Friday, September 26, 2014

Standing up to the fear

Hi,

There's a bit of recurring theme when it comes to Friday night's blog. During the week, I store up ideas for things to write about, or rifle through my stash on drier weeks, and yet, oftentimes, I find myself staring at this empty white box. Not stuck for something to say, but running a monologue, trying to find a way to start the conversation - such that it is - and get going. It seems, as I read in a writing tips newsletter, to just 'have at it' - well, it was International Talk Like a Pirate Day, last week - and get going. As per, that seems to have done the trick. Umm... yarrr? :-)

Part One

There are times when something a little.... random comes along in your working life. We're going through a reorganisation at work, although this won't be about this directly. As part of it, we're all having to go through a touchy-feelie course to empower us. Yes, that word :-) As I was saying to a workmate, accept the fear, and act hasn't really been a problem for me, nor I'd wager a large portion of the team I work in. They're a brave bunch and have never been backward at coming forward. Yet, we're all going through this process, of what I can only describe as corporate self-help.

Now, I don't mind this type of stuff (generally speaking). I find a bit of naval gazing and pondering how things could be more idea, truly fascinating. You would think, I'd be in like Flynn when it comes to my turn in our little work group, but no. Ignoring my feelings that I don't think this will actually and truly help us change how we work, when it came to the session, I clammed up. There we were, about eight of us and a session leader, to help *cough* inspire us and direct discussion.

For me, it felt too much like group therapy and feelings I hadn't had in a long time, came rushing back, as I sat listening to the others. Eventually, it was my turn to speak. "Do you have a stand up moment: one where you felt afraid and yet stood up to the fear? One you'd like to share, Richard?" I was asked.

Time slows and my brain goes into overdrive.....
  • I stand in with my hand gripping the handle to the front door. I am dressed in a long skirt, flat boots and a jumper. The autumn leaves dance on the hedge as a gust catches them. I have never been outside before and my heart is beating like I've run a race. Next-door are out, I watched them leave and I am only going to the car to fetch something I need for work. I swallow, breath slowly and pull the handle down. Outside is bright and cars are passing at speed on the road far away. I step outside and my boot heel clunks loudly, announcing my presence like a gunshot......
  • The Ever Lovely Mrs J is driving and Wee Man is in his car seat, gurgling happily after his nap. We're almost home. My stomach is doing its best impression of the Gordian Knot, and yet I know, if I do not ask, I will not be able to sneak out. That's not how these things go. We crest the hill, hear our house and finally, I find my voice: "How do you feel about me going out next month?" I ask. Mrs J nods and makes that go on noise people do without speaking.. "It's to a trans group: up in Arnold." My mouth is dry as I wait. We have a chat about me being safe, who will be there, will I need to leave dressed and will I stay for the bedtime routine?
  • I sit in the doctor's chair and he looks at me patiently. It's too late to back out now. Memories of a conversation with one of his colleagues, plays back. Talk about 'why not take a holiday' echo in my mind. I think back to crying over the bath, as I run it for my baby daughter, or staring at the wall at work, pretending to think. Or, more accurately, pretending I am thinking, because I sit: unfeeling, uncaring about anything: just afraid that how I feel now will always be like this.
    He asks me how can he help and I feel tears spill down my face. Instantly his manner softens and he moves a box of tissues close to me. "I think... I think I might be depressed," I chuckle darkly. "My wife said I should come, because I'm not myself. I'm angry all the time and when I'm not.... I have no joy for anything." I wipe my eyes. "I just want to be happy again." He nods and asks me a serious of questions that help grade depression and my first step to recovery starts.
  • I'm in Leicester, out with a a group of trans friends and we've finished our meal. It's time for goodbyes, to melt into the night and for some of us, to go back to being dad. I check my watch and it's just after 11. The streets are busy and the only way home, is back to the car park on the other side of town: a good twenty minute walk. If only I'd followed the directions, I tell myself. Still, too late now. I wave goodbye, open the door and head out into the busy scene. No one says anything, no one calls out. It's dark and I'm just another tall woman in a coat in the crowd. You don't blend in when you're six foot and you're wearing heels. All you can do, is face the world head on and smile. I hold my head up and walk back to my little car. I get in, lock the door and shrug out of my coat. I steady my hands and then drive back.
  • I have practised my lines and I've got the routine memorised. I hear my name being called and I bound to the stage, zipping towards the light from the back of the room. I take the mic from the host, say good evening everyone and then my mind goes blank. I have nothing. My thoughts are gone: replaced by the glare of the spotlights and the slowly fading reply. I give a big smile and launch into filler material. I impro, I joke with someone from the audience and I wing it until The Fear ebbs away and I feel my memory come back.

