These essays were written over the final year of my time living on an island and the first few months after my move back to the mainland. It was a time of loss, a time of awakening and the beginning of healing.
Slipping into cool dark waters, finger tips, mapping the grain gently rest upon the edge of a wooden jetty. Tipping my head back, water fills my ears and caresses my eyelids. Below, reaching into the fathomless depths, kicking, I feel nothing but the swirl of current between my toes. Above, silently hang still rivers of gossamer mist infused with soft light that reflects upon the waters formless, undulating surface.
Pushing off, I feel no fear. I am home, swimming in the infinite expanse of Soul.
Welcome to The World of The Living
As a young boy I lived in fear. Fear of the dark, fear of spiders, fear of the monsters conjured from the depths of my imagination but most of all the fear that I was not enough, not enough to be loved or even liked. This fear was the basis for all others and the only fear I knew to be true.
Childhood was tough. Rejection fed my isolation, isolation fed my tough persona and the lie that I needed no-one, nor cared for anyone. Sensitivity and tenderness became locked away behind a door that only the feminine within me could access. The boy that I was could not afford to be soft or gentle or kind, feeling was weakness, yielding was weakness, aggression and violence kept the world at bay.
Feminine and masculine became separated within me, girls were soft and boys were hard. This coping mechanism caused a greater sense of isolation. Rejecting the world protected me from further pain, yet prevented the boy who thought he was not enough, from ever growing up.
The pain of my childhood robbed me of kindness and instilled within me the language I used to communicate with the world for the next forty years. As children do, I blamed myself. For most of my life I knew one thing, unarticulated, yet woven into the fabric of my being, defining my relationship with the world. The knowledge that I was worthless, no good, a horrible, wretched child, who in every second of my life, in every breath I took, felt the need to apologise for my own existence.
As a young man, seeking belonging and self worth in status and objects simply fed the black hole within me. Any satisfaction was short lived . Deep inside, I felt broken, somehow wrong, this sense of wrongness justified my anger and violence that when not turned outward was directed inwards against myself. What horrors I perpetrated as I sought to confirm that I was bad to my core. There is only so long a person can handle the weight of such pain.
In my thirties, night after night my own screams would wake me from dreams so terrifying the light provided little respite. Just as I did as a child, I filled the darkness with monsters. Those monsters now had a definite form. That black shape that terrified me so when I was a small boy. My pain had taken the form of a spider. In my nightmares and waking life I was visited time and time again by this creature conjured from my shadow.
As a child I was the kid that stank, with greasy hair and black finger nails. I remember looking at my feet and thinking that the dirt caked on my instep and toes made them look charred and burned black. Our ancient bathroom was outside the back door, next to the coal shed. Moist with condensation, flaky cream paint peeled from the walls, cracked and filthy, the bath was tiny even for me. Spiders webs hung in the corners of the room, around the cistern and the back of the broken loo seat. Within these mysterious funnels black bodies lurked, still and silent. Gripped with fear I would peer in to see the dusty matte of their ebony shapes, the down turned v of their legs just visible through the webs. A bare light bulb illuminated the horror of this room for me. I was terrified to enter and so rarely did. Instead I washed in the attic sink that doubled as my toilet.
Much later in my healing process, confronting the past I faced these spiders and knew them for what they were. Imagining myself as a little boy standing in a limitless space of darkness, lighted only by a single incandescent bulb above my head. Surrounding me are forms, their huge black bodies only partially visible. Their mandibles and thorax face me, their abdomens fade into the darkness behind them. In the middle of the room I stand, a seven year old boy with greasy hair and dirty feet. Without fear I look up into their eyes. Caressing their cheeks, I stroke their lustrous thick black hair, then on tip toe, one by one, with tenderness I kiss them on their mandibles. Looking deeply into their blood red eyes I tell them that I love them. For they are my guilt and my shame, my fear and my rage, my wounds, if I love them then surely I love me too.
Transitioning to live as a woman stripped away the armour I had held onto so very tightly. Revealed was a world of feeling that since early childhood had been unavailable to me. This was the beginning of my journey to healing and integration.
