Book Three:

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Skinned Alive
by Melanie Anne

Part Three: Innocence Reborn

Chapter 62

Giving Up ~ Giving In

August 26, 1997

I NEVER give up. The worst that happens is that I get in a crying bout for several days or more. I feel all kinds of self pity, and then I get over it.

What I've discovered is that I seem to have a choice of feeling alternately miserable and euphoric, or just generally dissatisfied all the time. I'm still looking for the way to feel generally SATISFIED all the time, and if I ever do, I'll stick with that for a while.

In the meantime, I do continue to look for the key. That is why I never give up. I may not have found happiness, but I still believe in it. So, I keep looking and ultimately can bear ANYTHING thrown my way, because I truly believe (as the X-Files says) "The Truth is Out There."

I have this suspicion that I still have to let loose of something. That I'm still holding back. That I've done all the groundwork but need to let go. I just don't know what of (how's THAT for bad grammar!)

I do know that all my best accomplishments occur when I feel driven and cannot rest until I accomplish what I set out to do. I also know that those are the most miserable times for me.

I've got to do some experimenting. I need to travel. I need to make new friends. I need to try new things.

Somewhere out there I'm going to find a clue to what really makes me happy. And I know that when I find it - when any of us finds it for his or herself - it has nothing to do with one's physical condition but rather in one's mental outlook.

But most of us (myself included) can only go so far in pulling ourselves up by our mental bootstraps. We need to find a crutch or a catalyst. Until then, we can only rise so far and must tread water or sink.

When I was a kid, I went swimming at a public pool and tried to make it out to concrete island in the center. The center was the deepest part and I didn't know how to swim. So, I dropped to the bottom, pushed off, and popped out of the water long enough to catch a breath. Each jump I would make a small amount of progress toward the center. But after a while, exhaustion took its toll. And worse, as the water deepened, it became harder and harder to reach the bottom, so I stopped getting high enough to catch a full breath. Eventually, I got water in my lungs, panicked, and a lifeguard had to rescue me.

We can put all our energy into finding happiness by floating to the bottom and use it to kick off from and get back to the heights for a few brief moments, only to plummet again. Or, we might tread water until we tire and sink. But the only way we are ever going to reach that island is if the waves carry us into shore or someone dives in and gets us.

I've tried the leap and plummet method. It got me all the way through surgery and development of the story software. And I've tried the float til you sink method. And slowly down I go. But I can do no more on my own. I have to hold out passively now and wait for the water to rise and carry me out of the well, or for someone to throw me a rope. The one thing I WON'T do is stop thrashing.

September 5, 1996

I've had a very positive experience lately. Someone wrote me and asked me to speak at the Charleston Writer's Conference in March. They would pay transportation and a $1,000 honorarium. I thought that might be fun, but Screenplay Systems has all the rights to do anything with the story software for money, and I also recalled that at lunch with Chris (the co-creator of the story theory) last week, it was briefly mentioned that someone had contacted Screenplay about a similar thing. Chris said he wasn't interested, but maybe I would be. I didn't respond, and we went on to other topics.

A couple days ago, I got this offer in my email, and because it was similar to what I recalled from lunch, and since Screenplay has the rights to the money, I figured I better check with Chris. So, I emailed him in this regard, and the next communication I got was by accident from the company president, Steve. Apparently, Chris had forwarded my letter to him, and Steve had then hit "reply to all" by mistake.

The internal office letter said, "If it is official company business, Chris should go. I don't think it would be a problem to send Melanie though. As for the $1000, should part of that go to the company, to Chris?"

The only problem with this letter is that when he sent it "reply to all" it ALSO went to the person who asked me to speak.

Now as far as I'm concerned, that completely undermined my credibility and stature with that fellow, and anyone he talks to. Suddenly, instead of being the co-creator of the story theory and software and author of the theory book, I was subordinate to Chris and Steve with no authority to accept an invitation or speaker's fee.

