Alright, initially, I had a wildly different post planned for today, and got derailed by my penchant for not doing well on prescription medication. However, after an emergency follow up with my doctor, who shares a last name with my beloved Ray Bradbury, we’ve likely worked out the kinks, and I’ve also walked roughly three and a half (maybe 3.4 miles?) today, so I’m finally sitting down to write, now after a shower and chicken ramen with frozen veggies (a hold over from my university days), my thoughts turned to a topic I see covered in so many, many ways. And a great number of those articles end up feeling a bit like this.
Let’s skip that part. Now, I’m not going to get into any advice about ideal careers or anything either. We’ve all got talents. My talents are not the same as yours, I promise. My sister can talk about makeup and hair and style for hours. I usually zone out about two minutes in, but I know enough to not show up to a meeting or job interview looking like a hack. Usually. So I drifted back to those concepts I fall back on when, like today, everything seems to be falling apart. These aren’t obscure truths found in the halls of monasteries or dredged from the sunken depths of Atlantis. No need to consult your doctor before implementing most of them either. So, let’s get started. Oh, and they aren’t in any particular order, because I couldn’t figure out which to tackle first.
1. Claim your name. Really OWN it.
Okay, hear me out, here. Do you really KNOW your name? And I don’t just mean knowing how to spell it or correct someone’s pronunciation politely if they happen to get it wrong (which happens to me all the time.) I mean do you OWN your name like you own your deepest passions? Hey, stop giving me that look. I’m not crazy. Maybe I am, but here’s the thing. Your name is the unique symbol that stands for everything that is you, whatever that means in its fullest extent. It may have started out as the string of letters your parents asked a doctor to slap on a birth certificate, but if you’re old enough to read this, it’s already so much more.
Put your eyebrow down, and let me explain. Each piece of your name had a reason. We’ll start with the surname. It’s a representation of all those who came before. Chances are you’ve got everyone from the scullery maid dating a horse thief to some kind of noble or royal in that name, so dig a bit, even if it’s just to ask your parents about one or two awesome things your grandparents did. Or, hey, if it’s a fairly common last name, there’s a possibility you’re related to someone amazing who shares that name, so why not treasure a story connection there that you find special?
Then you’ve got your given names. Most people in the United States have a first and middle name, or just a first name, and many parents spend at least several weeks, if not months finding those names. Ask your parents what the inspiration for your given name was. Check out the meanings in a baby names book. What part of the world did your name come from? Are there alternate spellings?
Lastly, are there other names you prefer? These names are far more personal, and often quite telling. I didn’t really understand the idea of owning my name until I chose I name that fit my trajectory and goals in life. The same is true of both many trans people I know and other non-trans people I know who’ve experienced great trauma and found the only way to move through was to distance themselves from the names that held continued symbols of that trauma.
The reality is, most of you have a name that works very well for you, and likely a few nicknames from close relationships. The whole point is to be sure you’re embracing that part that everyone knows as a symbol that represents you.
Experience yourself in the shower.
…I had no idea how that sounded when I first typed it. Laugh if you wish. Snicker like high school kids. Is it out of your system? Good. Now, here’s what I mean. We’ve only got one body, and the time we are most physically vulnerable with ourselves is either in the shower or in front of the mirror. Those of you hoping I’m about to get graphic, prepare for disappointment.
Let’s face it, we get a ton of messages about bodies, daily, weekly, yearly, and we compare our own to those standards daily, weekly, yearly. Let’s stop bringing those standards into the one place where we have a chance to cleanse ourselves. Let’s allow ourselves the opportunity to just experience just how many different colors and textures make up us. Skin (which is at least five different colors at any given time on any given person. Have you looked at the back of your hands?), hair, nails, the motion of the muscles and tendons under it all. The sensation of the water soaking into your scalp, running down your body.
The shower doesn’t judge us. The water and the soap and the sponge don’t judge us. So, as much as possible, let’s allow ourselves to just be.
I know this section is personal, and I wasn’t sure if I should include it, but I did because I’ve had to learn the same thing. Mostly because I’ll never be on the cover of Men’s Health. Ever. On the other hand, I love my hands, and I love my ears, and I like to think I have great eyes. I truly believe we all have traits we love about ourselves, but we listen more to those talking about stuff we don’t. Let’s stop it, and just be.
And I mean SOMEHOW. I don’t care how. At all. If you don’t mind baring the little, pointy, dangerous bits of your soul to the world, start a blog. If you love to write physically, journal. Hate prose? Use poetry. Hate writing? Sketch daily. Hate drawing but love video? Keep a video diary, either privately, or if you’re really adventurous, put it on YouTube. Can’t choose? Don’t. I use them all, and they all work well for various purposes, but they all have one vital thing in common. They’re all acts of creation.
Recognize the blessing in the trial.
You know that beast in your life? The one under your bed? The one that dealing with feels like this?
We all have one. I don’t know what yours is. Mine is Gender Dysphoria. Some days, it leaves me alone. Others, like yesterday, it makes me want to literally rip off parts of myself with broken shards of a mirror I threw across a room in order to get some relief from the fact that what I know I’m supposed to see in that mirror and what I actually see don’t match. It’s miserable, and doesn’t make a lot of sense, and your major ten-thousand-more problem is also miserable, and also likely doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Yet last night, as my husband and I walked around a local park so I could put my head on straight before burying myself in a few Hardcore levels of Minecraft – for those unfamiliar, Hardcore is the setting where you only get one life. One shot. – a stray thought crossed my mind. I’m glad for the blessing of this trial. And my logical, pragmatic mind immediately went, WHAT?
Yet it’s true. Because this experience, often couched as a struggle (and some days it is one) has proved a great blessing for many reasons, not the least of which is this. It, more than anything else, has given me the strength to be unapologetically myself. I firmly believe we’re all given at least one struggle like this, and if we can learn how to embrace the pain, we can gain a strength we didn’t have before. This is not to be mistaken for sunshine, sparkles, and fuzzy kittens.
Quick disclaimer: they came up with some weird stuff in the early 1980s.
Now, that said, there really is something to the idea of physical exertion. Hey, easy with the death glare! This isn’t a guilt trip. I’ve spent the last several years wondering why I couldn’t pull two to three-hour workouts six days a week anymore (or work out at all. Thank you, chronic pain, and also depression.) It’s more a matter of do what you can. A song you like is on? Swing your hips a bit. Pick up the beat with snapping fingers.
If you are in the grips of something like depression, this article a friend posted the other day has some absolutely fantastic help and perspective for the whole idea of getting active. Basically? Again, do what you can.
Find your groove.
Move to music. Sing, dance, whatever. Make a total fool of yourself. Be offbeat. Just let yourself enjoy it. And when I say music, I mean whatever speaks to you. An old roommate of mine listened to stuff I don’t even remember because it contained less than three chords, identical bass beats, and no discernible lyrics that I could tell. She loved it. I tend to prefer stuff like Blue Oyster Cult, Peter Hollens, Lindsey Stirling, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, among others. Find what calls to you, and move to it.
So there they are. No candles and incense or mountain retreats. What are some ways you’ve found that I missed? Let me know in the comments!