Surgery was easy, hormones, not so easy, they took time to get use to. After years of masculine stoicism, learning to cope with the ocean of feeling now available was very difficult. Truthfully, it took years of living as a woman before I felt in touch with femininity in a meaningful way. The physical changes were quick, two years and half a dozen operations, followed by another two years to recover but really and truly, transitioning was a very slow process, often painful, sometimes joyous but always revealing, always deepening and always spiralling inward to the truth of who I am.
The ” woman ” I gradually matured into was able to embody a kindness and compassion that was unavailable to me as a young man. Searching inwards to find the source of my inherited pain, there I found the little boy so damaged and alone. I acknowledged him and gave him a voice. With it he cried an animal cry of pain. His presence took some effort to bare, so much so that there were times I thought I wouldn’t make it. How can I explain how it feels as an adult of forty seven to experience the pure emotional outpouring of grief and loneliness from the child I had been, the child I had carried locked inside me. Ever so gradually I brought him out of the shadow and gave him contact with the world. Many times I’ve travelled back to visit him and in the worst of those times, to hold him. Brushing the matted hair from his face, I gently lifted his head and placed a kiss upon each burning eyelid stinging with the salt of tears. My lips against his cheek, softly I whisper, “ you are loved, you are loved, you are loved by me, you will be ok, you will get through this, you will survive. ”
Accepting the boy that I was and the man I became, released the fear and desperate anguish that had defined his existence, my existence. I am the boy and the woman, the feminine and masculine, the violence and tenderness, the rage and love.
Claiming womanhood has never been something important or even necessary for me. I have always been comfortable with my choice and have never felt the need to delude myself into believing that I was actually female. Yet after years of thinking that I would always only ever be an approximation, a limited expression of my feminine side, I now feel able to access that ocean of feeling that once was too much to bare. Is this the femininity I yearned to embody, in part, no doubt. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that what I feel is simply wholeness, both masculine and feminine existing in balance. No longer in conflict, no longer denied, each acknowledged without judgement.
Much as I may have thought that transitioning was a pathway to finding myself, I had no idea just how profoundly life changing that pathway would be. For many years I felt that transitioning was a painful compromise. To feel more feminine I had endured so much, sacrificed so much and thought I’d gained so little. Comfort within the body is just as limiting as it is rewarding. In a way it is a dead end, a trap that you must find a way out of. This was the gift, the puzzle hidden within the search for meaning in form. Perhaps I saw being a woman as an escape from the boy that I was, the boy that even I had rejected. Now I see how fortunate I have been to walk this path and to suffer so. Any insight and wisdom that is available to me now has emerged from that suffering. That search for wholeness in my body forced me to go beyond the external and instead go inward, deconstructing and examining each and every layer of persona, to look deeply into my shadow and pain and finally to accept myself. Maya was my pathway to finding the self that dwells within. That self does not fear to look at any memory or emotion, that self is no longer silenced by rage against an unfair world. The world I once feared so much is now my Father, my Mother, my Teacher. The painful memories are clearer than ever before but now are a doorway onto compassion.
Along the way I found something out. It is the knowledge that I am good and I am worthy of life. I know this now.
I know other things too. Like what it means to live in darkness and shadow, of the terrible consequences of isolation and neglect, the torture of the unworthy and unloved. I know the scream of rage inside you that tears you apart until there is nothing left but that scream. I have felt these things many times. The accident of my birth and the isolation of my childhood provided me with both the recipe for my suffering and the unflinching will to survive it. Transition to live as a woman allowed me to become the nurturing presence that the child needed to heal and the young man who had become the monster in the shadows that he feared so much, to forgive himself.
Several months into my healing process, while sitting at our kitchen window lost in no particular thought, looking up at a tree that stands tall near a ruin above our croft. There was a change in the air, behind me I felt a presence, vast, gentle and loving. Moving to surround me, it gently but firmly held me within itself. I became aware of an overwhelming feeling, the presence wanted me to know that I was loved and that I always had been and always will be. It wanted nothing more for me than to know this and to flourish and grow in this knowledge. There was nothing to fear, there never had been.
The presence stayed with me for a few minutes then left as gently as it had arrived. Its message was delivered.
I know it and feel it now.
As I travelled back in my imagination to visit myself in those dark days of pain and oblivion, I believe that this presence was also myself come to welcome me into the world of the living and to the next part of my journey.