But, I didn't get mad or rant and rave. I sent a nice note to Steve and said, "I don't mean to nit-pick, but do you think it is a good idea to send a note like this to the person who asked me to speak?" He wrote back and said, "Oops! Fortunately, there was nothing private in the message so no harm is done."

Clearly, he is not even considering my interests or what impact his (or his company's) actions have on me.

But I still didn't get mad or reply in irritation. Then, after a day (while I still waited to reply to the person who wrote me) I finally got a letter from Chris. He said that he had planned for months to go to that conference just to represent the theory and software, and he had also gotten the speaking invitation last week, and since they hadn't replied yet, that's why the person contacted me. He said that it is a good thing I checked with him because it would have been "embarrassing" if both of us showed up.

Well, I don't know about you, but that seems like it predisposes that whenever there is any kind of speaking to do about the theory or software, the company (and Chris) have the right of first refusal. Also, it seems like Chris was completely insensitive to the embarrassment that Steve's note may have caused me personally. I intentionally had not written them about that just so I could see how Chris would reply on his own, and he either didn't even notice my quandary, or chose not to address it.

Needless to say, I continue to be amazed at how they can either be so cold or so calculating or both, especially to the person who came up with 90% of the theory, wrote 95% of the theory book, designed their best selling product (Writer's DreamBook) without any input from either of them, etc., etc.

Of course, these are the same guys who removed me as manager, but wanted me to stay on as an employee right after I had created their top selling product.

So, this really clarified a lot for me, emotionally. Since I left Screenplay almost six months ago, I have been in stasis. Oh, I've been busy on the web, but I'd been waiting for them to do something. Over these last two days I've come to realize that I've been waiting for anybody to do anything.

In fact, I kept wondering why my angst didn't go away after surgery. And why it didn't go away after success. And why I was so self-promotional on my web site. And this brought it all out in the open.

In Mental Relativity, there are four kinds of relationship one can have. The Dynamic relationship means diametrically opposed. When good, it is like sparring partners or the loyal opposition. When bad, it is war - to the death.

The Dependent relationship is when both parties are REQUIRED for something to happen. Brain and Brawn are a good example. When good, together the parties accomplish what neither could do alone. When bad, the parties feel like they are nothing without their other half.

Companion relationships have parties which are not directly effecting each other, but have an influence or fallout on the other. When good, it is like two neighbors who share a common walkway to the street. When one shovels snow, it has a positive impact on the other, though that was not the reason the first one shoveled the snow. When bad, it is like two neighbors who have walks side by side, and when one shovels snow, it piles up on the others' walk.

Finally, there is the Component relationship in which the two parties are either seen as both part of the same larger whole (like a political party or family) or are seen as independent such as two people living in different countries who don't know each other.

As a transsexual, I had always wanted a positive Dependent relationship, where I could rely on my "other half" to protect me, while I was supportive of his endeavors. This is where the common concept of "true love" comes from. Even with Chris, I was looking for this. For years, I never did anything that might hurt him in any way, and I suffered all kinds of hurt that he inflicted on me in order to be supportive. (Sounds like the battered wife syndrome, doesn't it!)

He was very mean to me, emotionally for many years. Always pleasant in speech (though very cold) but always putting me in positions where I would perform my theory magic for him, but at a tremendous emotional cost (often leaving me in tears from the pressure). Who's to say if that was necessary to achieve what I have. But since I have achieved even more on my own since I left, I personally don't think it was. It was just his method (see, there I go protecting him again by giving his actions legitimacy - it's a hard habit to break!)

I always hated the Dynamic relationships. I don't like fights and I don't even like to spar. To me, a lover should be a positive Dependent and a friend should be a positive Companion relationship. In school, I always wanted to be part of the family (Component) but always ended up feeling like the outsider.

