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.

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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

Shards of Chocolate

A wave of the wind became louder as it approached across the top of the forest like the sea rushing towards a beach. A rushing noise getting ever closer echoing in the valley. I pushed the pedals hard to get up the incline that ran on the rubble path through the cutting. Pine trees so dense that pitch-black darkness fell in just a few metres to my side. The middle of a Sunday afternoon of February that just got colder as I climbed in altitude.

There were very little people along this forest path. Only the couple on their romantic walk that I had passed a few minutes ago and the rest that had filled the carpark had gone the other side of the forest. I clicked down a gear again but it was no good. I just couldn’t go any further. The incline had got the better of me; actually it was a mental issue, looking at the length of path in front of me before any sign of levelling out, that had done it. That and the air that was getting colder in the branches of my lungs.

I stopped for a moment to catch my breath and looked back across the clearing in the trees that revealed hilly green fields and wiry oaks dotted in spaces around a farm house in the distance. I looked down at my three quarter length capri trousers and promised those several-inches of legs that I wouldn’t let them get scratched by thorns and sticky-out branches today to be left healing for a few weeks – again.

I walked a few yards on the white gravel pathway and then jumped back on my bike and continued to the top of the forest. I hadn’t been at this part before. It was quieter with what looked like a dry cutting of stream running between a gap in the trees and leaving roots showing bare above the earth. They were bumpy to ride over throwing the handle bars left and right but I pushed on to get to the final bit of day light and a metal gate. For all this pastoral in the distance and wilds of the forest it had become still and solitary.

I unlatched the small metal gate and pulled the bike through. I was free of the darkness of pine but now greeted by cobbles of natural rock running along the barbed wire fence and tufts of grass land before another forest that crept even higher and ever more difficult. The rocks and mud turned to flowing water from a natural spring and now my legs that were one of the few uncovered parts weren’t thanking me for long thin slices of mud dashing my skin.

As the water gave way to a dryer, harder grassy pathway I had finally found myself at the peak. I turned and looked to my side. A bitterly cold hard wind hit me from another valley brushing the tops of the hills harsh where I stood and plunging a wind-chill temperature into minus figures. I turned to the other side, my ponytail now flowing forwards along the side of my face. I saw the land pour downwards until it reached the bottom of the other valley, onwards for several miles and then to a distance grey coastline of England over the sea.

I struggled my bike over a stile into the next field and rode towards the edge of the steep flow and downwards a little out of the hillside to stop for a moment out of the wind. Without the wind the land fell completely silent. Not a single noise. No traffic or birds. Just an open land.

I looked at my calf. A scratch. Great. Alway happens. Always some twig or thorn. I rolled my leg around and examined it. ‘oh and another.’ It could have been worse, I could have really had a nasty fall when I almost lost my balance on those stones coming up that last path. It could have been worse. I had cancelled my next gender clinic appointment just a few days before. But despite the disappointment in myself I thought, well, that could have been worse. The truth was I had so much on my mind at the moment, worrying about money and employment. It wasn’t just about not being able to afford the stupidly long three hundred mile round trip to what is really just a doctors appointment to put it in pigeon holed terms, it was becoming about survival and what next for my life.

Sometimes there really is more to life than the whole gender thing and really, thinking about it, I don’t think I would have achieved much going there this month with everything on my mind. I took a simple selfie last time I was there. Just before the appointment while I was waiting in the park just down the road. I had time to kill and the weather was okay. I took it as a moment for me. It was a significant moment even if it really wasn’t. A silly contradiction that needed some evidence. I would either keep it to remind myself of how far I have come or just delete it. It was only for me.

I came across it the other day by accident and it was coincidence and fait that I found it around the time I was cancelling an appointment. It couldn’t have been better because I had phoned the gender clinic to tell them but the person told me to write-in and gave me an obscured ‘donotreply’ type e-mail address that didn’t inspire confidence in the message getting through, and we all know what happens to a referral if you don’t show without cancelling. I took the side of caution and wrote a letter explaining why I wouldn’t be able to make it and to ask for an appointment later in the year.

I had dropped it at the post office with a recorded delivery, which past experience had taught me well, but had still worried about whether they would take issue with my cancelling. Funding and time is ever so precious to that clinic but that photo – the selfie from last time – it reminded me that this was about me. Not about them or red tape, forms, procedure, box ticking. That might well be the case for them, and I would always do the courtesy of keeping them informed, but this is my life and I have to do things in my time when it suits me, my family, my situation, my everything.