Since leaving the island, these last six months have been a challenge. After the openness of endless hours, silently sitting on a rock, mind thoughtless, feeling flowing, waves crashing, wind swishing through the Birchwood and long dead dogs, breathing by my side. How am I to be a person again ?
Writing this sentence I feel bereft, as if I have known a truth that answers all questions, that frees one from all suffering but now am in a far distant land, left only with the memory.
If I could only be near the sea again or once more sit upon a mountain top, I’m sure I could feel the island again. For the island, although real, is not just a place, it is a feeling. Perhaps it is all feeling and to be in those high places above the world where there is no self, there, is the island, there, is freedom.
Those island years taught me much. Tough lessons indeed. The most important of which is that I mistook the pain that I felt to be my fault. For me the pain was what defined me. I held it so tightly, it was my reason to live. For most of my life I wielded it as a weapon. The fight was what kept me going. From my first breath I tasted it, it was always present. How could it not be mine.
The pain is held in places and people, in our blood and in our bones, in our thoughts and ideas but it is not ours. It extends backwards through time, ever branching out, down, along the distant tendrils of our family tree, back, as old as humanity.
As a very young child I remember crawling on the floor and with confusion watching the anger and despair around me, it made no sense. Why was it there, from where did it come. As children do, I thought it was my fault, so I blamed my self for the suffering that I witnessed. All pain was my pain, I made it so.
With little time this pain became interwoven in the fabric of my body and mind, it became me and I became it. Inseparable, indistinguishable, one. Yet in a place untarnished and untouched, I held onto something definite, a question, why ? Why could I be in so much pain yet not know the source. This burned inside me for most of my life. Much as I tried to find an answer, a reason for this wrongness, I found none but my own thoughts of guilt and unworthiness. Nor did I find a cure or salve for the pain, only temporary relief in numbness and oblivion.
To me, Will is a gift. This, I am most definitely blessed with, but this I also do not make mine. This will is no more my own than the pain. By choice, it is received. This, is very much mine, this choice, this I do own. It is my power and with it I cease to be the victim of circumstance.
Finding the courage to make the choice to find truth, brought alignment with Will and the strength to visit the shadows, to look into those places of shame and sorrow, there, is where I found my answers.
There was a time I thought myself fearless, this is inaccurate, I feel fear but the motivation to face this fear and the refusal to continue to live in such pain drove me to change.
What is healing but understanding, knowing that I need not become the pain. That though I feel it, it is not mine, I need not share it, I need not use it to justify anger or despair. It is there but to make it my own is to make the choice to perpetuate the cycle of suffering that was my history.
On the island I learned that there is a place beyond suffering. There, within the ever changing weather, upon a windswept hill of rusty bracken, I found that place. A place of stillness where there is no need to grasp or hold, no need to reason. It is a realm beyond joy and pain, it is neither and both. It is all feeling, witnessed without judgement, without thought for why. What irony that it was in that place of surrender I at last found the answer to that smouldering question, the question that had kept me fighting for so long. In stillness, I realised that the voice of self harm, of ridicule and pain, it was not mine.
This realisation allowed a glimpse of freedom and from then forward, with each footstep, to write a new history. Knowing and allowing this, takes time but from that moment, began the healing. A healing not just of myself but of those carried through time with me. For within my blood are not only my ancestors but my tormentors and aggressors, my torturers. Perhaps they are one and the same. Their hunger for resolution was the emptiness inside me, their sadness and pain, echoed in my thoughts. For them I hold no malice or resentment, only love and forgiveness. Do they not emanate from the very same place as I. Am I not blessed to be their healer. Was their suffering not the cause of my freedom.
The pain is not my own, if I hold it, I hold it lightly and from time to time, releasing it, unburdened, I lay upon the earth that gave me life. This life, is also not my own, this life is a gift and in return for this gift I choose to do the work required to heal, for as I heal, I find eternity and the world heals through me.
The Weight of My Heart
This morning I felt a sadness, contemplation did not bring any clarity, so with a quiet mind I walked to the sea shore where I sat nestled in a nook, just above the water. There I stayed, sheltered from the wind, hood up, knees against my chest, my bare toes just touching the waves as they crashed and rolled against the barnacle covered rocks. Something in my posture triggered a memory.
