Isn't That What Friends Are For?

Friday, January 11, 2013

In the eighteen or so months since I began blogging, the kindness and generosity I have experienced from this little community's corner of the online neighborhood has been remarkable.

When I finally realized I had no other choice but to transition if I wanted any kind of peace, I began researching the subject, something I had never allowed myself to do before. I did so for the same reason I wouldn't give in to my desire to dress as myself; doing so would open a door I knew I would not be able to close.

As part of that research, I inadvertently stumbled across the blogging world. I will be honest: when I began reading them, I struggled to find one that seemed to speak to me. But I kept at it; I am a grinder, and once I decide to do something, I keep at it. :c)

And my patience paid off.

Soon enough, I *did* find a blog that captured my attention. I began to read it, and was astounded, over and over, at how similar her story was to mine. And, suddenly, I felt a little less alone. There was at least *one* person out there, somewhere, who might know how I felt.

Based on her example, I started this blog, simply as a way to try to work out what I was thinking and feeling, and why. And to deal with a number of painful episodes in my long journey to finally accepting who I am and deciding to do something about it.

I would have been perfectly OK if no one else read it. In an ideal world, even one person finding something of a value that approached the riches I uncovered in her blog would be reason enough to justify the sometimes emotionally draining experience of bringing these episodes into the light of day.

From her blog, I began to explore the blogs of her followers. And by trial and error, that led me in short order to the handful of blogs that truly did resonate.

For a while, I simply read their posts, and the comments, marveling at the empathy, compassion, and good-natured humor they shared with each other. I didn't feel I had earned the right to offer my opinion, though; after all, I hadn't even started HRT yet (although I knew, deep down, that I was heading in that direction). Who was I to feel I could be part of their world, much as I longed to be?

Two blogs in particular *really* hit home with me. And in both cases, the common thread was music. Amazingly, here were two women, much further along the path to becoming themselves than I dared imagine for myself at the time... and we shared the same passion.

Now *this* was an area where I felt I might possibly be able to offer an opinion without risking being branded as an interloper. And so, cautiously, I began to do so, particularly with one of those two blogs.

Much to my surprise, after posting a handful of comments on her blog posts, she actually posted a response to one of them. And then to another, and soon another. She typically recommended albums and artists she thought I might enjoy. And, as it turned out, I usually did. "This is pretty cool," I thought. And that was more than enough to make me happy.


One day, about a month after this dipping of my proverbial toe into the blogging waters, I opened my inbox and saw her email address. This wasn't new; whenever she posted a reply to my comments, I would be notified.

Then I looked at it again.

She had written to me.


To say I was floored would be an understatement. Without betraying her confidence, I will simply say that she offered her support, and encouraged me to delve more deeply into my own story, and to write about it.

Not out of a desire to eavesdrop, but because she thought it would help me deal with long-suppressed emotions and memories that needed to be properly dealt with as part of the healing process so necessary to transitioning.

We quickly became good friends, constantly exchanging email and, soon enough, online chats. I looked forward to seeing her email each time I checked my inbox, and to seeing her name pop up in my chat window.

I welcomed her sense of humor, her zest for life, and her gentle, steadfast encouragement that yes, I can figure out the correct path for myself, and that yes, she will support me, regardless of whichever of those paths I ultimately chose.

And she has. When I began writing the first of the autobiographical posts found in The Chronicles of Cass post, she was there when I confessed I wasn't sure I could find the strength to finish it. You can do it, she said. I know you can.

And, in large part because of her unwavering belief in me, I was able to complete that first post.

And then another.

And another.

And another.

And on and on.

Our friendship deepened further as a result of these exchanges, and I began to think that just maybe, if I worked as hard as she has worked, and was as unflinchingly honest as she was, and as determined to simply BE myself as she was (and is), that someday I too might reach a similar point in my journey.

