Permission to Shiver – A Five Year Anniversary Special

I sat in the cafe, noisy and busy. A cheap coffee in front of me that was just about this side of dish water and the right side of a pound coin to make it worth drinking. An upstairs view across the housing of the west of the city and a table full of runners – post run. It had been damp and the rows of charcoal grey old tiled roofs were drying in the wind that had hit us head on that morning. I hugged my cup with the rest of my comfort from a delicious chocolate muffin that stood off-centre on the plate.

Five years. Five years since I started writing about my thinking and looking back at my first I wouldn’t have said back then, that right now I’d be sitting amongst other runners while wearing the long running tights that I’d always wished I could wear and a high ponytail without feeling anxious and fraught with butterflies and too afraid to move. It makes me wonder where I’ll be in the next five years. I sat there, which today happened to be with the other women, and listened to the conversation.

“My fingers are sooo cold still.” Karen said clenching her fingers. She hadn’t even been running this week, helping out marshalling the course; standing around, still, can be even more freezing than an oncoming wind.
“Try this.” said Lea, handing Karen a small rectangle material hand warmer. Lea was an older women of a generation above. Karen took the hand warmer and clasped it between the palms of her hands.
Beth jumped into the conversation from across the table, loud and coarse, “You know she’s been keeping that warm on her fanny.” Lea smirked embarrassed and shy. This was Beth all over, this was a girls conversation, just as much as men’s conversation can be similar female chat can be just the same with just some slight differences. People of different genders might be different, but we’re not that different.

It hadn’t been the first time. The week before about four of us were milling around at the end of the run doing stretches to warm down, or cool down depending on which way you like to argue. One of the younger women was lunging, stretching her legs out long and low. Someone mentioned, “That’s a great stretch that is, I’ve heard about that.” Beth cut in, “Great for stretching yer fanny.”
We laughed, I felt I had to ask, “I don’t think it’ll help stretch mine.”
“Good for your balls.” she replied. Great.

I think about how things have changed from five years ago and also what I have achieved. One of those things is what I’ve buried. Not my male past but actually part of my female side, or at least a part of the experience of finding my way along my gender. Back in the early days I had started meeting similar people in another city. A chance to get out at night and experience part presenting as what I felt people needed to see. I’ve talked about it at length many times and the definition, as my friend Sarah had said, was those nights out were just an extension closet. I hate the word closet used for talk of gender issues but it clearly, succinctly, defined the limits of what those nights were. They were of limited progress, great for building confidence, but it wasn’t real. It wasn’t real life. It was a fancy dress party without the fancy dress.

What I had done over the proceeding years, since I had stopped meeting with those friends of circumstance, is talk about it to put it in the past. When I had stopped all that I had left was a hole in my life and in part of my social calendar. All that excitement and enjoyment had gone. Take away something so strange as a double life, sort of, and there would be a gap. As time went on I could feel that need slip away and the reality of my gender thing was there and needed to be dealt with. Writing about those nights out really helped to put it to bed and away forever.

I remember my last night out. It was kind of a one-more-time thing after I hadn’t seen some of my friends for quite a while. We went to this odd pub just outside of the city centre. “It’s a great place.” Sarah said trying to be reassuring in case she thought I’d bottle it and not want to go. “People dress in all sorts, Vagabonds and Beggars this week I think.” It was a strange place. It encouraged people to dress in a way that was out of the norm. They had a small stage area near the door with a few stage lamps creating sharp shadows and a spot for performers. The acts were odd, poetic without the poetry and it was so left-field you could have put cows in it and call it a farm. Despite Sarah’s excitement at going and her wife for company we didn’t stay there as long as I thought we would. Before long we were onto another pub where we sat in a beer garden in what should have been a warm summer night but the coolness would get to your legs in no time.

This is an absolute example though of not real life. It may have been an extremely straight bar but it had the thing about a dress code of dressing in far out ways that it was giving me the pass to dress how I wanted but all I wanted was to dress the way I want and be accepted as normal, in everyday life, not be given permission to do so. This was not everyday life, as enjoyable and a bizarre place it was. While I have the memory of that time in my life and it wasn’t all bad, I’m happy that its now over ten years behind me.

