Looking Back: Struggling with Feelings

The waves gently creep
Lulling me to sleep
In and out, in and out
The water all about

Softly lapping at my feet
Rolling with a hypnotic beat
Now washing over me
My heart calling to the sea

Slowly drifting into dreams
As the golden sunset beams
Higher and higher does it rise
From toes, to knees, and now my thighs

No longer know the world around
My mind knows only the ocean sound
As it crawls up to my chest
My eyelids droop and take a rest

Now I try to wake my mind
But a great horror do I find
As I drifted off to sleep
I drifted into water too deep

I open my eyes and raise my face
And far above is the surface
I swim and swim but seem only to sink
My lungs screaming I cannot think

Here I lie in my destruction
Victim of the sea’s seduction

I wrote this poem 9-10 years ago (around the age of 21), and at the time I didn’t know what I was writing about only that the words came to me and I had to put them on paper.  Looking back on it years later, I can see that I was acknowledging the issues I had with emotions back then.  When things would get difficult, which was a pretty regular thing up until my mother passed away in my mid-twenties, I would become very emotionally withdrawn.  The waves are referring to the numbness I would let wash over me.  This was such a regular thing for so many years of my life that there was rarely, if any, periods of time in which I wasn’t distant.  Even after my mother passed away, I found that I spent more time numb than anything else, as though I’d become stuck in this state that had been a beautiful solution when I needed it to survive, but was now this thing that was holding me back from experiencing life… I was drowning in it.  I can say now that I wasn’t stuck, but it was a long hard fight to come out of.  Pretending to reciprocate feelings, letting people think I was letting them in, at times I even fooled myself.  I put on a good, happy, and engaged face for people around me, but was never able to be myself.  I was trying the fake it until you make it approach to being a person with feelings.  In fact, this poem goes hand in hand with another one I wrote a couple years later:

Grew up in a world of masks
And took some as my own
Of creamy pearl and sequins
In candlelight they shone

Tales of strength and bravery
These crafted faces told
Of heroes and of saviors
And wise men to behold

Through the art of comedy
I had them wanting more
Their joyful bursting laughter
Would touch them to the core

Still I had more to show them
Innocence and romance
Of closeness with another
And feelings at first glance

False faces I would show them
Forever it would be
Cowardly my face concealed
Afraid of what they’d see

Underneath there was no strength
Bravery or wisdom
Romance was evading me
And laughter would not come

Truth be told there was nothing
Only my empty soul
Numbness where she stole my heart
And left a gaping hole

Grew up in a world of masks
And hid behind my own
‘Til one day I stopped to look
And found I’m not alone

I remember all the exes in my past that I tried so hard to convince them and myself that my feelings for them ran as deep as theirs for me and that I had let them see the true me.  This had never been the case, though.  For me to show people who I was would mean to show them my life at home.  I was broken, am broken, and I don’t think I ever believed I was worthy of the loving friends and romantic relationships that I had in my life.  I thought then with my inability to feel anything deeply, that there was truly something wrong with me.  I told myself I took pride in not being like all the other girls, but when it came down to it, I felt that too was something wrong with me.  Why couldn’t I get into the same interests as them?  Why was I so uncomfortable with my body?  Why did compliments have the exact opposite effect on me than was the intention?  The longest romantic relationship I’d had until that point had only lasted 6 months, as soon as the excitement of having somebody interested in me wore off, I started feeling unworthy of that interest, recognizing I was never and could never be as in to them as they were in to me, and would find something I could use to push them away, some reason to end things.  Some of those reasons were legitimate, such as a compulsive liar I dated.  Some were simply me not being comfortable with the role I was taking in the relationship, often pushing myself to be more feminine than I was really okay with.  Other things, were just me picking at nothing, though.

