Friday, September 26, 2014

Standing up to the fear


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,

Friday, September 19, 2014

Personal choices


It's been one of those quiet, yet busy weeks this time around. While not much has happened, work and home life have been a bit of a blur. The Ever Lovely Mrs J has been away for work, which means Yours Truly has been wearing the parent hat full time. Don't get me wrong, it's great to do so, although it did mean I was a lot more tired than usual. I suppose it's the mix of an earlier start - to make sure Wee Man gets dropped at his friend's house - and then the rush through work, before it's time to pick up and make the tea. How do working women manage eh?

With Mrs J away and when the kids were younger, I would be working my way through my closet and no doubt, practicing my make-up routine. Yet, in the last few years, and possibly due to the luxury of regular nights out, I no longer feel the need. Instead, it was comfy socks, a few episodes of Hemlock Grove and a large mug of tea, before turning in for the night.

No, I don't know about you, but there's only so much TV I can watch, before I get a bit restless. The need to do something..... a bit more creative. Well, in my case at least, bashing the keys around until something that looks vaguely acceptable appears. :-) After last time's success in shifting the Our Different Journey pages over, I thought about doing something else like that. Well, a fixed bit of content, rather than a regular blog post.

I've tried my hand at emptying my brain over some reviews. Hopefully, not so much this is pants, buy this instead, but more.... businesses or products I've found useful over the *cough* *mumble* years I've been crossdressing (Ed: since the 90s?). I'd like to point out this doesn't make me an expert, by any means. Hell, I'm always wary when any visitor at work introduces themselves as an expert. :-) Personally, the more I learn about something, the more I realise there is more to learn!

But flippancy aside, I'm hoping to increase this reviews page as more ideas come to me. I am trying to do it from a personal stance, so if you do have something that works for you, feel free to share in the comments section. That doesn't mean I'll be posting it back to the reviews page.

Anyway, I hope you find it useful and if not, you know where the comments box is ;-)

Take care,

Friday, September 12, 2014

When in doubt, overpack.

Hey folks,

While shuffling a new monitor on my desk, I found a large round pebble. Nothing particularly exciting about that. It was grey, well worn and smooth to the touch. Perhaps one from a river, or the sea then? Turning it over, I smiled briefly, noting that I'd written Robin Hood's Bay, 2012, on it. It was then that my mind drifted, back to a pleasant stroll along an autumnal beach. hands behind my back and the sea air gently blowing in my face. Gone, was the hubbub of the office, and the ring of telephones; just me and a moment of tranquillity. So, is that a greater part of what life is? No, not messages on metamorphics, or scrawlings on sedimentaries, but series of small, happy events.

Regular readers may remember that I've moved the Our Different Journey content, to a page on this blog. Rachel has been kind enough to add her journey to the collection. That reminds me, I need to pick up my 'things that help' page too, but that's for another time.

It was Chameleons this Thursday, and Wednesday night, I was at a loss of what to wear, and therefore, what to pack. With both wardrobe doors open wide, I stared at the items hung up, but nothing spoke to me. Not literally, I might add. That's a) a bit bonkers, or b) a bit to Silence of the Lambs, for my liking. :-) More accurately, I can look through what I have, and have a feeling for what I'd like to wear and what may go together. This time, however, whatever inner guidance system I use, clearly, the batteries needed changing.

Remember T-rule #2: When in doubt: overpack. :-)

#1. No one talks about T Club, but it's okay to post pictures
#2. When in doubt, overpack
#3. More is less, unless it's more shoes, which is fine.
#4. Be as out as you feel comfortable with
#5. Know your exits and know you exist. You are a person and you're okay.

Skipping forward to Thursday, I was hauling my rather heavy bag up the stairs to get changed. I was, as a rare treat, slightly earlier than I would normally be. The doubt that I'd felt before had melted away, replaced by a feeling of what might be. Maybe, I said to myself, you ought to think less - worry less, even - and just enjoy more.

Bag open: I put the boots aside, that I'd bought for Kim (seeing as they were languishing at the back of my cupboard), and quickly sorted through what I was going to wear (see right). I was in a mood for a skirt. Don't ask me why, sometimes it's a dress day, jeans-day, or leggings-plus-ballet-pumps: today, it was skirt and top. I had replaced the medical tape I'd lost and coupled with the fact, I've not been out walking as much as I should, there was... umm... ample working material shall we say. :-)

Getting made up is somewhat of a strange thing. Okay, I'll gloss (!) over the social comedy (?) of a guy in full make-up, and say this instead: when I start to do my face, there comes a point when who I see back in the mirror, is less bloke with make-up, and more.... well, umm, more, not 'me'. I guess the change in skin tone, the use of liner, eye make-up, powder, and everything else, the everyday face I am used to seeing, goes away a little. This time around, it was as I applied powder and eyeliner, that that happened. Some days, it's much later, or even, not until I put my wig on. Go figure.

Talking of Kim, she reminded me about that eye make-up demo I'd promised her. Sophie had also popped in to say hi, so listened in too. I felt a little odd, but at the same time, hopeful that maybe what works for me, might work for someone else. Again, another little moment. Pat was back after a number of months away (eye op), so it was very much an evening of reunions.

Downstairs was busy, with at least six new people. Three people on their own and a family of three. It's rare we get families come along, and as Alison and the others, were looking after them, I felt it best not to barge my way in. All went well and a quick tot up at the end of the night, meant we'd covered the rent, rather than running at a slight loss.

All in all, a series of small, good happenings, making for a great evening. That was topped off by much larking about with Sophie and some snaps. Well, it wouldn't be a night out to Chams without some photographic evidence. ;-)

Take care,

Friday, September 05, 2014

To travel in hope....


According to the Blogger Challenge I signed up for, this time's chat is supposed to be around New Beginnings.

A brief spot of family news before we move on the main course, as it were. :-) Wee Man has finished his first week at big school. He's doing okay, and I'm proud of him for being brave, doing his bit in getting up and - to use a well loved 90s phrase - getting his sh** together :-). There was a minor incident between from kids who thought they'd try it on, in winding Wee Man's best mate up. He stepped in, gave them some serious - and rather witty verbal - to send them packing. Good on you, lad!

So, New Beginnings? This last month, I've had a bit of a change at work. Sadly, not to more *ahem* interesting attire, but you can't have it all ;-) The change has been to working again in a project team. Here, I'm doing the organising, running meetings, scheduling tasks, leading people in making decisions and generally, getting stuff done. The latter, for me at least, has been a true breath of fresh air.

For many months - perhaps even the last two years - I've coasted along, trying to get out the dead end, that my job was turned into. I think, like much in life, you have to fight for what you want and for what you believe in. It can be tiring, but I'm not willing to back down and become a screen watcher. I didn't join the company I did to sit there and be just a cog in the machine. I want to make new things and make IT work for people. IT should, IMO, be something that helps you - yes, you - get stuff done, not get in the way.

The project work has been stressful, I've done longer hours than I would normally and getting the supplier to commit, has been like herding fog knitting cats. At least, I think that's the right phrase! ;-) But.... I have gone to work with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. I have - dare I say this? - enjoyed, nay, loved it. It is as if I've woken up. This interests me and that fire makes me want to bring the project team along with me, and push the message that we can do this if we put our backs into it.

Will this continue? Possibly not, but I hope it runs for a bit longer and while I know this is truly I long shot, maybe I can move to do this full time? It would certainly be a very welcome change and could give others a chance to fill my old role.

So, yeah. Right now, I'm very much feeling the message in the quote "...for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive..."

Take care,