In the last five years I have told a counsellor, doctor, psychiatrist and physiologist about the gender thing. The counsellor was the hardest one to tell. I had only been going for stress and depression. When the first session ended, which I found so helpful, I remember thinking on the way home how mad I was at myself for not saying that I was transgendered. I could have kicked myself. I had bottled it. Looking back now though I needn’t had been so hard on myself. It was probably one of the biggest moments for me because when I did eventually tell her at the beginning of the next session it made talking about it so much easier in the future.

I’m still not quite where I want to be but may be where I want to be isn’t quite so far as I think. Writing though can be one of the best parts of self-help therapy. I would recommend it to anyone whether it’s on the web or in a paper diary in your top bedside draw. I thank all those who take to the trouble to write to me, you the reader, while there aren’t many public comments I receive private messages and comments on forums all the time. If you weren’t reading then this would also likely be on paper in my top draw. So thank you for reading regularly and coming back. Also a thank you to T-Central, a blog directory that have kindly given me feature place on a number of occasions that without I wouldn’t have quite so many visitors and for the kind words of Calie. There are many well written blogs there. Lastly to my RL friends. You know who you are.

Thank you for reading.

Until next time

Hannah x

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Outgrow

It flickered sharp blue, lilac, ice white and pink randomly. I watched that star for a moment as it captivated me as it always does. Two stars entwined with each other and burning bright for more time than we could ever imagine bound by some unimaginable force. It was the one thing I didn’t have at the moment was that bond with someone in that same binary way. At that moment, though, I was content. I also had a bit of a cold and even though going to bed a little early I was in doubt that I would be at a running event in the morning.

I woke early. Too early. Twenty past five showed on the clock when I whacked the top for the time to light up, looking with heavy eyes half open. I groaned and pulled myself under the blanket to hide from the ice outside and the sun that would be turning that black sky a dark blue hinting at the day to come. Nothing more than drifting became of my duvet cover antics and I was soon opening the curtains with a sharp day of minus temperatures and the possibility of wearing my new running tights.

Within half an hour I was parked up and walking to the start of the run event that sits on one edge of the city amongst some green scrub land. It’s a fresh walk to the start. A time to acclimatise to the fresh air and to enjoy those new long running tights that keep me just warm enough and to add a little more feeling myself for once. I thought about those stars the night before.

It has been over a decade since I have had a proper relationship. One part of the wholegender thingis, once that relationship had ended from the realisation that it just wouldn’t work, unless I’d had unlimited confidence that was completely blind to any fears then going into another relationship was just so unlikely but also self for-filling. Even more telling, right now, was whether I actually wanted one.

Sure I misshaving that person at home to share everything with, eating together, enjoying hobbies, watching the tv together, going places and enjoying the indoors and outdoors, but when I think about it, think what it would mean after all this time it would be just as much as an upheaval to my life and my home. It sounds really defeatist and selfish but thinking about it, it runs much deeper.

There is always the worry of having to go through the whole tellingonce again with someone new and whether it will be a problem for them personally. After all transgender in the wider understanding is still relatively new. But may be these are just blockades being erected by myself to stop me having to go to the effort of working for a relationship. The reality though is a little more simple. Relationships seem to just spark when you meet someone and if something is going to happen it will just happen naturally. When I think about some of the people I meet at running events and socialise with them, anyone who is likely to take an interest in me, and if I were to take an interest in them, it would be pretty obvious by the way I dress and present myself that something is different. Either that someone is going to guess from the outset or they’ll not be quite sure and when they’re told the reaction would probably be more just “oh – right.” A bit like the reaction of the first counsellor I told about my gender identity issues.

My morning walk so pleasant. Other people going to the same place for the same reason to run and wake up for the weekend. I may have a bit of a cold but that softened to the background by the thought of running once again. Every footstep was more meaningful and exciting than ten taken on every other ordinary day.

