Book Three:

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Skinned Alive
by Melanie Anne

Part Two: Innocence Sought

Chapter 55

Crucible of the Past

November 19th, 1995

There are four sides to every relationship: How it makes you feel, how it makes the other person feel, how you feel about each other, AND how others feel about your relationship. Though these four categories are dealing with feelings, they are expressed in an objective manner. Each of these could grow into its own SUBJECTIVE set of four, sharing one (the seeding point) with the objective view. Working this out we get:: 1, how I feel about myself in the relationship, 2, how I feel about the other person in the relationship, 3, how I feel about the relationship between us, 4, how I think others feel about the relationship between us.

Notice we are still talking about the relationship in each category. Taking number 1, the question is not simply how I feel about myself, but how I feel about myself in the context of the relationship. How many of us have a self image that changes dramatically when we are in the presence of someone else? We might normally feel in control, but when with person X find ourselves feeling completely incompetent. Or, we might normally feel at a loss, but in the presence of our partner, associate, or friend, feel energized and full of purpose and direction.

Question two does the same for how we feel about the other party to the relationship. It is not what we feel about this person in general, but in the specific context of his or her relationship to ourselves. Applying the same technique to item three, when you stop to think, we have all had the experience of being in a relationship at some level where we really enjoyed the relationship, but not what it did to us. Sometimes a relationship of this nature is for show only, and works to build status. Other times it is for practical purposes (a marriage of convenience). Most often, it is a matter of enjoying the time we spend with someone, but paying for it later in a crabby attitude, lack of sleep, spent money, or just a sense of having been humiliated or degraded. Of course, the reverse is true: hating the time we spend with (the domineering boss, the inflexible instructor, the demanding lover) but realize that we have risen to the challenge, exceeded our limitations, or found new sides to our heart.

And finally, in category four, we concern ourselves with how we feel others view our relationship. No relationship transpires in a vacuum. It is susceptible to enhancement and degradation through the responses of others. Jealousy (ex-lover kills woman and her new husband), nurturing (happy grandmother takes stress of marriage by babysitting grandchildren), each of these and all those we have experienced, observed, or heard of serve to modulate a relationship - sometimes making it work when it did not have enough strength to continue on its own, and sometimes bringing it down when it could have grown and bloomed. The social environment in which a relationship germinates has a great impact on whether or not it will blossom to maturity.

So many different considerations! And yet, each one is a valid concern and a useful perspective. Each one springs from and hinges around our own view of ourselves. Still, we are not done yet. So far, we have spoken of the objective view and the most personal view. Equally important is the other party's personal view. In fact, the whole scheme of things including all of these previous considerations opens up in his or her direction as far as it does in ours.

One of the first mistakes we make in a relationship is to assume that the other party feels about it the same way we do. Certainly, after examining all eight of the categories above, we must accurately understand the nature of the relationship, no? No. The blind spot we have not considered is that everything we have examined in heart or in head is filtered through our own personality. All that we like or dislike, are attracted to or repelled from - all the we never consider is built into our evaluations. If there is one scrap of knowledge that is useful to remember in most all situations it is this: you cannot escape from your own mind.

Each of us is different no matter how much we are alike. Life is just to complex for it to be otherwise. What we share is a common "operating system" as described in Mental Relativity. But what makes us unique is the sum total of our experience. The other party to a relationship has his or her own blind spots, givens, and desires. Often what draws us together is a commonalty, but equally often is a complementary relationship, a sparring partner, or a sense of community. We cannot assume that the other party sees and feels about things as we do without opening ourselves to the potential for disaster. Moving beyond self-interest, how can we hope to fulfill his or her wants and needs if we simply assume they match ourselves? Is that not the epitome of egocentrism?

This is where that favorite of "relationship fixes" comes into play: communication. We are supposed to communicate - to bare and share our souls and be the better for it. Communication certainly makes a relationship honest, but it also might be the worst thing for it. Do we really want to know our partners secret fears and fantasies? Do they want to know ours? Some of them, sure, but ALL of them?

Further, let's forget about the individuals in a relationship for a moment and concentrate on the relationship itself. If the people involved are similar or complimentary but don't know it, communication will strengthen the relationship. If they are dissimilar or intrinsically incompatible, however, honest communication will destroy the relationship. But is it bad to have a dishonest relationship? Not if you are getting what you want out of it and feel better about yourself and your life because of that. Even better if the other person has an improved life and happiness as well.

The big fallacy is that the "perfect" relationship is out there - all we have to do is find it. So be honest, if the relationship you have it not the perfect one, it will go away, thereby freeing you to pursue utopia. But people die, they lose arms and eyes, and emotions whither and crust over and bleed. How long must a person bleed before he or she is allowed to give up, forget the quest for the perfect companion, find the best thing available and lie a little to make it work?