Over the years I started taking the masks off, one at a time, and letting people catch glimpses of me underneath it all.  As I did this, I found that I slowly became more in touch with my feelings.  These days, around a decade later, I very rarely wear masks any more in my personal life (work is another story since I can’t come out at work) and I definitely feel things… I feel things very strongly.  Sometimes I don’t know how to handle my feelings, they still seem so new and overwhelming to me, and I think that I now at times, when I’m at particularly low points, push people away with this overflow or at least am a heavy burden to the ones that stick with me through those periods.  I’m far more comfortable with myself than I have ever been before, but I still think of myself as broken and have so much doubt about whether I really deserve the good things in my life.  I’m sure so much of that comes from being told for most of my life that I’m not a good person and deserve bad things to happen to me by one of my parents.  In my early 30s, I’m still finding myself and my voice in this world.  I’m just now feeling that I’m making progress, having found somebody I trusted enough to let see me in my entirety, to come out as trans to, to have verbally shared a couple of my childhood experiences with (writing about it is so much easier than saying it out loud).  I’ve torn down the false confidence that I projected to those around me, and am trying to learn how to build up real confidence in myself.

There’s a part of me that feels like, having watched August go through his transition and the wonders it has done for him, a lot of my remaining issues will start to resolve themselves as I transition.  I feel like I’m in this weird in between state right now, where I’ve stopped pretending to be this other person, but I’m not yet the person I’m supposed to be.  I feel too manly to be the woman that some people see me as, yet I’m too feminine still to be the man I feel I am meant to be.  These feelings of inadequacy can get to me at times and hold me back as much as the numbness did years ago, just in a different way.  I think a lot of this will change as I transition, a process that I’ll be starting in less than two months if all goes as planned, but I’m afraid to count on that.  I’ve seen August’s self confidence sky rocket as he built this positive self image during the last year and a half.  It’s reasonable to think that I will have similar results, but what if I don’t?  What if I do feel better about my body and my gender presentation, but find out that underneath it all I’m still broken?  What if I’m not just struggling with the feelings of having come out as trans to everybody except the people at work, but not being able to actually do anything about it, to actually begin the transition until I leave the place that I’m currently working, and the reality is that underneath those feelings I’m permanently damaged?  What if I’m incapable of being happy with myself and I bring my loved ones down with me?  What if I’m my mom?

As the opportunity to transition comes ever closer, I find myself getting excited and hopeful for the most part, but sometimes I start worrying about it.  At no point do I ever question whether it’s something I want to do, it is beyond a doubt what I want to do.  I just worry about putting too much weight on it and it not making things better as much as I was thinking it would.  I know it’ll make some aspects of my life undeniably better, but I can’t be sure what of my issues are tied to my trans identity and what are tied to my childhood experiences.  I’m worried about what I’ll find out about myself once I remove the feelings and thoughts that are specific to being trans and am forced to confront the issues that still remain.

I don’t really know where I was going with this post.  I guess I just needed to sort some thoughts out.  It’s been a while since I last had time to write a post, with work and school keeping me so busy lately, I haven’t had a real chance to do any written venting or self analysis… even when I’ve had a little time to myself, I spent so much time writing essays for school that I found I’d rather not be on the computer any more that day.  So, I guess this was just built up and overdue thoughts that I needed to get written.

Since it’s been so long, here’s a little bit of life update information in this post too, don’t know when I’ll have the time or energy to write another one again.  On the topic of school, while it’s keeping me pretty busy throughout the week, it’s going pretty well so far.  I’ve read a couple really good books for my English class that make me glad I chose this professor, even if he is one of the more challenging English professors I’ve encountered, I wouldn’t have known I should read these books otherwise.  Also, got a new kitten who is pretty awesome, but also a pain, as kittens tend to be.  He and the dog are still figuring each other out, it’s quite a process.  I’m starting some of processes at work that I need to go through in order to leave that job as well, since I have less than 90 days left, which is super exciting because I’m ready to begin my transition, focus on getting a degree, and move on to the next stage of my life without worrying about having to go away from my family for several months again and not missing important things anymore.