Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Portrait of the Past

"A life without pain; is a long endless chain; of errors repeated again and again" - Pain (band)

Nervous Tension
(written September 21, 2011)

I stopped writing in here for a long time. I’m not really sure why, but I’d say that there were a number of factors that ultimately contributed to it.
  1. Life, especially regarding my living situation, became a lot more stressful.
  2. Once I stopped, I lost momentum and no longer felt the motivation to keep writing.
  3. If I had kept writing, I think I realized that the content of this blog would have been overwhelmingly negative and I didn’t want to focus my thoughts in that direction.
Not writing was a mistake. This blog was something that had helped me gather my thoughts, and without it the negative thoughts that I mentioned in point #3 above became much more prominent. A few weeks ago, here's where I was:
  • crippling loneliness 
  • hating my job 
  • broke all the time 
  • suffering from gingivitis which hurt like hell 
  • living in an apartment with a mouse problem (I am afraid of mice) 
  • using partying as escapism and getting over-inebriated 
I think that happened three weeks ago, and life has for the most part been steadily improving. I went to the dentist and got my gums straightened out. I went to the landlord and was able to find the mouse hole that those damned rodents were entering from and eradicate them. Most importantly, I gave two weeks’ notice at my old job and put my nose to the grindstone in order to find new work. Thankfully for me, I succeeded, and I’m now about to celebrate my one-week anniversary working at a new job that is a much better fit for me. Tomorrow I’ll receive my last (tiny) paycheck from the old job, and come next Friday I’ll finally start making enough money to not only support myself but to actually accumulate some savings.

That’s not to say that everything has been all peaches and rainbows, though. There’s still one aspect of my life that I’ve been having a lot of trouble figuring out – love. This extends to both romance (which I have never experienced) and sex (which I have recently experienced but have never enjoyed). In rough chronological order:

1 – I went to hang out with an old friend – someone who has known me for more than 10 years – and he made a move on me. I slept over his apartment on an air mattress in another room. I woke up to the sound of him opening the door and straight up climbing into bed with me. He started being grabby and kissing me, and without really knowing what to do I went along with it. I spent the whole time being afraid of what would happen if he actually wanted sex. I spent the whole time essentially panicking in my head, wanting it to end, until I eventually said “no” like 20 minutes into it. This shook me up really bad.

2 – Two weeks later, I took a road-trip that involved hanging out with a friend I had met earlier this summer at a music festival. The plan was to see a show at a club, and then to take the party back to his place. I really naively assumed that this would be done completely platonic – instead what happened was that he got me really drunk, and then started making moves on me right at the club. I took him outside and told him that I wasn't born female – he didn’t care. He asked me if I wanted to have sex, and between (a) being drunk and (b) being naturally predisposed to wanting to do what people want, I told him yes despite not really having any physical or emotional attraction to him. Much like in the case above, I realized a few minutes in that (a) it was a bad idea, (b) I wasn’t enjoying it at all, and (c) I wanted it to end. After awhile, I basically told him I couldn’t continue and fell asleep naked on his bed.

3 – The next week, we went to a music festival. I had broken off from the group to relax under some trees, when a guy came over and asked to join me. Much like in the other two cases, he made his intentions clear pretty quickly as he was touching my body almost immediately after meeting me. For the first time ever, I had the stones to tell him “I don’t want to do anything besides kissing” and he obliged – but I still couldn’t shake the feeling of “I don’t want him here but am too nice/polite/empathetic to tell him no”. I kept saying things like “Well, I’m going to go meet my friends” and he would reply with “Oooh, I’ll come with”, and for some reason I couldn’t tell him that I wasn’t interested. Instead I played up my intoxication and told him that we could go on a date at some point in the future. When I got home, I realized that I didn’t have any interest at all in dating him.

4 – Last weekend, I went to another festival. It was really weird – at this particular festival, I always have had the most fun by roaming out and meeting new people. My first experience with this was by a rather large bonfire. It was freezing out, so I had taken a seat by the bonfire next to a sleeping hippie. I was with some friends and likely tripping and conversing with them – I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but the guy sleeping next to me woke up and started massaging my shoulders or something. I don’t even know what he was doing – some form of touching me without making any effort to get to know me, and I did it again – I reciprocated and gave no indication that it bothered me, and then excused myself and left the scene, and then immediately felt upset that yet another guy was trying to use me essentially to fulfill urges instead of actually trying to make a connection with me.

