Nettles and Pollen

It was a run. Not the weekend run event, an evening run, alone and self introspecting. I left just as dusk fell and the mood had taken me. Just a kilometre or less and I was at the fringes of the countryside overlooking the village. A slash of neon orange hung slowly fading over a distant forest lined hill like a candle at the end of its wick and the neon amber street lamps lit in time with the falling darkness. It was so still and almost painted fiction as three swans few with long slow wafts towards the sunset and another followed on a minute later, alone, just like me.

With the last glow of the sun to the west, humidity at my skin and thick dense and fussy clouds to the east it looked as if the storm promised for Wednesday was on it’s way. A thick smell of fuel oil hung in the air and in the distance between me and what natural light remained a haze that was reminiscent of a November Guy Fawkes night only warm.

I ran down to the bridge and found bats fluttering fast and circling trying to catch dinner above the water. It felt almost fictional and so still it was as if the scenery was oil painted and all motion would stop when it dried.

I felt fitter. The weeks of running regularly were starting to pay and my stamina had increased. Not all my ailments had been fixed and certainly not my gender identity. It wasn’t as if running an extra mile or so would suddenly give me gender reassignment. It’s funny that term – gender reassignment or that old term the tabloids cling on to – sex change. It’s not like we’re changing gender, for those of us who are truly gender dysphoric, we’re already that gender inside. There are just some technicalities to sort out. I suppose that’s why reassignment is as near as it gets as a description, reassigning physical parts to match the soul. I like to think of transgender of being a state of decision, not a permanent label.

Two days later I ran the same route again only it was gently raining. Not heavy but large spots and enough to dampen my skin. It was different. Earthy. Rain raised smells of wild garlic, cow parsley and salts. The bats still fluttered over the stream and under the stone bridge but it felt darker and forest-like. One difference in the weather had made a huge difference to me. It reminded me of how things had changed in the last ten to fifteen years where sporadic double-life going-out had been replaced by real life. More subtle but real each day rather than saving it up for one night when everyone wanted to meet up miles from home in a protected shell in the back street bars of Bristol.

After my down patch last week I thought about people I used to know either in person or a little over the Internet that had a gender dysphoria of some kind. Four of them were dead. One I was told had “died on the operating table” but the truth had eventually come out she had taken her own life. I didn’t really know her, I met her once or twice but it was still truly sad. Another had a brain tumour. I had met her a few times, she always seemed troubled even after transitioning and living female full time. It was so sad. One girl I remember who ran a blog and was well known in music. The day I had come across her website the opening page had simply been replaced by a message that said something like “I’ve had enough, goodbye everyone.’ I quickly put a call out on a forum to see if anyone knew her and thankfully someone did and I was reassured friends were with her and she was now fine. The future didn’t hold well for her though when she was found having taken her own life. People that weren’t just in the news. They were real as was the depression.

I find it hard sometimes when a clinician at the gender clinic says how times have changed and how much better things have become, and to some extent they have changed a lot and for the better but it isn’t truly free and easy, sunshine and roses. I’ve been told so many times how things have changed with the gender identity clinics and how they look past the clothes, it’s not like twenty five or more years ago where if you didn’t turn up in your grans best floral tea dress you wouldn’t be taken seriously. ‘Wear what you like, you don’t even have to present female.’ and yet as another letter was delivered to my GP from the Gender Clinic in London the letter still contained a detailed description of what I’d worn that day; even if it was rather feminine, and there was no question as to what I was trying to be, I suppose it serves as a record of how I was that day.

It was quite nice that they had referred to me, in that letter, as Ms which I think was probably the first genuine time I’d been referred to that way, even if it did precede my first male name and later with my surname which seems a little more normal. I suppose in many ways these are little things not to worry about and after all one or two 45 minute sessions isn’t really enough to get inside of someones head to know how they feel, what they want and how they want it, whether it be the contents of a letter or how they should present with clothes. Does this stuff really matter, I mean when we look at the bigger picture. They are after all only facilitators even if technically they’re ‘gatekeepers.’ Taking a realistic look on how life is changing, hopefully for the better, through whatever path we take is really the important thing and providing they give enough support to help us through those low patches and avoid anymore losses, then the contents of letters and expectations is just icing sugar on the table ready to be blown away and forgotten.

