course flicking through photos for me now, or at least at the time these particular photos were taken, were well into the digital age of mobile phones becoming as clear as a traditional cameras though mobile phone videos were still clunky when there was any suggestion of movement. Rather than pulling out a number of albums from the book shelf, or loft depending how old those photos you want are, and blowing off the dust and that strange of scraggly grey hair that no one in the house possesses, it was a case of opening iPhoto and scrolling to two thousand and seven and looking for photos amongst the small thumb nails that might suggest ‘London’.

Right towards the end of the stream of The West End, the London Eye and a glowing parliament building in the hot August night, was a curious photo. A part of my foot in life-style trainers and the bottom of my jeans. I remembered it well. Mid afternoon laying with my back to an old mature tree and sat on the thick green fresh grass of Hyde Park, a guitar propped against the bark and a small suitcase for the three days I had been there. Behind me the rumble of Bayswater Road drifting between the black victorian railings that keep the contents of the park from the towering flats, regency buildings and the fumes of black cabs. The view in front seemed to capture the stillness of time when time to relax seems to make the day just stretch on for as far as it would seem possible like the stretch of green that seems to never end – I don’t even remember being able to see The Serpentine that felt like it was over the horizon and even my pending train at Paddington seemed like it was weeks away.

There was something blurry-eyed about that afternoon and that moment. It was like time to breath. I had recently walked out of my employment due to unbelievable anxiety that taught me what stress really was and London seemed like the escape I had needed even if it meant spending a months rent. I almost cancelled going but at the last minute I dived out of the house and headed to the station. Even to this day that moment in the park was a full stop on one part of my life and a whole new chapter was to begin; even if it wasn’t a huge change it was about control in my life.

That photo – the one of my foot, that wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t one of those “whoops I’d clicked the shutter button” photos only to discover it weeks later when the film was developed. They just don’t happen these days when cameras have to be switched on and we have to wait that infuriating delay while the camera pops down the shops for a coffee and the event has passed or the fiddling around trying to unlock a photo or trying to remember the shortcut to take a photo without unlocking.

It was a photo with purpose. It was a place I was in at the time, and I don’t mean Hyde Park, but how I felt about myself. Between my jeans and my trainers was a visible slither of sock. Thin stripes of pinks and purples with some interlaced foil-silvery strands. Female socks. My little way of wearing something secretly that helped me be true to myself. It just seems so mad now thinking back to then that I had to do this – wear something that was unlikely to be seen by anyone and that I would be nervous that someone would notice my socks and suddenly shout or point. It was a place I was in though at the time and while two thousand and seven is, holy christ, ten years ago it’s also only ten years ago.

Was I really like that then? So worried about wearing soft-colour socks with some kind of femininity to them. So much so that I had to take all these little victories just to win over my true self and keep that authentic self quiet and content. Hell – I was even taking a photo to remind myself what I had done, worn feminine socks, and got away with it to make myself feel happy. As crazy as it was to do that I have to thank that part of me for taking the photo because now I look at it I realise how through all the subtle changes over the past several years I have made that when combined they become huge changes. So much less afraid of those little things and now being confident to express that side of me openly; even if I’m not completely there yet, I am further than I am not.

I don’t need to take a photo to prove to myself that it actually happened and that to some extent is freeing. May be something is being lost if photos are fewer and far between as they once were in the beginning of that self discovery. Hard times but also exciting times with an amount of teenaged-styled innocence which for many with gender identity issues is experienced in their twenties or thirties or so. May be photos help keep track of that progression much like photos from childhood through to adulthood; after all coming to terms with the whole gender thing is much like growing pains it just happens at an unpredictable time. Looking at ourselves in some kind of past introspection may be just a health way of seeing how far we’ve come and who we’ve become.

Until next time.

x

Bridget Malaise

I would have been about twenty six, may be twenty seven. A time before Facebook and mobile phones didn’t have cameras. My career was at it’s height in a kind of not-really-achieving-much way but working on projects for huge name clients. I remember, when thinking back without the rose-tint, how bored I was becoming in work but nights out with friends was fun, Hannah-time, a nice house if only booked for a period of time like a hotel room. I remember being out one evening with a whole bunch of friends and we had to pay to get into this bar. One of my friend’s-friend didn’t want to go in, “I can’t afford this, I’ll go home.”
“I’ll pay, just come in.”
“You sure?”
“Hell yeah, this gravy train won’t last forever.” she didn’t know what I meant.

I knew at that point the writing was on the wall. I remember a little light just blinking dimly in my head just after I’d said it. My workplace in the city were already making scores of permanent people redundant. I would get back from lunch and someone would be missing. “Where’s Molly?”

“She got a phone call to go to the hotel next door. Told her to bring her bag with her.” and that was the last I saw of her. I knew it was coming for me too in about a month with a quiet word from my manager, “I’m going to renew your contract for another month, but after that – you know, with all the redundancies.”