She told me of one friend in particular with whom she seemed to form a near-mystical bond almost as soon as they met. Their friendship grew to the point that they considered themselves sisters, albeit ones who were inadvertently born to different parents. :c)

Her unbridled affection and obvious love for her sister touched me deeply, and I told her so.

"I hope you're lucky enough to meet someone just like her yourself, Cass," she replied. "I can't promise you will. But keep your heart open, and it just might happen."

And remarkably enough... it did.


Last summer, the author of the other blog I cited earlier posted several YouTube clips that made me laugh out loud. And her accompanying posts made me laugh even louder. Here was something with a sense of humor that was nearly as off-the-wall as mine was.

Once again, just like before, I posted several comments to her posts. And once again, she responded, usually showing a quick wit that I could only envy.

I finally had a comment that was simply too long to be a comment, so I decided I might as well simply send it via email. So I did, and in short order I received a reply brimming with I quickly realized was her signature dry wit, her sense of fun, as well as a genuine, unforced sweetness that was unmistakable. I wrote back, doing my best to keep up with her quick mind.

Before I knew it, I had another valued friend. Our conversations quickly began to turn to more personal matters, becoming more difficult to sum up in email. Finally, she said, "Wow... we really should talk on the phone! If you want to, of course."And I did; I was simply too shy to dare suggest it. I was, and am, grateful that she, in her usual free-spirited way, was not.

So, a few days later, she called on a Saturday evening around 9:00 or so. Within moments it was if we were simply picking up the thread of a long-running conversation, with the easy familiarity of old friends, right down to the shared jokes and favorite topics. (In rough order of frequency: Elvis, Bruce Springsteen, and politics, mostly because we delighted in teasing each other mercilessly for what we each perceived as the other's well-intentioned but misguided notions).

We talked for nearly four hours that night, and concluded by agreeing we barely scratched the surface. Again, over the next few months, we would correspond, only with even more frequency than the already substantial correspondence I continue to carry on with my other dear friend.

Soon enough we were texting each other throughout the day, typically resulting in me trying - and failing - to suppress a laugh as I read her latest witticism as I sat at my desk. And on the weekends, we would either talk on the phone or, more frequently, stay up far, far too late into the night (we are both confirmed night owls) trading jokes, good-natured gibes, and lots and lots of YouTube clips, the more obscure and off-the-wall the better.

After sharing some of her bon mots with my friends, they also began reading her blog, and laughing as I shared the latest in our never-ending attempts to out-weird each other in surreal chatter. When I went to the banjo show with T & J several months ago, we were in stitches the entire weekend as I shared her ceaseless well of humor with them.

My friends soon would ask about her as a matter of course, particularly T and J, my work friends S and B, as well as my therapist, electrologist, my sister, and many others.

As often as we teased each other, we spent most of our time having some of the most profound and moving conversations I have had with anyone. It simply felt natural to talk this way with her; it wasn't forced, it simply... was. I have told her things that I've only shared with my therapist. Because I trust her completely, and because I know she understands me intuitively.

One day I was chatting with my work friend S about my latest conversation with my friend. With her typical insight that is rare in anyone, let alone someone so young, S said, "You and she sound like you're becoming best friends, you know. You're really lucky to have met someone you can share everything with like that."

I realized S was right; I *do* share everything with her. I didn't have to think about it, or question what she might think; I knew I could say exactly how I felt, and she wouldn't judge me; she would simply tell me she understood, and would offer her support, no questions asked.

Over the past few weeks, my sleep patterns are completely awry as a result of my endless battle with the flu and my chronic insomnia. I whiled away many a late night hour chatting with her online as I watched movies and she worked, constantly amazed at how she so effortlessly makes me laugh and laugh, and feel as if she knows just what I'm thinking.

Late one night, well into our third hour of talking, we were laughing uproariously over yet another SCTV clip that we, alone among our friends, found hysterical.

"Oh my God, Cass, it's like we were separated at birth or something," she said when she finally regained some semblance of composure. "Don't you think?"