I attended another weekend running event. It was warmer than expected. A long t-shirt over black three-quarter length running tights and ankle socks. Now the rain from the week had cleared and a morning hot sun was warming the weeds, trees, nettles and grass that lined the path through the city common land I felt the pollen and smells fill my lungs. As I got to a bend in the path, standing on the side was an old school friend watching. As I passed he called my name and I shouted back hello as I continued on. I didn’t care about my appearance, it didn’t even enter my mind. It seems bizarre that the one time I didn’t actually run away from a situation like this, I was actually running away.

Until next time,

Hannah x

Paint My Nails for Another Day

Something is wrong. Given that the first real proper low I had a few weeks ago was out of the blue and I hadn’t had anything quite like it in a couple of years I thought it was a blip. Something that I would see through, pass and carry on. A dark cloud of incoherent thoughts and feelings in the form of a storm with no clear thinking amongst a fog that threatens a happy life. It happened again. Lower than low. I blamed my job, a trigger at least I think. Sure it filled in the gaps I left on that mental note of a form of what that job should be, average pay, average expectations, by the sea, access to cafes at lunch and water breezes and paying the rent, but once the honeymoon period had ended it was the same old crap in the same old career, just worse pay and just as much responsibility and expectation beyond the pedantic and the poison toxic thread that runs rife through the industry. It wasn’t the job that was wrong, it was the career that I’ve hung onto by a dangling thread.

I thought I had done my running away chasing a dream years ago. But unlike Shirley Valentine, after my week in the Côte d’Azur, I didn’t stay on. I went back. I tried again by taking time out of my career and spent several months writing a speculative script with the vague hope of following a dream and spending relaxing days overlooking the med while thinking of my next, and while I was proud of the small recognition I had, nothing came of it and I soon ran out of money. I ran back to my career like a twenty-something crashing back at their parents.

It wasn’t just the job, it was obviously more than that, something chemical inside me. An imbalance that clouded my judgment and happiness, stopped me eating properly for two days and left me questioning everything – the job situation had amplified it. It had reminded me how I was still doing the same old thing that I should be proud of and get fulfilment from, especially given how many hours I put in each week – but I wasn’t. Why am I wasting my life doing this when the only reward is money. Life is more than money, it helps but it’s not the be-all.

I thought about that cafe by the ocean I had looked out from early in the morning on holiday last year. I thought for just a moment that serving treacle thick bitter coffee for a few months to people who wanted to watch life go by on a subtropical island might just be an answer. Time to think. Time to simplify. Time to give myself to actually think about the gender thing. Time to Shirley Valentine myself and decide what actually is important and act on those pure ideals that would bring contentment without tension. To watch a dozen sunsets with a glass of wine over a calm evening ocean and never get bored of it. Escapism without running away. A break from life that isn’t just a holiday but a re-evaluation.

When Saturday morning came there was, at least, a clearing of those black dog clouds in my head. I came back from the weekly run event and found another letter dangling precariously from the back of the brush trap letter box. It was from my GP. The second letter in the space of a week. The first asking for a follow up blood test linked what they had done previously for the Gender Identity Clinic in London. It was, oddly, only one specific test of the many they normally do. I looked at my previous results and researched the possibilities of why. I came to the simple speculative conclusion that it was health related in some form given I was slightly over the range. It felt good that things were being tracked and looked at, at least by my GP and more so than the gender clinic. Friday I allowed my arm to be drained a little once again and less painfully than the horse fly that had bitten a chunk out of my leg a few days earlier in the garden.

Another letter had arrived in the days before my blood test. There was no covering letter or clue from who had sent it but it was a copy of a letter from the gender identity clinic to my GP outlining my last session a few months ago and her recommendations. While it wasn’t one hundred percent accurate it was close enough and despite how I felt challenged by the clinician at the time it would appear I was listened to. It also noted how nothing had been written and sent by the endocrinologist that supposedly studied all blood test results. It was only me who had previously raised the question of my low vitamin D and only the GP that was looking into one of the other results. It was a getting-blood-from-a-stone situation only that it was from an arm with plenty on offer.

