Musings: Sound & Vision

Saturday, November 9, 2013

I wanted to write about a conversation - via text - that I had with my mother earlier this evening.

We communicate in a number of ways.

I seem to be getting better at picking up on what is really being said the further my transition progresses.

And not just by others, either.




I mostly chat with my mother via text.

It has been that way for a while, but particularly since I came out to she and my father (over five months ago, astonishingly).

Quite simply, they both dislike any conversation, or potential conversation, that could involve expressing genuine emotion. Of any kind, really, but particularly what I used to term "bad" emotions: fear, doubt, and, especially, anger.

Thanks to a wonderful therapist I saw while living in Seattle, I realized that there is no such thing as "bad" emotions. They, are, simply emotions. What we choose to do (or not do) about them, however… well, that is a different story.

Neither of my parents ever speaks of my transition other than its possible impact on my job. For that matter, neither of them has ever once addressed me as Cassidy since I came out; they both still use my boy name. My job, it seems, is their only means of addressing this at all.

I can only assume that to them, work is a "safe" subject, since it doesn't involve actually discussing emotions, or people they know personally. Frankly, that is fine with me. They ceded the right to anything more than the barest details with their reactions, both in the moment I told them and in the ensuing months.

Back to this evening. Shortly after I returned home from a walk after work, I decided to send a text message to my mother. If I don't, then I am told that I "never" talk to them about anything.

I have learned this is a lose-lose situation no matter how I respond.

If I tell them anything remotely personal, I am told I am doing the wrong thing. Even if what I tell them is the complete opposite of what I told them the last time. (Yes, I have done this deliberately in the past, simply to verify if I was imagining this phenomenon. I was not.) If I choose not to tell them anything, then I am shutting them out.

Similarly, if I were to disagree with their response,  I am willful, biting my nose to spite my face, and so on. If I were to simply say nothing about their response, then I am being a martyr.

I realized fairly recently what was and is going on in these situations:

It is a game.

One that is rigged so that I always lose.

Or, more accurately, so that that they always win.

Eventually, the solution occurred to me:

Don't play the game.

I never asked to to play.

I have no say in the rules.

And I cannot win.

Ever.

Because it is rigged.

So… I stopped.

And, happily, that works.

I can now recognize the dynamic.

I joke that it is women's intuition, but really, it is being in the moment.

I put aside what I wish to hear.

Because after a lifetime I now realize that desire, while understandable, leaves me vulnerable.

That desire - to be accepted by them for who I am - is a carrot that has been held out, and then withdrawn, over and over, my entire life.

Enough times - consciously or (much more likely) unconsciously - that I no longer believe them when they offer it.

Similarly, I put aside what I expect to hear.

I am learning to listen, closely, to what is being said. And then, to look beyond that to see what is actually being said.

Sound and vision, as the song goes.

Tonight was a case in point.

I know that I need to check in. Not to actually connect… but to preserve the illusion of connecting.

I apologize if this sounds cynical; it's just the truth, as I see it. Denying that it isn't so seems misguided, at best, and self-destructive at worst. I won't do that to myself any longer.

Accordingly, I began by asking how she and my father are doing, as always. Then I asked about their neighbors, again as always.

After the customary replies, she asks how I am doing.

This might sound supportive. I would even venture to say it is intended to sound supportive.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. As you will see momentarily.

I speak in generalities about work, as I always do when asked this question. I tell her the latest funny thing my manager L said, or relate an anecdote about how chaotic the project is.

Usually, that is enough.

She doesn't really want to know how I am doing.

Nor do I really want to tell her how I am doing.

Occasionally, however, she will keep asking: no, how are you?

Again, this sounds supportive.

And again, it is not the case.

Perhaps it is what is considered by her to be a sincere attempt to find out.

And it would be - if only for the fact that my response, invariably, falls short of whatever has been deemed the "correct" answer this time.

(And yes, what was the "correct" answer last time may no longer be "correct" this time. When you make the rules, you get to change them too.)

If I fall into the trap and offer something genuinely personal, then it begins.

Why didn't you mention this until now?

Why are you doing it this way?

Don't you know that won't work?

Tonight was one of those nights when she asked how I really was.

But the difference between "him" and me is that I recognize the game.