Years ago at the beginning of my transition, hormones had already begun to change my body and my will was set to continue my journey as a Woman. I remembered one night when I was driving, I began to cry, tears rolled down my face, stopping the car I just sat by the side of the road and wept. I knew that my tears were tears of pity for the boy that I was but they were also tears of relief.
Since I began to write down my thoughts there have been many profound changes in my understanding and relationship with self. Writing has helped me lift the past from the glass case where I kept it preserved. With care, I hold it, turn it this way and that, in my hands I feel texture previously unknown, see detail once too small or too obvious to notice.
Today I mourned the young Man that I was.
That Man of my youth feels like someone I used to know. An old friend that I knew so intimately, I can remember his every thought and feeling. His guilt weighed so heavy on his heart. Guilt for what though. For being born, for being wrong.
Today it is me that feels guilt. Not the guilt I’ve carried since childhood but guilt for not giving that Man a chance to grow older and kinder, or the time to learn how to feel.
Did I turn my back on him, did I abandon him in favour of escape.
I feel as though I have been born twice within one life, an ambiguous gift. One life ends and another begins but the echo of the Man that I was remains, though now becoming faint. Today his presence diminished to a whisper. Today I felt a separation and in this separation, that I have betrayed him. If I no longer carry him in my heart, heavy though he is, will he cease to exist. His life, his joy and suffering, all for what, to fade into nothingness, to be a stepping stone on my journey.
I know I am him and he is me, but his presence is fading and with it a part of me is falling away. This is the journey. The story, sometimes held lightly, sometimes grasped too tight, ultimately must be let go.
Today I grieve for a Man I used to know.
Here on the island, there is no place to hide. All baggage must be claimed. I thought I’d already dealt with this particular suitcase full of sorrow, yet here I am. Grief is a double edge sword, pain and freedom, back to back.
Perhaps my guilt is because my heart feels so much lighter for this loss and this is my betrayal, freedom from the burden of his sorrow.
With what do I feel, my heart ? If this is so, then within this vessel what space is now free. As the past falls into time, there is an invitation to the present. I am here, free to be, not Maya, this is just a word I chose, just another part of the story.
From here on, what fills that space now vacated, is unknown.
In The High Places Above The World
“Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.”– Orhan Pamuk
She was six months old when she came into my life. With eyes of the brightest blue and the softest coat of silky grey, she moved like flowing water. Now, years later, with brown eyes and many lumps and bumps and scars from years of running through bracken and forest, she is still beautiful, and contrary and wilful and so full of vital enthusiasm for life. She is ” the vessel of my hearts repose”, I adore her.
Roxanne the Weimaraner has been my companion for so long it seems she has always been there. In the grace of her twilight years she still sleeps upon my bed, curled at my feet every night. Often I wake to her muffled barking and quivering paws as she chases rabbits or other such blissful activities dogs may dream of.
A dogs joy is a window onto pure being, they are just as they are, without question, a dog.
There were many times I failed her, these were my most shameful memories. Over the course of my life I have committed some awful acts, selfish, violent expressions of spite against myself and the World. The guilt and shame that I felt for those past misdeeds is far eclipsed by what I felt in those times when my actions affected her. In those darkest years, stumbling blindly through life, I betrayed her unquestioning love and trust. I became the perpetrator, the next in line repeating the cycle of unconscious damage that I experienced as a child. With gut wrenching realisation the truth of this dawned on me. Poor, perfect creature had no power, no voice, no recourse, no place to go, she was trapped in a world of my creation.
In the innocence of her eyes, I saw the reflection of my pain, my inheritance was obvious, I was broken. The Iron fingers of guilt gripped my heart.
Soon after this realisation, we moved away from London and in search of myself, headed to the remote Highlands of Scotland. Ten years later and after much soul searching, I have found something true in me. This is not an inevitability, it is a choice. Taking responsibility for every thought and deed brought me into a critical awareness that made clear the chaos and detritus I had left in my wake. Such selfish acts of destruction that only the traumatised are capable of. It has been tough work indeed, I still struggle to forgive myself for the past but do believe that those years of annihilation and chaos have some value.