Lie a little with your heart, but NEVER with your head. Your head makes the right decisions for survival. If you survive, no matter how miserable you may be, you can still live to fight and laugh another day. But if you rationalize the way you see a relationship, you are opening the gates and inviting disaster. In contrast, a lie of the heart can make you happy. For now. But will it make you happy thirty years from now, when the one true love passed though your life unnoticed because your heart was busy lying to keep someone else?

Did you expect an answer? To provide one for you would be the biggest lie of all. Everyone's life is different. Everyone's level of yearning and emotional resources are different. What is explored here will not provide answers but will outline where the questions need to be asked. Look into these places and see what you see. Know who you are and where you've been. Then, when the time comes, you will be prepared to honestly throw those considerations to the wind and commit to a special someone with all your heart, fully, and without reservation. Take that leap of faith, for the heart is truly only happy when it lies.

December 1, 1995

Tonight was the company Christmas party. This is the first year that I have gone alone. The first on I attended was at the exclusive Club 33 in Disneyland - the only place in the park where alcoholic beverages are served. Chris and Steve have a strong relationship with Disney Studios and managed to wrangle a reservation for our company. To that, I went with Mary. This was before Surgery, Christmas of 1991.

Since that time, it worked out that the cycle of my on-again, off-again relationship with Andy brought the two of us to the party each year. Except this year. I had even invited my children, both of whom said they would go, only to bail at the last minute.

I really didn't want to go. I felt a bit embarrassed to be a single in a group of couples. I was also embarrassed by the size of my breasts. Today (Friday) is not a working day for me (I only work Monday through Thursday) so when I came home from running some errands about 3:30, I lay down on my day bed and fell into a sound sleep until six. This only happens when I am under stress, and not the kind you worry over, but the subtle, generalized kind that knocks the wind out of your sails.

I had cried again this morning about my breasts. For some time, due to the opinions I have sought of those I trust, I have been convinced that the size is not overly large at all. But that is not the point. They FEEL too large. I think it is not unlike anorexia. I often wondered about that when I heard that anorexics "saw themselves as fat". I think now that is not accurate. When your body map is off, you see yourself as well proportioned, but you don't FEEL well proportioned. There is a big difference between what your head and your heart tell you. Guys aren't generally affected by emotions to that degree that they could outweigh the reasonable assessment. That's why there are a lot more women anorexics.

In any event, this feeling about my new body has been driving me crazy. I couldn't resolve these sensations no matter how I tried. None of my usual tricks worked. So I had just about resigned myself to a life of feeling cheated and unfulfilled. On top of this, I felt guilty for worrying over something that many women would envy, and for crying over an attractive attribute, while others have physical disabilities they have learned to accept. Of course, that only made me even more miserable.

So, when I awoke at six o'clock, I almost decided not to go to the party. Still, I felt some sense of responsibility, being a manager and all, and the "queen of story theory", so I got myself together in spite of myself - doing my duty again. I had chosen a tailored, red satin blouse to wear, and had been anticipating that all week. I had tried it on yesterday only to discover that the line of the elastic strap I still must wear for another month showed up way too much. I had made up my mind earlier in the day to violate my doctor's orders and go without it for the duration of the party, some expected four or five hours. Last week I had tried that at home for a couple hours with no ill effects. The strap, after all, is to provide shaping, not for any medical purposes.

Well, by the time I tried on the blouse, I decided to go without the bra as well. After all, my breasts are still quite firm from the surgery, so if I can look good without the bra, why not take advantage of it while it lasts. Certainly breasts of this size aren't going to remain perky forever, and I might as well enjoy it while I can.

I did my makeup in an evening style, which I had not done in perhaps two years, adding eye shadow and blush for the first time in ages. Other than that, I dressed simply in black slacks and modest jewelry. I really didn't want to do myself up too much. I just wanted to make my appearance and then leave as soon as the presents were distributed.

The party was based on a Casino night in which we hire a company to come in with gaming tables and host the event. Everyone plays for chips which can be redeemed for tickets which are placed in various boxes for the drawing of prizes. Unlike the last two Casino nights we had, this time I elected not to gamble. I didn't even pick up the free chips they handed out to get you started.

Instead, I made sure to stop and have a conversation with everyone from the office, and in the process I met some new people as well. It began to get fun for me when I had several opportunities to sit with other women and gab the gab. I have never really found myself in those kinds of social situations. My social life at the office consists of frequently having lunch with Chris and Steve, or with my department as a whole, or even more often with one of my male employees, Mark, than with my female employee. In fact, just yesterday, I went to lunch with Chris, Steve, and two of the male engineers.

