Book Three:

dave_beard.jpg (51349 bytes)

Skinned Alive
by Melanie Anne

Part Three: Innocence Reborn

Chapter 65

Desperately Seeking Closure

October 23, 1996

I haven't written in almost a month. I hate to write until I have at least some grasp of the elements of my concern so that the effort of creation organizes the pieces into a larger picture. That's when I feel inspired: when I know that enough fragments have been identified that something of greater meaning can be constructed by assembling the parts. In fact, I cannot help but write when that time comes, for I know that the shards of truth are volatile, transient, and will evaporate from my soul before my mind can embrace their totality, unless I act in the midst of that twilight moment between recognition and understanding.

Usually some outside experience coalesces the maelstrom of considerations, providing a framework upon which to hang my heart. And from this emotional vessel spring forth processed insights that arrange themselves into patterns reminiscent of a choreographed number in a Busby Berkley musical. Each is cued on stage in turn at the appropriate beat, and takes its place in the collective dance, which I do not create but merely report in a blow by blow description as my words fall upon the page.

Today it was "Barton Fink", that transcendental motion picture, that provided form for my game. One thirty in the afternoon it is, on a crisp Fall Wednesday. While most of the rest of the world is working, I sit alone in my house, alone at my desk, pondering, pondering, as if there was no food to eat, no chores, no fear for the future. Strange, how I imagine that the rest of the world lives in terror of losing a job, being cast out into loneliness, while I, myself, grapple with angst yet have not a material care in the world.

Where is the fairness, or at least the justice in that?

Being a writer: what does that mean? How can I justify possessing the wherewithal to sit in my chair for the rest of my days and write nothing, nor to work, nor even leave the house (should I choose not to do so), and why do I feel the need to try? These words cannot possibly be important enough to justify my existence while others struggle and heave and retch.

But do they?

What if the average working stiff puts in his or her nine to five, then retires to a home of comfort - no thoughts of business, no ambitions of greatness, no drive to discover followed by the even more insidious need to share it? What if the average guy and gal meet Saturday without a care, feeling free to lull on the beach or take in a show, never twanging from the tug to get back to work and use their abilities to the fullest, for that is their calling, their purpose, their reason d'la vie?

Three weeks ago last Monday was a juncture. It was the first day in which Chris began teaching a class in the story theory without my help or presence, as per his request. Yet, I managed to ultimately accept this as a necessary step in his own growth, though unfortunate it must come at a personal cost to me. Part of my strength in this matter came from an upcoming speaking engagement for which I had been retained. No fee, but it was a prestigious event: the semi-annual meeting of the Southern California Psychoanalytic Association in regard to Psychoanalysis and the Media. I was to be one of the two keynote speakers. In fact, we had had several meetings, and that very day when Chris sought to prove he didn't need me, I was to join the organizer of the event for breakfast, which I did. And it didn't take more than a moment to realize that I was going to be bumped from the program, which was soon confirmed. Of course the reasons were a lack of time and such, but in truth, the story theory is just to hot a topic - too revolutionary for the staid philosophies of the psychoanalytic community.

In and of itself, this minor setback would have been no more than a slight disappointment and a petty annoyance, after all the time I had spent preparing the presentation. But in light of the special nature of the day in relation to Chris' solo act, I could do no more than kill my emotions in regard to the story theory yet a bit further until it didn't matter at all to me if I ever spoke on the subject to anyone again. Since I've left Screenplay Systems I have worked hard to kill my drive without losing my motivation - to create only for the joy of it without ambition. And, in truth, I have made great strides in this direction. But beneath it all, I know that if the opportunity for acclaim were presented to me, I am still not cured to the degree I could walk away from it.

To top off the day, I had previously made an appointment with my plastic surgeon from a year ago. In fact, on that Monday, it was three days short of the first anniversary of my bust and nose surgery. It is an easy enough day to remember: it was the same morning the O.J. verdict was announced. In fact, I had to go under the anesthetic an hour before the results were to be read by the jury, and I swore I'd kill myself if I died before hearing the conclusion of that year-long circus!

In any event, a year's time did nothing to assuage my displeasure with the results of the surgery, so I had made this appointment determined to have it out one way or the other. Either I would leave his office determined to redo the procedure, or convinced that the physical risks and costs outweighed the potential benefits, and therefore able at last to put it finally behind me.

I asked my questions, I received my answers, and then I explained my feelings. He told me I ought to see a therapist. "I don't usually recommend this to my patients," said he, "but..." Well, in light of Chris and the Psychoanalysts, this seemed to fit right in. I left without satisfactorily obtaining closure, for I was told it was no problem to redo the procedure, but they might likely not be able to go in under the arm again and would have to leave a scar on the breast. I was told that the reason he did not show me the size of the implants in advance or give me a bra of the final size to try on was that his experience showed that patients were much happier with the results if he limited them to picking naked pictures from a magazine, as he did with me. Well, I'm not much happier. But I don't want scars. And I'm afraid. But I hate the overly large size of these things.

I feel like I have two basketballs on my chest. In fact, since they are too big to hold in my own hands, it almost feels as if I simply have one big fat boob that covers the whole chest. I lost all skin sensation in the nipple of the left breast (my favorite in intimate encounters, which is no more). My surgeon told me that in fifteen years, he has never had a patient lose sensation with the underarm procedure. You don't know how special that makes me feel!!!

So, no closure here.

Well, once I left the company, it wasn't a clean break. Oh, I was angry and hurt, but through it all I recognized the potential for future projects and more money and more recognition. So, rather than filing for unemployment (which I was sure in my mind would sever our relationship entirely), I threw myself into the further development of my Web site, and chose to live off the royalties from story software sales.