A life lived balancing on a knife edge taught me a great deal. I know well what it is to live through trauma and fear, forever in a war for survival, without a care, smashing yourself against any and every obstacle in your path. It is far easier to fight than to yield. I have heard the whispering voice of ridicule, cruel judgement and criticism, but was it mine or was it the voice of those that came before, carried within my bones and blood, still present, seeking to confirm their pain through my existence. This is my true inheritance, the gift of ancestral pain passed down through the generations. This pain was not mine, I was simply the latest recipient and in my inventive creativity, I spun it and made it my own. That voice of doubt and loathing, that sense of isolation, the callous unforgiving harshness of regret and guilt, was it in the thoughts of my Father and Mother, was there malice, was there hate. It no longer matters. With gratitude, I accept this offering of brokenness and pain. Within are contained the seeds of goodness, these, I am resolved to nurture into something I can share, kindness, love, compassion, qualities I forbade myself for most of my life.
In my childhood I was given a map and the tools to navigate this world. The tools were broken and the map was made by a blind man. This took many years for me to discover and many years more to craft my own tools and draw my own map. Eventually I found my way out to the high ground, from where I could see the territory of those years of fearful wanderings. Below lay a wasteland of loss and false promises. Looking back, I know that before allowing myself freedom, I needed to fully map this domain. All possibilities for salvation needed to be exhausted before I reluctantly accepted that there are no short cuts to the truth.
During those lost years, I reached for something pure, a dog, mans best friend. The small grey, beautiful, Roxanne, then untarnished by life, untouched by my thoughtless cruelty, she showed me my first glimpse of uncontrived being. Patiently she waited for me to wake from my slumber of unconscious self abuse and acknowledge her offer of love.
Time does not heal all wounds but provides space for forgiveness.
On the island that we call home, not far from the cottage there are rocky peaks, remote, and but for the wind and rain, they are silent from the noise of life. These are the high places where in freedom and silence my beloved Roxanne and I go to stand. Above us the limitless sky, below us lies the sea. There, in those high places of silent perfection, with gusting wind and rain like needles, Roxanne stands with me, leaning into my side. There, in those high places above the world, we stay as long as we can. She does not move, she does not care.
I am forgiven.
The Island Inside
This place has done its work on me. Isolation cleansed my being and brought me into the vital now. These rust brown hills and crags of bright pink and silver grey, their slow voices can now be heard.
In the core of me I felt her whispering, drawing me to her shore. That fathomless presence, her crashing or gently lapping waves shall no longer wash over my soul. How many days have I sat so close to that wild, untamed sea, perched upon a cold, slick black rock, biting wind, rain like needles, salt sea spray in my nostrils.
Here in this place that feels like the edge of the world, I have heard the call of the elements, been caressed and cajoled by the wind and the rain, urging me to acknowledge each moment alive with their touch. I have stood upon a cliff top, below white horses leaped and danced, with arms outstretched I reached for the sky and cried “I see you, I feel you”. Humbled, I surrendered and made contact with the spirits of this place.
In solitude I died, and in these mountains and rocky shores, was born again. For six years these pathways and hills of rusty bracken have supported my frozen, mud caked feet, This land, this island, this father, this mother, this place that birthed me and nurtured me, I shall be leaving soon.
In those early years, how I cursed these rocks and rain soaked hills, yet now I cry tears of sorrow at the thought of leaving this rugged and beautiful place. Truly, I love this land and what it has given me. Freedom, truth, life.
My heart aches at the thought of no longer feeling this moist earth between my bare toes, or breathing in the crystal cold air, but I must go, now is the time to walk upon fresh soil and along new pathways. Now is the time to leave this pristine land, but here, there shall be a piece of my heart buried within these hills and shores. I am and will forever be in loving gratitude for this place that bore me through the pain and joy of becoming.
Patiently the spirits of this land waited for me to surrender and with an open heart, acknowledge the gift of this life.
This island has done it’s work, within me it lives, for in truth, I am it’s reflection.
What is Freedom
In truth I am not sure I am good, I certainly have lived through much fear and pain, yet I strive to overcome this and to reveal the qualities so easily hidden by the need for protection. Capacity to love, yes. Humility, emerging very quickly. Devotion, yes, in the form of love and compassion, wonder and awe at this place and the gift of this life. Trustworthiness, I try, pain and fear cause minor deviations, occasionally error. Competence, this is difficult when so much of my light is consumed by simply changing through healing. This takes so much time and so much contemplation that I am not sure how long it will actually take. It is happening, slowly but surely. Is it not enough that each day I try, this is primary for me, the drive that gets me through each day, that I know today there will be some awakening, some light, some small realisation that will bring me closer to unconditional and selfless love for others. This is freedom.