I don’t think it was just that photo that showed me how far I had come. It was also remembering how I felt at that moment. How there was no pretence. It was a serious natural matter I was dealing with and at that moment I was confident about knowing who I was and what my problems were and might well be.

The silence broke with the cry of a Sparrow Hawk. I couldn’t see it but the sound was enough. It was the dusting on a cappuccino. The shards of chocolate on a tiramisu. Up here on the top of the hill that to me was a mountain, these problems just seem so small and down there at home so big. At least at this moment I could enjoy who I was and remember that this was free and the ride back would all be downhill at least.

Until next time.

Hannah x.

Eggs Benedict

I opened the kitchen cupboard and a waft of all the herbs and spices came out in an invisible cloud. Nothing distinct just everything in one big mix. I pulled up the little jars one by one from the second row back. The row of herbs and spices that were used sometimes. Found it – Coriander seeds. I only needed six which I dropped in the mortar bowl and crushed them releasing the fragrance with the pestle. There may have been just a few special ingredients for such a simple meal but I couldn’t work it out – why didn’t I make Eggs Benedict more often?

At least I was going to start one new year’s resolution. I cracked another egg to start the Hollandaise sauce while juggling with grilling a slice of Bacon and trying to work out when to drop the other egg in the pan of hot vinegar-water to poach. It was then I realised it was all such a faff. It seemed to be taking forever and the recipe from the well-known chef said the Hollandaise doesn’t keep so can’t be made in advance and I had to keep it warm and disturb it if the top forms a skin. May be this is why I haven’t done it for so long. I persevered though with positivity that it would be worth while; and it was just that.

The yoke burst just as the photo on the recipe showed with the Hollandaise coating over the top, down the sides of the egg, the bacon, the English muffin and spilling into a seasoned-yellow pool on the plate. The taste combined with all layers, which when you think about it should be just an egg and bacon sandwich with fancy sauce, was out of this world, or at least out of my kitchen. A zing from the acidity of the lemon and vinegar in the sauce against the savoury. It just worked. It was a lesson in one bite. All good things come to those who wait.

I suddenly realised how rushing some things just didn’t achieve what I might be setting out to do. I had taken my time and it might have just been for lunch but the outcome was worth the effort. They say that happiness is not necessarily in the goal but the journey, but in this case it was kind of both. The goal had justified the journey and made that journey more happy than it should have been. I thought for a moment about my journey. My gender journey.

I have an appointment in February at the gender clinic but with my finances now dwindled to just the most important things to survive, like food, bills, rent – taxes, but not all of those particularly important to me, I would have to cancel my appointment. A three hundred mile round trip for an hour with a clinician would just have to wait.

But I really wasn’t that bothered by the thought. I didn’t feel ready. There were so many things that hadn’t happened, at least yet, that we expected to happen by this next appointment that there didn’t seem much point in going into debt for chat in the west of London. Besides, all good things come to those who wait.

All good things – my destination to be happy with my gender; whatever point it might land at. To those who wait – why not wait? I know where I am in that journey and I know I don’t want to be on hold anymore but what is ‘being on hold?’ It’s not progressing and everyday I am progressing. If not in obvious outward ways at least internally and every ounce of internal progression shows externally eventually like water leaking from a sponge. Growing who I am and the unbelievable comfort in who I am that I couldn’t have dreamt that, several years ago, I would feel this way now. How many demons have gone and are locked out forever. A simple meal had made me reflect so profoundly and feel at ease at what I needed to do, just take my time.

– ❤ –

I rolled out the pink and blue mat on the grubby-seasoned oak flooring in the dining room along the patio doors. I moved the plants and table from the window. Shifted the book case. The sun had already set and left the sky destined for midnight blues down to a burnt orange glow behind the sharp silhouette of trees, fencing and the roofs of the other houses.

I was still unable to run due to my injury but things were looking up. I had finished the medication and I didn’t feel too much pain. Things were improving but I needed something to fill that void where I was once de-stressing and finding some mild spiritual thinking time that running had given me; there is only some much you can get out of Eggs Benedict.

I propped the tablet screen against the wall above the skirting at the end of the pink-side of the mat and typed ‘Yoga’ into Youtube. The first result just seemed to be the right one. A pleasant location and basic Yoga, just like I had done at the complimentary class back in the days when I could afford the membership of a gym some years ago. I remembered how it gave me time to myself. It was kind of like switching your mobile phone off and not being able to switch it back on for an hour – all while making my body more supple and staying just a little bit fitter.