It had been an odd week because out of the blue I had two social media friend requests from two separate people. Neither of which I had seen, in person, in about twenty years and neither of which had, until this week, made any attempt to get in touch. One from my school days and another from my university days. The person from my schools days was someone I had long since left behind many years ago. We’d briefly been in touch a few years ago via the internet but they left social media with me feeling used. They’d asked me for advice and once I gave it, they silently disappeared without so much of a thank you.

The other I had been forewarned about by a friend I still keep in touch with. She had told me how this person had been going through some kind of bad patch and was only now contacting each and every one of her old friends. “I doubt she would get in touch with me, christ it’s been what, twenty years?” I said thinking this was not going to be any issue for me.
“She even contacted Kim.”
“Kim! Christ, I thought they’d fallen out?” I said, “besides, Kim moved to Italy didn’t she?”
I was still unconvinced that she would contact me, but sure enough a friend request came along just a day or so later.

What struck me though was my thoughts hadn’t gone towards wondering if I were to end up in conversation with them whether I would one day tell them about my identity and what they would think; after all there is nothing more potent about wanting to impress of our life successes than a ghost from my school past. Neither did I feel the need to contact them and feel the need to offer my generous help if they needed it.

They were both people from my past that had passed. They were people who had naturally drifted away from me and my feelings about them as friends had long gone. When these occasions come up, rarely I might add, when people from my past that were a negative influence on me I no longer feel the need to go a mile for them.

I briefly compare them and the effect they might have on being in my life with what my life is now and what it means to me. The times I spend with myself exploring new places or the run I’m about to attend with new people I socialise, with similar interests in activities that make us feel good about ourselves. If they were to find out about my identity then may be I would just feel proud about it, but it wouldn’t change how much I would want them to be a part of my current life. The thing about getting older, moving on, progressing our lives in every way and not just our gender identity, we change, we move on, we outgrow some people just as they outgrow ourselves.

Until next time,

Hannah x

At Least For Now

The rain beat against my face. It wasn’t hard or particularly soaking me but September had started to make my fingers so cold they felt like clay only moving slowly. My knees with a little pain and the cold contracting my leg muscles that I felt I just had no energy to run. Being amongst other runners on a rainy Saturday morning just felt better than staying in bed, at least the alarm clock had woken me from a particularly disturbing dream on the border of a nightmare that had got the better of the quality of my sleep; socialising with other runners, despite the cold, was just where I wanted to be.

It was only twenty or so minutes before that I had been standing at the hand drier in the cafe toilets trying to dry my hands in a time that would mean the would be dry by at least lunch time by rubbing them in all sorts of random motions which appeared to just spread the water around my hands and between my fingers. The door opened and a man stood there, looked briefly at me standing their at the dryer, three quarter length running capris and a light coloured hoodie pull-over with my hair in a pony tail, “Sorry – I… must have the wrong…” he said while turning to the gender sign on the toilet door and then seemed frozen on the spot while his logic conflicted with his eyes and remained paralysed as to whether leave or not.

‘It’s happened again.’ I thought at that moment, ‘Oh, let’s make it easy for him.’ The single cubical within the toilet was locked, “It’s locked, I think someone is in there.”
“Oh, thanks.” he said in a sort of way that seemed to make him think, ‘that should make sense so it probably does.’ I decided damp hands were better than wet hands and left making it much easier for him to enter without feeling some kind of worry about whether he really was going into the right toilet.

From time to time it will happen and usually when that door opens I at least try to stand side on rather than the back of my head which just shows long hair which feels like it might be an even worse way of making someone feel awkward or feeling they’ve come into the wrong toilet – but what I have really noticed is it’s happening more often.

Why when in recent years, as I age, I feel that I’m loosing my feminine traits, apart from my hair, and probably feel I don’t come across as female so often that this is happening more? It’s simple I suppose. As I’ve become a little more confident I’m wearing the things I want to wear and as I’ve become more comfortable with that then that confidence shows outwardly. They do say that people who want to appear as the opposite of their ‘birth gender’ fare better when they take an attitude of just getting on with things. I think that is what’s happened here and did it creep up on me how often.