Sitting with one or two other women and making small talk has been so scary a thought to me that I have avoided it at all costs. Yet, here I was, having the most wonderful chats. And they were about nothing, really - just streams of consciousness that shifted from one topic to the next in a most graceful style.

Earlier in the day I had also had lunch with a transsexual and her boyfriend. She is going for surgery next week, and the two of them thought it would be fun to chat with me over lunch. They had made the appointment a week ago. Since that time, I have decided to end my relationship with the gender community. So, I had already determined that this lunch would be my last with anyone from that culture. I've been wanting to leave that group for years, but have always been tempted to stay because of my notoriety and the adulation it brings. Now, I get plenty of that kind of attention from my work with the story software, and that has made it much easier to finally make real steps away from that realm.

The Gender Community is unlike the Gay Community. When you are gay, you are gay for life, and therefore the community is valuable life-long environment. For transsexuals, the idea is that you start out male (or female), enter the community and "become" a transsexual, then have surgery to become the proper gender. In other words, if you properly relate to the community, you leave it because you are no longer a part of it.

In truth, the bulk of the community is composed of cross-dressers who, although heterosexual, have a similar community relationship as gays: the community is a life commitment. But, for those few of us who travel the road to correct a birth defect of gender, the idea is to pass through and then not look back. If we get sticky feet, we lose our way and end up trapped in the transsexual mentality, never becoming the women or men we dreamed of being.

Sitting at the party, talking over my boob job and career interests with my new peer group, I finally felt a real part of that world. I don't have to be like them, I just have to relate as one of them. Tonight I found I could and did.

I also had a number of wonderful talks with some of the men at the party, both in groups and singly. It was so odd. We talked of the same kinds of things, but there was something palpable in the difference of atmosphere between the two groups. I clearly felt part of one and a companion to the other. I didn't stop to think of this while the conversations were ongoing, but later in the evening, as things were winding down, I realized that was the name of what I had been experiencing.

When the presents were distributed (courtesy of Santa Claus) I came home, expecting nothing out of the ordinary. But no sooner had I returned when I felt my heart rise lightly and being to fly. I felt joy, real joy, for the first time in a long time. I truly knew who I was, not by definition of the head but clarity of the heart.

Somehow, all of my experiences of the past few days, the freedom of finally being out of that damnable strap, and the atmosphere of the party combined to bring me a pleasant, peace - optimistic and sure.

I have no idea why this happened, but my mood is so positive I can hardly believe it. So many things interest me tonight, but most of all, I am interested in people and want to meet and chat with all I can (as long as they aren't from the gender community!) Those days are over for me, and although I will continue to post this diary to my Web site, I won't be doing speaking engagements, lunches, nor answering "help me with my problem" letters any more. My contribution from here on out is to maintain what I have already written specifically for the community on the Web and to post these continuing entries so those who follow my progress will not be shut off.

But, I write this for myself, now, even knowing that others will read it. Rather than being an obligation or a means of idolization, I will write only when and as long as it is meaningful to me. If I lose interest or find it a chore, it won't happen. When something does happen, I will share it.

And so, you may note, the literary quality of this entry is not at all up to the usual flamboyant standards which I have established and to which I have aspired. It is, however, much more true to what I am feeling, and certainly more cathartic an endeavor than the critical achievement I strived for previously.

December 9, 1995

Well, here we are: with yet another entry in this open-ended story. But is it truly open-ended? So far, I have written two books of my experiences. Each one is clearly a principal movement with its own dynamics and unique concerns. And yet, the question remains as to whether the cycles represent steps toward a conclusion or merely loops in a spiral.

I have been focusing on the past of late. Much of my free time is spent rummaging through old boxes of family papers and memorabilia in the garage. At work, I have stopped creating new theory in deference to implementing and completing theory of old. Still, with all the algorithms I have developed over the past five years (probably the most productive span of my life) I could implement 'til the cows came home and never exhaust the backlog. The point, however, is that both in pleasure and in pursuits the past is in my future.

Past and Future: part of a quad which also contains Present and Progress. These are the objects of the third story's concerns. Or at least, so it seems. But I have begun to wonder if the last two books are actually the whole story and I am now merely repeating it over again, simply rehashed in a different guise.