Having that time to myself and not being distracted cleared my head. The location in my house with a view of the sky at that time of day just seemed to add more to it. Clearing the space so that I wouldn’t be bumping into things, like I might have in the living room, just made sense. Clearing spaces, clearing the mind. I quickly plaited my hair down my back and tied it off with my beige stretchy ribbon hair tie. The gentle introduction back into Yoga was a gentle reminder of my body and how it felt. Stretching and finding soft limits and what felt right. I surprised myself on how much I could do – it felt good. It felt good to be able to do these things. It felt easier than when I had done it those years ago. There is nothing like staring at dark purple painted toe nails and managing to get my hands flat on the floor. May be all that running last year had paid off. Even my injury felt okay.

The next day I rearranged the dining room so that it would be more easy to set up for another Yoga session by the doors. A vista just seemed like a requirement. May be in the summer I would have both the weather and courage to do it on the decking in the garden. All I had to do now was slide a plant out of the way and roll my mat out. It was cloudy and it was cold out. It was one of those days that just looked still and frozen in grey as if the weather had clamped down and was about to stop time. It might have normally become a negative day for me but it didn’t because I knew I could have time to myself in this part of the house where I would feel clear minded and at one with my body. The weather outside, that frozen grey blanket in the sky, was like watching nature pass by. The yoga felt like it could move that sky. I felt like everything was just how it should be – may be with just one or two minor physical things that just didn’t matter right now. The new year had started and I had three new resolutions to continue, Egg Benedict, Yoga and oneness.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Cotton In The Breeze – A New Year’s Eve Special

The cafe was a mess. Used takeaway cups on tables. Opened sandwich wrappers left unattended for others to clean up. I scrubbed at the cold steel kitchen work surface until it was clean enough to operate on and getting into all the edges and corners. I was detailed in my detailing. I loaded the dish washer to the brim and set it off while I moved onto cleaning the commercial-grade cappuccino machine ensuring every part of this instrument was pristine and free of bacteria.

It was my first day but I was going to remain in the kitchen until it was clean. There is no way this cafe was going to operate before it was thoroughly cleaned and there was no way I would go out onto the shop floor to serve until that was the case. I sprayed at everything and rubbed hard with the cloth. Endless surfaces. Sink, worktop, more brushed-steel machines, a large heavy door fridge. You name it, I cleaned it. It must have been early because the few staff that should be there were not to be seen. Probably wondering why the new person was stuck in the back of the cafe cleaning there rather than clearing the shop floor or opening up.

Eventually I wandered out onto the shop floor and looked at the mess on the tables. ‘Lets get this lot sorted.’ I thought to myself. I wandered in and stacked cardboard cups with brown milky dregs at the bottom, why people had cardboard cups when they drink-in I really didn’t know. May be the price was cheaper. Wrappers cleared and crumbs on every table satisfactorily wiped clear in a circular motion. It was inspiriting.

I wiped another table, I paused for a moment, looked down and noticed. I stood up again and looked to double check. I was a waitress. It was the black skirt that gave it away. Short enough that I knew it was something that would be noticed by others, workers, customers, may be even a friend that might just come in for a latte. I wasn’t going to be able to hide this away. It was pretty obvious who I was presenting myself as and that’s how I would be working. My heart beat increased a little, just for a moment, and then for some reason it was alright again. There was no need to worry. I questioned it for a second, as always, ‘what would people think’ but this time it was answered by something like ‘this is who I am, let’s carry on. Just another day’ and that is what I did.

It was some kind of branded coffee shop I think, Costa may be, but just as messy as a Starbucks, unusually set somewhere in a small town or village in the countryside. The Cotswolds may be. It could have been Surrey. Quiet – no city noise. I had woken but it had stuck like few dreams do. It was vivid and saturated in bright clear colours. It had felt so real and honest.

I had felt so at ease working at a job that had satisfaction and it felt stress free and then like adding a dash of salt to finish the seasoning of a cooking meal the dream threw in a little gender thing. It’s so rare I have a dream that addresses the feminine side so vividly but when it does happen it doesn’t ever seem to argue against or challenge my gender choice internally, it’s just sort of honest and clear of problems. Besides, was it really a choice or just a self-acceptance? No judgment, sometimes nervousness followed by it’s all okay, carry on.