Kai is King
My boy, my boy, my beautiful boy, so gentle, so pure of heart, so full of joy. My boy now sleeps the longest of sleeps.
What I’d give for just one more touch of his silky grey coat against my cheek. One more moment to bury my face in the crook of his neck, to smell his lovely smell and to feel his quiet presence by my side.
This morning the wood crackles in the stove, the coffee pot burbles but there is no click clack of claws upon the wooden floor, no wild shaking as he crashes off of the sofa, announcing himself with a loud sneeze.
There is a Kai shaped hole in my day.
This morning my heart yearns to have him back, I can think of nothing else. Just for a moment, just to tell him I love him one more time and to thank him for the gift of his life.
This pain is a familiar one, over the last ten years I’ve outlived four of these wonderful creatures. I’ve dug their graves and gently laid them to rest, wrapped in their favourite blankets. It never gets easier but each time I learn more about true presence, true joy at simply being alive.
No doubt that this ache in my heart, I shall feel many more times in my life. There are too many abandoned dogs, too many in need of a loving home. Their lives are so short, yet lived with such unquestioning presence, such purity. The pain of loss at their passing is far outweighed by the gifts that they bring.
Each of the dogs I’ve known, their lights have burned so bright, illuminating what is important, love, kindness, gentleness and uncontrived being. Our attention truly is the most valuable gift we can give, we have so little time yet too easily become absorbed in goals or survival. This morning, as I look back on my time with Kai, I feel the pain of loss but also of regret at not giving him more of my attention, not savouring more of his magic, so generous, so forgiving, so pure.
Kai, thanks to you, I will do better next time.
Rest in peace my lovely boy.
I had ideas of the life that I was prepared to accept, a standard of comfort, an acceptable pace of progress toward goals, requirements for a happy life.
In a place that felt like the edge of the world, isolation peeled away the layers of who I thought I was. A rocky windswept wilderness where there are no bars, shops, restaurants, cafes, or boutiques, no cinemas or pubs and few people, little but the daily chores necessary for survival to divert attention away from the unexamined feelings that had driven me for a lifetime.
The pristine land became filled with the psychic noise of my ego pleading for engagement, anything to absorb my attention and soak up the silence, anything to avert my gaze from looking inward to the shadow, into the dark unmapped corners of my being. The truth was that I was terrified and had been for all of my life.
To discover who I really was it seemed I had created a situation where there was no escape, no way out. Not until moving to an island did I experience the solitude necessary for me to truly face the pain I was carrying and in surrendering to it, begin to heal.
The choice was to lose my mind or find my truth.
I chose freedom.
I’m still here, work in progress, flawed but evolving. As the protective act of self gradually diminishes, allowing essence to breathe, there is a growing sense of lucidity fuelled by an unflinching will to live truthfully.
My humble wish is that in sharing this path of healing others may find answers. This site will contain thoughts and insights informed by my journey. Stories from a boyhood search for sanctuary in the feminine, through a picaresque early adulthood exploring the strength and isolation of the masculine, then onward to embodying as a woman that which I had sought as a boy.
This journey is a gift. Immersion in successive personas and their forms now returns me to the gentleness and innocence of the child that felt too much and to the understanding that feeling is neither masculine nor feminine, the soul has no gender.
You Are Loved
Do not fear the solitude of your own thoughts. In your heart and in your soul, in the very core of your being, know that you are loved, you always have been and always will be.
Be fearless and flourish in this knowledge. Let it rest, where, in silent moments of reflection it can be found.
Though you will feel sorrow and despair, know that this is temporary. Be gentle with yourself, do not fear your shadow, it is a teacher. Love all parts of your self equally and forgiveness will follow.
Though at times you may feel vulnerable, do not be afraid, it is not weak, but takes great courage.
Embrace the mystery of life, you will smile more, and your heart will fill with wonder and awe.
Spend time alone in nature. There, do not guard your feelings, but instead surrender. Ask no questions and in stillness, allow what is, to be. Then, you will know true peace.