Now, all through life, I couldn't seem to make companion relationships. I always feared that the benefits might go away if we were not dependent upon one another. I needed both the protection AND the security of the Dependent relationship, and although Companion relationships are much more gentle and consistent, they don't offer either.

Why I felt like this, I cannot say, but as a child I always wanted a partner in what I did, and I always tried to set up ground rules where the other party was obligated to protect our joint interests. I guess I felt that if they were a partner, it would be in their own personal interest to protect what we both had. This was the only way I could trust their good graces. And, I suppose that was all because of my feelings of rejection for who I was inside, and perhaps even more so, my feelings of inadequacy to take care of myself because I didn't feel like I fit in.

In fact, I fit in just fine, when seen externally. And as I told my daughter this week, I was never really rejected by anyone (or hardly anyone). All my life I really believe I had been, because it felt that way. But now, when I look back and my school years, nobody rejected me - I just feared rejection because of my belief in my own inadequacy because of the fact I had a female mind and was constantly working at full steam to keep from drowning in a male role I didn't understand. That's quite a sentence, but is the closest I've ever come to a moment of lucid insight into my very heart and my total life.

Now the question becomes, what to do about it?

As I see it now, this has not been an abrupt shift (this insight) but a gradual awakening over all the years since my transition began. Similar to a train, however, it seems to make little progress for the longest time, then almost suddenly looms large as it approaches you. So, in the last few weeks, the engine of my own salvation is almost upon me, and it feels like it came out of nowhere.

But when I look back over the last few years, I can see I have broken my dependencies with Mary and the kids, by moving into the living room as my bedroom almost two years ago, and by buying everyone their own TV and computer, so we wouldn't have to depend upon one another. Until recently, I thought I had been trying to break up the family (Component) into four independent people who lived in the same house. I thought I was doing this so that I would have no problem leaving, because there was nothing to leave.

That is why I was surprised to find myself of late arranging family outings together, spending more time with Mary. This kind of behavior didn't fit in with my preconceptions of my motives at all!

But now, I see clearly I was not trying to break up the family, but just the Dependencies. And I wonder if the reason Chris became so mean to me during my last two years at Screenplay (even asking me to give him the rights to half of my royalty on the software!) was because I was breaking up my dependency to him as well, and he still needed it. When you break one kind of relationship, another kind must take its place. Somehow we ended up moving into the negative Dynamic relationship, and went to war.

I know I felt like I had been cut out of the family - no longer allowed to be part of the "Story Software Team". I also felt that Chris had allowed me to depend on him, and then cut me loose without a life preserver. Then, after I left, I felt like Screenplay was shoveling snow on my walk, even though I was doing nothing to hurt them. Well, a great deal of this perspective is probably just that - perspective. And the real and tangible things that have happened are probably largely due to my own growth away from dependency.

So something is happening here. I seem to have come around to no longer want the protection of a dependency because the cost is too great - you must subordinate yourself. And, I still don't want a Dynamic relationship, because I really don't like to fight. I think I now come to think of myself as part of a group or as having a kinship with those who have a positive Companion effect on me, and as being independent of those who have a negative Companion effect on me.

In other words, all this cerebral smoke and mirrors has led me to the simple feeling that I feel close to those who are kind to me and distant from those who aren't. And I feel close to those who I think improve my world (even, for example, humanitarians I will never meet) and distant from those who degrade it (tobacco companies, for example).

How close or how distant depends upon the sum total of the myriad ways in which they may effect me.

Now, what does this mean from a practical sense? First of all, Keith has always been terrified of spiders - I don't know why. Me too, which may have much to do with it, or may not. Recently, a small house spider took up residence in my room by the window. Since I knew it was not poisonous, rather than killing it as I normally would, I named it Ralph instead, and took it as a pet. It comes out and wanders around my wall from time to time. And, seeing how I was responding to it, the kids joined in and are telling all their friends about our pet spider, Ralph.