"Yes, I do," I said. I'd been thinking the same thing for quite a while, in fact, and told her so.

"You know, I think we were supposed to be sisters," I said. "I mean, think about it. We're built similarly. We like so many of the same things. And we're almost the same age. (Our birthdays are a few months apart.) Maybe there was some kind of mixup back then or something."

"I thought so too!" she said. "I thought it was just me."

We both agreed we should have spoken up earlier, and resolved to find out exactly where our parents *were* during those months back in the day. :c) And then we apologized to each other, realizing that meant this poor soul was as strange as we were.

"Well, I guess we're stuck with each other, Cass, aren't we?" she finally said.

"I'm afraid so. God help you, girl."

"God help *me*?!?" she replied. "God help *us*!"


Her ceaseless humor is remarkable enough, but it is even more so in light of how difficult her life has been, quite unjustly, in recent months. Again, I won't go into details, but my friends share my admiration and amazement at her strength, determination, and grace under exceptional, ceaseless pressure, that would cause a lesser person to crumble. But she does not.  She moves forward, even when she wants nothing more than to stop. Because that is who she is.

Earlier this week she endured another setback that was even crueler than before. It was physically painful for me to hear the heartache in her words, and to know I couldn't be there to help, or to even offer a long hug, to say it's going to be OK.

That night, as she always does, my electrologist asked about her. I told her about this setback. She slumped back in her chair.

"Oh, that poor, sweet girl," she said. "My heart just aches for her right now. Please, please tell her how sorry I am. And that I'm praying for her."

I assured her that I would.

"I know you will, hon; family comes first, always. Never forget that."

She continued.

"I've only known you since September, Cass. And as you know, I've never had a transsexual client before. I'll be honest: before I met you, I thought all of you were just... confused. I hope you aren't offended."

(Ed. note: I wasn't. She is refreshingly, unflinchingly honest. :c))

"But I'll tell you this. After getting to know you these past months, and hearing your story, and how you talk about your two friends in particular, and what you've all gone through, and then what you have to endure on top of that anguish just so you can finally, simply be yourselves... I have no doubt at all that you are all women. None whatsoever.

"I see it in you so clearly. You're a gentle soul, and so are they. And even though I only know what you look like, I know you are all beautiful, or on your way to being beautiful, inside and out."

I will refrain from accepting that judgement for myself, well-intentioned as it is. But I can attest that she is 100% correct about my friends.


I was hoping to chat with my friend yesterday to make sure she was all right. Again, without going into details, I will say that I was genuinely worried after reading a message she sent me. I reached out every way I could, and fortunately she was OK. In tough shape... but OK. Once again, her instincts as a survivor stood her in good stead.

I told her I would be happy to chat with her last night for as long as she wanted to if she felt like it. Happily, she did call. Even better, I knew as soon as she spoke that she was feeling better. She was clearly exhausted, and emotionally spent - who wouldn't be, after what she has endured? - but her trademark humor and understated strength were back.

The conversation that followed was likely the most profound and moving I have ever been privileged to share with someone. Again, I told her things I have only told my therapist... and even when I did so, I had only done so out of absolute necessity, as a last resort. I had no problem telling her, though. I knew she understood precisely how I felt. And I hope she felt the same when I listened.

We spoke for hours, and only stopped when her phone battery literally gave out. If it hadn't, I have no doubt we would still be talking now. That is how deep I feel our bond goes.

I know she will get through this hard time, and will soon enjoy the happiness she so richly deserves. And I will be right there, cheering her on, when she does so.

Because that is what sisters do, after all.


I will end this with a song from one of my very favorite songwriters, Bruce Cockburn. He is a legend, and rightly so, in his native Canada. While his profile is somewhat lower here in the States, he still has a substantial, loyal following. And songs like the one I am about to share are the reason why.