This hasn’t done me well. It’s been really subtle, but I’ve slowly been losing my desire to meet new people. I don’t know if it’s trust issues or low self-esteem or what, but lately I’ve been finding it really hard to expand my social circle. When I go out with my friends, I have been steadfastly staying around people who I already know and socializing with them instead. And that’s fine and all – I did that for most of my pre-transition twenties – but lately the feeling of “why aren’t I making new friends?” is morphing into “what is wrong with me?”. I’m simultaneously lonely and uninterested in meeting new people – this is a recipe for unhappiness. Worse yet, I feel like the friends that I do have are slowly growing more distant from me, and I have been at a complete loss in trying to figure out what to do about that.

I made an appointment with my therapist. I’ve been planning on doing this for awhile, but it took her a really long time to get back to me. I’m going in on October 15th, earlier if someone else cancels first, and hopefully I can square away some of the issues I’ve been having. I haven’t felt this overwhelmingly negative about “Who am I?” since probably before I transitioned, and I need to find some way to fix that because I feel like I’m losing everything in my life that I do really like. I’ve had a few friends clearly show me that they’re sick of waiting for me to get my shit together and me acting like a lost child, which sometimes motivates me but more often than not just hurts.

I’m writing this blog post write before a planned house meeting for tonight. We’ve often talked about doing this, but it’s never actually happened before. When I moved into this apartment in June, it was an absolute certainty to me that I was moving in with my three best friends. Lately, though, the level of communication in my household has been at an all-time low. I take a good amount of responsibility for this – when I don’t feel like my life is going well, I tend to withdraw from other people. This whole summer has been following a pattern of me being largely unhappy most of the time with a few moments (festivals, concerts, parties, gatherings) where I am really happy, and it hasn’t been working. I’m hopeful that things will improve after tonight but terrified that what is actually going to happen is people attacking my character and telling me how bad of a person I am. I can’t even believe that I’m writing that because a month ago I wouldn’t have thought that train of thought to be possible coming from me, but it’s the honest truth.

Now that I’ve gotten the ball rolling on this blog again, hopefully I will continue with the posting. Getting the things in this post out of my thought process has certainly helped to some degree. The concrete things in my life – such as my job, finances, health, and rodent issues are all fine – it’s just the crazy emotional stuff that has gotten out of my control. Thanks to this blog for helping with it a bit!

I showed Cody the old blog post above and he drew this picture of me dealing with mice in the apartment.

At the time I wrote the blog post above, I never intended to share it for an audience.  I've edited it a little bit, both to cut down on details and fix some grammatical flaws, but I think it gives a pretty insightful look at where I was in my life back then.  As I've mentioned in the past, this isn't my first blog - it's simply the first successful case of my keeping up with a writing project instead of abandoning it when things got hard.  It's a little bit weird for me to share that post with an audience, but I'm embracing it in the spirit of "Make Yourself Uncomfortable" knowing there's really nothing to worry about.  My past is my past and I'm willing to own it.

I was in a conversation with an online friend of mine earlier today about what my life was like before I met Cody.  We were specifically talking about dating, and I realized that anyone who has met me recently probably has no idea of just how much time I spent struggling with the idea of sex and relationships and the fear that I was destined to be alone.  I decided to search out an old blog post from that time where I knew I detailed some personal stories and share it with her so I could properly show just where my head was at. 

And then, to my complete surprise, I realized something - I wrote it almost five years ago to the day. Crazy, right?

All pictures in this blog post come from Wormtown 2011, which was also five years ago today according to Facebook.

Earlier in the week, I was given the following writing prompt:

"How does a person who loves writing get started with a proper about-themselves blog?"

I love this question.  It's never really dawned on me that I'm qualified to answer something like this.  But why not?  Best case scenario, my advice helps someone who wants to share their point of view with the world and more people embrace the idea of putting genuine effort into how they use social media.  Worst case scenario, I still think it's an interesting thing to reflect on so I'll still have fun either way.

