Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Written Tuesday, July 16, 2019

[Published retroactively on 2021-10-09, with minor redactions for privacy.]

Need to just get some stuff out and try and fight my obsession with sounding fancy. Been working through a list of one-on-one conversations with coworkers who I think deserve to know first-hand before I come out completely via company-wide email notice. A few of us were planning on playing some board games last night and hanging out. I am out to everyone in that circle. Two people couldn't make it which was a real blow because I was really looking forward to seeing them (meeting one of them, really).

I chose to go to the thing anyways, and honestly it went really well. I guess. Everyone was super chill and respectful and handled everything really well. Even the one I forgot to actually tell my name beforehand. Fuck.

It was right after work so total boy-mode and on the heels of a rough day. I think. I don't remember much of yesterday. Going to work is getting scary hard. It's like I just start losing sight of myself under the constant bombardment of people interacting with someone else while thinking it's me. I can't even blame anyone because they cannot fucking know.

Of course some people do know by now which makes it incredibly fucking frustrating on its own. Simple meeting, three of us. Everyone knows about me but the other two don't know if anyone else knows (including each other). I can't just say "ok it's fine everyone's on the same page" because there's no "plausible" explanation for why this individual would know already when so many others don't; I can't talk about the real reason in there because it risks outing other people.

So we all just sit in the room and try to talk about work and I'm just drowning in panic and awkwardness about how much this sucks and I feel like shit for putting people around me through it and FUCK.

So I leave work feeling like shit all the time. More and more often I leave early. Like, super not-ok fucking early. It's good I don't have a timecard. I don't want to know how little I'm actually doing there.

Probably going to burn every scrap of time off I can gather together and just get the fuck away for a bit. Need to disengage from some responsibilities. But I keep putting off that conversation because I want to do it responsibly but it's so fucking draining and painful so I never really feel "up to" it. Which of course just means that things get worse and languish and I feel less ready than ever and it's just going to end up being a fucking garbage fire.

I think my plan is to file for time off, write a short list of things that "someone else" needs to take care of while I'm out, apologize for the whole fucking shit show but I can't say more right now, and just fucking unplug.

I feel kind of sick because it's the same sort of backed-into-a-corner shit that [reminds me of so much other trauma]. I guess maybe I'm glad I can see the parallels and I know that just removing that huge mass of stress is absolutely the right thing to do. Everything is so fucked.

I keep seeing these indicators, like warning signs that I'm in a shitty spot. Darker or angrier moods a lot. Getting shitty and derisive about people. Getting shitty and derisive about myself. Intrusive thoughts. The first early flickers of I Really Do Not Want To Have Heard That Go Through My Head.

I was telling myself it was alright, that I was paying attention and if it got to be a genuine concern I'd do something about it. It's a genuine concern now.

I have a prescription to pick up for an anxiolytic which I think will be really useful. I also have my psych on alert in case shit gets messy and I need to do something more significant treatment-wise. Started thinking of this in terms of constructing some reassurance and peace of mind for myself, instead of just trying to find it pre-existing someplace. Meds are a good ingredient in that.

I also need people. I don't have many friends, really. Almost exclusively cis. I know other trans people and I know they are absolutely willing to help. But I fucking suck at reaching out and always manage to choose to just hurt alone. Trying really hard to get a foothold on that. Actually said something about it to a few people earlier. Someone suggested I need to have others actively poke. And that's really what I want, what I fucking need, because I'm just so fucked up about saying anything. So of course I left a totally useless response and the conversation died there and I'm just scared and pissed at myself because maybe I just blew a really good chance to change this shit.

I just get hopelessly stuck in this shitty mental scene, where I'm watching everything get fucked up and I hate it and I'm in hell and then for no apparent reason some people decide to surprise me out of the blue and show up and just do all kinds of affirming and supportive and compassionate stuff that I can't even think of because I'm way past the point where I have any goddamn clue how to help myself. And I can tell how fucking good that would feel and how much I want it and need it. And I know that it can't happen as long as literally nobody knows that I'm in this place and that's what I need. But I can't fucking ask.

It doesn't feel out of control. Not yet. I've been doing ok on the persistent self-assurance that I have fire alarms to pull if it does get out of control. I know I will use them. I know I still have a really good shot at stabilizing this and getting through it without a bunch of fucking drama. But I can't pretend like it isn't fucking scary. It's hard to control, for now, but it very well could just break loose and I need to have safety in place if it does.