This particular song is on his 1999 album Breakfast In New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu, a typically fine collection of insightful lyrics and superb musicianship. (He is a dazzling guitarist. I saw him solo years ago with a friend who wasn't familiar with his music. At the end of the first set, I turned to him to ask what he thought. My friend, no slouch on guitar himself, looked at me with awe and said, "After listening to him play I feel as I'm wearing mittens!")

Cockburn wrote this song for a fellow songwriter who was going through a very difficult time in her life. Like me right now, he felt helpless, wanting to do something, anything, to help her through her dark time. So he decided to write her a song. I daresay you will be hard-pressed to find a more moving depiction of devotion to a dear friend that this.

The song is called "Isn't That What Friends Are For?"


I look west along the red road of the frail sun to where it hovers
Between shelf of cloud and spiky trees
Receding shore

The world is full of seasons
Of anguish and laughter
And it comes to mind to write you this

Nothing is sure
Nothing is pure
And no matter who we think we are
Everybody gets a chance to be nothing

Love's supposed to heal
But it breaks my heart to feel the pain in your voice
But you know it's all going somewhere
And I would crush my heart and throw it in the street if I could pay for your choice

Isn't that what friends are for?

You're as loved as you were before the strangeness swept through our bodies, our houses, our streets
When we could speak without codes
And light swirled around like wind-blown petals at our feet

I've been scraping little shavings off my ration of light
And I've formed it into a ball
And each time I pack a bit more onto it
And I make a bowl of my hands
And I scoop it from its secret cache under a loose board in the floor
And I blow across it
And I send it to you, against those moments when the darkness blows under your door

Isn't that what friends are for?
Isn't that what friends are for?


So, sweetie... this is for you.

 Love you, sister.


Kelli Bennett on January 11, 2013 at 8:03 AM said...

Awwww, that is so very special. I know I never understood what a best friend was until I met mine. I am so happy for you Cass. Friends like that are rarely found.

Cassidy on January 11, 2013 at 11:25 AM said...

Thank you, Kelli. I feel fortunate to have two best friends now (the other being F, whom I write about often). But the bond she and I share is something rare, indeed. I hope your best friend is as special as mine is. You deserve no less.

Thank you again, hon!

Hugs and love,

A on January 13, 2013 at 12:22 PM said...

Dear Cass, thank you, the post made me cry. And I only cry at the end of the movie Love Me Tender where Elvis dies.


Cassidy on January 13, 2013 at 12:25 PM said...

Now I'm crying too... Elvis dies at the end?!?

Just kidding. About Elvis, not the crying. :c) I'm glad you liked it, sweetie! I meant every word, sis.


A on January 13, 2013 at 12:39 PM said...

Don't you remember when you first saw the movie in 1956.

See got you for that decades and decades comment in your e-mail

Cassidy on January 13, 2013 at 12:48 PM said...

Touche. Of course, since we're the same age, you zinged yourself as well!


A on January 13, 2013 at 3:13 PM said...

OK time to bring out the big guns:

Cassidy on January 13, 2013 at 10:07 PM said...

Oh, so it's going to be like THAT, is it?!?

Well, then, Miss A: I will see your Bruce Campbell (aside: OMG, isn't he GREAT?) and raise you one Roddy Piper:

Caroline on January 14, 2013 at 9:08 AM said...

Stepping into cyberspace I never imagined that I too would encounter a "sister separated at birth", a connection closer than any friendship I had ever found in real life...

Sadly she is no longer with us and I fall apart just thinking of her. Enjoy every moment you can with support and love...

Cassidy on January 14, 2013 at 7:14 PM said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Caroline. But I'm happy you had a chance to experience a relationship like that.

Although it seems as if April and I spend ALL of our time mocking one another - and you ought to see our text messages - the truth is I already can't imagine her not being in my life. (Shh - don't tell her I said so!) It's remarkable to have someone I know I can tell absolutely anything, and who will understand completely. I feel very, very fortunate. I do try to treasure every moment.

Thank you again, Caroline.


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