On that night out I remember knowing this was coming but it strangely didn’t bother me on the surface. It was just a thing that was happening and I would deal with it when it happened.

Bridget Jones’s Diary had been released months before. It struck a chord with me. Something different about it compared to other films. It was something inside the film that I related to. There were similarities. The place she worked, feeling undervalued and not really performing the way they wanted; distracted by a social life. But putting aside the comedy and the going-out and getting drunk scenes it would be a few years later that I would relate dangerously to the serious plight the film described of Bridget, thirty-two feeling old before her time. A depressed spinster with no future happiness in sight. It was talked about in the newspapers of the time and how it had resonated to so many women.

I had left that city and the company which soon after emptied it’s office of the entire staff, office-scooters and toys and disappeared with many others into the obscurity of the dot com crash. I found myself living in an apartment on my own with a new job, eventually, but without realising that within just a few years I would also find myself slowly sliding into the same situation, coincidently aged thirty-two and feeling a bit empty much like the bottle of red on a Saturday night in the living room. I found that I had something more in common with that story of Bridget and I didn’t quite see it coming. I so wish I had.

I promised myself, in the early part of my thirties, and by early I mean.. well – my thirtieth birthday eve, that I would do something about the gender thing once and for all and just make a decision one way or the other and just stick to it and get on with everything else. I gave myself until New Years Eve; a new years resolution of the unfulfillable kind. The problem was I didn’t really give myself the reality of pace. Everyone has their own pace. For some it’s just as quick as flicking on the light switch in the kitchen and for others it needs careful consideration and time to come to terms with themselves.

I felt so disappointed with myself through my thirties that I hadn’t made that decision. I would mentally beat myself up over it. Bully myself of how I’d failed my own ability to make a decision and act on it; let alone not doing something at thirty I’d not done anything in my early twenties either.

Thankfully as I hit thirty-eight or so I did make a decision to speak to a professional about it. Get help. Talk it through. Demand the right person to discuss this with in an intelligent, open, honest, almost academic way. Like a conversation between two psychologist academics in leather wingback chairs discussing over a metaphorical brandy by an equally metaphorical fireplace flicking light onto the walls of the room, except it was in a plain room with just a couple of chairs, a notice board, a dull computer terminal, and a set of blinds; but the discussion was much the same. It wasn’t just progress, it was also permission to stop the internal conflict and disappointment. I finally was allowed to actually feel okay about who I was.

–♥–

Outside, right now, midnight, the road a glossy oil black street, drips clinging to the windows and the occasional rush of wind against the window dying off slowly. The street in silence of a relative lack of life of an urban sprawl in the countryside. While I now have the kindness of being released from self abuse of guilt by seeking help I feel my life, aside from the gender thing, really hasn’t changed much and just seems to be getting quieter and a little more hollow as the inside of a seed rots away and leaves just a husk. Things could be so much worse, I know, but then to live is to grow and enjoy. When days are just passing me by I feel, much like those days in 2002 when I knew the writing was on the wall at that company I worked, that I’m starting to feel that I’m already recognising that in several years time, may be ten or so, that I will suddenly realise I should have done so much more right now and I’ve missed my chance – at whatever it is I should be doing with my life. At least this time I seem to be more aware that long slow days are passing quicker than I realise.

It doesn’t help when outside the remains of a storm is still dousing the estate with grey and rain. Even if it were a warm starry night I would still have to do something with it to feel warm inside and that every moment is worthwhile. The problem is I feel so paralysed by the future that I feel too nervous to be sat by a log fire with a good book without feeling I was wasting time. A contradiction if I ever wrote one.

Until next time.

x

Bonding Between Us

When a relationship starts simple mental strands bond together. You go out and when you’re apart you think about each other, another strand attaches. Then one of you declares your love and the other confirms and more strands connect. Then you move in together. You share life experiences. That romantic film you saw together that you repeat phrases and laugh in reminiscence of for which holds so many parallels in your relationship. The deep orange from that candle on the table lighting their face.

When you break up one or two of those strands break under the stress and cause pain but every other strand remains firmly connected from years of bonding and strengthening. That is the difficulty – an emotional mourning loss that can’t be disconnected overnight with even a few strands between you years later.

The first time telling a partner about a gender identity disorder can be the most painful and naive moments in life with everlasting effects. I had lived with the gender thing since I was about three with an accumulation of experience and feelings but still a lack of understanding of what it actually is, why it is and the causes which none of us know I was probably naively expecting her to understand, even though telling her about it was the hardest thing I had done until that moment.

I had read from experiences online with suggestions such as ‘don’t rush into things’ but given the pressure cooker that had built up to that moment that made me tell her about it I had taken to my newly assigned freedom. It could have been both the worst and best mistake I had made. Taking things slowly allows for acclimatisation and spared feelings. Taking things quickly gets the truth out in the open and decisions on the future of the relationship without wasting further time; quickly pulling the sticking plaster off the cut. We weren’t married and we didn’t have children and in some sense this made things easier but the strands were still just as strong as they would have been.