But back to Saturday. I returned from my weekly run event. Damp running tights and an uplift from the few dark days I’d had I came home with a faster time and bit of an endorphin rush that had probably saved me from falling further. I pulled that letter from the door and set it on the table while I pulled damp knee supports from my bag and wrote down my latest run time. I picked the letter up again, sealed and double sealed with a strip of tape. It opened in three parts as most letters seem to, either that or ripping right down the middle and leaving the actual letter in a creased unkempt state. It was another from my GP, “We have recently received a letter from the Gender Identity Clinic dated April 2017.” April! That’s how slow some of the administration of health care runs. The letter had suggested to my GP that I should speak to my GP about things we’d spoken about. My local general practice was more proactively caring for me than the gender clinic could be and proactive about gender identity.

And so I paint my nails the colour of French wine for another day. Any little thing that gets me through the next few weeks so I can decide what to do with the rest of my life. Not just gender identity but everything that occupies my time. It doesn’t have to be spectacular it just has to be contentment and if contentment is spectacular then that’s fine.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Rise

I sat with a multicoloured Japanese style umbrella in one hand and a computer tablet resting on my knee as the rain set in. I wasn’t going to let a short sporadic shower of fine rain move me front that waterside bench. The ever increasing circles peppering the flat water took on its own beauty that I’d not really absorbed at my lunch spot before. It spread into a white noise on the surface as the rain became heavy and I stayed cosy and dry while others dashed to fill the humid cafes and bars. When the rain finally stopped I lowered my umbrella down and water poured from tips. I was the only one left, the only one who’d seen through the storm with a dry circle left around the decking and the bench. It seemed to have told its own similar story.

It couldn’t have been more than five minutes before another sprinkle of rain returned to the surface of my tablet and my umbrella was once again flung up to shield me. It got me thinking. Was this what I would be in for with the whole gender thing. Would I have moments of euphoria and beauty with moments of dirt that I would have to protect myself from or just shield myself in a going with the tide mentality.

– ❤ –

Little fragile white flowers protruding from thick green leaves of wild garlic that flourished along the roadside in the glimmering sunlight through the woodland. The smell of garlic was pungent where the rain had fed the ground well.

It had been a week since I had sat on that bench thinking about the similarities of ups and downs and it had still been good for me despite that constant gloom of weather but by Friday afternoon, without warning, a sudden depression. It came out of nowhere and clouded over thicker than the rain outside. I left work as soon as the day was finished and got home and slumped on the sofa and tried to let it pass. Go with the flow I thought. Float along that fast steep river until the worst had passed but it was difficult. It always is when you can feel yourself slipping downwards into a cavity that feels like a never ending lilting fall in stages. Even writing about it now, a week on, I almost don’t understand it myself, but I do know how it felt.

Trying to ride it out seemed like the best way to cope and it certainly was. By Saturday morning I felt better enough to get on the bus and join a group of runners first thing in the morning in the city park. The elation at the end itself helped blow away those clouds and once again I felt a bit more like myself. I had my new running trousers on that I was bravely wearing to the event and things just felt normal. I didn’t hide them away and change out of them at the last minute and I didn’t cover them up for the trip home. I just took a celebratory drink of my water and bit into a thick cinnamon bagel filled with Nutella and probably undone that 5km run.

I admit I did think for a minute how I felt about travelling home on the bus in three quarter length mixed grey running tights that had a logo in pink writing but the answer came quick with no doubt that I felt confident to travel home that way and that I really wanted to. It helps having a pint of adrenaline pumping through my veins.

– ❤ –

Sitting here on the end of the jetty into the water with a warm morning late spring breeze blustering everything feels okay. Everything feels right. I don’t know for how long. What I do know if that those ups and downs don’t just apply to the gender stuff. They apply to all parts of life. People and places can let us down. They say life would be without colour without challenges. I think it can depend how strong we are to be able to take those challenges. To add to the confusion those challenges are relative. Small problems for some are huge for others.

Having a change of mind set on the outlook of everything presented to us, even those bad things, can help us lead a better life. To deal and cope with things. There are some moments though, like that Friday I had, when there seems to be no reasonable explanation and not knowing how to pull ourselves out of those low rut moments.

The answer is other people. While other people can make things worse or cause our problems, there are others who can help and be there for us. The ability to choose and filter those who we spend our time with is key to finding that happiness.

Until next time.