– ❤–

“Go get it then, Madam.” my Mum said before a cognitive pause, “Sir.” she said correcting herself as I got up to get something or other from the living room. I don’t even remember what it was I was doing, it was the madam bit I’d remembered from a day over the Christmas week – and then on New Year’s Eve, standing in the kitchen while my Mum was talking to my Dad, something along the lines of “oh she was just… he was just saying…” Mum said stumbling over the he bit. A brain freeze, genuine mistake, a slip of the tongue because she knows a little already about the gender thing, but not a testing-the-water thing.

They’re silly little things and I don’t grab onto them anymore like little trinkets of validation but when they happen it is a little insight into what things could be like. I imagine the reality would be a mix of pronouns bouncing between the masculine and feminine much like how parents mix the names their children in conversation. Any use of he, him, man wouldn’t be nonvalidation, it would just be years of habitual use, but every her would be worth ten of him.

– ❤–

The morning started dark as I woke at something-past-seven. The sky slowly turning grey as the hidden sun rose and every now and then a crackle of rain hitting the window hard in gusts of the breeze. Only blessed with a hint of sun early afternoon when a break of blue sped above my parents home on New Year’s Eve. It was like the world was saying, you’re going to have to be patient for a clear and spiritual new year and, while a lovely blue crisp day would make me feel better from the start about the coming year, all I needed were words to know what should happen next. Those new year resolutions.

I don’t like to put big hard resolutions with unrealistic expectations where a black ballpoint pens the words so hard they can be read by indentations on several pages of that brand new diary. A soft blue pen with curves on the rounded letters is just so much more appropriate and a produce of my feminine side. May be I should write something down in my new diary I had for Christmas. I have ideas. Some obvious like finding a new job that doesn’t just pay to keep expensive me but something I enjoy and really care about; whether that’s a new career or fore-filling my literal dream of working in a cafe in a Rachel Green countenance, without thinking about it, is another matter.

Progressing myself as a pianist, a word I use loosely, is an obvious one that goes without saying just as getting my injury sorted and getting back to running for fitness and the community spirit that goes with it. All good for mental health. Eggs Benedict. For some reason I want to make that again, important enough to put it down on a new year resolution.

I want change. I want changes that benefit my mental health and my spiritual health. I want to clear parts of my house with things in storage that will lift weight off my shoulders and hoard less deferring memories to photos rather than silly little receipts or flyers. Rid of those things kept because I might need them one day. Clean kitchen, a clean mind.

I should go to the beach more in the winter when it’s devoid of tourists, rich in ozone, sea salt air and optimism rather than just a few times here and there. Miles of dark golden sands and a long tide that reveals wide open spaces and closes to dramatic crashing waves on the rocks. I sometimes forget how lucky I am.

Continue a progression towards bringing everything gender to a centre ground and feel that freeness and freshness when I’m who I want to be, inside and out. Plus, in typical NYE fashion, loose a little weight I’ve gained since not being able to run and stuffing ones face with mince pies; my clothes do not like this.

I want to be more read. I still have a little passion for learning and expanding my knowledge in so many ways. I want to be awake and I want every minute count without feeling anxious about the minutes that aren’t counting. I wish for a clouds to disperse, in their own time, and continue my journey.

Until next year.

Happy New Year.

Hannah x

– ❤–

A Thank You

I started this blog in March 2014 and with a comparatively small but loyal following, I would like to thank you the reader for taking your time to read what I have to write and to all those who took the trouble to write a few lines to me either personally or through the comments and more so on other websites; without this I would not be coming up to four years of writing. Thank you!

Also a thank you to the following websites, Angels Forum, Nutty Cats and last but certainly not least T-Central for both listing my blog but also on more than a few occasions making my blog entries the feature article with such kind words. It means a lot.

t-central.blogspot.co.uk
nuttycats.uk

J’adore Le Feu De Bois – A Christmas Special

There was no sparkling settled snow on pine trees. No dark quiet forest that would enchant the week before Christmas. That was for those north of the snow line. It was raining and a quieter than normal Wednesday while most were still in work and I was able to finish all my Christmas shopping, put a line under it, and not be landed with a building anxiety of unbought presents.