It has to be coming up to ten years ago when it happened for me and the hurt that it caused, one of the few bad parts of the gender thing, has long since passed and lives have moved on apart but I still see the same situation everywhere. I see people online in forums and in blogs going through the process. Opening up to wives and children, then closely following limitations put on so-called being that other personality that the partner insists on in an attempt to limit how far it will go. A pressure cooker without a valve further pushing that other side to grow and become. Then the final decision, separation and divorce which in so many cases is the inevitable; after all the partner never fell in love with the person you are inside but the person they thought you were as a whole. It’s heart breaking.

I don’t regret telling her about it and I wish I could regret the relationship ending but it was, like many, inevitable without living a lie. I still don’t know how those who keep it from their partners deal with the pressure of not being free to be who they want to be whenever. I suppose they have moments where they can release that pressure from time to time and those odd days every month or week is enough for them to be content. Jenny on the weekend, John at work. For me the more I move forwards the less I want to go back and the more freedom I want.

This is what is essential for those who are deciding to do this now. I don’t think the decision is really whether someone wants to risk their marriage or relationship and trying to decide whether it’s a real genuine authentic thing that someone wants; it’s one of the hardest things to acknowledge unless they are without question one hundred percent sure. One possible way to decide though might be based on whether the problem is getting worse internally. Are you getting more stressed? Is the desire to be becoming too great to handle? Is it eating away at you every day, every minute? This might not be enough alone to decide on telling something so personal that might change your whole life but it might be enough to recognise whether you should get some help through counselling, psychiatry and psychology before then moving on. Then again I have met some people who are perfectly happy in some kind of mild form of gender identity where they are content to be who they are from time to time and the jack just has no intention of coming out of the box; and that is also fine.

Recognising that fact and making the decision to just remain exactly where you are – as you are is a life changing decision in itself. It can give you the ability to move on with your life in other areas and allow you to enjoy everything else. The important thing is the choice being yours and being true to yourself. There will always be ups and downs in whatever choice is made, some huge, but the important thing is to get the right help and the right outlook on the future and why you’re doing whatever it is you decide to do.

Until next time

x

Salt in the Recipe

People around the table, all friends, laughing and chatting about times past, a bad day had at work. What started as a ‘Hi, come on in. Dinner is cooking.’ gradually becomes louder through the evening with glasses emptying and the bottles closely following behind. A candle on the table dashing back and forth in the light currents of air provided by the glowing conversation around the dinner table.

It’s funny that when I think about it, in our society – at least here in Britain, where drink is generally consumed from moderate through to just getting pissed out of our heads in an attempt to dull away the tedious sides of our lives and that alcohol is to our personalities that salt is to the recipe. Sure there is drunk which is that time where inhibition is suspended which takes away a part of our personality that makes us whole but before that, the band of tipsiness, which enhances who we are to others; the only time that may be we know we’ve gone too far is the day after when soberness asks, ‘did I really say that last night.’

I don’t drink that often anymore and when I don’t I realise that things aren’t really that different. I can enjoy a great movie that I love with or without a glass of red, the film will still have the same immersive effect on me, I just might not be quite so wide eye’d at the end. Yet there are times that I know if I’ve had that glass that I will feel just that little bit more immersed emotionally with whoever the characters were and the story. Things will be just a bit more contrast, saturate and the emotion will be wider and deeper.

If we do this with alcohol then what do those with the whole gender thing who go that step further with replacement hormones that the body can’t provide take from it. Part of it is medical and physical to make those subtle changes but some people have spoken about small changes of mood and approach to life. At what point do we take this as a change of personality or just a difference in outlook. Someone many years ago told me that they wondered if it changes who you really are and I thought about this on and off since. I do wonder if really there isn’t a change. It’s the same person, the same recipe, the only difference is the heat. A cold spaghetti bolognese is just a cold Italian inspired meal. May be it’s the person’s reaction to being happier and so more relaxed and a positive outlook on life or may be more stressed from a new life and the way some people react. I guess we will never know for sure but the important thing is that whatever the salt we add or the temperature we serve ourselves we just need to feel happy in ourselves, whether it’s identity, work, friends, the books we read or the beach we sit in the summer.

Coffee has much the same effect as alcohol in it’s ability to change how I react. I know I talk faster and ideas must be met quickly under the influence of an espresso. That said my timing in music flies out the window and goes on holiday for several hours. Neither coffee or alcohol are subtle in their changes in our personalities and I wonder how subtle everything we consume is and so who are we really? Are we just the person we are at a particular moment in time or is there an innate thread that runs through us and everything else around it are just clouds of vapour that come and go depending on our moods.

