Every Last Ounce

It was like building a wall of pebbles on the beach against the rising tide, just as we did as kids, that no matter how many mediterranean salads I created or cured ham baguettes with olive oil and sea salt, I was still firmly at home and being away in the sun was a fading reality and a solidifying two dimensional memory; at least unless I closed my eyes in what little weak sun we have here and think very hard.

It was clear that nothing would change on its own and hanging around the house for a week not doing much was keeping me frozen rather than in contentment. It didn’t help having a cold and it didn’t help having a strict budget on my dwindling savings but at least for now I have a home. I live in a fairly nice place in a nice enough house with an eclectic collection of things that keep me occupied. I have food in the fridge and freezer and I survive quite comfortably. I have the ability to learn new things and have clothes to wear that aren’t thread bare but without the freedom from that budget I’m a little stuck. Imagine being on holiday but with no money – it can kinda get boring sometimes.

It’s not like money is holding back any progress with the gender thing, (gender fact?), apart from having to travel a long distance for one of them of course, appointments are booked and things are just happening as they are and as they should. I made progress on holiday, I feel content to some extent and know there is still work to do or at least more decisions to be made. With all that being so planned why am I so unplanned in other parts of my life. Sometimes I find myself doing little bits here and there in an unplanned nature around my house. Get the kitchen cleaned and tidy, a bit of piano practice, a bit of planning towards a future project but yet I still feel like I’ve not achieved much by the end of the week. I feel like days have been wasted.

I stopped for a moment, sat in the Sunday sun of October that is on such a shallow arch that it warmed my face and kept the breeze chill at bay along with the sun trap alcove in the garden, and rubbed my fingers down the brickwork of the house. It pulled at my skin like a stickle brick wanting me to stay connected. The bricks were here for the long term which felt like my plans for my future. The long term. The long stretch of time that it would take for fruition. It was autumn and my career plans needed to be spring – spring in a few years time. There were no short cuts. It was just like the gender thing, there is a long term transition of change but an immediate need, on top of that I had an immediate problem of money. I heard the scratching of the sky as a jet flew over at that moment. That summed it up – a direction and a more immediate need of urgency.

It was quite clear really. My goals and aspirations would take time. I needed to survive in the meantime to pay for the immediate things like rent and the electric bills but I also have choice. I don’t have to go back to my old career that brings such pain to my mental state, I just need something else for the time being. The same goes for gender identity. I’ve never been in a rush to have it all sorted but the immediate need to carry on can be done with all those little things over the years I have to get me by.

A couple of days later I found myself still pressed. Pressed to get things done in order but my head was still spinning both with things to do and with fatigue. I headed to the village where it was quiet, everyone at work or tucked away in front of day-time TV in the arms of retirement. The village of weedless front lawns cut to a perfect inch, clean Mercedes, small well kept shopping-trolley cars, electric garage doors and tudoresque windows in a weak attempt fit in with the few real cottages in the next street. Later that afternoon, if I were to hang around, there would be the smell of log fires filling the street on a barely moving breeze and the picture of a middle England village would be complete; except it wasn’t England.

A plane flew over as if to taunt me again with escapism and the only thing that broke the void of sound and change. Quiet may have been what I didn’t need right now but a walk to get away from the house, clear my mind and exercise a foot injury was the least I needed.

It wasn’t exactly cold as I walked on from the village to the depths of a country road surrounded by fields, hedgerow and single wire telegraph poles. At a gate a Carrion Crow flew from the branch of an oak slowly with large wings silhouetted in it’s deep black. The tree was wiry staging the onset of winter and the imminent approach of Christmas. The only sense of the living beyond the crow was the cold grey sound of traffic distant from the carriageway.

There was a misty grey sky that met the ultra-pale blue and yellow hue above, not as dramatic and apocalyptic as the Mars sky the day before, but still a drama that told a story of the slow progression to winter. It was slow progression I needed. I can’t do it all at once, my project, my writing, a script, a book, music – my gender. It’s all too much to want all at once. I needed to pick at these things a little at a time and prioritise.

At the house I gathered all the coins I could find that I had saved and deposited them in the bank. My future would need every ounce of money I could find – every ounce of belief in myself.