Just last night, Keith found another spider in the bathroom. He came out and told me, and then flatly stated that we needed to come up with a name for it. (This from the boy who won't even set foot in the garage for fear of the little beasts!) So, I named this one, Snidely.

Now what does that tell you about the kind of power one can have just by adopting a different attitude. That is the essence of a companion relationship at an emotional, rather than a physical level.

It is also exactly where women have their greatest strength and where men have the most trouble operating because they don't see it coming - they don't track it.

This is why people can go to jail in Washington for "influence peddling": it is the deepest of blind spots for men, and therefore considered cowardly and sneaky if one of them plays on that court. Of course, that just makes an intrinsic realm of the female mind illegal, but what else is new?

Also, over the last few days, I decided to be nice to Chris and Steve and the company. After seeing what the effect of several different attitude changes on my part had on my kids, I came to believe that this was a powerful tool I could use on the boys at the company as well.

It is notable that I started this just last week when I asked Chris to lunch without a business agenda. The approach was continued when I wrote to Steve bringing his attention to his slip up in message sending without taking him to task. It was expanded when I didn't write to Chris about my feelings of unfairness, but let him write the next note. It grew to include sending a nice note back to Chris after he finally wrote me saying (basically) "Well, I'm sorry it didn't work out for me, as I think it would have been fun. But still, I wish you the best of success in bringing enlightenment to all those lost souls out there. And Fluffy [my dog] says to tell your new puppies, "woof!"."

I know that men will see this as manipulative. It is. But is also where women have their best tools to create the emotional environment they way. I don't expect to ever achieve anything specific by this approach. But I'll bet you Chris buys me a nicer Christmas present because of it, or invites ME to lunch later in the month, or find an opportunity for ME to speak to a group or give an interview.

Men are manipulative as well, but they do their externally with armies and laws and physical threat, and paychecks and religion, and God knows what else. But since they can't see us women working our manipulation, it is seen as devious, cunning, conniving and insincere. Well, it is - all but the last. I really like being friends with the guys better than I like being enemies. And, I really like it better when they treat me well than poorly. So if I have to resort to feminine wiles and grease the gears of civility, well I truly believe that is the essence of civilization itself. ( In contrast to "society" which is a male invention with it's structure and rules)

So, life is looking better today. For the first time I feel like I have the tools - the ability - to affect my own future in a way that is natural and inherent. And, I feel I have abdicated my role in the male world of competition for something more intangible and much more fulfilling. (Elvis has left the building!)

I am quite convinced the reason I could not banish my angst was because it lives in the land in which I was doing battle. No - it IS the land on which I was doing battle. If you fight someone in a lake of fire, even if you win you're going to get burned. As they say in the movie, "War Games", "The only winning move is not to play."

September 7, 1996

Things continue to improve. I've been using everything I've ever developed about Mental Relativity to try and find a solution to a third of a century of angst. And I'm close - I'm really very close.

Many of my recent entries have basically been a rip at the company and at Chris in particular. To be truthful, I don't like being in a position where I can't promote myself in regard to to the story software, am excluded from being generally associated with it. But I must put that behind me, or as Mary says, "let it go".

I made a real effort of late to do just that. I tried to separate myself from any feelings of belonging as a part of the theory and software, and pretending it never existed - that I had not done so much work to create it. It has been hard to do this... very hard. Since puberty, I've struggled to be a success at something - anything - in the hope I could garner acclaim, respect, recognition. But every wild scheme or Herculean effort I tackled, although ending as a truly notable achievement, against all odds, and remarkable that it was even completed, brought me no closer to any acclaim.

God, how I've wanted to make a name for myself. Why? I can't see that deeply into myself. I used to think it was to compensate for being rejected. Now I can look back in a more objective manner and realize I really wasn't rejected at all. I just feared and assumed rejection without ever actually suffering it. Then I thought perhaps I wanted to attract friends, or a mate, or to find financial security, but none of those are it either.

