Eggs Benedict

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– ❤ –

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

Hannah x

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Regression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time

Hannah x

Ocean Deep – Perfume and the Ocean Part Two

I could feel the hard lines in the decking through the blanket and the sun hot on my legs but it wasn’t quite the same. The air was cool and when the sun went behind the clouds it really did feel October-cold. I was squeezing every last ounce of vitamin D out of the sun like the last press of olive oil from an olive to recreate that sub-tropical release I had just over a week ago but it wasn’t quite the same. I was firmly back in the UK and the most I could do was this. Laying in the sun when it showed in the garden with a coffee, a recreation of a holiday island baguette and my laptop.

I heard the low note white noise that sounded like it was coming from a seaside shell. I turned over, laid my head on the many cushions and stared at the sky. It was blue but just not quite so ocean deep in its vibrancy and there it was – a jet cutting through the sky leaving it’s hose pipe spray of steam in it’s trail. I remember how an old friend of mine who had commented to me once about how every time he saw a plane flying over how it got him itching to be on it and to be elsewhere. I didn’t quite get-it at the time, he was uncharacteristically misty eyed about it, gone was his uber-excitement replaced by some kind of trapped feeling of being grounded. He was already travelling but the world soon became his life moving country to country to keep him happy. I don’t want to be moving country to country all the time but at this very moment looking at that plane I felt exactly what he had told me, an escapism. The problem is I don’t have his money and here I am on the decking periodically suffering post-holiday blues, even a week on, like I have never before.

I moved the blanket as the sun moved the shadows across the decking trying to keep that warmth. I couldn’t work out quite what would set me off with those post-holiday blues several times a day. It wasn’t just feeling down, it was actually welling up that would come in waves just like grief for a loved one. There was no actual death but there was a passing of something. It wouldn’t take much to set me off. ‘Oh a photo of the ocean crashing on the rocks that morning’ whoosh, without delay I suddenly welled up, ‘Lets have a licorice tea’, bang, thoughts of the box of licorice tea I’d left in the apartment and welling up again – pretty much anything would set me off. I think the death was what I had lost in coming back.

While I played out much of my holiday as a holiday, you know, restaurants, bars, entertainment in the evenings et al, I also played out a lot of it as though I lived there. I would sacrifice the tiredness from a late night out with an early wake-up, early in holiday world being no earlier than 8a.m., but it was at least an hour before the tourists. I would have that run along the ocean lined coast amongst the palm trees and apartments that spill out along the coast path and beaches with other local runners and walkers. Watching those shops slowly setting up for a long hot days competitive trading of gifts. The simple coffee and lunch at a cafe overlooking the ocean devoid of checking Facebook for updates because this was more interesting and immersive – it was real life. And of course there was being relaxed being me wearing some of the things I wanted to wear, the whole thing was pretty much perfect.

Now that I am back, jobless, I feel the grief of loosing that short taster course of what perfection of living would be. The warmth of the air was gone as was the feeling of being grounded. A slower easier pace of life. I’m not blind to the realities. Baring a lottery win or an unexpected win fall I would still need employment, a place to live, a budget to live on – friends; but I need that here too. Here I seem to be cut out for that one career I’ve been in nearly twenty years, the career that while on holiday I realised I didn’t want to go back to – one hundred percent to put it in numbers. I know if I don’t break from it now then when will I? Aged 45? 50? 60? Retirement? Would I get to retirement without breaking my mental state? It’s so enticing to be in a well paid career but at what cost to me and how to deal with that toxicity that runs throughout it.

I moved the blankets to the far end of the garden away from the decking as the sun started to fall away from the sky and the shadows became longer earlier. I worried about how tomorrow might be rainy and how my vitamin D might just fall away rather than enjoy this moment as much as I should be. Another jet just flew over, it’s orange colouring giving away it’s budget airline nature. I could cash in all my money I have left for a flight ticket back, and a ticket to the airport, put everything in storage and see how life panned out – but I feel just a little too much of a coward to do it like that. What would I do out there, how would I get by with the limited foreign language I have. What about my gender appointments and GP help. What about my gender progress?

I thought for a moment in the little remaining heat coming from the sun, ‘what about my gender progress?’ Really, what about it? I made more progress in two weeks away from here than I’ve probably made in two years. I’ve come back with a decision about my career, or at least the decision not to go back to it, and a sense of reality about the gender thing. In fact it’s so much less of a thing now and more, well, fact. I have a sense of parking and packing away those times ten years or so ago going out meeting people with some gender identity issue and drinking it away on a Saturday night and packing it away early Sunday morning – that was no more, I was archiving those memories away and happy to do so. I needed to move on and not feel guilty or devastated to do so.

Healthy salads covered in olives, olive oil and sea salt. Ocean spray in the morning. Grey days at a minimum and white villas with hard charcoal tiled floors. May be there is a way to construct what I need in my life to be content. Just may be.

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

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