Until next time

Hannah x

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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

Insightful Chemistry from the Ocean

I threw an ice-white linen cloth over the garden table and placed a small clear glass candle jar on the table and lit a tea-light. I returned to the kitchen to put the finishing touches to my dessert and returned outside, sat at the table, eating crumble made from freshly picked local wild fruits topped with a glaze of white custard, and watched the sky turn from dark blues with tall puffy clouds in the distance to the black of night. The smell of vanilla waft across the table from the candle with it’s fuel-like vapour reminding me of the late night smell of a chlorinated hotel swimming pool abroad. Coupled with the sound of grass hoppers bristling their legs in the lawn and the warm air that had come in yesterday, I could well have been abroad.

Abroad. A place in my mind to escape. A silly idea that if I went away to do my something different that all my troubles would float away on the thermals of air like the scent in this candle. Now short-term self retired, also known as self-unemployed, I have the world as my choice but I seem to have little in the way of credible ideas. My head has been mush all week. Unable to bring together any effort in either thoughts or physical activity and occupation of my time; with the exception of running which seems to be the only energy I can muster.

I did start a list of ideas what I might do next, one of which would be to return to the same type of job I just quit from, but soon wrote down next to that ‘to go through the whole thing all over again.’ In fact it would be just another cycle I hadn’t broken. The easy route that would earn money and allow me to sit in an office, at a desk, for the whole day, feeling uninspired by the work and feeling my life slip though my fingers and before I know it it’ll be a decade gone and I’ll be going through the whole process again. The week before I was excited by the possibilities of what I could choose to do for a career and yet now I felt lack-lustre. I don’t think it was particularly the ideas that were at fault but my current state of mind and health. I felt drowsy and so the ideas seemed drowsy.

I looked up from the laptop and realised, apart from the glow of the screen, I was surrounded by complete darkness and the air had cooled rapidly the warmth escaping to the stars in the clear sky. I took everything back in doors.

The next morning I went for a run in an attempt to clear this almost hangover fuzzy head which isn’t much fun when no alcohol was involved. But despite clearing my head a little I was still unable to pull together the thoughts I needed to figure out what I should do.

By the afternoon I found myself walking along the waters edge of a beach that spans the coast for as far as the eye can see and beyond. The sand still damp where the tide had retreated as far as it could. A blue sky filled with puffy white clouds above and tall dark clouds in columns over the flat horizon.

I pulled off my trainers and my pink and grey short socks, the toes already damp where sea water had found its way through my trainers. I continued to walk along the waters edge an inch deep in the incoming tide. It was cool but soon enough became late summer tepid that made it pleasant. Was it not this that I wanted, rather than specifically being along the Mediterranean Sea or the darker greyer waters of Britain, but just to be able to spend time by the sea. Was it time that I needed rather than a complete change? Being just me at the beach wearing what I wanted and feeling I was who I should be rather than the daily mask, even though much less of a mask these days, I was still not one hundred percent where my gender should be.

Much like the trickling clear water drifting it’s way down from a rock pool along a river it had cut into the sand itself, my thoughts on my gender were just as clear. It was clear that I should find a way to progress a little more with the gender thing and find an income that suits my needs for my time, my financial needs where the two can live in harmony with each other. Whether that be on the Côte d’Azur or in the highly charged seasons of the United Kingdom.

I found a rock where I could lay a towel, put my feet up on the coating of rock barnacles and sit with a dark bitter hot chocolate drink and allow the drama of the sky, the high sea breeze and the sun to dance between the fast moving clouds to stir my thoughts and hopefully lift this fuzzy head.

May be I need to mix things up. Keep a free flowing process in how to plan my life and also inversely be regimental. Make lists, jot down ideas, add seemingly unobtainable goals. Be a teacher to myself. Pull out the whiteboard and get busy with a marker. Pace around looking important with a felt pen muttering thoughts, anything that gets ideas moving and bullet points written. Be a bit harder with myself but also patient. If a villa over looking the French Riviera is what I want then put ink on paper and look at it the next day and think, can I, should I, and shout “put the damn effort in and you might just get it.”

It’s the same with gender. It’s a personal thing. Everyone is different and people have different stop-points where they become content. May be I’m content now? After my walk I feel I’m not quite there. There is still a freedom I don’t have and I don’t use – yet.