I walked through the department store into a cloud of different scents of perfume and eau de toilette. Bustling with people being talked into purchasing sizes of bottles that would. by two thirds of the bottle spent, become tired and boring or stale. A bottle of perfume caught my eye and I was instantly curious because I’d remembered the shapely clear bottle that was necked with a set of gold wire-like rings and the woman on the advert that had been on the television for months walking across a lake wearing a thin dress with hints of gold flowing in the breeze that tried to convince that ‘you too could be as free as we’re trying to make out’; and it certainly worked. The bottle widening to the bottom with it’s contents like being held in the palm of the hands and presenting it’s whiskey-like copper liquid in an almost elixir of life beyond water. The top like a stopper formed like a decanter top. Inviting, understated and rare – despite it being sold in the millions.

I picked up the bottle and looked around it but placed it back on the shelf. An assistant seemed to appear from nowhere much like the assistant in Mr Ben but much more pounced in a pushy sales tactic. “Did you get to try it?” she asked without as much as a ‘hello, can I help.’

“Er, yes.”, I hadn’t. I don’t even know why I said yes other than some panic reaction that would be the quickest way to move her on. I hadn’t any intention of buying any being short on money and just wanting to see the price out of curiosity for the future.

“So we have this size which is seventy pounds – ” already I knew this was going to be more than just expensive, it was the up-sell about to come, “and we have a special offer on the one hundred millilitre at…”

She didn’t need to finish. My mind had already switched off from what she had been saying because my eyes had locked already locked onto the top shelf where the largest box stood behind the glass door with a mediocre lock. One hundred pounds.

It’s not just the price. I have refined tastes, usually, which also means expensive tastes but even so the size of the bottle if it was that big would feel indulgent and may be even a little crass. That said, if someone gave it to me, I’m hardly going to complain. I would probably just have to use it twice as often. This is unlikely to happen.

“OK, thanks, that’s great.” I said kindly but nudging her away with words and slowly shifting down the banks of other perfumes pretended to look at others and hoping to escape. Her pushy tactic had turned me off any interest and I wasn’t planning on buying. It was a future pin in the board and all I wanted to do was seal or release my interest. I didn’t even get to smell it and now I didn’t even want to. I would leave it until another time. A retail therapy markup in my new year’s resolution diary for when I did have the money. Besides, this was yet another distraction from allowing me to actually get my Christmas shopping done, today. I moved on.

I walked up the wide staircase, the banister thick dark glossy wood, heavy and robust, and squarely turning back on itself to the upper floor. The heat held in by shelves full like a condensed forest in the form of books. Insulated and sound deadening and why people tend to talk a little hushed I don’t know. A hangover from how we used to behave in a library – which these days is a noisy place full of chatter and foreign exchange students leaching internet access to call home. I pulled a book from the shelf. A potential present.

I opened to a random page and the smell of ink on the page hit me. Unmistakable new book smell. I opened to the inside column of the front cover of the hard back to read the introduction. I suddenly felt an excitement inside. That new feeling you get when you start something new. May be starting an exciting new job, joining a new group of people of something that interests you or taking a holiday in a new place, it was the same. It was partly a feeling of wanting to read books again that I had taken a break from since the last time I went on holiday. It was also the possibility of what it might be like to be a writer. Successful, may be not, but just to have my words in print suddenly felt like something I would like to do. A feeling I’d had before but reignited by a match in the form of a description of an author. ‘An author.’

Not about riches, though that would be nice, not even about a face on the back cover or the inner sleeve but my own words for others to read and if not enjoyed but something to think about or to allow a strangers mind to imagine. It was a complicated feel of what could happen but it was also a simple feeling of doing something that mattered. Food for thought.

I closed the book and bought it. I came away with a present for someone and a reignition of motivation. I didn’t know where it would lead, if anything, but it solidified what was important and that was the words. On the way out I spotted a book that had been on sale last year for twenty pounds and now available on the bargain table for three pounds. The reality.

The reality didn’t really matter anymore because that wasn’t the dream and that last day of Christmas shopping did as much for me, my future and state of happiness as it did for the short term feeling of not having to worry about finding any last minute presents. The bottle of perfume and realising it wasn’t a contrived notion of femininity, it was just something I wanted and the book and it’s ability to light a fire inside about expressing myself in words and having it on paper was just as instinctual and innate.

And so I returned home where the only twinkle of snow on pine trees was the ice white lights on the Christmas tree shining out from the shadows of the living room barely lit by the dull winter light struggling to get through rain clouds. But with the tree and it’s razor-sharp lights reflecting in the gloss black paint of the piano and a warm mince pie on a plate, there was a little of that Narina type Christmas approaching.