Many years ago, not long after I had graduated and had enough money to travel on the weekends with my friends I would drive us to other cities and towns just for a wander. We went to Cheltenham once and spent more time chatting walking the regency lined streets than really doing much else. It seemed aimless but it was time to spend with a group of friends that over the years we gradually drifted into our own lives. I think how I’m a different person now in how I was around those people then and how they were. We’ve matured and become subtly experienced.

We would leave in the early evening and I would drive the black ribbon country road, the sun seemingly taking forever to drop away with just a red and orange powder on the horizon and the calmness in the slowly flowing River Severn that would come into view as the road swept in and out of the country to the riverside. I discovered a compact disc that I used to listen to in that car on the way back and instantly I remembered the sky, the river, the remoteness of where we were and the warmth of a moment that already felt drenched in nostalgia even then. Even as the seemingly different person I am now that inner thread is still the same. I see the world in a similar way and it has a similar effect on me. The thread changes very little and only the shell matures. We can change the bits we want to change whether it’s coffee, wine, medication or just self improvement. As long as we are genuine and authentic in our reasons then the changes themselves really are a part of our personality. Change is who we are.

Whatever you decide to do each day you can decide what is authentic. Honesty with yourself will tell you and if you’re not sure then you’re not ready for the answer – may be.

Until next time.

x

The Sand Between My Toes

Five pm the horizon lined copper, the freezing air filtering through my hooded jogger and a single pin hole of starlight in the weakening blues hung low above the village church. The only noise was an evening bird and the background grey noise of the motorway in the distance until it was cut bluntly by an ageing moped roaring by in a cloud of blue smoke. On the way back a clatter of salt rushed along the road from behind. A gritter kindly moving to the other side of the road as it passed so my legs weren’t stone-chipped.

My run wasn’t far, not as far as late last year at least, but it was a symbolic milestone that my whole run was without a stop. The tops of my legs had grown colder, even at pace, as if they were two slabs of steak just starting to solidify in the freezer. I might enjoy running but even so the thoughts had run through my head faster than I was running, “was this a good idea today?” and “why did I take my wooly hat off before I left the house?”

You would think that at a time of my life when I have every option at my feet, the choice to do practically anything, or at least give anything a go, that I would be feeling at my most free and breezy; but it’s taking a lot to keep feeling that way. I’ve had to pull on every thought provoking and clear mind routines that I know of to keep a clear and worry-free outlook.

For the whole gender thing, well it’s just there. I had to go to an appointment at my local hospital for some kind of support that they are giving since I’ve been referred to London but as usual it was another new psychiatrist. The lack of consistency feels like something is missing from my care but I suppose to some extent I’m past having to be cared for, even though I should be. It was rather administrative than talking about feelings but I’d already done that for two years.

They hadn’t received anything from the gender clinic in London as it had all gone to my GP and so I was more up to date than the psychiatrist. I didn’t think they would really need anything anyway but as it turns out if they don’t receive documentation from London then they might have a problem with the funding they’re providing. Getting gender identity care in Wales, administratively, is a bit like England – in the 1980s.

While that whole thing is parked, for a better word, my career is at the forefront of my problems or options. Still exhausted on a career that just doesn’t light me up anymore and freelancing whenever the work comes up I am at a point where the world is open to what I do next. The question is what do I do next. I’ve yet to write as a profession and while I work towards that the rent still needs to be paid.

I’ve spent too long reliving ghosts of the past hoping they will reappear and invigorate my life, old friends I no longer hear from or work places and the people that filled them that the comfort zone contains as a solution to just go back. It doesn’t work that way though. The reality of those people has been blinkered by the passage of time and rose spectacles. I may be on the edge of having little money left but I have the opportunity to look to the future, look for change, act on it and finally dispose of the old career that has seen me financially well but has run it’s course and the enjoyment and satisfaction that is running on empty.

I have so many options and when I start writing I feel that warm glow inside that makes me want to continues for years with the financial reward being a pleasant side-effect. When I create a song I feel a creative buzz that would have the benefit of the expensive instrument purchased in the summer paying for itself. We hear about people who take that leap of faith, changing their lives in positive television documentaries, success stories of the riches or in self-help books of which I am a faithful collector, but that leap, the actual push of the button that commits fully to a change is more difficult than most appreciate and that’s why so many people fall back to that comfort zone, “Well I tried” or “It won’t happen for me.” For me the worry is cementing that change and knowing I must commit to solidifying my new creative skills professionally. You could rubber-stamp this outlook onto the gender thing; change, change of gender, commitment to a new life. Why should it be so hard though. If it doesn’t workout just go and try something else or go back to where you were. It’s a shame gender isn’t quite so simple even though on the outside it can seem so binary, but we know it isn’t.