The tide just a few meters away from my rock. The self made little river continues to delicately make it’s way to meet the incoming sea that looks grey, white and hard when the sun is obscured by the cloud and full of dark earthy greens and white surface froth in the waves when the sun appears. The wind constant without breath and despite being August continues to bite around my arms where it has made its way, I suspect, from the cold of the Atlantic. My ponytail being pulled by the wind and material of my clothes fluttering. I wonder at this point why I spend so little time doing this, productive, thoughtful, insightful chemistry from the ocean.

Wild Brush and Autumn Breeze

I stood on the top of the moorland amongst a thriving crop of dandelions, chrysanthemums, daisies and wild grasses bound with thistles. I turned slowly taking in the panoramic view of the hills to the west carpeted in forests with the carriageway cutting along its edge delivering traffic to the city. The green land faded into modern urban blocks of apartments as sharp and functional as a razor blade lining the waters edge and a quiet white noise of tyres on tarmac filling to air.

It was the perfect end to the morning run event. I had done all the chatting at the end that is so enjoyable. A community spirit in this one morning each week that I can really be myself without any judgments or negativity. An escape from people with people. Even so the walk to the view was inspiring. Burning sun between spacious kettle-fresh clouds, it was the right place, the right time, a moment captured that any other time just might not have produced the same feeling. A feeling that time just wouldn’t move – providing I stayed on that spot.

Who would have thought in such a short a space a time as three or four years I would be standing in my home town in the running gear that I want to wear with the way I want my hair and interacting with people without a care of what they might think and, it would appear, they don’t think anything, at least nothing bad. Accepted amongst people with a similar interest in keeping fit.

It’s funny how I feel so comfortable there now without a thought of worry and yet the odd moment elsewhere I can, at times, feel a bit frozen, not like years ago, but I guess its all part of the dipping-the-toe in the water kind of thing when it comes to gender identity and once I find the shallows of the lapping tide is summer-tepid everything become clear.

It would seem a huge departure to the rest of these last few weeks. A return to my career, at least a short return to keep me going for a year or so, became poison and toxic once again. It wasn’t long before I found myself tending notice. Despite the looming count down of my bank balance and limited time to figure out what I will do next I find that standing amongst the wild brush, and the August breeze that had a hint of September about it, I was calmed and reassured that things just happen and as long as I’m honest with myself, not just about the gender thing but also with what I do with my time. Forty plus hours is a lot of time to spend in a mix of hot and cold toxicity, especially one where I certainly wouldn’t see myself progressing to any kind of gender contentment.

I suppose this year could well be the most important in my life in every way possible and be as subtle as standing alone in the sun in exhilaration after running a few miles. There was a brief moment when I thought of that famous line, “I could die here.” It wasn’t the place, take away the sunshine paint across that grass and the pathways cut by feet, and replace it with a grey sky, rain and some drunk scumbags and suddenly it’s not that place. But it’s not just the place at that time, it was the feeling – at that moment and at that place. Contentment and oneness.

Isn’t this is what life should be about. Finding those moments of contentment and being able to recreate them.

– ❤ –

Every key press feels like blocks of wood talking for my heart. I feel and hear the fibres in the felt on each hammer scratching at each metallic string shedding a tear for all the memories. The piano, an outlet for memories of the last ten years all wrapped up in a few two or three minute solo songs. When I play I play with emotion and allow myself to express feeling through the varying tempo, and yet it is only when I play it back I realise what is behind those songs.

I suddenly realise that what I have written in music without words is telling a story. The welling-up of the high notes with their plinky delicate shade of sombre and the thunderous low notes of the tears and sadness that have ever fallen.

Expression through music is an enhancing and liberating experience just like a pen on a diary or the exploration with a psychologist. I feel gifted to have been able to find the ability to write through music and yet it can also feel like watching the pain on playback listening to my past self telling me what I had been through in my thirties from self female discovery and the loss of a long relationship ending with living alone with my own memories and company.

It is a life of depth of thought. Nights of glowing candles and intellectual reasoning with myself. Hannah, always thinking – again. There is a choice of course. Do something else, something to move a little further forward, or stay where I am. Settle on a comfort spot. A gamble just a like a game of poker.

Isn’t moving and change what makes life – well, life. Without movement nothing happens, darkness, stillness, frozen, yet a painting, as far as our observation is concerned, still and locked in a moment of time and yet can say so much. I find myself at another subtle junction in my life and a time where I see life racing by. I sometimes feel like for every heart beat others have beat ten times.

I suppose it comes down to this. When I look back in twenty or forty years time, am I going to say to myself, “if only” or will I raise a small smile and a small glass and say – “great choice.”