I left early last night and felt really fucked up. Everything went well from one angle but it felt so dead. I was dissociating really badly by the end of the night. It's like all of the classic moment-of-truth second guessing shit that everyone talks about. I know it happens, I knew it was a possibility, and it still just totally hit me like a truck.

Is this me? Is this right? It doesn't feel right. It doesn't feel like anything. Nothing makes sense. My name doesn't register quite correctly yet, but being called the other shit is still intensely distressing. Pronouns are fucking weird no matter what. I can't even find clothes that aren't somehow a constant and torturous reminder that everything is fucking wrong.

I can still get the chills, from thinking about the day when this is over and Amelia is really actualized. I still fight every way I can find to protect the hope that started to seem possible lately. I still want to help people with this and just fucking make it less hell in any way at all. I still have to remind myself to put my own oxygen mask on first.

I know it's ok. I know it's alright and I know I am not going to let go.

It's just so fucking hard.



Rested for a few hours or so, hard to remember times but anyways. I feel a lot better now. It's still new and fascinating to me that I can experience any kind of non-zero emotional state and then come back to calm afterwards. I'd become so accustomed to "feelings mean shit's going to blow up" in life that it really feels genuinely surprising when I can, you know... cope.

I spent so long using sleep, medications, substance abuse, and various blends of all three (and more) to "cope." So little time feeling able to trust myself or care about myself or even want to care or trust at all. It makes such an incredible difference to approach difficulty from a position of what I can only describe as growing inner strength.

I want to start tracking some of the coping mechanisms I've been learning these days. Some are tiny little things – gently correcting my internal monologue on pronouns, names, gendered language, stereotypes, and all kinds of stuff; being gentle with my internal monologue at all; gestures or flourishes or barely perceptible mannerisms; the insistent but playful way I lilt through reciting my full name to myself and inevitably giggle a bit afterwards.

And there are big things. Like the fact that I am just choosing to reinforce the tiny things without exception as much as I can. If it's actually hurting in any way, that's ok – I don't feel obligated to force it and I don't dwell on guilt or anything about it. But other than that, I try to just do all of the things I can. It doesn't matter if they are independently huge game-changers, or even if they cumulatively move the needle at all – because ultimately the dedication behind that consistent reinforcement is immensely valuable on its own. So I flow with the little proto-song of my name, and I laugh a tiny bit after, and I don't question it or resist it. It's a growing bond of trust. I see me, and I see the loveliness and value and beauty and I know that I am not going to let go.

Past a point, I'm just relinquishing the fixation on explaining and justifying everything in minute and irrefutable specificity, both to myself and to everyone else. Sometimes things are just good and that's the word I need; constructing a thesis around "why" is not useful, nor is trying to cram a ton of nuance into word selection. Sometimes I'm just going to do things because I want to.

There are so many fascinating pieces of my mental landscape that have begun connecting in amazing ways lately. The Zen koan fixation from years ago that turned into a pathological need to transmit incredibly large volumes of information and understanding in just a tiny cryptic phrase. The realization that koans, by design, omit the actual interesting part of the story – the entire history of the characters leading up until the moment of enlightenment. A good koan is a fun distillation of that inflection point, but it loses the power – the area under the curve. Enlightenment isn't a moment, it's a journey.

Treating conversations like they should be resolved with a single silly act or utterance is a disservice to everyone. Trying to condense massive amounts of context into a tiny space, trying to predict and out-maneuver every single possible point of confusion, or contention, or ambiguity in advance – this places the emphasis on ending the conversation. Maybe it's better to place emphasis on furthering the conversation.

Sharing experience as though it were expected to directly be received by the listener and acknowledged as immediately actionable wisdom. Approaching relationships with the mentality of trying to anticipate everything and control for "best results." Keeping secrets because maybe if I think about it alone for long enough I can sort it out before it hurts us.

Art – the relationship between creator, creation, and appreciator. Making music. Improvisation – musically, comedically, dramatically, tactically, in life. Tao. Harmony, balance, interplay, tension. Seeing new ideas not as something to wholesale adopt and pursue with relentless fervor until something better comes along – but as ways to illuminate more of a whole that we do not already see. Projection. Shadowplay. Looking through a keyhole.