It’s a fight to make the changes to my life happen between those positive almost caffeinated enthusiasm moments to make progress towards a new career and that of the low points when my head feels almost hungover with little energy to produce anything. There are times when I can be driven and, like a cat that’s like a dog with a bone, I won’t let go until something is achieved or I reach a goal, either that or I fall asleep from exhaustion at stupid o’clock in the morning, and then there are times when I can barely lift a finger towards it and time is spent thinking about what I can do and dreams of what it might be like or fighting hand to hand with internal doubts. I have learnt that the way to deal with it is flow with the tide. Deal with the churn and work when I can apply myself and when I hit a low point, accept the low point and ride it through until the clouds clear and golden sunlight glints of hope and enthusiasm and the breeze flows controlled again.

I live for those up-days and for the down-days I hope for blues skies.

Until next time.

x

New Year’s Eve Special – Cropped Socks and the Orange Solitude

The television was on in the corner of the empty kitchen of my parents house. I glanced out of the window, the cars still dusted with Christmas holiday week frost with blues skies and the sharp yellow winter sunlight enough to cut through and slowly reducing the white. The TV switched to one of those adverts in the break. You know, those ones you usually only see early in the morning taking up channel space before the actual channel starts, day time TV or, in this case, the Christmas break. An extended advert, an infomercial. An American accented delivery of an exercise DVD set or equipment which just about falls short of snake oil.

While these adverts have little power to get me to part with money my attention was caught. The narration was a blur as was the exercises but I noticed thinner toned bodies and the lycra which just shouted enjoyable exercise to me. It was mesmerising to see what these people were doing and what they had physically and how I’d been missing it. One too many mince pies adding a millimetre here and there to my body making me just a little disappointed that I’d not been able to keep up my exercise recently.

At that moment I wanted to sort it out. Waiting for the New Year wouldn’t cut it. That was too long away. Sure a few days won’t make a difference physically but mentally it meant everything. If I had the money at that moment I would have been straight to the car, into the city and at the nearest decent sports shop to find some new clothes to boost that feeling of returning to running that makes me feel elated and fresh. With that comes clear thinking and solutions. I had to do the second best option – go home, the next day, and find the next opportunity to run, that was after two loads of Christmas holiday washing.

Cropped socks and running shoes. A pull-over hoodie and three quarter lengths. Then fingerless gloves, one purple that I’d lost the matching other glove and one blue one because the matching blue one had developed some air conditioning in the palm. I was glad I had waited until the washing had finished because it meant it wasn’t too late that I’d have been risking my neck on black ice under clear star lit skies and that I was early enough that the sky in the relative silence of the small village was lined with a glowing orange so vivid that I felt like I could reach out and grab it. The orange faded in twilight to a pale blue that stretched over the hills and my head to the darkened deep blues of the approaching night.

It was perfect. It was more than the fact that I had got back to running before the New Year and preceding any resolutions. Beyond the fact I didn’t feel any joint pains or even happy with the clothes I can run in, it was the sky. It had painted the scenery to give me the encouragement that I needed to keep doing what I love, running and everything else. These types of days can be a delivered by fate. The weather, the conditions, my body, fate – things out of my control.

This is the important bit. Fate is only responsible for some of the things that make a day or what ever we do to occupy our time, but without making our own effort to move we get little from fate that would be in our control. I read recently that “Great things never came from comfort zones” and that “you are only confined by the walls you build around yourself.” That second statement is the powerful one. While it can be applied to almost anything it certainly fits precisely with the gender thing. Those walls are the things that I had built way back in my late teens; made of reinforced concrete and covered in Araldite for good measure.

In the last few years all that bonding gunk is gone from the wall. I don’t even have to peer over the wall any more as it’s low enough to lean on and take a look around while exposing a little of who I am. Walls can take a while to knock down with a small hammer. It may be a slow subtle process but it’s a way that suits me and some other people too. For some, they’re happy to take a sledge hammer to it and get right into the surgeons hands and back to work to get on with life. We just need to pick the best way for ourselves and not feel pushed, raced or guilted into any decision either way.

The morning came with an awakening to the feeling of not being able to sleep anymore; and so I shouldn’t have. Nine thirty a.m. is late enough even after staying up until one to see the end of a film. I had a lot to fit into today, all things for me but they had to be done today, including another run. ‘Start as you mean to go on’ as they say and doubts about running again so soon were halted by a mental vision in the mirror of loosing just enough weight to feel happy about myself again.

It was lunch time and with my running clothes ready I quickly tied my hair off in a rough plait that wrapped around my hoodie and down the side of my neck topped off with a wooden hat to keep out the cold.

As I approached the village the winter wire trees and luscious green hills in the distance were disguised in a rising grey mist from last nights hard frost. I felt so energetic today, probably helped by two of the remaining mince pies from Christmas I had after breakfast, but even so it was different. I could go further. I didn’t want to push too hard so soon but I wanted to go further with the reward of a stunning view over the other side of the village.

