Boundary Rider

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

As you've probably figured out by now, I'm a bit of a music fan. :c) I own an embarrassing number of albums <cough>5,000+</cough>, and listen to most of them on a pretty regular basis.

I don't get to the movies as much as I used to, but that's because there's only a one-screen art house theatre here. When I lived in Seattle, I would routinely go to two or three movies a week, and watch even more on DVD.

And we won't even get into books; suffice it to say I can polish off a book every two or three nights. It's about the only good thing about chronic insomnia. I just finished Brian Katcher's Almost Perfect, which was mentioned on another blog. (Thank you to Jen at Jenesis for writing about this powerful and very, very moving book.)

I draw my own comic strip and keep a daily journal (three pages a day, every day). I also exercise every day, either at the gym or just by walking.

I started working full time and attending school full time as a high school sophomore. I did the same through college, and again while earning certificates in technical writing and pubic relations. I would routinely work 60-80 hours, even more in the tech writing program. I remember coming home around 6:00 PM the night after the program finished. Six hours later I found myself furiously scrubbing the corners of my kitchen floor at midnight with a toothbrush to remove non-existent dirt, only to think "OK, something is a bit off here." (I only wish I was kidding.)

Hmm. I don't have my Dick Tracy Crime Stopper Kit handy, but it's almost as if there's a pattern there… :c)

I've been reading a number of trans blogs since I finally accepted whoI was, and one theme that occurs over and over is this sort of obsessive behavior. It makes a lot of sense. Even if I couldn't admit why, I knew I had to keep my mind occupied as much as possible. Or else *those* thoughts would be back. And they'd be even stronger than before. Better to find something - anything - that would stop that from happening. Given my family history of addictive behavior on both sides, I'm very fortunate it stopped with music, movies, and books. I suspect others aren't as fortunate.

I grew up in a very conservative, blue collar city in the Northeast. My family is working-class Irish Catholic. We lived barely five miles outside a major city, but I knew - heck, know - many people who have lived their entire lives without ever once venturing into "town," as they refer to it. You can be there in literally minutes by subway or bus, but nothing could, or will, entice them to visit one of the world's great cities, one with countless historic landmarks, world-famous cultural treasures, and innumerable college and sports teams.

I was always baffled by this behavior, and I suppose I thought I was different, that I wasn't like *those people*. But recently I've begun to look at it a bit differently.

The unknown is frightening. Even when you can see it in front of you, shining, right there on the horizon. Even when you've been assured that it's OK, that others have gone before you and found that the journey to this new destination is well-worth the risks - perceived and otherwise. After all, even if you suspect that there's a much, much richer world out there, if you simply take that first step…  - well, isn't it just safer to stay put?

And there is something to be said for that - to an extent. I knew I was different at an early age. At school, at home, with my friends, with my family, I knew I was "other,"  even if I couldn't articulate why at first. And people weren't shy about letting me know that *they* knew it too. In addition to insomnia,  I was sick all of the time. I had chronic stomach problems  (I was tested for an ulcer several times in grade school - grade school!), no doubt from the stomach-churning terror of keeping a secret I feared, quite rightly, could get me killed. I was beaten up more than once, and was threatened with a knife by a classmate who told me he was going to kill me right there on the street. A teacher once tried to molest me in high school, stopped only by one of the receptionists coming back to check on me. And all of this happened because I didn't fit in.

Under those circumstances, I desperately needed the relief that my obsessions provided me. I adored, and still adore, comic strips, particularly Peanuts. I knew that no matter how awful the day had been, or how many insults I had to endure, or how to endure carrying this terrible secret that I could never, ever share with anyone - I knew that I had a refuge when I would come home, close my bedroom door, put on my beloved Beatles albums, and open the newspaper to the comics. There was a world waiting there every day, populated by my friends on the page, friends who never judged me or cared how small or unathletic or awkward I was. I could simply… be. And that was enough, even if it was only or a few moments every day.

And because I had those friends, and those places, and because of the strength and comfort they gave me, I'm where I am today. Venturing forth from those safe places, knowing I can reach my destination, even if it's a long way off. And hoping that someday I can offer refuge to others who are wondering if they, too, can find the courage to take that first step.

Courtesy of Dave Rawlings, the best guitar player I've ever heard, here's a song about having a sweet tooth… and other, darker obsessions:

And here's a beautiful song from The Go-Betweens, written by the late, great Grant McLennan, about learning to accept who you are, and the price of that journey.

There's a boundary rider/At the five mile fence/Bloodwood, bones + steers/And the sky's so deep/You can't find your sleep/Keeps you walking through these tears

So you reach for things/You're never satisfied/You're running down the years/And to know yourself/Is to be yourself/Keeps you walking through these tears

Some days you ride it hard/To stop them getting out/Then comes the day you ride/To stop them getting in

There's a boundary rider/At the five mile fence/Bloodwood, bones + steers/And the sky's so deep/You can't find your sleep/Keeps you walking through these tears


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