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.

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4 thoughts on “New Year’s Eve Special – Cropped Socks and the Orange Solitude

  1. It’s always lovely to hear you articulate so well what I’d like to express. Thank you Hannah. It’s seems like you’re quite comfortable and have found your transquilibrium.

    Sara x

  2. Enjoyable and thoughtful as always Hannah x Thank you for sharing. It’s good to hear you’re keeping up with the exercise routine.
    x Debs x

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