Elegance, not as a measure of information-theoretic compression, but as an intuitive emotional concept of how much can be evoked. It's not merely about cramming a ton of semantic interestingness into a small space, it's about inspiration. The muse isn't a database from which brilliance is withdrawn, she's a spark, a way to ignite creation.

All of these things happen best as aspects of a larger phenomenon. They are not isolated or atomic. Loveliness is intrinsically relational by nature. There is always a sense of intricate and significant movement between multiple subsets of the larger whole. Not purely "good", not purely "bad" – a swirl of differently colored paints. Shake it too much and all of the beauty disappears. Nothing is simple. Stop trying to force things to be simple.

What if a person isn't an "individual" in an etymologically literalistic way? Plurality. Fractional dimension of experience. Identity and stability are born of learning to value the swirl of our own selves. "Integration" is a repugnant notion in some circles for good reason; it implies a biased preconception that simplistic, reductionist stubbornness is somehow superior to learning to thrive in the complexity.

Fractals. Endlessly infinite loveliness evoked from an astonishingly compact seed. You don't paint a fractal onto a canvas, much like you cannot impart virtue to an auditorium or a team. A lasting garden isn't delivered prepackaged via truck. You create a space and an infrastructure in which things can bloom. And then you tend.

I don't see life as a thing to plan. Planning is notoriously useless, although even the most poignant critics of plans recognize the intrinsic but elusive utility in the process of trying to create them. Plans go wrong. Eventually something will happen that is different enough that it shatters the illusion of control. In a sense, the more "successful" we feel our plan has been until that point, the harder it is to recover.

So many have wrestled with this. Just in the tiny slice of human experience that I'm most familiar with, it's generated a huge and decades-long saga of drama about how to make computer software. "Agility" has come and gone as a useful notion. Anti-fragility had an interesting shine but doesn't seem to have stuck. Rapid iteration. Continuous deployment. Glimpses of a bigger idea through a keyhole.

The flow-chart is a troublesome tool for trying to handle life. We can't make one big enough to cover all the possible cases. Can we get rid of it altogether? Don't teach students knowledge, stoke their curiosity and teach them how to learn. Re-derive theorems from axiomatic first principles. Make an infrastructure and let things bloom. Don't make decisions with a flow chart, just remember what's important, and how to adjust your estimation of importance.

Life is beyond unpredictable. Control is a toxic illusion. Loveliness is relational; it's a product of an active exchange between separate (but perhaps not strictly distinct) parts. The universe isn't a clockwork.

It's a dance.

All of this vastly disparate constellation of thoughts, but all hinting at an amazing shape that doesn't fit into view. Glimpses through a keyhole. Seeing higher spatial dimensions through the shadows they cast down into 3D. It's the kind of thing that would have frustrated a younger me. There's so much there but I can't see it!

The glorious thing is that the elusive grander image doesn't feel like a taunt anymore. "Seeing the image" isn't some kind of goal-state to race towards. The power is in the process of seeing the glimpses. Catch new ideas. Adapt (not adopt) what is suitable and be informed by the remainder. Synthesis. Enjoy the journey. Area under the curve.

Full circle, or so it may seem at first; but this isn't a completion or a futile closed loop. It's a tonic note, a touchstone of familiarity to remind us of where things are centered. Not an orbit – a strange attractor. Meta-stability. Traversing an infinity of states without losing sight of what's important.

Non-writing-focused cultures that rely on spoken tradition. Telling stories isn't a way to relay factual information, it's a way to weave relationships. So of course there is meandering, and cyclical revisiting of ideas and characters and moments. Stories aren't for communicating data points, they're for communicating what's important, and how we relate within that space.

All this musing and no punchline? I don't have the koan. I just have all the parts that nobody bothered to write down. I can't zap enlightenment into anyone with a cheeky rap on the knuckles. All I can do is build a space for things to bloom, and then tend. You will see different glimpses through the keyhole than I have, even if I show you where to stand. And that is lovely.

Enlightenment might be down the road, who knows, that's predicting the future. Who wants to predict the future? You're always wrong and there's no fun in it anyways. If you want that you have to talk to the woman with the crystal balls. I just have the regular balls.

Fuck living in the future. All you really need is to be here. And then dance.