I am seeing that my feelings about the size of my breasts are becoming less inflamed. There are still times when I cry because I will never feel in my hands what my mind told me was the shape of the woman I wanted to be. But those times are of less intensity and farther between. I am sure that some day soon, I will not think negatively of them any more. And, to be truthful, there are situations even now when I find my self-confidence boosted or perhaps even only possible because of the size of my breasts. If that is less heroic that facing the world in spite of deformity, then so be it. I'm growing rather weary of being heroic. Not that I won't continue to act in such a fashion, mind you, but simply that I am taking a progressively more cavalier attitude about my heroism.

Heroic, I am, I suppose, for all the frightening and seemingly impossible situations which I have faced with dignity and even casual aplomb. Of course, I was liquefied internally, but that only serves to magnify the apparent emotional risks with which I have wrestled. In the face of certain failure, I have triumphed. But I still have not reached a point at which a judgement of Good or Bad can be determined. In fact, this is the issue around which a determination of open or closed story revolves.

There has, as of yet, been no precipitate moment at which Good or Bad can be determined. This indicates either that the story is not yet over, or that my life is a tale and not a story at all. A tale is a statement; a story is an argument. A tale, being linear, can end anywhere at the author's whim. The ending is completely dependent upon the point chosen. In contrast, a story is holistic, and as such, it will close in on the ending which is progressively more constrained in time and/or space until it MUST happen or violate all that has come before. From such a holistic view came my life long belief that my existence had a destiny: a specific purpose.

It is the holistic view whereby one can look back at his or her life and know that within the span remaining, nothing, absolutely nothing can reverse a determination of success or of failure. One can "stock up" enough positives or negatives that even an unexpected change in context cannot outweigh, but merely mitigate the positive or negative sum total of one's efforts.

Considering Good or Bad require a knowledge as to the nature of the journey as a tale or a story. For in a tale, the final judgment also depends upon the arbitrary moment of conclusion. Was he happy when he died? Was she sad? In tales, it's how you end up and that's it. But in a story, one can build up enough good to outweigh the bad to such a degree that remaining life is not long enough to tip the balance back. In such a case, one might relax knowing that life will end on a happy average, even if it concludes on a down swing. The inverse, of course, is the legitimate decision to end it all, for the misery of one's life has been so great that no degree of happiness could ever make living better than never having been born.

In any culture, we play the linear against the holistic and shift the scales when it suits us. Look at euthanasia: If life was great, but this is misery, why hang around? But if life was great and this is misery, life is still worth living. The first instance is the conclusion of a tale, the second, the conclusion of a story. We must each decide whether we live a tale or a story for ourselves. The truth is, I suspect, that some of us truly live tales, and some stories.

What plops us down in one scenario or the other? Some divine intervention, perhaps? Or is it just a matter of circumstance. And can we really ever tell which one we follow, or do the dynamic currents and eddies of our travails give us the answer? Suddenly, the story theory sounds like the religious philosophers. And justifiably so, for what are stories but an attempt to specify religion?

Well now... I have written two books. The first book made a feeble attempt to cast itself as a story. In it, I achieved success objectively, by having my surgery and being on the verge of financial security while maintaining my family relationship. I worked hard to force a judgment of Good, struggling to tie my personal angst to having obtained success. But the external and internal elements are never so similarly hinged. They cross paths, to be sure, but never run in parallel.

Book two , "Boiled In Oil", admitted the problem and sought to pin my happiness on the personal relationship with a man. The expectations, disillusionment, and continuing heroic steadfastness gave rise to its chapters: The Promised Land, Broken Promises, and A New Covenant. Just days ago, I imagined the end of book two as the midpoint in my story. This lead to despair, for if it took me six years to get through the first two books, must I endure another six to finally reach the conclusion? And how would I feel if I came to that point so fully aware of the journey and it's costs only to find a judgment of Bad?

Depression set in as I contemplated this book of Past, Present, Progress, and Future: a useless endeavor across and emotional dessert, taking me to a destination already determined and necessary only because that ground must be covered. What a waste! What a sentence of drudgery: to spend six years of my life killing time so that the lethargic mechanism might finally grind its gears enough to catch up with me.

I must find another way... a way around the story in which I live. But there is a danger. If I do break out, it will not be into another story, but into a tale. And then the judgment will not allow the built up average of my happiness to predetermine the ending, but it will all come down to the wire instead.

I CAN be happy now - happy without a man, happy living alone in my bedroom/living room - but only if I alter my thinking so that I no longer look at the lack, but peer at the positive. How can I do this? By phase shifting.

My life is built from days and years. I plan each day so that I must accomplish at least a little in every area of my concern: work, Mental Relativity, writing, music, my web pages, my Email, parenting, cleaning house, ad nauseum. I find myself disquieted because I am always rushed and always driven in order to make each day come back from a deficit to zero. Neutrality is the best I can achieve. And this from someone who once said that as a man I could do no better than climb back to neutral, but as a woman I could do no worse than fall back to neutral.