I tried taking in the big breaths I needed to try and get my legs working against the cold but for some reason, today, they just didn’t want to work that hard but still the bushes passed me by as did the tarmac path and I passed runners who’d started way to fast and faster runners passed me as usual and I was still glad to be there. It is one of the few things I have in my life right now.

When I compare to what I had before I told my girl friend all those years ago I guess things are just different. It’s a hard comparison because I am now older. Nearly twenty years older since I met Maddie. It was two years into our relationship when I told her and at the time, while one of the most difficult things I’ve ever said, it was also a huge unloading for me but also a big switch in the direction of our futures and a terrible weight for Maddie to take on. We may have stayed together several years more but the inevitable happened.

History has happened and what we have both done since then is play our lives out in a way that wasn’t as we’d planned; she married, I didn’t. Sometimes I can think ‘what if’ but I rarely think about it now because it’s so far on that may be things could have been worse from some terrible fate.

Despite this it is hard not to feel some guilt about not being completely the person who Maddie thought I was and our mapped out future was suddenly broken. There are times I feel like I was the Vince Pinner to Penny Warrender, while I didn’t stand Maddie up at the altar, telling her that I had gender problems was as good as not turning up to the church in its impact. Over a decade on though, as our lives took their own directions and that split of our relationship and how we have moved onI find myself feeling like Emily in Hampstead. Stuck amongst the memories decaying around me and not replacing them quick enough with new warm meaningful days and people.

I sprinted the last few yards with anything I could find and the standing water flicking up off my trainers up my uncovered calves. As I paced through the finish line and stumbled to a halt, bending over trying to catch my breath and hoping not to have to catch volumes of sick, I realised that at least I had people like these in my life. I have my friends, I have my close friends, and I have my running friends. May be it’s enough, at least for now.

Shelter For Woodlice

The wood sat in a pile on the decking like it had for the last year since I had foraged it. Thin twigs for kindling, some thin branches to get things going and a few big logs for the duration. In the darkness they sat there getting dampened by the fine pouring relentless rain unused when all I could think of was the popping and crackling of the warm reds and yellows of the flames in the chimenea that would have been nice for a Saturday night.

Instead I had kept the wood there in a nice pile saving it for the right night but of course all I had done is left it there for a year providing a shelter for woodlice and missing every opportunity to actually sit in front of the fire because ‘just in case I used it all up.’ Fuel, like opportunity in life, is there to be used and like a film run end to end. Had I left myself on the decking for the last year?

I thought about it for a moment. Did it really compare to allowing some wood to rot on the decking and missing out on the warmth. Should I have done some more about the gender thinglast year. Given it much more priority. There again there was something warming about leaving the wood on the decking. I had, at least, provided a temporary roof for the woodlice between the hot days and the wet. I may have not gone as far as I’d have liked but in retrospect I’m out running with a group of people partly the way I want and not giving a damn and to some extent around my family too. Some things really can’t be rushed. The last thing I want to do is over cook this gendercake and end up with little ingredients left to try again.

May be some wood is meant to be left; not to rot but to mature. The time being right for one person is different for the next. Burning fast and bright isn’t for everyone and may be that’s what will happen in the end anyway but things tend to play out as they should.

I find myself in August writing another appointment cancellation letter to the GIC in London. I kind of started looking for signs that I shouldn’t be moving another appointment, which will be my third, I mean even the ink in the printer started running out when I tried to print it. I thought may be that was a sign, no ink, no letter, no cancellation. I looked for reasons to not cancel it, may be I should get up there, find the money some how and at least make some progress but that triggered some thoughts above the financial.

I realised that I wasn’t ready to go back. What sort of progress would I make with another appointment in my current situation. There was little point really. Appointments really aren’t the be-all-end-all. Certainly not at the GIC anyway. I would exclude counselling and therapy from that but the GIC are to some extent gate keepers, as much as I hate to say that, because they can and do help people but I think that help is limited. When I last went one question thrown at me was, “So what do you want from us?” I guess it’s a valid question, with what seems an glaringly obvious answer, but it’s just a question to see where on the check list of things they can do for meI am and then tell me what I need to do next to get there. The thing is – I know what’s on that check list, I know where I am and there isn’t much point in trying to check any more boxes until I do some more box checking of my own at home.