This Christmas Eve would have been nice by an old log fire in an equally old typically British cottage pub with someone special but at home with a-glass-of-something and a supply of romantic films would do just fine for now.

I feel in a good place about myself and my well-being. I might not have made as much progress as I want, and when is that never the case, but I feel at one with who I am right now – and that’s probably the best Christmas Present I could ever have.

Until next time.

Merry Christmas x

Regression

The opening of eyes in the morning of a Saturday. Slipping on those clothes that trigger the happy response that psychologists and self-help gurus like to talk about. Capris, a T, fingerless gloves if it’s frosty and slipping on crisp running trainers, pulling the laces taught and pulling back my hair to a high ponytail. The sun glimmering just behind the trees and the smell of rich petrol after starting the car.

The running was two-fold positive. It was endorphin generating and a public place and gathering to be a little more me. Me time early on a Saturday. The murmur of a smallish gathering of like-minded people of all ages chatting happily, some stretching and warming up alone, sometimes an actor spotted keeping themselves to themselves because like me it was a place to be themselves without breaking a fourth wall between fiction and reality. Unbothered by others.

The feeling of cool air around my legs between the tops of my ankle socks and the bottom of my running trousers. The inspiring talk of a run group leader before the go and then the pulling of the ground as my trainers grip on tarmac and loose stones. Deciding how I will pace my breathing and how fast I should be running to survive the miles as I pass others and others pass me.

The half way mark when I realise I have to do it all over again and the last third where I wonder what the hell I was thinking doing this distance again and trying to make sure I push myself but not so much that I will throw up like the few I have seen. The last 200 metres. Do I do it now. I can see the small group of volunteers at the end but I can’t hear them yet. If I go now will I peter-out? That’s enough past the 200 meter sign, just go. I push hard taking in unfeminine deep breaths. Everything in sync, legs, muscles, heart, chest, arms – hair!

Then to a stop. Trying to catch every life-giving breath leaning over until I feel I can stand straight without going all fuzzy and collapsing. Trying to fumble with a zipper to pull out my time card and hand it to a time keeper while trying to put together ‘thank you.’

The elation. The realisation. ‘Ah, that’s why I keep doing it.’ It’s a natural human endorphin drug and that’s the happiness and good mental health. That and being with other like-minded people. The morning. The air. The taste of fresh water that suddenly never tasted so good and to top it off to wear a few things that make me – me.

I miss it. A minor injury with enough pain to stop me doing it for weeks that have turned to months. I miss the feel good factor. I miss getting up especially for it each Saturday and I miss looking forward to it in the week and trying to run between and just get a few seconds off my time. The rush of happiness and elation after it. Doing something good for me and being me.

Such a small thing with huge effects. It’s like a taster of real-life as it might be should I do something about that gender thing. More importantly what it does for my well being. Not just fitness but everything in my head. I feel so much more grounded. Reset each week. Something to live for. Empowering and worthwhile. No cost.

In the meantime it’s been about finding little things to get through while I haven’t got it. I always wondered if it would happen to me, some kind of sports injury where I would be out of it for a while and there it came. I got desperate last week. The tablets had been working and coming to the end of them I thought I would be at the end of the injury. It felt so good to get dressed up ready to run. Out of the house and through the houses. ‘I’ll even try a new route for a change’ I thought. But not much more than two minutes in and the pain returned, even with the pain killers. I pushed through and completed a whole circuit but knew it was wrong to continue. Like some kind of addict I had regressed.

I was disappointed rather than elated and just a bit frustrated. I know I’ll be back to it in the future but its at times like these I remember how much I got out of it and much like gender identity, looking back at what I was and where I am now, whether or not I progress anymore there is little inside me to return to masculinity, if there ever was any?

I can’t imagine what I would go back to anyway. What was it, when I didn’t come to terms with some of the gender traits and expressions, that made me different to now. Are they just frivolous things that I would have a hard time figuring out what they were with little more than photographs. But it’s beyond just external appearances and expressions. It’s also about what it feels like inside and feeling that little bit more at one. Who needs the past? Lets leave it for the photographs.