And can use it for my own purposes.

Case in point.

I resolved from the moment I prepared to tell my family that I would hold myself accountable for my actions, and strive to take the high road at all times. No matter the reaction.

I wanted to be as open as I could, and ask them to share my journey with me. And I truly meant it. I did, and do, want them to be part of it.

But I knew all too well that was highly unlikely.

That made me even more determined.

I wanted to know I did all that I could have possibly done.

Not because I wanted to be better than them; because I wanted to be the best I could be.

That explained why I chose to do what I did next.

My mother seemed to be in a relatively good mood tonight.

She asked several questions about things going on at work. (I will write about them shortly.)

I offered to come by so they could see firsthand what I was discussing.

I also wanted them to see something even more important.

***

A side note.

I have lived on my own for nearly 25 years. (Yes, I am really, really old. :-p)

In all that time, I can count the number of times my mother and father have visited me without using all of my fingers. And that includes helping me move in and out of several of these apartments.

I have lived less than five miles from them for well over half of that time, and less than 90 minutes for nearly a quarter of that time.

Since moving to my new apartment, which is less than a ten minute drive from their home, I have offered to have them over for dinner on multiple occasions. In fact, I have offered several times since my announcement.

I have offered to pick them up and drive them home. (My father dislikes driving at night, which I can certainly understand, since he drove a police car for 16 hours a day for umpteen years.)

No matter when I ask, the answer is always the same:

A noncommittal yes… then nothing.

That is why I offered to visit them.

It is, quite simply, easier.

***

Back to my offer to come by their house.

My mother replied that that would be nice.

I sent the following reply:

"Great. Why don't I come by over the weekend?"

"Sure," she replied. "Maybe Sunday afternoon?"

I decided it was time to offer yet another olive branch.

Even though I knew what her response would be.

"Sunday afternoon would be fine."

"And if you like, I can also show you a few pictures."

***

My parents still have never so much as seen a picture of Cass, let alone met her.

My sister C was surprisingly, almost touchingly, naive about how my parents (and brother and sister-in-law) would react when I told them.

And she remains so when it comes to my parents, time and again.

My nephew C, who is far wiser than his 20 years, explained it well.

"She doesn't really believe that they'll come around," he said. "She just wants to believe it for you. She doesn't want to see you get hurt anymore."

I mentioned several time to her that I wanted them to meet Cass. First by showing photos, then by letting them meet me in person.

She chose to be cautiously optimistic.

"I think you should give them time, hon," she said. "This is a lot for them to take in. Let them process it. When they're ready, they'll let you know."

Her reaction was the same each subsequent time I asked too.

As I've said, I know better now.

What happened next is a perfect example why.

It was time - past time - for them to meet me.

I needed to raise the issue.

I had a very good idea what the reply would be, but I needed to raise it for my own purposes.

Their reaction, in many ways, was incidental.

A full minute after sending my offer, her reply arrived.

"Pictures of what?"

I smiled, shaking my head a bit.

They are, if nothing else, utterly predictable.

I needed to play this out to the end.

It is still sometimes necessary to do so in some cases.

Even when it is not the end you would hope for.

Maybe especially then.

***

I used to have the same feeling while growing up.

When I would ask out a girl, I knew - with utter certainty - how it would end.

With a no (which I genuinely appreciated, since I was given the courtesy of a reply).

With a yes, then a no (which I also appreciated, since they cared enough to avoid hurting my feelings face to face).

Or, all too often, unfortunately, with a yes, then… nothing.

Simply being… forgotten.

That happened too often.

Not just with girls, either.

On two consecutive years, my entire family forgot my birthday.

The first was my 19th birthday.

I remember this because the movie 16 Candles came out that year.

 Molly Ringwald played the title character. The film takes place on the day of her older sister's wedding - which also happens to be her character's 16th birthday.

Which her entire family forgets.

I distinctly remember seeing with friends the day it opened, having no idea what it was about.

Within minutes, I was grateful they were all enjoying it too much to notice my reaction.

Because I did my very best not to cry the entire movie.

I tried not to watch, listen, or, especially, think about why I was so deeply affected by it. It hit home on many levels - far more levels than I could possibly understand at that point, let alone act on.

Thanks to some excellent therapists, I can see now what I was so affected by the film.