So it’s a case of refilling the ink cartridge and letting someone else take my spot who is ready to check another box. In the mean time I still have much that will distract me from doing anything towards any more box checking like finding a better paying job without dreading the thought of being underwhelmed by being in a boring office doing dry dull things in a professional manor.

It’s that old catch twenty two of being too worried about money to do much else at the moment and once thats no longer a worry being too busy and tired after work to do something towards a different career. Either that or may be I just don’t try hard enough.

I guess I’m at a big junction in my life much like when I turned thirty, which seems a life time ago, but rather than just moving up a notch in a career I now find myself at a junction between later youth and early maturity with options open to me but finding it hard to pin down what I want to do or those things that I know I’d like to do but not having the confidence to think I could be good at it. I may be talking about my career or occupation but may be it applies to my gender too.

So. If you happen to get a call from the GIC in London offering to bring your next appointment forward to September – raise a glass or an ice cream to your friend Hannah and her thoughts that make her take her time over these things.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Emotional Twenty-Two

There it is again. Just ignore it and keep typing, “During my time at the digital agency..” Again. Go away. Rising up my face and sinuses with what feels like the side of my nose, inside my face, trying to clench onto the pressure to stop it happening. Damn it, how on earth would I manage if I had female hormones if I’m like this now. It was no good. Whatever I did I was going to well-up and for no particular reason. It was just a place my body was in either from lack of sleep or strange work patterns or may be just because.

I was sat at the dining table, the doors to the living room open which made the house feel bigger than it was but it was the silence that had made me feel like a small person in a large room alone. I had switched off the TV so I could concentrate on this job application form online and I hadn’t realised that the silence had echo’d my emotional state back to me amplified ten fold. It’s happened in the past plenty of times but I seemed yet to find a way to cope with it. Sure, I knew the one thing I shouldn’t do at times like this was go through old possessions that I want to throw away because nostalgia and the hoarding fairy would quite clearly win – outright, but that was about it.

The thing is I was filling out an online form for a job application. ‘Add Employer’ it said, and I had to fill out every single employment I’ve had over the last twenty years. It seemed to be taking forever to repeat everything from my CV into their perfect-fit boxes but as I got further down my CV in the descending order of years, remembering managers names and their positions, trying to remember addresses of the offices which they had probably departed some fifteen years ago, it started to come over me. The welling-up. It’s not particularly those places I worked that I was longing for, in fact only one, may be two I can think of I would, rose-tintedly, feel I missed, but just the times around them.

The one place I worked at fell dramatically in the dot com crash in 2002. I went out to lunch one day and came back to several people missed due to redundancy. It was cold, horrific and axe-lead. I was one of the lucky ones being freelance I was served a good warning well over a month with another renewal promised. The poor girl opposite was invited to the hotel next door for a meeting, “oh, bring your bag with you.” I never saw her again. When my time ended there were staff enthusiastically moving to another part of the office in one of those, “let’s move the desks around to refresh and rejuvenate everyone.” Sometime later the whole place was shut. It was the place that seemed to have so much promise. The place I worked with the most well known names. The place I saw police walk in the office and arrest a member of staff for stealing books. The place I saw the Twin Towers fall thatmorning while everyone watched in silence around the office cafe television.

I guess with that particular place what I felt was a missing end. When I’ve left somewhere in the past it’s been down to a new and better opportunity or because I can’t stand the politics anymore. But with that place it ended because no one could stop it. Rose-tinted indeed though. Things had become quiet in what had been a very vibrant and post-modern work-place of the noughties. I liked most people there and the politics rarely ever affected me because I wasn’t a permanent employee despite being there for two years.