Until next time

Hannah x

How Could I Ever

It was a party. The music loud. Worse a shirt that fitted, but didn’t fit. You know – that awkwardness of knowing you just don’t feel you should be wearing it. At least I got to wear my jeans. I thought for a moment, looking around at all my family and their friends, some talking deep in conversation and laughing, others dancing in front of the DJ, I thought for that moment how could I ever go through with re-adjusting who I was on the outside and feel comfortable amongst all these family, friends and friends of friends that I didn’t know. How could I feel able to sit there without my stomach taught with concrete anxiety paralysing me in every way. This wasn’t just about what I might be wearing if I were to change my outward gender, it was feeling comfortable that people weren’t looking and may be saying to each other “oh yes, thats the one.”

But then I thought again about how I felt now, sat here in a shirt that even thought it’s nice and worn with as much femininity as can possibly be managed, I’m still in that mens shirt, I’m still the uncle, the brother – the son. It doesn’t matter who has suspicions right now or who might think I’m feminine for a male, that’s still how I’m being perceived and at this moment I am feeling that exact concrete feeling in my guts, the paralysis throughout that makes me just feel uncomfortable. Like the metaphorical shirt just doesn’t fit. Pulling my body to be shaped a different way. Anxiety. If I’m going to be anxious anyway then why not pick one of the two genders that I’ll be most comfortable during most of the days of my life and live.

That night at that celebration party I’d felt I’d lost. I’d lost the ability to be confident in the direction my gender might take, a direction that I can just get on with things and something in the back of my mind that would slowly grow and come to the fore, was going to be defeated.

I woke the early the next morning despite the late return home from the party the night before. The sun hadn’t quite risen with just a dull glow seeping through the fabric of the curtains. I pulled them open a few inches. The trees lining the top of the near by hill with silhouetted against pale blue and dark ocean grey clumps of cloud and a hint of yellow and the quiet of a Sunday 7am. The new day and a fresh stillness of the morning, and the possibility that I was one of few to be up at that time, had made me feel a warmth. A cosiness of pulling on some jogging carpi’s and a pull-over. A comfort of femininity was still there. It was the opposite of the night before. I felt it didn’t matter who would know and a sense of genuineness and authenticity.

It really did feel genuine. It felt right. Calm. Just there. It may just be clothes but it seems to be a sum of it’s parts. The recipe of ingredients. I lent back on the sofa, looked at the ceiling and ran my fingers through my clean dark hazel hair that is as long as it has been for such a long time and I felt a need to plait it out of the way. Just another small thing of running fingers through my hair felt refreshing and felt like just another one of the ingredients.

– ❤ –

The week passed quickly and once again I woke to the comfort of the duvet and a dull light. After socialising twice and having to take most of Friday to recover from Thursday, friends and drink, an early night and morning seemed refreshing both physically and spiritually. I got out of bed and split the curtains to be drained of stress and further enlightened by the horizon of trees with golden sunlight just below tinting several interleaving clouds and a hint of a pale wash of blue above. The tops of the wooden fencing dusted with snow and white crystallised within the grass. Early enough that the powder coat of snow on the roofs of houses and garages had not melted from central heating. Stick a Robin on the fence and you’d have had a Christmas card.

I love those moments when I am up early enough to see the beginning of a new day with the quiet of the morning and love myself for doing so rather than pulling that duvet up higher and drifting off a little more. I decided to enjoy an hour or two of that wake up with a cup of Earl Grey and some breakfast and find time to go and see my Mum.

We sat over a table of cups and a cafe desert treat in the busy and noisy town coffee machine and talked about anything and everything. Allow my Mum to vent and me to listen. I always thought if I was ever going to tell her about the gender thing it would probably be there. I don’t know if it would be the right place or the right moment. It was just a place I’d chosen – in my head. It was a place we both feel comfortable and talk about our lives and share stuff. I even thought about it at that moment. Thoughts passing through my head, ‘would this the moment.’ Would she be talking about something her friend had said and then in a break of the conversation I would broach the subject, or even just say it, or would I have to wait until we were roughly already talking about thing related to gender even if it was just about something vaguely feminine. Did feminine really need to be the subject, it’s certainly not the whole story. How do I casually mention a few decades of gender identity.

I suppose if I decide that time should come then its as good a place as any.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Femininity or Female

Femininity, he said, is part of the ego. He was talking about Carl Jung the psychiatrist, and it was obvious that my psychologist had taken some of his expertise from one of the fathers of psychiatry. The point was that people have both the masculine and feminine and even though this was a few years ago that I’d had my sessions with him, it had stuck with me. What was the cut off point? I mean when you think about it where was the border where I am a male with more feminine traits than most or so much so that I am, when it comes to gender, female with a male body.