(I couldn't let on to them, or myself, why the fact that it was about a teenaged girl only a few years younger than me at the time also resonated. I figured that part out on my own.)

What I was doing by asking out girls I knew on some level would turn me down was to honor my parents, in a twisted way.

By recreating with others what was happening with them.

Over and over.

Such as being overlooked. And not valued.

Now I can see what I was doing.

I'm learning to let go.

It is hard.

Believing that I could possibly find someone who would want me for me is still a struggle.

I don't believe it at the moment, much as I wish I could.

I think accepting that this is possible is as important, if no more so, than when I finally admitted the truth to myself. That I am a girl.

I have made my share of mistakes transitioning, but I hope I can face this newest battle with the same determination.

I am not the person who was turned down, over and over, and overlooked, over and over.

How tonight's situation played out proved this to me.

***

After receiving my mother's reply to my offer to show her pictures ("Pictures of what?"), I went forward as planned.

By my rules.

Not by theirs.

"Pictures of me," I typed in response.

Then I waited again.

One minute.

Two minutes.

Three minutes.

Four minutes.

Five minutes.

No response.

Which was precisely what I expected.

The difference between then and now is that now I knew this was going to happen.

And I knew why.

I also knew why that no longer mattered.

I owe my parents every opportunity to share my journey.

I have offered them that chance, over and over.

Whether they choose to accept that offer has been and is entirely up to them.

That is why, after five minutes, I broke the silence.

"It's OK," I said. "No worries."

A minute later came her reply:

"OK."

And as far as I am concerned, it is OK.

I did what I needed to do.

On my terms.

When I suited my purposes.

What she chose to do was entirely up to her.

I am learning to really watch, listen, and think.

Not just to what others are really thinking and doing, and what their reasons might be.

But to what I am really thinking, and doing. And what my reasons are.

Then I can decide how I want to respond, from a position of strength.

I know who I am.

I know why I am doing what I am doing.

If others want to be part of that, I will welcome them.

If they don't, well, the loss is theirs.

I am moving forward.

As me. Finally, as me.

***

I realized recently that I have never published any photos of myself wearing my glasses.

I am hopelessly near-sighted, and cannot function without glasses, so I suppose that means my real name is Vanity. Otherwise, why would I always take them off when I take pictures for this blog, after all?!? :-p

Well, I have decided to rectify that, dear reader.

These are my old glasses; I have a new prescription, and ordered new glasses, several months ago. But getting into Boston to pick them up is a chore, given where I work.

I hope to pick them up shortly, and to get fitted for contacts (oh, that is going to be an adventure, if my previous, futile attempt is any indication). But in the meantime, here I am in my full bespectacled glory.

And be careful what you say: I can read your lips with these things on now.

You have been warned. :c)



Both expressions are kinda goofy, I acknowledge. But you should see the ones I didn't publish! lol

You can probably see the swelling around my lips, and around my eyes, from Tuesday's electrolysis session. I have been working on my makeup, albeit mostly with awful results. But when my skin is this beaten up, I must hold off for at least a few days. Sigh.

What is amazing to me is that I took these last night (Thursday), and hadn't shaved for five days! (Other than my neck, which we haven't really touched yet.) My beard is significantly less heavy than it was even a month ago. Very odd, since hormones don't affect facial hair. But I am not complaining, believe me!


***

This was another post inspired by a classic song. In this case, it's from David Bowie landmark 1977 album, Low. You know an album is truly revolutionary when it still sounds utterly unique, compelling, and, above all, mysterious, over 35 years later.


And simply because it is too amazing an album to post only one cut, here is a live version of the first song from the all-instrumental second side, "Warszawa," recorded in Tokyo on December 12th, 1978:


Thirty-five plus years later, and he is still a vital recording artist, still pushing boundaries. Not a bad role model for anyone, really.

2 comments:

April on November 9, 2013 at 6:01 PM said...

I'm so sorry sis. I know it cannot replace your parents acceptance but you have a whole lot of friends that love you and are cheering you on every step of the way.

Cassidy on November 10, 2013 at 8:22 PM said...

Thank you, sis. That *does* help enormously. :c) And I am grateful to each and every one of you.

Thanks again, hon!

Hugs,
Cass

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