I say none of the above. The feel too personal, or in the case of the latter, to me-me-me. Which is nuts, because we're here to talk about ourselves and you would think, a professional gobshite and rabid keybashing blogger like myself would find plenty to wax lyrical about......

It is too much like group therapy and I feel my throat beginning to tighten. A feeling I've not had for decades. I say: "I almost didn't come to today's meeting. Some of you may know, I've been through CBT - a therapy course, if you like - about depression a few years ago. This, to me, feels too much like that and if I'm honest, Excuse me, I'm starting to well up, just talking about it, which is crazy, because I'm open about what happened and I feel no shame for having had a mental illness." I pause, take a breath. "I'm struggling to come up with a Stand Up moment. I don't have problems at work standing up for who I am, nor for others, nor for what I believe in." I see the group leader about to cut in and wait. She asks about a personal one and I reply: "Nor in my home life. I don't have a problem with fear. Except," I pause and laugh. "Ironically, the fear about coming to this, which I've walked through."

We spend the next ten minutes talking about something next to nothing and if I'm honest, I can't remember what half of it was. What I do know, is another member of our group was equally unhappy as this prospect of 'group sharing' and I'm not convinced it will help us long term. I'm happy to be proved wrong and that's fine. I do think there will be tears before bedtime if people are going to pry into people's personal lives and try and amend their world view.

We're all due back in the room in about four weeks and in that time, I've got to flesh out my 'storyboard' about embracing fear and acting on my wish to 'find a use for this technique and help others.'. Crazy. You would think someone who likes this type of self-help stuff would be more in tune, but to me.... it feels too much like a psychobabble CBT-like snake-oil gig.

Part Two

Most of this week, I've been camped out in another office, busily bashing away on an old laptop. A workmate passed me an old SSD and after some hardware tinkering, said lappy is now much faster. It's almost like having a new machine. Anyhoo, the screen was too low for me and that gave me a bad back (rock on, eh?). Despite my back starting to lock up and then some top quality pain meds from the doctor, I was determined to make Chameleons this week. If I could keep moving, despite a bit of serious 'owage' I did feel better and as we trans folk know, a few hours in heels works wonders, right?

Despite a bit of a flap over packing, I did get my outfit sorted and Kim was kind enough to gift me the corsets she'd promised as a swap for the boots I'd given her. Despite me offering her extra pennies, she was adamant. Control knickers and tights on, it was time to try a corset for the first time. It took me a while to work out how to open the back ribbons out and with some help from Kim, I got into it and tightened it up.

Now, I've got a bodyshaper from Figleaves and its very good IMO. It is not, however, anything like a corset. As I pulled on the ribbons, the corset did its magic and pulled my waist in. I breathed in, felt myself push against the sides - not uncomfortably so - and tightened up a little more. I stood and took in the view in the mirror: I already had hips from the padding I use, but now my waist went in: much more tapered than the thicker trunk-like torso I normally have. The added bonus was the *ahem* extra chest material, that when taped and shaped into a bra, really gave a good cleavage too.

Dressed and changed in an unusually quick time for me, it was downstairs to mingle and say hi to people. We have a number of new folk come for their second and third visit, which I always like to see. We had some laughs and chuckled about some groups referring to us as 'a knitting circle'. Well, Chams is very laid back and gentle: but I don't see that as a bad thing.

With September and October having a number of birthdays in it, we'll be having a party soon, so I guess I best get on with updating the web site.

Take care,
Lynn

8 comments:

  1. Great post, Lynn. Especially the "Time slows and my brain goes into overdrive....." section. You made me feel it. Yes, it probably helps that I can relate to a lot of it. But anyway...

    Fear. I don't know about facing up to fears, whether that's always a good thing or not. I guess sometimes it is.