I ran over the old road bridge that crosses an ancient celtic river flowing with pace with a line of thin fog following it just a few feet above between the over hanging trees. It was a hard run up the hill on the other side of the bridge but I pushed for that view – that reward. It might sound like a small reward, a view of the countryside with the rising mist and grey distant outlines of farm houses, pastel skies and the black and white dots of a town, it could have easily have been the beach with it’s wide open space, gentle lap of the waves and solitude only found there during the winter months; the thing is as long as it’s meaningful to you it’s a reward. Something that is away from the work–home cycle of daily society that turns us into the machines we so despise and where some of us just make do.

The effect of these small rewards can add up to leading a much more positive life with more affirming decisions and being proud of what you do, whatever that is, and of who you are.

The city centre shoppers were still flowing even days after Boxing Day. As lunch time became afternoon the more claustrophobic it became with crowds of people. I was only there to swap the one single duplicate present; no post-Christmas retail hangover craving for me. I escaped to the nearest branded coffee shop as soon the swap was done and sat in the large window with panoramic views of the pedestrianised street.

Girls coming in with names like Chloe while an unsupervised toddler presses their hands against the door refusing entry. Espresso machines screamed steam and Christmas special latte’s and hot chocolates on the menu disappointingly out of stock. New Year was nearly here and the old year in it’s last few breaths. Manic and desperate.

I had taken myself out of the busy crazy retail frenzy. The only thing I bought was a nice diary for the year to come with a store credit given to me for buying some presents there before Christmas. It struck me while sat drinking my hot chocolate that people seem to be in a desperate rush to get that thrill of Christmas, opening presents and the acquiring of shiny material things for one more time. I had seen a family pass by, son, mother and grandmother. The mother defending some decision to buy something and the grandmother trailing a few feet behind and angrily announcing ‘well if you want it bloody get it.’ I could feel the goodwill and cheer peeling away from them.

Taking yourself out of these situations, watching other people struggling with British life and how many of us live here fitting so much into every second never taking a moment to watch life, was a prescription without medication. It’s cleansing. It brings things into perspective. Just watching other people there are moments when we can see the things we don’t want to be and the things we do we wish we didn’t. It puts everything about gender identity into perspective. It sizes the problem for what it really is. It might be an important thing for us but it doesn’t have to be made into a big monster of a problem. It is, after all, such a small thing amongst all the other good and bad, relationships, work, careers, travel, family, friends and our outlook.

In the past year so much has happened and as always in small bite sized subtle chunks. What I wear and when I do. Expressing parts of my personality that I may have suppressed before; although may be I didn’t realise I wasn’t suppressing it at all. Visiting the GIC and making a step towards making a decision; or not having to make a decision which is a valid answer in itself. My best friends finding out about the gender thing and being totally cool about it.

The subtle changes to anything are usually the things that matter. They’re sustainable and comfortable. Easier to live with and probably a bit more honest. Whatever you decide to do for twenty-seventeen, whether you decide that continuing as you are is what makes you happy – may be you’re already at your most balanced self, or may be you have plans to change things for the better, whatever it is, have a good year.

Until next year,

Hannah x.

Christmas Eve Special – Narnia to The Mediterranean

It may be December and practically Christmas, if not Christmas Eve day then Christmas Eve Week, but the city park full of ancient oaks was still carpeted in the autumn browns but just colder and damp. The river still flowing through it. People walking home with branded bags of presents. Runners keeping fit with the freshest air that can be found in the city and people all wrapped up woollen sat alfresco outside the wooden shack cafe with dogs on a break from their walk tails wagging meeting other stranger dogs.

There is more Christmas warmth in a beautiful park than a shop repeatedly playing over played Christmas songs of the 70s and 80s. This must be the time to replace Slade and Wizzard for a while. I like shopping for presents for most of the time but the repeated forceful, ‘you’re going to get into the Christmas mood whether you like it or not’ chiming from the ceilings of shops and shopping centres is padded cell inducing.

My Christmas shop was complete. Walking home through the park I came to a fork in the path. To the right lead to a wide open space of grass. Empty and bleak. To the left a winding path near the river, decorated with winter-tough shrubbery, ancient tress and beds of wilted remains of flowers. A little more warm and inviting. It was almost like a representation of a decision and not just the gender thing. It could be interpreted in so many ways. Left for the comfortable life that I know, a safe place. Right without any hint of whether it will be better or just pure emptiness without soul?

The thing is, am I really in a comfort-zone without change? When I really think about it I’ve already started walking on the path that felt like the right place and life has changed. I’m no longer in a nine ‘til five monogamous job although eight-thirty ‘til five-thirty before further work-expectations would be more accurate these days. I have also at least started to work something out with the whole gender identity in small subtle steps. The fact is I’m already way down a path of some sort, it can be a bit scary and sometimes it’s like walking through a thick fog with no reply to my calls.