Hannah x

English Rose

The small waves lapped gently against the shore under the decking as a small tour boat tooted by with its air whistle. The water and the sky looked electric clear through my sunglasses. Kinda unreal in a crystal clarity and gloss. A whole group of tourists stopped in front of the bench while a tour guide gave them a brief description in German and while they didn’t block my sunlight I felt like they were blocking the serenity of this early-summer lunch break. They moved on quickly tottering on in unsuitably warm clothing. The weekend I’d had with Maddie had felt like it had moved on just as quick.

I had been in the heart of the English Rose countryside. You couldn’t get anymore quintessential England. A white pub in a thatched hat, a marquee and horses trotting by on cue. It could have been a film set where the director had shouted “action” and with that – Englishness would descend and as would the sunshine. The upper middle classes would arrive for Sunday lunch with kids and a puppy dog in tow and spotted dick served with thick perfect custard that sparkled gloopy in the sun. The outdoor tables sprawled between the pub and its decorating matching annexed thatched barn. It was idyllic and almost fictional. It was as Bridget Jones as it gets in it’s setting.

Maddie, if you remember, my ex girl friend from several years ago who knows about the gender thing, pulled her mobile out and tapped and swiped at the shiny screen before handing it to me. “This is him.” She showed me a photo of the new man in her life that she had seen a few times. Immediately I spotted that smile on her face that I hadn’t seen in quite a few years, a genuine brief glimpse of happiness. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean she is beyond ecstatic with the way life was going for her but there was, for me at least, hope in that smile that I hope she can latch on to.

“Alright isn’t he, looks a bit Cambridge-Oxford.” which was the immediate way I could describe him. He had that look that he would be the sort of guy that would be on the river taking part heroically in the traditional boat race or, at the very least, barge polling tourists down the river and bullshitting them with fictional history of the pre-victorian universities.

Maddie looked at me with a smirk at my view of her guy that I didn’t even know. “You know – that look.” I said clarifying the picture, “What’s his education like, I don’t mean that offensively.”
“He’s not degree educated, I think he stopped after Senior school.”

It wasn’t important but I guess I just wanted to know where he was and how he might match up to Maddie’s intellect. It wasn’t hard to be happy for her that she had met someone new and that she might have actually found someone that there might be a future with. Christ, it has been so long since we had been together and even though we still care for each other her happiness is more important than any stupid jealousy that would be beyond my adult view – besides, I’m not in that place and never will be. It did have an effect though. Immediately I felt a little left behind, not with my friendship with Maddie but on reflection of my own life and lack of any relationship or even an encounter in years.

The large tourist boat sat under the pier bubbling the water and filling the air with invisible clouds of diesel fumes that caught the back of my throat and lined my nose. I reached into my bag for the cure of my past depression, at least it could be. I’ve had three lots of base line blood tests from the gender clinic. The first was at my local hospital but by the time the eighteen or so months had passed to get to the front of the queue for the gender clinic in London the results were no longer relevant for them. They ordered another set but when the results eventually turned up one test couldn’t be completed so they ordered another. The second test had indicated my vitamin D was just a little low. I asked my GP about it and he said he would look at the next results. They were even lower.

I had read that low vitamin D can be the cause of many things including depression, and since then I’d even read that aching bones and joints can be a problem. I’d had a letter a week ago from the GP saying that I should book a telephone appointment to discuss the results and one week later the phone had rung in work. I dived out of the office for privacy which oddly meant the hallway behind the main door that was probably quieter than the office.

The signal broke a little as I got to the doorway and then I could understand him. “So your vitamin D is low, I recommend you take a vitamin D supplement which you can get from that Boots just up the road from you.”
“You can get it over the counter can you?” I knew you could get vitamins off the shelf but I thought vitamin D was a special case.
“Yes you can get it at a pharmacy without a prescription.” This of course meant that despite living in Wales and getting free prescriptions this would be an exception. I didn’t mind though, the problem doesn’t seem immediate enough to me to warrant sticking the NHS for a prescription and besides, I’d rather pay the £2.99 than letting them get charged the £8 or whatever it is; we all pay for it in the end.

“You also have results for Testosterone, that’s fine. Prolactin, that’s fine – ” said the GP as the inside door went and a young man with a typical low-rent ironic beard exited the building. “Are you receiving gender reassignment therapy of… sorry to ask… ” it wasn’t my usual doctor and it must have been pretty obvious that the list of several unusual blood tests that included female and male centric hormones.