Love fiercely, love with all of your heart, but do not seek to fix or change.
Be creative. Reach deep inside, to that place that only you know, that place where Soul dwells, where feeling speaks, there, is your unique voice. It is a gift. Free it. Express it. In this endeavour be as achingly truthful as possible.
Know creation as intimately as you can.
You are here for a reason.
Our journey through life seems to involve many transitions. From childhood to adulthood, from fragmentation to wholeness, from disharmony to harmony, from illusion to reality, and ultimately, from suffering to freedom.
Now in my middle years, looking back on life, I see that in seeking avoidance of suffering I travelled the path of surrender. Not the surrender of acceptance but surrender to desire.
For a time, the joy of bodily exploring the sensual world and with luminous presence, to fully inhabit those luxurious and intoxicating moments, was, in a limited way, fulfilling. Except that living within the brightly burning flame of desire, lost in the intensity of its glare was the subtlety and magic of life’s whispering conversation.
Within this flame there is no quiet but the quiet of exhaustion.
In my voracious appetite to feed the flame, I drew things to me. Objects, potions, people, sensations. One moment holding them tightly, as if within them was my salvation. The next, casting them aside as spent and worthless.
Now, I pass from childhood to adulthood. With each footstep my body aches with a different pain. No longer the pain of desire but the pain of presence.
There is still a flame but this flame is of truth. A flame that burns away illusion and lights the path to this next transition.
This transition seems the inverse to the carnal nature of my youth and those years demanding fulfilment from each moment. Now, from each moment I ask for little yet receive so much. The World saturates my naked awareness, piercing my heart with it’s almost unbearable presence. Joy, pain, love, rage, yet little desire but for the desire to escape the confines of this flesh and once again to become light.
Until that final transition, for now, I am here, and here, beyond a life, lived solely for myself, I find redemption. The mystery blossoms into being, moments pass into time, a gradual unfolding begins.
Never A Voyeur
Enough deconstruction, enough looking backward upon that ocean of feeling that is the past.
Within that ocean, islands of traumatic memory became the land upon which identity had been built. Those islands of pain were the focus of years of feelings. There, tangled and distorted flotsam lay washed up with the unavoidable jetsam, discarded and rejected no more. Emerging from the depths of fathomless waters, memories of unworthiness and isolation were exposed upon those rocky shores.
On the horizon I see a distant mirage of new land emerging. There are bright colours visible, wavering and dancing into the sky. A tangible, vibrant aurora of thoughts, feelings and memories, of places and people, all exploding upwards.
I am there.
Walking on the beach of my youth. My bare feet sink into glittering, golden sand, hot and dry as it squeezes between my grasping toes. Above, the mirage of colour still dances. It is alive with imagery of joyful times. Laughter, smells, visceral sensation. With calloused hands and aching fingers from a lifetime of unconscious use, reaching upwards into the light, I become aware of what a wondrous gift it is to touch, to hold, to feel with such sensitivity. The mirage becomes my fingers, becomes my heart opening, filling with exuberant boyhood memories.
I am there, in the back garden, standing barefoot beneath an orange sun of years past. With sheer awe I gaze at the towering sunflower that grew so quickly from a seed so small. My young mind cannot grasp the magic of this event.
I am there, the lane behind our cottage, warm wind whistles past my ears, my tummy is full of dancing butterflies. The first time I knew the unimaginable freedom of a bicycle without stabilisers.
There is no word that describes the constant sound of perpetual motion that is the wild sea. At once it is all motion, yet within it, all stillness is held.
I am there, an endless summer day spent swimming in the warm, salty sea. A day of being lifted upon the backs of white horses as they gather and roll and crash upon the shore. My nostrils filled with the smell of seaweed, waist deep, balanced on tiptoe, my back to the swell of the surging waves. Up, up, lifted off my feet and then, in an instant, submerged, gasping and spluttering I laugh and scream in delight. From the boat yard comes the ever present ding, ding, ding of rigging vibrating against the masts of uncountable yachts. For a young child, a place of mystery and adventure where I crawled beneath the hulls and trailers, amongst the roots of that aluminium forest.