Not knowing what will happen is both scary but also exciting making life just a little bit free flowing, opportunistic and vibrant rather than dull and monotonous. Christmas is a great time to reflect on the year and where we’re going. Usually the New Year and in particular New Year’s Eve gives us the chance to look back. To rose tint the past and put the grey clouds to rights but this year I have already seen people commenting on the year in the run up to Christmas – early, a bit like how the New Year sales keep retreating each year.

For me, internally, it’s a time to reflect privately on who I am and all the parts that go with it and to continue to work to see the good parts of it rather than dwell unhealthily on the sad grey bits. How lucky I am that at least I’m alive and to some extent I do get to experience all those parts of me that I want to be. Celebrate how far I’ve come and how much more relaxed I am about everything, despite how hard it can be at times. Subtle changes to the way we live can be hard to recognise but when they are recognised it can be positive and enforcing. Self replicating within.

At Christmas time I like to feel those cold frosty days. I like to see the snowy mountains, the frosted grass hiding in the shadows from the sun, the roaring fireplace in the pub or the twinkling ice bright lights people hang in the trees. People watching those who are still rushing around trying to get all those last minute things that post-Christmas they probably will realise they didn’t need. Much like a hang-over from drinking will probably do just the same again next year and fail to learn from the experience.

Despite enjoying all that Narnia style frosted Christmas I also enjoy looking at Mediterranean azure blue seas and white linen clothes in films or photos from my own album and dream of that perfectionist early retirement life. It sets the mood for the year to come. They say a picture tells a thousand words and in looking at these things at the approaching New Year sets most if not all of my fluid resolutions in an instant without the need for a huge unobtainable list in my diary.

Getting that balance of good and bad thoughts are the key to happiness. Keeping the balance and not allowing ourselves to fall in an uncontrollable lilting cycle of dwelling on the bad. It’s a hard thing to get right but once mastered it’s a tool that can be used to ensure we see a balanced view of everything that is happening and have an ability to look for the best way to change our future for the better; even if that means pressing the reset button and starting all over again.

Whatever your outlook is, whether it’s your gender identity or not, have a great Christmas and think about what the possibilities are for the new year coming. It will reward you.

Until next time.

x

A big thank you to all my followers and readers for what will soon be three years of blogging. Without you, the reader, I wouldn’t have a reason to keep writing.

That Winter Chalk

When it was cold, and I mean icy cold, damp clinging to the floor and frost staying all day in the grass in the shadows, it felt christmasy. I actually felt in the mood for Christmas. But then this week the temperature rose and the damp remained in the air along with the thin fog and everywhere seemed to be in the clouds. That Christmasy feeling was replaced by the trudge around shops for Christmas presents with Christmas songs from the 70s and 80s being tinned out and over exposed on the shop floor and everything just seemed a bit stressful. Thankfully I seem to have beeen given a break with the sun beaming through the glass doors in the dining room with an orange glow on the horizon behind the trees lining the local fields with just a spattering of winter chalky clouds.

As I move through December seeing other women wearing those christmasy type clothes, whether it’s warming huggable coats or fun pattern leggings under a skirt, it reminds me that I shouldn’t dismiss the expression through clothing as part of the whole gender thing. We express who we are in how we communicate, how we speak to each other, how we express our body language, our moods – our clothes. It’s all part of the ingredients of what makes us who we are. I think sometimes, since realising a couple of decades ago that the clothes weren’t actually a cross-dressing thing, that I can dismiss it as just a side part of the problem. The reality is that I don’t see these clothes as female clothes, I just see them as mine. Just something that’s enjoyable to wear. Just like anyone I can go through days of preferring a pair of jeans over wearing turn up denim shorts or a skirt day or whatever. Moods and clothes go together, especially with such diversity in female clothing. It also reminds me that I shouldn’t doubt who I am.

We are more than our physical bodies. We are ingredients of a recipe and may be that’s how we should decide our gender. I think Christmas time only magnifies how we feel about gender because some of us are around loved ones and friends. Going about shopping in town and city centres when crowds are even heavier this time of year and if you’re someone who isn’t currently free to wear everything you would like too, then this can constantly be a reminder of things. For some it’s a pressure cooker very slowly coming up to heat. One day it will boil.

When you can’t wear anything when you want there can be times when we just buy stuff for the sake of it trying to make ourselves just feel a bit better in the interim while we sort out who we think we are. A bit like buying cheap jewellery. We know we probably can’t wear it day to day and so it doesn’t seem to make sense to spend proper money on a decent necklace or ring or something. Besides it’s hard for some to fund two wardrobes and so it supposedly allows us to experience these shiny feel-good things for cheap.

The problem is, it makes us feel cheap and unworthy. The cheap tat makes us feel like cheap tat and brings us down, just a little and so the side of our gender that makes us feel better can also conflict and make us feel worse. Sometimes it’s a little better to just do without or save for something special whether you get to wear it much or not. Either that or bring your gender expression to the public and free yourself of these types of shackles.