“That’s ok.” I said, and I explained the whole gender clinic thing and how my results should be passed to an endocrinologist that apparently will write to me, or the doctor with any concerns about my results. Whether I would actually get anything from them was as unsure as whether I or the GP would get anything.

By lunch time I found myself with a rattly bottle of small pills that I would take at least until we have a reliable chain of sunny days that would provide my main source of vitamin D and return to them in the winter to chase away the blues. May be this would be the source of my joint pains when I run sometimes.

I left my waterside lunch home and caught my reflection in a shop window. Wow, did I need to loose weight. I didn’t feel thin or slender, I just felt a bit short and stomach bloating outwards. I really did have to get to a place where I would feel my reflection matched me. I diverted myself into the bakery before heading back to the office and plonked an almond croissant into a thin bag and ignored what I’d just seen.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Bridget Malaise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–♥–

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

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

Until next time.

x

The Sand Between My Toes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

x

Christmas Eve Special – Narnia to The Mediterranean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

x

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

Bleak

Not much else enhances bleakness more than a winter making it’s stamp on the land with autumn as it’s forerunner. There are two ways to look at our future, embrace the crisps cold days in the warmth of huggable thick pullovers and the protective nature of gloves against delicate fingers and eyes burning in the view of golden leaves tumbling in the breeze or we can envelop into the future painted with wiry leafless trees sporadically lining pastures below misty cold grey skies with no outlook for change.

It is so easy to fall into the trappings of a bleak outlook. Allowing opportunities for change to pass us by and not making plans to improve our lives for the better and live for the here and now. This is hard when moods are swinging from week to week or month to month. When I feel energised I find myself delving into hours on hours of plans, work and achievement. Days where every hour is used to it’s end and going to bed becomes an inconvenience and when I have these days I grab hold of them with every ounce of energy I can find. With the thought that this enthusiasm will end at any time, within hours, days or it could even be weeks, but without knowing when, I feel I have to use it while I can. Whenever the opposing lacklustre moment returns I will need to have achieved enough to get me through until the next polar moment. It effects everything. Work, cleaning the house, going out, music, writing and everything else, including the gender thing.

At the moment the trees are raining warm rustic colours and my fingerless gloves are working to keep me warm. I see an optimistic future for my career working hard even without any certainty of success. I’m thinking about myself. Ensuring I give myself enough time as well as others. Yet despite all this I remain confused how I have left my gender issues on the shelf for the last few weeks. I know it’s there and it hasn’t gathered dust or left me alone, but making any decisions or progress has been on hold.

May be this is just a moment of stillness. Like a pause between a breath or the lapse in the waves coming onto the beach. May be I need this time. Like many things we all need a break, especially from something that is so needling every minute of every day. At the same time I know that mulling around in the back of my head is the thought about whether or not the gender clinic and it’s process are helping me. The lack of proper guidance and even simple straight forward information that seems to be missing is all stress that I wonder what I am getting from it. The main guidance I was given was to ‘visit the transwiki website and may be go to a local support group meeting.’ While these resources are invaluable for some people I think the clinic had missed how much contact I’d had with other people in similar situations over the years and when it came to the information, well I feel a bit all-informationed-out. There is only so much you can read before it becomes just different opinions from different people. Various theories but no real evidence of the cause of gender identity issues. Medication, surgeons, doctors who help and those who don’t. The only thing that seems to be new these days is the direction of gender and how people are looking to genderless living. More to add to the confusion box.

I may have plenty of decisions to make and probably that is what I should spend my time thinking about rather than the clinical administrative errors like not taking enough blood for all the tests in that blood test that anyone visiting the clinic for the first time has to do. May be these things are just an annoyance that I just need to put aside.

I think, amongst all these things, what I really want is to take this energetic time and commit myself to the things that matter to me and crow-bar in a few minutes of a week for the admin of my relationship with that clinic and spend the rest of my valuable time doing rather than thinking.

Despite all the self reasoning may be this is all part of the journey. They say the journey is more rewarding than the goal and may be that is one of my fears.

