So begins a series I have had bouncing around in my mind for some time now– a summary of the last few years: life lessons learned the hard way. Here I present to you Lesson 1: Better is Not the Same as Good.
Wow. It’s hard to believe it’s really the first day of 2015.
I can’t say that I’m sad to see 2014 go; while it was better than my terrible 2013, it was a far cry from “good”. 2014 was largely a year of picking up the pieces of myself that 2013 left me in, and trying to slowly put myself back together.
I think one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn over the last few years, but especially this year, is this: better is not the same as good.
I feel like this is a lesson that I have had to learn over and over and over again, but this year definitely drove it home for me. I kept finding myself feeling frustrated this year, thinking “I’m in such a better place than I was last time this year, why am I not happy? What’s wrong with me? Am I just someone who can’t be satisfied?”. And I’ve fretted over those last two questions enough to last me a lifetime. I often worry that I am asking for more than the world can give, more than any reasonable person can expect. It’s incredibly frustrating to do have done so much healing and self-work over the course of a year, but to still feel deeply dissatisfied with how my life is. It’s just very disheartening, and sometimes it’s hard to believe that things will ever actually get better-than-completely-shitty, that things could actually feel good or that I could simply feel content on something of a regular basis. I know that life has its downs, and it always will, but the “downs” of the last 5 years have been frequent and various levels of devastating, and I’m just desperately ready for a positive change. Sometimes I worry that it’s no longer possible.
And then… then I remember how I felt during the summer of 2013, at Butch Voices, a brief high point in a very hard year. I remember how different the Bay Area was than the bible belt. I remember how much safer I felt. I remember not feeling constantly on guard, and not getting harassed in restrooms, and not being scowled at or stared down in public. I remember the enormous weight that that took off of my shoulders; the weight of more than a decade of the constant homophobic microaggressions (and outright aggressions) of the bible belt. I remember what it was like to meet so many other butch and trans-identified people (many of whom were local residents), and what it felt like to have a rare moment of not being surrounded by cisgender people nearly 24/7.
Granted, I know some of those feelings are directly related to the life-changing experience that was attending the Butch Voices conference, but I spent enough time outside of the conference to know that the Bay Area had a radically different feel than what I have grown up with. I’ve spent most of the last year and a half trying very hard to hold onto that feeling, to remember and believe that a place exists where I can feel safe, where I can begin my healing work in earnest (i.e. without ongoing trauma).
Here’s to getting there in 2015.
Happy New Year, everyone.
P.S. Writing about this subject is pretty hard for me and I’m feeling pretty vulnerable, so please be gentle with any comments. Thank you.
While I was on Tumblr the other day, I came across this quote from a femme who had just gotten married:
“I was going to say I didn’t know what I did to deserve this love but really, I do know. I honored myself and I made a conscious decision to stop settling for less than I desired and deserved and loved myself in a way that commanded that kind of love back.”
Emphasis is mine.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about self-love.
Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how I still have a lot of work left to do in that department.
I had something of a revelation over breakfast the other morning: When I come across someone, whether platonically or romantically, who understands, accepts, and supports my identity and my physical expression thereof (i.e., my choice to have had top surgery, etc), I tend to automatically think that that person is a great, wonderful person. I tend to automatically feel lucky and relieved that they are able to “get” me. Granted, these people often are wonderful people whose company I thoroughly enjoy, but it is very telling that I feel that these people are automatically worthy of some kind of praise and gratitude on my part just for liking me the way I am.
When I ask myself why this is the case, I don’t like my answer. I like it even less because I know it is true and I don’t want it to be.
…It’s because some part of me, deep down, still feels fundamentally unworthy of love. Some part of me still feels like I’m weird and broken and wrong. Some part of me still feels like it takes some kind of act of god for someone to really love me just the way I am. Some kind of act of god for someone to truly love my gay-boi, butch self. Some kind of act of god for a lover to find my chest not just acceptable but great and sexy.
When I find people who do seem to be able to appreciate me in some or all of those ways, I almost instantaneously feel quite attached to them. I put them on something of a pedestal. I let them get away with things that I wouldn’t let others get away with. When we have conflicts, I am always looking for what I did “wrong” and being quick to apologize for those “transgressions”.
I look at the person like a rare, precious gem that I am oh-so-lucky to have in my life.
In other words, I take a person’s ability to love and appreciate me as I am as some kind of exceptional quality of that person, rather than seeing it as the bare minimum of what I should expect from everyone.
I don’t know yet what to do with this revelation. I don’t know yet how to love myself truly and completely. I don’t know yet how to work through all of this internalized transphobia that makes me feel like I am unworthy of such basic respect and care.
I do know, though, that I am going to commit the next year of my life to figuring this out. I’ve decided that 2012 is going to be my year of being committed to myself, my year of being committed to learning how to love myself in the way I deserve to be loved.
I don’t know where this journey will take me, but I do know that, for the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m on exactly the right path.