Until next time,

Hannah x

Dreamy Days and Wandering Minds

I sat down at the metal table that felt like it would clang like a gong as my cup of decaffeinated Americano hit the surface. The chairs equally metallic and functional. The summer sun, as they had promised for today, had departed replaced by a grey misty sky but it was still warm enough to sit outside the cafe under the cover.

I took a sip of the coffee, the texture powdery dry and bitter, and glanced across the paving stones ‘outside’. The paving was peppered with wet spots and the rain had just begun and, while I was technically outside, being under cover felt cosy. I love watching the rain when I’m in that mood. To feel the change in the air, the smell of dried salts perfuming from the ground and sometimes, if I’m sat close enough to a door or the outside, the gentle spray of a few rain drops. If I’m lucky I’ll hear the splattering of the rain on a hard floor. Best suited to dreamy days of the wandering mind.

My umbrella leant perched against my chair and so I was prepared for the walk back to work after my lunch break but I had misplaced my other umbrella last week. I don’t know whether I’d left it in the delicatessens or one of the shops where I’d purchased a birthday present for someone the week before. I tried a few places but the message was the same, it wasn’t there and I was soon impulse-buying in these places. It’s not like it should be that important, my spare umbrella was damaged on one corner capable of blinding a member of public in an instant and a little discoloured in places, but it was old and it was strong. It had survived years of strong winds. I hate loosing things, even if they should have been long retired. It got me thinking. Thinking about how I hate loosing things – loosing the past.

I get attached to things so badly but it’s not, in reality, the object I’ve lost that I’m attached to but the memories that they hold. Memories attached to objects for me are so strong, some happy, some sad or even embarrassing but the emotion is much like that brought to fruition like a smell that emotes rose tinted memories of the past.

I thought about what would happen to those male clothes that I still have left in my wardrobe in abundance should I decide to be outwardly female full-time. Would I really be able to get rid of them even if I knew I would never wear them again? I think though, much like every possession I hate to loose, throwing away my old clothes would feel like throwing away my friends, my family members, that best holiday ever, that point in my life where everything felt good or even my childhood.

It will be difficult I know but I also know that life never stands still. Our world never stands still even the most still things in life move and change even if so slowly it’s beyond our perception, but things change. The flowers grow, the stars move and the tide comes and goes. Memories only fade if we let them or we falter. We can pass on our memories to other people or record them in photographs, videos or stories. Our only challenge is to keep them preserved as best we can without letting them rule our future in some kind of shrine of denial. I think my only way to get through that is to remind myself that I don’t need possessions to keep hold of my past I just need something and that I need an ability to let-go a little. Allow the sand to filter through my fingers enough that the sensation is there but I’m not controlled or committed to it.

I didn’t have a particularly bad male past and so I don’t want to deny my past but I also have a future that I want to make mine, before it’s too late. I am a confusion of conflict between never letting go, a hoarder, with an opposite desire to move forwards and find things new whether they be possessions or the intangible like how I occupy my time. They seem almost entirely incompatible but when I think about it I am also eclectic. Sometimes people admire some of my possessions. Admire a musical instrument or a feature of furniture in my house but when you look closely, I tend to just have one of those things and if I’m happy with it I keep it. I keep things simple and enjoy things for what they are to the full rather than chase the next best thing. May be I apply that to life too. To less materialistic things like memories, emotions, and people I’ve met and all those three things together. Savouring those things much like I would with the material things.

Where does this leave me with the split between the masculine and feminine, that we all possess to some extent, and what I leave behind? It’s a difficult question to answer. I suppose as time goes on my constant introspection eventually brings together some kind of answer and allows me to cherish the parts of my masculine past but not to feel a guilt to have to continue to live that past – especially not for other people.

These things don’t have to be this complicated but they just are. I have to work through them because I know if I ignore them they’ll bite me in the future. When I’m in the right frame of mind and I think back, as I do from time to time, and I have mentioned this before, I don’t have to think that far back, five or six years the changes that have happened are huge. Changes to how I present myself to others and being honest to myself are so vast and yet subtle over time that I wouldn’t have thought in a million minutes that I would be where I am now. The thing is – I wonder now what things will be like in a years time?