If it is so damned obscure, then perhaps it doesn't have a single source and is simply just the way things are. If so, I ought to let that go as well and turn my attention to doing something about it, rather than trying to understand it. And it is this spirit that has finally moved me closer to banishing this grief.

I have to admit the reality of it: I don't own the rights to my own work. This was driven home to me this week when I received an invitation to speak at a writer's convention in Charleston. It was offered that they would pay my transportation from Los Angeles and that I would receive a one thousand dollar honorarium.

Well, I checked with Chris to see if this was a problem, and was told that he had already planned to attend the convention on behalf of the company, and would accept the engagement instead. So, now he is about to begin his highly publicized eight week course in the story theory without me, and then he will do the Charleston speaking engagement that I was offered.

Now what would you do in my shoes? Yell and scream? Rant and rave? Be petty and spill it all out in your diary? Well, I yelled and screamed about it when I quit the company after I was removed as manager of the Story Software Development Department by Chris. I ranted and raved to all our mutual friends until I became known as a negative complainer. And I spilled it all out in my diary until I'm sure my readers see me as petty, or at least are sick to death of my harping on the same issue and want me to move on.

That's what I'm trying to do: move on. I have to let this go.

You know, my perfect world has a lot in it that I don't currently have. It has a cozy home, clean, and done in wood in a forested part of the country. I have a husband and two small children. I'm thin and young and... and happy.

Problem I have is that I want to be trying to achieve these things as improvements to my life, not as relief from my life. All those years and all those crazy schemes so I could find relief from the mystery angst. And, when I finally DO achieve success after six years of effort, the credit and recognition is taken from me. Still, I have to let it go.

I'm watching the last segment of the rerun of "The Beatles Anthology" as I write. In fact, that is what inspired me to write. In days past, I always fancied myself as Paul Mcartney, although just as many people told me (in my younger years) that I looked like John as like Paul. But there was something casual about Paul. And as I watched the program tonight, he was being interviewed wearing a black T-shirt and blue jeans. As luck would have it, I am also wearing a black T-shirt and blue jeans this evening.

I guess that sort of odd, slightly unusual coincidence is helping me make a little more progress to letting things go. The segment of the show right now is dealing with the breakup of the Beatles. In many ways I feel my leaving the company, specifically leaving Chris after he broke off our equal partnership, is akin to that. Certainly, no one hardly cares about our falling out, compared to the magnitude of the end of the Beatles, but I guess I've always believed that someday in the future, there will be a huge interest in how we came to discover the theory of Mental Relativity. Because of this I've made great efforts to document our work and its progress in audio, video, and on paper. So, to me at least, the severing of this relationship was the now and future hot news item.

Whether I'm just tooting my own horn in a wistful manner or if my intuition proves accurate does not matter. The point is, the dynamics of the situation is not unlike what happened with the Beatles, and so as I watch the documentary, wearing what Paul was wearing, the resonance brings to my mind insights that might not otherwise have risen to the surface.

I want that casual life, that casual look. I want to think about my art once again just because I enjoy it and want to achieve something on my own, rather than striving against Chris and his huge company as a competitor for the world's attention.

I have to think that Chris is sensitive enough at least, and honest enough in his recollections (though we know that each of us warps the past in his or her favor) to continue to give me credit and keep my name attached to the work I've done.

But even if he doesn't, I have to let it go.

I must not grieve for anything Chris or the company does, no matter how adversely it effects me. I must instead feel proud of what we accomplished, even if I am not credited for it. And most of all, I must turn my attention to what I am creating now, on my own, and just for the sheer joy of it.

Over this last week, I have felt myself hurting, curling into a mental ball. I have tried so hard here lately to pull up the whole family single handedly by keeping a positive emotional aura in the hope it would elevate everyone's motivation and happiness. I did this - for a while - but then, since I had not yet exorcised my angst, I could not sustain that mood, and helplessly crashed. All it took was this latest slap in the face by Chris with the speaking engagement to burst my resolve and send me spiraling again into depression.