The place still reminds me of having admirations of the Web Producer. I just remember how confident she appeared and important she looked. Talking to clients and then bringing that to us. It seemed an exciting role and place to be, especially as a woman, but that wouldn’t have been an aspiration I could have worked on at the time being extremely secretive about the gender thing, in a relationship that I didn’t want to loose and, well, I was a contractor, disposable, no career path – worse still lacking the confidence to do anything about it. Now I feel so much older and past that youthful optimism, an expression I recently read in a job description.

I couldn’t take it anymore. That silence was cutting into me like a knife for every emotion rush in my face. I switched on the Hifi, turned up all the knobs and found some music dangerously from the time period. It was like the loudness of the music overruled the emotion. The neighbours were out and shaking the walls just wouldn’t matter. I thought picking music from the period would either shout the emotional state away or it would make it ten times worse but get it out quicker. It did neither other than mask it; but it was something.

I think this is a little more than nostalgia for times past though. I think there is more to it. I think the emotion reflects where I am now rather than where I was. Here I am applying for an office based job, somewhere which will be fraught with structure, business ethics and dryness, though good pay and holidays, but also leaving a job where I see exciting venues and working for famous people but for very little money and zero security. When I mix that with my current gender situation I think, “What am I doing?” Doing it all over again going back to something that’s dull but respectable and ignoring what I should be doing with the gender thing. Surely by now I should be applying in my female name?

Then I also feel like I’ve been ignoring my female side. When was the last time I remember putting on a skirt, yet when not actually paying any attention to it, surely that’s the normality of living a female life? That’s the reality of it. I go running I wear my female running shorts and whatever else goes with it, it doesn’t have to be unbelievably obvious. I mean, that’s what it feels like, it feels normal and so that’s what’s making me feel like I’ve not been giving enough time to it. A catch twenty-two of feeling guilty about not giving enough of my feminine side but wanting things to be normal and genuinely natural.

When I think about it I realise that the subtle place I’m in of femininity isreality. It’s normal, but more importantly genuine and innate and may be all this emotion I’m feeling today is just a normal natural cycle that is part of that which sometimes we like to think of as a natural feminine trait. May be what I need to do is get my head into a state of what I want next. Where do I want to be not just in employment but also how I live that female side of life and how far I go. Do I stall here for a while or move on a little more. The thing is I know this is a passing emotional moment. It’ll be gone in a few hours. Tomorrow I might be on for a positive and enthusiastic high with all my goals and wishes as clear as spring water.

What I know I should do is pin up the past on the cork board of things I did in my twentiesand be happy about them. If they fall off again, pick them up, take a look, smile and pin them back up. Forcibly put a metaphorical full-stop on them so that the end of them is very clear. Move on to new things that will over-shadow the things of the past with happiness and contentment.

I went into the garden for a moment. My bare feet feeling the roughness of the concrete slabs and tufts of grass, where the cement had broken away, had grown between them over the last few days of rain. The sun was shining again, hot on my face and amongst the green weed leaves, yellowed grass and a few yellow flowers, a single white bloom of seeds of a dandelion. I know I don’t want to be readywhen it was too late. I didn’t want to have gone to seed when the other flowers were already out.

Until next time,

Hannah x

By The Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

Hannah x

Too Settled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

Hannah x

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.

Aspire

She walked into the office and sat on our group of desks. Late twenties, glossy brown hair in curls and start-up glasses that finished her face with a strength of knowing what she was doing. Smart casual which was acceptable around management and clients. Her title was Producer and even though it was actually just a fancy way of saying ‘project manager’ in the thick of the new media bubble in 2001 it felt like something more. She wasn’t always at her desk or handing out work to us and when she wasn’t around I imagined she was out with clients giving them assurances and listening to their needs – oozing confidence, self assurance and a contentment. It was probably the first woman in the work place that I’d seen as a role model. It just all fitted together, a freedom to move between teams and act as some kind of creator of ideas and putting them into action. Ever since I worked at that place that feeling of role model never left me, even sixteen years on and now much older than she was then, I still aspire to be her in that moment. Something in the back of my head that whenever something reminds me of that desire for career and success a small flame would light and the idea would surface that I could be that person but in my own form. My own way and my own ingredients.