Until next time.

x

Park Life

I was at my lunch time park-away-from-work. The air hot and the sun instantly burning my skin at gas mark 4 like being somewhere on the continent but the summer brought back to a screaming halt of britishness by the waft of a hot pasty being smuggled into the mouth of a white collar worker near by. I reminisced over the year I had, that was now over eighteen months ago, working for myself when I wanted and where I wanted; and the money I threw into supporting that dream.

A woman has sat down in front of me on the grass much like me. She sparks up a cigarette in a machine-churning cloud of puffing smoke. As a non smoker I hate tobacco smoke, even in a public park but I do not think it should be banned. The park is for everyone to do as they please, with a few exceptions, and I would never want to impose that. But it’s the intrusion into my air space much like pasty-man and his cholesterol filled odour wafting past. That doesn’t mean the smell of a burning packet of Regal or Lambert doesn’t conjure good memories at a place where smoking was prevalent and in an odd way is a pleasing rose tinted flare of the past. It’s just some thing that happens and I have the freedom to move. I don’t though. I like my tree and the shade it’s providing.

I had a text from my friend, Daniella. Daniella of one of the few sane gender thing friends of my Bristol nights out past, Daniella. Daniella is a woman. I’ve only ever known her as Daniella and so to me she always has been. What I like about Daniella, apart from her saneness, is that she is living how she wants. She is accepted and getting on with her life. We caught up over several messages. Our talk of her newly Mediterranean styled garden in the heart of the beauty of the southern English countryside and tranquillity suddenly put into perspective what I want in my short term future. Daniella is certainly a good template that once transitioned we can hold down a job and create a home. I just know it won’t necessarily be easy.

I walked back to work through one of the victorian shopping arcades. A place of a mix of old fashioned shops with brown paper bags for food products and modern electronics products stuffed neatly into a contrasting building where crisp clean manufacturing meets thickly coated black framed windows. As I tread along the cold paving stones a group of late teenage girls and a lad walked by. The lad, who oozed camp by his Nick Grimshaw flavoured hair cut and collection of girl friends, looked straight into my eyes confidently as he passed.

“Hi.” he said in full colour.

I simply tried to hide a smirk of his foolishness. God help his nightmares if he knew how old I was. I never had that confidence back then and I certainly felt a little more mature. What did he think I was though? Did he think I was male or female? One of his friends laughed and copied him in a girly-mock, “Hi.”

Finding what I’d lost during my couple of weeks at that low point that would have had an aircraft’s altimeter screaming alert tones as my happiness crashed spectacularly. The next week I sat myself in my lunch time park again. The glint of golden light dancing on the grass in time with the wind catching the branches of the large oak tree at the far corner near the little river. The air alone seemed to help me think though it was probably more the relief from days or even weeks of exhaustion and fatigue that helped me see clearer. I want to get back to running. I wanted to be travelling on my weekends to capture some photographs of landscapes that pass people by every day and I want to feel I’m doing something worthwhile. I wanted to see new places and find new people who I have interests with.

My conflict tends to stem from feeling that I don’t want to meet new people, just yet, because it would mean yet another person to tell when the time comes. Just seems ridiculous and my life goes on hold once again. Every time I meet someone new there is that feeling. May be these are one of those feelings I need to let go of. When I look in the mirror I see me much more these days and if I compare myself to several years ago I’m quite different. I think I just don’t realise how much my feminine side comes out sometimes.

Take this weekend for instance. I was at a food fair that happens every year. I stood behind a few people at the counter of the cheeses. They were giving away little cubes of tasters from a small quality refined creamery. The woman in front with her daughter had their taster and were having a little chat to each other about usual parent and child domestics. “Excuse me.” I said politely wanting to get to the counter.

“Oh I’m sorry.” she said in matching politeness as she turned to me and tried to usher her daughter who wasn’t moving. “Come on, let the lady through.” she said.

Oh, my heart skipped. It was as if two years of therapy hit me in one big thump in the face. Elation and confirmation. I wasn’t expecting it and I certainly didn’t feel like it would. I wasn’t particularly trying. May be it was my skinny torn stretchy jeans or the two hundred and twenty degrees I put into my straighteners to get my hair straight in a way it would stay straight. I wasn’t made-up and I’m sure there would have been some shadow but for some reason it just tends to happen, more often than not, when I’m just not trying. It felt good.