What has changed? What has happened here? I lost my expectations. I was looking to my new life as a woman imagining how it would be, especially how it would be in relationships, and THAT would prevent my life from dropping past neutral. But, such relationships were not to be - not regularly anyway. Yes, I had Andy on the weekends for fourteen months, but never really appreciated it until the end. And then, just a week before I was to be dropped by him, I finally fell in love. What exquisite timing! But that delay... is that not what has made me feel the lack so long? And then, year by year, I see the time slip by and whimper to the heavens that I am cursed, for I have been faithful, yet snubbed by the gods.

Days and years... but what of months and seasons? I don't even know what they are. They are here and gone, vaguely noticed if at all. Yet, back when I was a child, back when I was happy, days meant nothing, nor years, but months and seasons were all.

I considered this: so I CAN be happy, all on my own, all by myself, simply by shifting phase. I can focus on the month and evaluate by the season: "This month I went to the mountains, and had a garage sale, and took my kids out to dinner, and played some computer games with them, and started uploading the Story Theory Book to the World Wide Web and...." Finally, when I reach the end of the season, I can look back and evaluate: I had one nifty, successful and fun winter, didn't I?

This is how I used to do it, and how I can do it again. But, will I not then find a way to resolve my problems that is the opposite of the parallel scheme I used in book one? Will this not be so tangent as to be unconnected at all? Will this not make the past two books the useless, tedious, journey, necessary only so that the gears may grind their fill?

Sure, why not? But what then of the grand scheme and destiny and all that? Screw it! If I wait any longer, the stockpile of angst I have amassed will soon be too large to ever overcome in a story sense. I must jump out of the story, put it on hold, continue with a tale and build up happiness from a subjective standpoint until I have enough wealth of soul to slip back into the story once more: this time assured that it cannot end in Bad so there is nothing more to risk.

Meaning: I will not pin my hopes for happiness on a relationship with a man, but on my own emotional achievements - my relationships with ALL others. I will do this by shifting into months and seasons and build happiness while the sun shines.

*****************************

The thoughts above began to swirl within me last Thursday morning as I lay in bed at 5 am, thinking, always thinking. I got up early and asked myself, "What will I do this month?" So many answers were returned, and yet, since I had a whole month, there seemed plenty of time to do them all. So I made breakfast for Mary and the kids instead of any of them. I leisurely started a load of laundry and a load of dishes, tidied up my room a bit, answered some Email, and worked out some new Mental Relativity theory. All this before work. And at work, I spent time with my employees, laughing, chatting. I was motivated, though without frantic drive, and calmly, methodically, enjoyably accomplished more than I had in days. By the end of the day, I was sure I had something here.

The next morning, I discovered that both my kids were unexpectedly home from school for a teacher training day. Normally, I value my alone time so much (so that I can work even faster and harder) that I go into a hissy fit if even a part of it is denied me. But this time, I had a whole month, instead of just a day. So I invited my daughter with me to my electrolysis touch-up appointment. On the way back, we picked up breakfast and brought some home to Keith. I sat and chatted with my son - perhaps the first not purposed, non-parenting chat I've had with him all year. Then, he and Mindi, and I played a game of Monopoly on the computer. I haven't played a game with my kids in ages! All day was slow and wonderful and productive, but most importantly, at the end of the day, I had more happiness than sadness (even factoring in degree) and more fulfillment than angst.

Today, we had our garage sale. Normally, I am a slave driver, complaining about the inefficiency in the ranks. But this time, I only had a couple negative comments. The rest of the day I was quite satisfied with my kid's performance, and I know it was me, not they, who had changed. Oh, how I wish I had been more like this when my children were growing up! What a fine parent I would have been. Mary tells me (because I asked) that I was more patient than she was, and did read to them and did play games and make them feel loved. But, since I was too busy looking at days and years, I guess I missed it. That is my curse from the past: to have no real memories of what my life was like because I was too focused on trying to make it what it might be. What I know of my years is not what I remember, but what I read here in these pages. You, my reader, remember my life as much as I do. You are the keepers of my soul.

Still, there is little sadness in this, for I might have gone on that way forever (or at least for the next six years). Now, at least, I have had three wonderful days with my children - days I shall always remember, for I lived them as they happened, experiences of the moment, raisins in the month, ripples in the season. As time goes by it builds my past, not my future. For the future evaporates at the touch, and all the material it robbed from the present dissolves from the memory the moment it slips from the grasp. And the crucible of the past shall hold my heart until no scheme can harm it.

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