    But as for writing... Fear is really where it's at for me. The advice from someone or other (can't remember who just now): "write what you're most afraid to write". I think that leads to the most powerful writing, the stuff I want to read most, the stuff that's just raw, honest, courageous, that makes your breathing go fast while reading it — if (a very important if) the writer has the skill to convey it all.

    You did that for me with this post. And met my required "if" as well.

    Thanks :)

    Jen x

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    1. Thanks, Jen, for your very kind words. Glad to read that the post worked out for you.

      Funny how some personal stories resonate with others. The time slows bit was oddly the easiest but to write; perhaps because those memories were emotionally charged, and those, seem to be most easily recalled.

      I think fear can hold us back, just as self doubt can. Maybe being trans and having to push myself to get out if the closet has affected me more than I realise. When I read the messages and listen to first timers at Chameleons, they often mention fear, or worry. Yet, they stay and after a few visits are cool about it. Seeing that change in a person, is for me at least, a really good thing to see.

      Next week we'll be back to the usual average stuff ;-)

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  2. The touchy-feely at work sounds like hell on earth. We did a SDI session at one of our team meetings about a year ago, and that ended up as being general talk about what we thought of our own and our colleagues' personality types. But the delving you describe ... I don't think I'd stay in that sort of session. One of our mutual forumistas talks about "unpacking" with a therapist: it has to be done very carefully. It sounds as if your convener is trying to start an unpacking process, but in a clumsy way in entirely the wrong setting.

    Can't say I've ever taken to laced corsetry, though others swear by it. When I've tried I always end up with visible ridges where it starts and ends - perhaps I need to have it tighter at the top and bottom relative to the middle. Dunno.

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  3. Just Googled 'SDI'. F***-a-doodle-do. We could make millions on this! :-)

    Unpacking is so not somewhere you want to go, IMO. I wasn't 'unpacked' during the CBT stuff and the gent leading the course - albeit one on one - was keen to point out this would not happen. I *think* the work course is designed to give people confidence by letting them take more on, but, dare I say, I think I've got enough and ironically, putting myself through such a thing is not helping. Still, sit tight, grin and wait until the box is ticked, right? :-)

    As to your comment about corsetry: maybe it's a too-each-their-own / your-mileage-may-vary kinda thing. Maybe I was lucky with the first attempt, or had some expertise to draw on, I don't know. Maybe you need the right type of corset? I guess, we do what works for us, and move on if it doesn't......

    ....not unlike a certain type of mentoring process ;-)

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  4. Loved the blog, probably the best I have read of yours. Great imagery and detail, it was fun to relive your moments and be an interloper in your head. I especially liked the bullet reference to the sound of your heels. Fabulous! We do tend to exaggerate things in our own minds don't we. I think that's the first thing that we must teach ourselves that gets us moving forward to expressing our inner girl. After that it's mostly downhill-ish.

    I love corsets, I find them incredibly attractive. If not for the uncomfortability of them, I would wear them everywhere.

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    1. Thanks Alexis. All I need to do now is work out how to get that same level of reality, into short stories and get an audience. :-)

      Getting moving can be the most difficult part, because it seems - at least to me - that there's this giant mountain to climb before us. A seemingly unobtainable summit where the Cool, Happy Content and Glamorous People live, with us schlebs at the base, looking up, wondering how they got there? Like a lot of things... hard work and sheer bloody-mindedness.

      Downhill? Maybe, but at least you don't have to pedal. :-D

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  5. Can't say I've ever had a session like that, an odd, and brief, one to one with my manager but not a group.

    As for corsets, I own a simple one and a traditional lacy one. The latter is tricky and time consuming, especially when doing it without assistance, and leaves a ridge behind. Whereas the former is just metal clips and does some corseting, just don't expect me to make many extravagant moves on the dance floor. ;-)

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    1. We're just about at the end of the course, which means more time back in the office :-)

      I hope your one to one's don't go the same way. At least in a group, you can listen to the others, rather than have the spotlight on just you. Then again, could it be fun to try and bounce the question back and get the interviewer to answer? ;-)

      Yes, lacing up on your own is a skill I've yet to master and I've not be out dancing with it on. Perhaps I need your advice :-) BTW, could you post a link to the second corset you mentioned, please?

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