Tag Archives: healing

Love is just the beginning


I used to complain to anyone who would listen that love simply isn’t enough. I loved my family, for example, but that didn’t stop me from hurting them, even though it wasn’t on purpose. I’m sure deep down, too, my family loved me. But that didn’t stop them from pushing me aside when my clinical depression was too much to bear, and my gender transition became a point of shame. And when romance entered my life? Again, love could only sustain it for so long, before the spikes of life punctured an already fragile union. Love isn’t enough, I despaired. So why try?

I think I’m starting to see things differently though. I think the problem with thinking that love should be enough to right all wrongs is that love isn’t an endpoint. It’s not a goal that, once you achieve it, you get to cross it off your list and forget about. Instead, it’s a direction, a point of departure, a tool that develops as you use it over and over again. It’s a guiding light.

The love that couldn’t keep my biological family communicating with me didn’t dry up. The communicating dried up. I still love my sisters, my late father, and yes, even the mother who I’m not sure ever loved me back. Loving those who hurt you, doesn’t mean you have to keep letting them hurt you. It means that you need to re-direct that love in a constructive direction. Killing love is a form of self-harm. Better to keep that love alive and thriving. Better to find a new home for it.

I’m re-directing it in the work that I’ve chosen to do, working with street-entrenched and homeless young people. People who, like me, couldn’t find what they needed in the families they were born into. And now they struggle to build a life for themselves, and the forks in the roads are stark and sometimes dangerous. I may not be able to reach them all, but maybe I can reach one of them. That would be something.

I re-direct the love each time I volunteer at a suicide hotline too. I hear my own story reflected back to me in the calls that come in. I hear different stories but similar pain. I hear suffering and grief and trauma, and I offer them the one thing I have — empathy. Love.  It’s not everything. It’s not a cure. But it’s the beginning of one. And it’s amazing how much it can mean to people.

We all have to start somewhere. Love is where I choose to start. It’s where life is. I want to live.

A Children’s Story

Still feeling vulnerable today. One way to counteract that is to be gentle with myself. And the only way I know how to feel better is to write. Write without thinking too much about it. So here goes, a children’s story, absurd and non-sensical. Because my brain needs a rest. Because life is absurd, and my life lacks sense at the moment. So here it is, just for fun…

Moon Baby 

The man stands 6 storeys tall on his knees. His hands are the size of small motorboats. His nose is large and noisy. He is breathing heavily. And with each breath in, trees topple over, benches break loose and skid toward us. When he exhales, the clouds disperse and the tide pulls away.

The man is my father. His legs are made of iron, his feet of steel. His arms have a golden sheen. “White gold,” he says. And he picks me up like I’m a toothpick and perches me on his shoulder. I am nothing like him.

With every step through the town, the earth rumbles. People stare at us, their eyes wide with fear. “Good morning, Arthur,” a crackly voice calls. It’s Bob, the butcher, who always has a kind word for everyone. He waves at my father, at me with a shaking hand and scampers inside his store before my father can reply.

My father’s mouth is a gaping hole of rotting teeth. He never brushes his teeth because, he says, he can’t find a toothbrush large enough. His halitosis clears the streets and we wander on, through the town and towards the Rocky Mountains in the distance.

“Good morning,” his voice bellows to the townspeople, drowning out the church gong. It’s 9 am.

Nobody follows us, nobody dares.

We wander towards the mountain range, and my father carefully lowers me down to the ground, right next to a pond blue like ice cream. I run towards it, clamber down onto my belly and lap up the freshwater like a dog. My father stands in the distance, wiping the sweat from his brow.

“Aren’t you thirsty?” I ask. He shakes his head, and sweat rains down on the forest, the pond, me. The water is salty now. I stop drinking.

“Ugh, dad. Look what you’ve done!”

But he’s not looking at me anymore. Up in the sky, the sun is burning hot. He reaches up and picks it out of the sky like fruit from a tree. He squeezes it and liquid sunshine streams into his mouth, drips down his chin.

The planet is dark now. Black like the night.

“Dad! Put it back!”

He swallows down the light and opens his hand to reveal the sun, squeezed dry and dimly lit. He smoothes it out with his other hand and puffs it up like a pillow. Then he throws it up into the sky again, where it lands on a cloud. It’s still not as bright as it used to be.

On the other hand, my father now beams like a torchlight. The light streaming out of his pores, his eyes is so blinding I can barely stand to look at him.

He reaches down to gather me up again, but his skin burns into mine and I yell out in pain, “Ow! Stop!”. My father pauses and twists his head sideways the way a dog does when it’s curious.

I tell him we should rest and he chuckles so loud, the leaves tumble down from all the trees around us.

“You’re tired already?” he teases. His grin is large and scary and bright.

The dim sun on high cries out that he is tired, even if we’re not. And slowly the sun lowers himself in the distance until he’s out of sight. In his place the moon floats up and glimmers coldly down at us. It looks like a fingernail clipping in the sky.

My father loves the moon. He rides it like a skateboard through the darkness. He heaves himself up into the sky and steps gingerly onto the sliver of moon. It teeters this way and that, creaking under my father’s weight.

“Don’t break it dad,” I cry. But my father’s not listening. He is absorbed in balancing his large frame on the moon. They skid towards the milky way. My father says it is slippery like coconut oil. I watch him slip and slide along it like a child, screaming: “Weeee!” It sounds like thunder.