But, I did not stay there long because THIS time I was aware of an alternative: I could let it go.

It didn't happen all at once; it took several days. But slowly, I could feel my deflated mood leveling out, and finally this afternoon I felt it start to re-inflate. Mindi helped so much. She spent time with me, played little teasing games, spread out on my bed with me to watch television. That companionship with my daughter means so much to me, and my mental batteries recharged as they basked in the glow of her caring spirit.

As my emotional outlook improved, a number of revelations clarified even more than they had over the last month. For example, I had felt so pressured to get the next issue of my multimedia webzine, The Subversive, completed, that the whole project had ceased to be fun at all and was, again, a massive struggle to keep from falling behind rather than a joyous endeavor to get ahead. I felt that if I could keep churning out huge amounts of original material, I could compete with Chris' publicity machine and grab a share of the acclaim for myself. No fun at all.

Gradually, I let that go, so that by two weeks ago, I had told my assistant, Bret, not to worry about the deadline, and to finish it up in an enjoyable way, and whenever it was ready, that's when it would be done.

I had also started a policy of putting a whole new web page up on my web site every single weekday. That's a lot of new material, but I felt it would draw a loyal band of regular viewers. In fact, it did, and my site is now #761 on the list of 1000 most popular web sites prepared by Web Counter, which charts such things. So how do you let THAT go? In a different way entirely.

I looked at my backlog of material and realized I could stop creating anything at all and not run out of new web pages for two years. But the real key was that even though Bret only works ten hours a week for me, and so it takes him two months to get out The Subversive instead of the one month it usually took me - even with all that, he cranks out more than five finished pages a day, so I don't have to feel the pressure to keep up with my goal. All I need do is let Bret work, and then pull a file from the backlog every day and upload it. And, should I ever run short and get behind, I can simply take that pledge off my pages and stop meeting that goal. That's how I let it go: to realize I could stop whenever I wanted, so doing it was no longer a pressure situation, but a fun sharing of my work.

My feelings for Chris have changed dramatically this day. I now see us as the former Beatles. I am proud to have worked with him in creating the theory and the foundations of Mental Relativity. I don't even care how much publicity I get or don't get from his company, or how much or little he chooses to involve me in the benefits of our work. I've got other things to do.

I don't own the software. I have no control. But I can have an influence. I believe that if I truly adopt an honest attitude of friendship with Chris I will get many more benefits from him due to his desire to be nice to me than if I continue to war with him. Just as with my family, EVERYONE will benefit if I can turn my attitude around. I can improve the situation by reacting in a way not appropriate to the situation.

I want to be friends with Chris again. I want to get back to my art for the pure joy of it. I want to have that nice house, coffee with friends, work with exciting people, and happiness as the starting point.

As I sit here and write, I am having fun. The words are a kick, and the thoughts are intriguing to me. I smile to think of those who may read this and take some pleasure in it. If that happens, I'll smile even more.

There are so many wonderful things to create - so many wonderful people to meet - so many wonderful things to do! My work on the software will always be worth it and will always be a positive thing. I learned so much along the way, I found myself in what we created.

So, it is time to let it go. In fact, I already have.

And now, it is time to look forward, to the future and all it may hold. It is bed time now. I know that the world always looks brighter when I get enough sleep. So, I'll make myself a little snack, enjoy a cup of hot cocoa (or "ha go-go" as Keith used to say as a baby), and snuggle up in my cozy bed with a good book.

Tomorrow I'll take care of some banking and paper work, tidy my home, and spend some time with my children and with Mary.

And Monday, I'll start fresh, following my heart, grateful for my success and my luck, and eager to discover what awaits me up ahead.

There is no secret. There is no plan. You cannot learn it or teach it or even explain it. But an honest heart that seeks fulfillment may sometimes be allowed to find it.

As trite as it may sound, tonight I am happy.

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