I’m beyond the cheap tat now. It didn’t take too many mistakes like that to always think about my purchases. I tend to mostly buy things that I can wear when I feel I want or things I know I’ll cherish that make me feel good. The things that make me feel good help me overcome those rainy misty days and see the good that the rain brings rather than how wet my feel have become.

I’ve been so wrapped up in job hunting and colds that I’ve not been running properly for a long while. I miss days where I can run the three miles or so to the lake where only ducks and swans break a slow ripple in the water and the air feels rejuvenating spreading to the branches of my lungs. It’s a spiral that takes some getting out of.

I stop running from time to time because of a cold or some kind of virus that’s going around. My fitness declines a little, I start running again and get another cold. But when I have those weeks or even months where it’s undisturbed by any interruptions I’m in another place. When I’m not running I see other runners in their running clothes running along a river or the coast and feel a part of my ability to express myself, as well as doing some exercise, is actually missing.

I sometimes feel that the amount of meaningful expression does come from the everyday supposed mundane things like running, both the clothes and the freedom. A walk along a long serene beach in the winter seems to sort all of life’s problems within the first twenty minutes or less. I think sometimes we should be able to get a walk on the beach on prescription.

Until next time.

x

Futility

Rain, hail and thunder, it’s done it all today. A change in direction being processed by the universe I expect. The clouds so dark and grey at midday huddling up to each other closely to let out a huge release on us all shouting, “It’s November!” It’s a Friday and I find myself sat in another cafe over a pot of tea, every now and then huge rumbles of thunder being felt running along the floor and up through the chair legs like minor earthquake aftershocks. I finally, after many years of promising myself, started my christmas shopping early. I braved one shop before the cafe with faces of shoppers dull and drawn waiting to be served and staff rushing back and forth in confused state with all their processes of service falling apart. Christmas tunes chiming out of the shops speakers did little to make it feel Christmasy, it was just commercial, industrialised trading of brands and cheap toys being passed in exchange for money or debt; as grey and dull as the sky outside but without joy, art or substance.

During the week I decided, finally, to write back to the GIC. I was a little confused over some of the processes and who I needed to see about what and that blood test that hadn’t been done. I piled it down in some kind of order into a letter to the clinician I’d seen in London when I was there a few months ago, clearly asking what I needed to know. It wasn’t a moan but just so I knew what was what. A short trip to the post office to have the recorded delivery sticker added and it was off. Just an administrative thing that needed to be done so I could get on with things; it was surprisingly positive.

There was something about sending the letter that later on had lifted some weight off me about my uncertainty about where I was. Because I knew that I would likely get answers to the boring stuff it meant I didn’t have to think about it. Within a day the clinician had kindly rung me and spoke to me about what I needed to know one-by-one answering every point I’d had. Things were being sorted out and it wasn’t just how quickly he phoned me back but the understanding that was given had helped me clarify everything; he even spoke about how they might be changing things a little to help those who attend the GIC with these types of queries by giving us information to take away after a session with them.

While the clouds outside are still clustered together and producing the noise of war through the windows and walls of the cafe I don’t feel phased by them. The weather is passing me by because it’s part of the joy of the seasons adding depth to the winter while we go about our lives. It does of course help that I am, to some extent, my own boss and work for who I want when I want and because I have unshackled the way I live from the nine ‘til five to something that is more, well, nine ‘til five during some parts of the year and ten ‘til whenever when I ‘work’ for myself. Shopping for food when I want, taking in the surrounding people of a cafe and making time for those moments ensuring that my life isn’t a week-weekend of binary living. It can be hard because setting my own challenges to make life interesting is a challenge itself. Without that I wouldn’t probably get out of bed except for meals and the other.

Despite the more free living the question is still there. Don’t think for a minute that anything that makes life supposedly easier would make that question about whether the gender thing is the right things to do or the other question of whether it’s real rather than some learnt behaviour, besides, what is learnt behaviour. The problem with the question is that it’s impossible to answer without just accepting who you want to be and I think after acceptance and being then the question is self answered over time, there isn’t a scientific test that will answer it, at least not yet. Even if there was a scientific test a new question would be asked ‘Is the test right?’ Answers to the questions will never be one hundred percent. I find that the constant self questioning is a futile one. There is no winning answer. There will always be a leap of faith involved without huge amounts of evidence that satisfies our curiosity. Some people are able to commit to their change of gender without question. I don’t think this is down to the strength of those feelings though, I think some people are able to just make that leap without the need to question their own decisions – may be some are just inherent gamblers.

I don’t know where things are heading and from time to time just like anyone I have moments of doubt or uncertainty, especially without life that is particularly routine, mundane or monogamous. Restoring some order though and reminding myself of what matters to me goes some way to restoring my path. Whether it’s apparently frivolous things like tidying the house, discovering my favourite clothes again or how I occupy my time and how I ration myself to others, these are all things that can make things clear again.

Until next time.

x