It was a bit of a get-out clause to some extent. I could just say to myself the ‘easiest way to get through the whole gender thing was to just accept that I am male with female traits’ so much so that it would affect who I am, what I like, what I wear and how I interact – but then there is always that remaining something. That little thing that says I’m not completely comfortable in my body. It’s not just about lipstick and dresses, it’s about how I feel in myself. In my own skin. That little something extra that says it’s not just about being male who is much more the female than male.

I drove to the local hospital. The local mental health unit as I had done over the last three or so years but now it was an appointment with a psychiatrist who was random as far as I wouldn’t remember who he was. It wasn’t like when I had first been attending where we would explore who I was. At least that was the case with the psychologist. Since then I had been with the gender identity clinic in London but locally they still needed to see me. To, sort of, support me but more so to tick those boxes to ensure the money spent in funding my referral to London was being well spent I suppose.

I sat in the waiting room with the receptionist who was tapping away at the keyboard and daytime television beaming out from a television hung on the wall to keep us entertained. Within a few minutes a woman had burst out from the corridor exclaiming to the receptionist ‘he’s given me the wrong medication.’ The psychiatrist followed calmly to reception. ‘He gave me someone else’s address.’ she continued, “Go on, ask him what my address is.”

‘I just asked you to confirm your address and then you called me an arse hole.’ he said calmly clarifying the situation.

The receptionist had looked at me briefly in a kind of sorrow and apology with just a short glance.

It didn’t matter that this was holding up my appointment. I felt relaxed. I felt that anything I could do to help, no matter how small, would make me feel better for it. I felt like my attendance was just a box-ticking exercise. A counter signature on the cheque that was funding my further referral for help.

After some frustration the psychiatrist asked the patient to leave the premises while asking the receptionist to call someone to ‘escort her off the premises.’ She left on her own terms.

It was sad that someone who was a patient had to be ejected from help through her own frustrations. Those frustrations that I suspected had come from the pressures of her own life and problems that were redirected to the psychiatrist. The receptionist apologised to me for the wait, “He shouldn’t be too long.”

“That’s ok – ” I said, “Let him have a coffee and take five minutes.”

“I think he’ll need something stronger.” she said.

It wasn’t long before I was in one of those three consultancy rooms that I had so many deep and meaningful discussions in the past about the depths of life, gender, relationships and the soul. It was crazy to think about some of the discussions I’d had with the psychologists in the past that were ripe for dissecting at a lecture of psychology.

I sat at the metal framed office chair next to his desk and updated him on my progress. I knew more than he did. The gender clinic in London had continued to update my GP more than him and the mental health unit and this continued to annoy them as the gatekeepers of funding. Despite the utilitarian expectation of the session we chatted. It came down to this, was I going to move on with my gender, tell people, live the role, be myself, or was I still unsure. As he said, if I wasn’t making progress then the gender clinic would just keep booking appointments and money would be spent. It wasn’t pressure to do something, but it was more a suggestion that if I wanted to do something about my gender, then I needed to do it; I needed to do it now.

It wasn’t a deep discussion but on the way home it ran around my mind, femininity or female? Did I really need to keep going with this or could I just be happy with being that certain percentage of the female side of me and not needing to be anything more whether psychical or just mentally. I remembered the beauty in the conversation I’d had with the psychologist all that time ago describing how males can have both the masculine and feminine side and I thought, for that moment, did I really need more than this. Did I really need more than I have right now?

The rain hammered down on the windscreen of the car on the way home and even thought it wasn’t that far home I had thought so much in that short journey. Doubt and fear. I felt myself reclining and reversing my the beliefs in myself. I thought back to all the progress I had made, the last six months, the last three years and how I had to believe in my own cause. The cause of progress to what I wanted in myself.

A few days later, late evening about eleven thirty, I looked at the sky and saw the stars sharp and contrasting against the darkness. It was that cold that even after stepping out of the house you knew that within a few minutes the cold would reach your bones and chill you through. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness more stars appeared and the sky became that glorious wonder of pin points where we were all made and that deepest depth of the unknown wonder that makes us realise how short our own time is and how selfishness in who we want to be is so important. It reminded me of that core feeling. That knowing that something about gender is beyond just the masculine and feminine. It’s a need. A need to be. Much like those stars, nebula and galaxies. I don’t know where it comes from and why. I just know it is.

Until next time.

Hannah x