I feel like that old blog post tells the story well enough, so I don't really need to analyze the content here.  I'll sum it up in Flowerspeak:  I was a lot lower level back then.

Here are the things that I felt after rereading that screenshot from my past:
  • I was able to recall that feeling of loneliness and self-doubt in my head, as one would expect from an extremely vivid and detailed out memory.  It's like a photograph of an emotion, and I appreciate being able to reflect on how I felt when things weren't quite as clear.  It's like reading a sad work of fiction, except I wrote it and it's about me.  For me, blog posts are like emotional photographs - even with sad ones, it's still nice to reminisce about the past.
  • I immediately reflected on the lessons those experiences taught me.  In that case, I was so scared of rejection that I was shutting down emotionally instead of taking accountability for the mistakes I was making.  It's good for me to think about that, because it's made me a much more proactive person when I feel like there's something that needs to be fixed in my life.
  • I feel nearly certain that there are people out there who struggle with similar things that I did, and I'd take genuine pleasure if the stories of my past are helpful for anyone else.  It's clear at this point that I want to make "personal growth" a theme of this blog, and I feel like the only way I can preach about it in good conscience is to show the world the path I took to get to where I am.
  • After getting the initial embarrassment of talking about bad sexual encounters, I realized that it feels good to share stories like that.  I used to have a lot of internalized shame that came with some of those old encounters, and by telling those tales to the world I feel like I'm taking ownership of those experiences.  Click the top video I link below for an amazing explanation of why this is.
So to go back and answer the writing prompt - how should someone interested in blogging get started?  To answer that question, I'm going to turn to more Flowerspeak:  "Success creates motivation, Motivation creates success".

When I started this blog, the first thing I did was to try to understand my motivation.  What specifically is it that I hope to get out of writing?  For me the answer was that I feel like I have a unique point of view and that I want to share it with the world in a way that has a positive impact.  As I grow older, I've realized that my life experiences are the thing that really make me who I am, and so I'm motivated by a desire to record and share those aspects of my life with anyone who might be interested.  I like the idea that even if something happens to me, my experiences and observations about my life can be shared and taken in and made to be worth something.

It's good to have a goal.  It's hard to move forward if you don't know what direction you want to go in.

"Dear Past Self, things are going to get better from here. Stay optimistic!  Sincerely, Future Self"
And then came the hard part.  I wrote out some blog posts and I made a conscious effort to share the link with an audience.  The actual writing itself wasn't all that difficult so much as (a) advertising my work to other people knowing that they might not like it, and (b) keeping at it during the stretches in life when I wasn't necessarily in the mood to write.  I think it's kind of by design that if you're going to create something and want it to represent an accurate picture of yourself, it should require effort and be a little bit tough to do at times.  If it isn't, you're not putting enough of yourself into it, and you can do better.

Those first few bits of positive feedback from friends who liked me work helped reinforce that I was moving in the direction of my goal.  In other words, I started to taste success.  And from there, the positive feedback loop was formed - every time I post something that I feel people respond warmly to, it makes me want to write even more.  Starting up the Patreon and being able to connect with DanceSafe have been other examples that help me feel like I'm moving in the right direction.

So really, the only advice I can give regarding how to start a blog is to just reflect on why you want to do it, and then let that motivate you to get started.  If you find it's what you truly want to do, you'll keep at it.  And if you don't keep at it, that's fine - it just frees you up to continue searching for what it is you really want to do.

That's the advice I give to anyone who wants to try their hand at blogging.  And, perhaps not coincidentally, it's the advice I would give to me five years ago:  "Fill your life with things that make you want to share your thoughts and feelings with the world, and then share them".

Thank goodness I blogged about that period of my life, otherwise pictures like this would be all I'd have to go on.

Before I end this post:

There are three videos on YouTube that I recommend everyone watch attentively.  These three videos have all made a tangible positive impact on how I approach my life.  They are:
They're going to be the topic of a future blog post and I can't recommend them enough.  I'm bringing them up because re-reading that old blog post has made me appreciate that I've grown a lot as a person since then, and I think that those three videos were all instrumental in inspiring me to keep up with this blog.

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