It was a crazy place. Full of buzz, music of the new millennium flying across the office getting people working at the limit voluntarily. Come and go as you please. Management keeping themselves to themselves for much of the time until a company wide motivational speech of how well the company is doing and then off to disappear, busy by their absence. Work would just come in, land on your desk and every confidence you would just get on with it, understand and deliver it back. Push scooters to float between one team to another at the other end of the fourth floor that we occupied. A large plasma screen hanging above the cafe table and chairs area when flat screen was pretty new and where we watched, in silence, the towers fall on BBC News that September.

It wasn’t the height of my career in a progressional sense but for work, life, finance balance the scales were bang in the middle. I was in the middle of my twenties too and I still just about had all that confidence that came with it and optimism in life. Life was good and times were fast.

In that time very few people knew about my gender thing and the odd weekend out in the very same city had only just started. I had only just started exploring myself outside the confines of my own thoughts. There was no way that I was going to be getting a promotion to becoming a ‘Producer’ and try out that life, I was freelanced in for a start and without being that type of female employee the whole recipe just wouldn’t have been the same and in that frame of mind I was in back then, hidden, secret, afraid – guilty and ashamed it was never going to happen.

I was dazzled by that role model but not enough to do something about it. The whole idea of dealing with gender identity back then just seemed a fantasy. When people get older they often say about the things they wished they had done in life – a lost moment. I have few regrets with some of the decisions I made in life. I chose the right movement in my career, at the time, when I had left university and moved on to the next big company when it felt right. I told Maddie about my gender identity issues and it eventually ended our relationship. I regret that something so special had to end, but I had no control over that other than the revelation itself – things were just as they were, fact. I regret few experiences in my life, even if some seemed crazy at the time, but that ‘Producer’, that person I saw some kind of role model in for less than a thin slice of cake of a reason still from time to time haunts me just a little.

I have moved on with my interests. My writing and attempts to change career, my progression as a musician and my needs to have an interest in whatever job I do that is more than just a frivolous shell of a facade of ‘seen to be dashing between clients and teams looking important and happy’. Yet, this week, when I came across a job for a ‘Producer’ within the very same industry that I have been so desperate to exit, came up on the screen all those feelings came flooding back. The idea of the confidence. The idea of doing something slightly different. Perfect hair and the right clothes. Some kind of contentment. For that moment I felt those same feelings from back then but also with some kind of wisdom from age that for a moment I felt, ‘regret’, ‘if-only’, ‘why didn’t I’ – ‘too late’.

The job, at least from the description, was in itself just a shell of the job that the Producer did back in the early noughties, but I applied to the agent anyway – but it had been filled. I questioned myself with everything about what I wanted to do. I mean what were these feelings, was it a viable way to move on for work and a career or was it just some rose-tinted view of a time that passed so quick and would no longer feel the same if acted upon now? Was it just like a bar I was going to for a drink to only find the place was empty and the owners had long since gone? I mean within about six months or so of me leaving that company back then I had found out they were another victim of the crash and all employees given their P45s and only the name remained within the parent company. It was sad. It was gone.

May be it’s a long lost idea I had, a dream of how I would move on with my life and how I would start in another outward gender and now I’ve let so much time pass on that I should just let the past be the past and come up with another way to inspire myself. I have other role models – more substantial ones and as far as gender is concerned, well, all that I’ve achieved in recent years have been through my own ideas and my own confidence. May be my role model is me.

Until next time,

Hannah x

The Night Air Spoke

I leaned on the sill and stared out of the bedroom window into the cool near still night. Surround sound grey noise of a busy carriageway in the distance, the street lamps delicately producing the minimal picture of the houses and black sharp shadows beneath the bay hedges outlining the gardens. I rested my head in the palm of my hands together with my elbows gripping the gloss paint of the wooden sill. I thought all sorts. Sharing shopping with my mum, discussing clothes, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to do that. A lack of testosterone that would normally eat away at me and make me annoyed like a dripping tap. A bit of stubble that had grown throughout the day now feeling spiky under my chin and jaw, wouldn’t it be nice if that was just gone.