Summer alone seems to help with its endless depths of blue skies that promote a feeling of freedom and airy oneness and it’s bright saturated greens and then dazzling sunsets that give an awe inspiring license of belonging. I miss the things that I let slip like my gym membership where I could take a quiet swim in the evening with a pool to myself or the easy going yoga class I took as I couldn’t find a Tai Chi class in the same idyllic environment and yet it worked all the same. It’s a time for me to rebuild myself and make my life worth living.

Until next time.

x

Black Dog

I sat in the cafe on one of those grey misty rainy days while it bustled with vocal noise, almost deafening, while burning some reading time on Brands book, Revolution. For some reason I found solace from the stark picture painted of the one percent of the rich outweighing the collective wealth of the poor. It must have been the hope within the title with promises that seemed to lift me a little. It was at a moment when a man approached a couple opposite and asked if he could sit in the empty chair at their table. “Sure, of course.” said the woman. There was something warming about that little bit of stranger bond and politeness that I think we forget that still exists in this country, or at least in my principality, and then within less than a minute they were all in deep conversation. Strangers simply starting a conversation and having laughs. I miss that.

It does happen to me at times. Given how much I frequent cafes, devoting a certain high percentage of my wages toward caffeine, it’s not really surprising that strangers sit next to me and start a conversation. But since my return to full time work for an employer rather than myself the opportunities happen less. It’s not until you get out there own your own that you realise how much life passes you by while being stuck in an office working for other people on things that generally disinterest me these days. Office politics while the sun outside bring happiness to others. That feeling of excitement of a new venture that I could be experiencing rather than the stomach draining back aching trudge of a swivel chair.

This is what it feels like at the bottom of the trough of a few days or so of a depression. That slight turn to a lift on the graph of happiness. The uncertainty of whether it’ll go all the way back to a peak and whether I’ll end up burning that lift too quickly and nose dive straight into another trough. It’s at times like these I realise I need one of those sunny days on the grass of a park. Me, my clothes, a good book and may be a pad for ideas.

Within a few hours though I was in a deep low again. In fact for the next two days. If it wasn’t for two sunny lunch time days in the park with Russell’s book I’d probably be at the bottom of the Severn. May be not there actually. I can think of less terrifying ways to go even with the anaesthesia of depression. Feeling low just doesn’t do it justice. I could blame my current medication, my pending gender identity or even work but I just don’t really know the cause. It feels like a chemical imbalance inside. It feels like I’ve been burgled of my serotonin and the police have assigned it low priority. I sat in work on Thursday and for the whole day only spoke to one person who grabbed me for a quick request. I needed that time of solitude but on reflection it’s like looking at another person and not understanding why they’re in that place.

Darkest depths of a place where there was little fear of actually thinking there wasn’t much left in my future and that, well, may be this was the end of the film and the credits would roll on a headstone. Dreadful thoughts looking back – but it wasn’t the content of those thoughts that were frightful but the blasé attitude I had towards it. Lightly mulling over suicidal thoughts as if it were the new menu at the local Italian. Sure, I wasn’t walking over any large sea crossing bridges but how far is it from shoulder shrugging considerations to action. I’d love to say this was purely down to my unhappiness, not in my gender itself but the gender conflict, but I just couldn’t pin it specifically on it.

It was just a day in which the black dog had come to visit and hung around for most of the week. It didn’t even pop to it’s basket and give me a break it just hung around hour after hour in the tears hidden behind my cheek bones. Just as I thought each morning that I was feeling just a little better and that I might be on the rise out of this huge spiralling dip I would go over the top of the wave and back down again. I continued to sit in silence and try and ride through it. It might be time for change. May be a break from work to at least give my head some breathing space. I’ll certainly mention it to my doctor for my own sake.

By Saturday morning I felt at least some weight had lifted. That black dog had left but it’s fur was all matted over the carpet. My happiness in tatters on the floor and still none the wiser. An empty old back city lane amongst red brick buildings in gritty urban black and white setting with me in the centre and litter being thrown around my feet. So many ways I could describe how it feels but nothing would do justice to the indescribable empty emotion, lack of clear judgement and yet terrible non-physical pain.

May be this is all a result of combined life problems and they just happened to align in the space of a week. The fuse burnt out. At least today I have been able to breath.