I am there, alone, laying under the impossible, myriad richness of the Milky Way. My child hands, calloused and rough as they lay upon my bare stomach. Those perpetual callouses from building a perpetual tree house, where, one summer I slept beneath those stars, suspended between worlds, beneath, the earth, above, the stars, within me, the boundless expanse of imagination.
Yes, there was awful pain, yes, there was crushing isolation, without which there would be no knowledge of suffering, no reason to seek the deeper truth of experience. No reason to ask for help.
This is where I find humility. This is where I find my true self. I asked and was answered.
I am here, now, I build upon a new foundation, never again shall I be a voyeur of my own pain, never again shall I turn away from my own gaze.
A Wise Man Once Told Me
A wise man once told me that the World is a thought in the mind of God. We are aspects of his imagination, within each of us dwells the divine, our lives, opportunities to seek truth and share in creation.
In my younger years this statement would have made no sense. To me the World was a place filled with either danger or opportunity for pleasure. I saw it as a playground and myself as something separate, isolated within my own body, a prisoner of my own thoughts.
In transitioning I had invested much in the idea of this form, the ultimate object to be purchased and worn, my body no more than a tool for sensation. This path took me to some very dark places. If you see yourself as a thing and the World as a playground, harm will very likely follow. Such extreme superficiality will either lead to an early demise or a miraculous reversal. Thankfully mine was the latter, although along the way I did have many close encounters with death.
My journey through surgery was a revelation, becoming what I wanted to be still is a powerful memory of excitement and overwhelming relief. Is there any more extreme physical and emotional transformation that a person can undertake. Yet that change that felt so vitally important – life or death – now must be let go or become an anchor to this body. As a Transsexual Woman, objectifying oneself is an easy diversion to take, this attachment to appearance can be a huge pitfall. The desire to prolong the joy of transitioning becomes a trap, a search for self acceptance, extending that process into a life of surgery and caricature. Reassuringly, as I’ve aged I have been surprised by how little I’m bothered as I witness this next transformation. Grey hair, wrinkles and lines are strangely comforting, evidencing my participation as life flows through me.
Although my need to embody femininity runs deep, in time I’m sure this too will fade. Still, this body is a persistent reminder of the joy and pain of emersion in the physical. Breathing, I am aware of the rise and fall of my breasts, absent male genitals this body feels sleek and smooth, free from the masculine flesh that once protruded between my legs. These sensations remind me of the pleasure and rightness I feel in this body but at the same time I also feel weighed down, condensed and reduced by the choice that I made.
Transitioning showed me that no matter how much I searched for myself in this form, the deeper I looked, the less I found. What I did find was an act, a construction, a defence built on fear. Ideas of a person that I wanted to be. A Woman, strong and sensual, an embodiment of the feminine mystery, a childhood fantasy of escape from all that I was as a little boy.
The truth is that even though I may look like a Woman that does not make me a Woman. I remain in essence unchanged. Surgery simply rearranged the existing flesh, stretching, stitching, forcing the body to accept and repair. It is an illusion that reminds me of that fathomless mystery I so yearned to capture for myself, but at the same time it is a reminder that I am not that and never will be. Even so, I am grateful that I have been able in some small way to experience a little of what I longed for.
Questions that I ask myself, can I ever know the Man I would have become, am I still him. Have I committed a great crime against nature, bodily and spiritual self mutilation, the ultimate rejection of the gifts of birth bestowed upon me by the purposeful Universe. At what cost did I refuse this gift. Does any of this matter anyway. No matter the twists and turns the journey of life may take, it is the Soul that learns and grows, I am quite sure that this is the purpose of our time here. Whether I am Man, Woman or Soul, now, with age, ideas of self are held more lightly, the graceful beauty of decay reminds me that everything is temporary. Life is so short and youth, a fraction of our time here.
The urgent explorations of my younger years now seem so long ago. Time has gifted the glaring truth that I will die but as this body ages a parallel process is at work. Another kind of becoming, this one is not physical yet is birthed by the physical. With age I have become aware of the subtle yet powerful feeling that the I behind these eyes is a part of a relationship with something larger, something greater than myself.
Perhaps the world is a thought, if this is so then we must be too. Unfixed within this shell the thinker evolves, thinks new thoughts and is born over and over within each lifetime. Am I the thinker or am I the thoughts, am I this body, this mind or am I something else, something more.