It was as if the bank holiday weekend had just culminated all my fears of leaving behind the old male driven stuff and decisively made the decision that I would be better off without that stuff and allowing the feminine side to take precedence outwardly and not just inward. An acceptance of fait. An acceptance that things might be better or at the very least, not worse.

I looked around the surrounding homes. All those people for who gender probably isn’t even a thought, let alone an nightmare of self mental abuse in constant questioning every few minutes throughout everyday. I suddenly noticed a figure standing in the bedroom window across the road, I looked, the curtains twitched and they disappeared as soon as they realised they were rumbled. May be I’m the only one here who happily takes a moment to take in the night air, its sounds and atmosphere that is so different to any other time of the day and not rushing to bed hoping for enough sleep.

It was funny that such a subtle step forward this bank holiday weekend would lead to such a big change of perspective in my own head. I was getting ready just the day before yesterday to go to the beach and spend some time with my parents. With the sun out I was at an internal conflict. My instinct without thought was that I wanted to wear my denim shorts with the turn-ups, the soft thick stitching around the pockets and crop sleeve white t-shirt with the wider-neck-than-a-male-t-shirt design that just fell lovely over my shorts and freshly shaved legs ready for vitamin D; only normally within seconds of that initial ‘want’ this idea would be replace with the complimentary logic that “I can’t dare to wear that with my parents” and justify it with “I’ll have plenty of times to wear that stuff on my own, in the garden, or something.”

There was a difference though that day. There was a self assurance that I knew who I was and that really, I wanted to wear those clothes that day so much that I was, well, just going to wear them. Not just that but also be proud. I packed the car and got ready. Checked myself in the mirror and doubled checked it was ok and I wasn’t making a mistake or complete fool of myself. Christ it wasn’t like I was turning up in a beach sarong and a bikini top or something so obvious that everything was about to be out in the open. I didn’t flinch with the thought. I didn’t second guess. It wasn’t even an option, that’s what was right today, that’s what would make me feel good and nothing else really appealed.

At the beach my Mum said ‘let’s go get some ice cream’ and so we went for a walk. “Are those shorts new?” she said casually. They were hardly new but I don’t think I’d ever dared to wear them around her or Dad. The floral material lining the pockets were ripped on both and some of the subtle blue and green glass jewels on studs that pinned on the joins of the demon had fallen off; but some hadn’t fallen. They really had been worn to death and were clinging on to the crown of being favourite shorts saving them from becoming dirty cleaning rags or bin fillers.

“No, I’ve had I them ages – ” I really had, “the pockets are ripped even.” I pulled out what little material was left and showed the hole.
“Oh they look like new. They’re nice.”

We had shared a moment. I felt that thought cross my mind once again, ‘is this the time? The time to tell her?’ And then other thoughts of what we might share and how our relationship might bond a little differently, like an extra add-on to a coffee, salted caramel flavouring added to a latte and so the mother and son friendship which would have the additional mother daughter relationship that she’d never had, or myself for that matter, at least not fully.

It seems such a small thing in retrospect with two countries in the world in flood with the horror flashing on the news on the TV on mute that made it ever so more prominent and thick with sadness. Putting that aside as there is little that can be done from the forces of nature I realise that problems are just relative to everyone. First world problems fill the void for society where third world problems have been eradicated and no matter how more immediate those terrible atrocities are that fill our media those issues of mental health, depression and loneliness are just as sad and dark, hidden and difficult to deal with.

Point of view is the relativity of our problems, especially when it comes to the gender thing. Just when one problem is solved, like the subtle issue of denim shorts and cropped sleeve t-shirts, another more deep and complicated one comes to the surface. Complications with other people, new people, interactions that stop us being ourselves or just hiding away our true selves because of being afraid of being rejected. The story continues in the book that I’ve not read yet. Another chapter turned and a new fear to experience.

Until next time

Hannah x