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

Subtleties of the Stars

I sat on the decking at lunch. It was burning hot and summer had definitely arrived even if it might be only for a coupe of days but there would be no shortage of vitamin D for me, even if it meant putting up with a little hay fever, the lapping of the water and the squark and laughing calls of sea gulls and chirps of little sparrows hoping around cafe tables waiting for generous patrons to carelessly drop crumbs from a fat saturated croissants and hot cheese goo cafe paninis.

It was nice, at least, and despite being sat on the floor, to lay back against the cold stone wall for a moment, close my eyes and just listen to those sea front sounds. That glug of the diesel boat waiting for tourists fares was even relaxing. I had felt a bit lost the last few weeks. Ups and down without explanation and a laissez faire attitude to the gender thing despite feeling elated at the end of those weekly park runs.

A small ex-fishing boat bubbled it’s way across the near flat water of the bay with a mother and daughter sat at the front royally and a sailing boat in the distance slowly made its way over in replacement. A US citizen grabbed her camera and pointed it down at the water from the metal railings several feet above the waters edge and exclaimed to her ‘couple’ friends in a thick Californianesq accent, “Look! A swan! On the ocean!” We were a few hundred miles from the ocean and it would probably be difficult to know whether the still water was even part of the sea, but the surprise and almost child-like glee at something that seemed so simple on the surface was something to behold. Life shouldn’t always be so deep, sometimes appreciating the supposed simple things the world has to offer is the key to happiness. It was by chance a social media post popped up, right now, by the great Paul McKenna, “Take a moment each day to step back, evaluate the task in front of you and let your thoughts flow.” It doesn’t get more true than this, and I know this, I just have to remind myself to ‘remember’ this.

I think one of the main things I tend to think about these days is age. I know people sort their gender identity out at any age and like most I wish I’d done something about it when I was 20 but each morning I’m sure I find another grey hair. It’s not like I have lots of grey roots and the rest is dark, I’m dark all over with full length grey hair strands amongst the rest. I found my first grey the day before my 30th birthday, which itself seems so long ago, and ever since they’ve been sneakily populating their way amongst my hair. If I use straighteners after washing my hair, I’ll see them all easily. I felt like I wanted to catch them now rather than going all grey and then one day miraculously everyone will see I’m brunette again.

I had mentioned it to my Mum a few weeks ago and after some colour matching the week before I decided to go ahead and get some permanent colour done but it was funny the day before how I suddenly questioned it much like any other gender identity change I might suddenly decide on. How was I really going to feel about this? I looked in the mirror. I had been for a run and so my hair was still damp and it looked dark. Did I really need this. Would I suddenly feel fake? The last thing I wanted was to feel fake, non-genuine and unauthentic. I always felt so lucky that unlike some male family and friends that I have kept my hair. Not just long but actually kept it. It hadn’t decided to buy a one way ticket for retirement in some island off the coast of Thailand. I was also proud that it was still thick, luscious and generally, on the whole dark brunette with gold streaks bleached by the sun.

I kind of went into automatic. I couldn’t come up with an answer and before I knew it I was sat in a chair in my Mums kitchen having permanent dye syrup painted onto long strands from root to tip and twenty minutes later with my head over a bowl having it washed out with the bowl water slowly turning brown. It was done. “Don’t worry –” she said while I was looking at a bowl of small choppy waves centimetres away and froth trickling down my face, “the brown on your skin will wash right off.”

“That’s ok.” I said, “As long as you didn’t mix it up with a tube of Veet and I’m going to suddenly see a bowl of brown hair.”

I checked in the mirror once my hair was dry. It was fine, subtle, barely noticeable until I got home. I don’t know what it was about the large gold painted framed fancy mirror in my hall but I could suddenly see the difference. Natural but I felt like I’d gone back in time. It wasn’t a typical, ‘do you feel ten years younger?’ It was just like I’d been repaired. It was like I’d replaced an old t-shirt with a brand new one that had fresh thick screen print on the front and the smell of fresh unwashed factory dyes.

A weekend – a week later – I found myself at sunset on top of the hill just a mile or two down the road watching the crayon saturated orange sky sink behind silhouetted forest lined hill tops. Things were still changing. They were slow and so subtle that they were nearly unnoticeable. Like watching the tide coming in or the moon and stars move across the sky, you can see them move if only to take the time to stare and watch long enough. It’s the same with moving with identity. Take that deck chair out into the 10pm night sky, lay back and, just for a moment, take in the change and enjoy finding that happiness.

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