I am jealous because my father never takes me up with him when he plays. He says it’s too dangerous, that I need to wait until I’m big like him. But I don’t think I’ll ever be. My size resembles my mother’s. She is no bigger than a Christmas tree.

Stop being a victim

Bad shit rolls downhill. So does good shit, and any other kind of shit you can imagine. But what I want to talk about is the shit in my life. The kind that’s been with me since I was a child. I’m done with it. I’m done worrying about it. And I’m done looking away. Let’s deal with it already – and move on. Let’s turn it into fertile ground and plant some plants in it. Let’s, please, just get rid of that stinking, awful smell.

It’s hard to accept that I might not ever truly know why I am the way I am. All I know is, I want to take my own experiences and make them meaningful somehow. I want them to mean something to someone other than me. Otherwise, what’s the point? I don’t know how many other people there are that can relate to what I’ve been through or where I’m headed. I sometimes feel like I’m an alien of some sort. But that’s pretty common, right? Feeling like you don’t belong? Because difference is something we all have in common.

But no matter how weird I am, or screwed up I think my past was, I don’t want to be someone who constantly makes excuses for why I can’t get ahead in life. I’ve gotten this far in life and I’m doing OK. Build on the strengths you have and learn from the weaknesses. Learn to work with those weaknesses, because ultimately they make you more interesting and more rounded. Or so the theory goes.

My partner, too, suffers from trauma. It can be hard to handle sometimes. But I know I want to build a future with her, and we are getting the help we need to help each other. I want to learn to support her. I want to be there for her in a way that no one else has been able to be there for her. And I know she wants to be there for me too. She is helping me see my own value for maybe the first time in my life. My trauma is pretty different from hers. It’s about moving to a different continent at a very vulnerable age (11 years old), a country rife with racism, bloodshed and hypocrisy. And no one really to talk to about my difficulties adapting, no one who really understood what I was going through. Then it’s coming to terms with my gender and the storm of pain that followed as a result. It’s about losing friends to suicide, and struggling with suicidal tendencies myself. It’s about losing my father in the worst possible way, and losing my family’s support in the process.

But I’m ready to look beyond all that now to something else. It’s also about recognizing the suffering of my parents and how that rendered them helpless to truly be present in their children’s lives. It’s about how a culture of lies and deceit and repression, and a legacy of emotional, verbal and physical abuse spreads like a virus through generations – until someone stops to treat it.

I want to understand how trauma changes people and how it can be transformed into something positive. I want to turn my life into more than just a dirge and speak out, not just for myself but for those who came before me and for those struggling today and tomorrow.

Maybe if I truly understand how trauma works, maybe if I am able to truly communicate that to others, I can make this world a slightly less troubled place. Maybe, just maybe, healing is possible. Wouldn’t that be wonderful.

We all deserve to feel safe, in our homes, in our bodies and in our souls. That is what I wish for myself and everyone else.

Let’s make it happen.

 

No more story to tell

Today, someone asked me if I ever felt like I’d get to a place where I would no longer feel the need to tell my story. And what would it take for me to get there? I hadn’t thought about it. I’ve spent so much of my life struggling to find the words to express my story that it hadn’t occurred to me that there may come a time when I no longer would feel the need to tell it.

What would that look like?

Sometimes I get to a place where I feel that the story I tell is the same one, over and over and over. I feel like a rat running round and round in circles on my way to nowhere. In the process I get exhausted because there’s nowhere new to go. It’s frustrating.

I believe the reason I tell the same story over and over from different angles, perhaps, but essentially the same facts, is because I am looking for validation; for someone to say that what happened to me really sucked and that my story matters. I want my story to have some influence on other people. Influence. That’s something I lack.

I don’t really know how people gain influence. Maybe when they reach a point where they are able to transcend themselves. But how can you transcend anything when your reality is denied, your story ignored, your voice silenced? So much of my childhood was spent fighting for the right to tell a story that was different from the norm, and struggling to have it be recognized as valid by the people closest to me, my family.

Maybe it will come, that day when I am able to put aside my own trials and tribulations to take on the world head on. I really hope it will. In the meantime, I must keep on telling my story so that it loses its power over me. Through telling it, I am able to witness it from a distance, to draw a narrative that makes sense out of the nonsensical.

Isn’t that why we tell stories in the first place? To take what on the face of it may not make sense at all and weave it together into a coherent whole?

If I were to transcend my own story I would want to devote my life to helping others tell theirs. Because I do believe that in the telling of our lives lies our salvation. This is not about people climbing on soap boxes and devoting themselves to navel gazing. It’s about climbing into the driver’s seat of our lives. We do so by owning our life experience, and we own our experience by the way we name it.

This is what I believe.

In my teens, when I was deeply depressed, one of the scariest parts of my illness was how my memories of my past seemed bullet-ridden, filled with gaps and holes I couldn’t fill for myself. I felt myself dissolving, witnessed it and yet could not seem to stop it from happening.

It was only after the depression lifted that I was able to claim those fragments and started to see connections between them. Some gaps still remain but I no longer live in fear that I will fall into one of them. Instead, I have managed to cobble a path that leads, well, to somewhere.

That I am able to create that path tells me that I am healing. When I am able to walk it without needing to look down, I’ll know that I have transcended it.