As it turns out, the royalties have gotten so large this year, that I will make as much sitting at home as I did from my salary and royalties combined when working full-time at the company. Under those circumstances, one might think it would be easy to give up my drive and at least coast a while. But no. What ever unfulfilled need has driven me so far continued when I was on my own. So, in six months I had built up a state of the art Web site with video, audio, animations, and all the bells and whistles that couldn't even be done three months earlier. And I put up so much material (two hundred web pages of original creations in six months!) that my site became popular, moving up to #761 on Web Counter's list of most popular sites. Even as I write these words, I shamelessly self-promote - but why?

Every project I've ever approached has been at full throttle. There's something missing "in here" I hope to find "out there". So far, no luck.

Wouldn't it be nice to write for pleasure, I think to myself, rather than almost as an act of cleansing?

I thought the money would make me feel secure. It does, but security doesn't fill the void. I thought acclaim would make me feel loved. It does, but recognition doesn't mend the tear. And, lord knows, simply being productive doesn't do anything for my peace of mind either.

But I have managed to kill a lot of my drive. It was quite wonderful the way I twisted my mind 'round the idea, in fact. I gave up purpose. Simple as that. I stopped trying to do ANYTHING, if it's existence was solely to bring something else about. No more activities I didn't enjoy in the hopes they would lead to something I did.

Now this took a lot of practice and a lot of thought. I kept having to be on my guard - almost every moment. I had trained myself so well, that virtually everything I did was never an end in itself, but always a means to an end. Problem was, I had no idea to what end.

Let me explain... I would say to myself, "I ought to write an article on Mental Relativity and publish it on my web site - it might lead to something..." And then I would up and do it. Mostly, it was work with very little fun, and in the end (so far) it has led to nothing. But work as important as that surely OUGHT to lead to something, so I continued to pour hours and days, weeks and months and even years into that project because it was just to good not to lead to something wonderful. But it didn't.

Now, I still believe that work has the potential to change psychology, philosophy, physics - the world! But I don't think it's going to happen. Why? Because even with all the drive I have to create new things, I have an equally sizeable lack of drive to do anything with them once created. Over the past few weeks I've come to see that my drive in creation stemmed from a cry for help in implementing what I had created. My feelings told me that if I pushed just a little bit harder and made the work a little more substantial, more brilliant, more impressive, more extensive, SURELY someone would notice who had the drive and wherewithal to publish, market, or distribute my work to the world.

You know, I can't even bring myself to send a query letter to a publisher for a single thing I've written. It's not that I'm afraid of rejection. In fact, I have no feelings about that at all. I truly think I could have my work rejected by a hundred publishers and still be quite happy with my efforts and myself. It's just that I really don't like the kinds of activities necessary to write a query letter, get the addresses of the publishers, prepare the envelope, stamp it, send it off. I hate to pay bills too. Not because I don't want to spend the money, but because I really HATE going through all those steps.

I think to myself, I have a choice of spending my time coming up with a new idea nobody has ever thought of before - OR - addressing an envelope. And then I can't bring myself to do the mundane work necessary to spread the creative notions out where they can be appreciated.

I even hate working on my web site. In fact, I always have. How could I possibly bring myself to be so driven in creating it when every moment was a miserable experience for me? Because once I was gone from Screenplay Systems, I lost my avenue of distribution. My voice was silent, my creative efforts relegated to solitary confinement. I could not bear the loss of my voice.

As I think of it now, I believe the reason I became so intent and yes, driven, in creating the web site almost a year before I left Screenplay is that I could clearly see the writing on the wall, and was desperately trying to prepare a new venue for my creations before the existing one was ripped from me. Yes, that's it precisely.

I have always sought a voice.

THAT is the source of my drive, though not of my motivation. My motivation leads me to enjoy the creative process - to revel in the fashioning of something that previous did not exist - THAT I truly enjoy. To experience something so vividly and then find the words or the music or the art to express it in such a way as others might share the same moment - THAT is the world to me. The basic joy I have in my emotional and intellectual pursuits, and the truly unselfish glee of sharing with others so that I might enjoy their enjoyment - THAT is life to me! That is my motivation.

But my drive comes into play when I have no means of sharing, as if I were stranded on a desert island, writing masterpieces no one would ever read, as if I were Barton Fink, ultimately stuck in a contract where he can publish no where else and is told none of his work will ever be produced, as if I were Melanie who created a whole new paradigm in story theory, but must ask permission as a supplicant to Chris and Steve if I want to present any of it to the public.

So, my natural psyche leads me to feel emotions and see connections in clear and unique ways. My personality and upbringing make me yearn to share these wonderful things with others, rather than keep them to myself. My force of will creates a drive to break through the barriers and present my work to those who might appreciate it as well. And my natural psyche becomes frustrated that my attention is taken away from the emotions and connections in order to do the work that is necessary to share what I enjoy.

My whole web site is an invitation for someone to come forward and say, "You create it, and I'll get it out there." My work on the story theory was a very feminine approach of creating something so wonderful it would attract those who would present it to the world. My entire career path has been chosen by unconsciously being drawn to those projects that offered the best hope of distribution.

Until the story theory & software, none of my earlier projects reached any noticeable distribution. The story software itself was wrested away from me so that I do not have control of my own work, which means I cannot share because people do not know from whom the ideas came. Can you understand how my need to put my name on my work springs not from an effort at self-aggrandizement, but a desire to be part of the sharing experience? Without the sharing, no reward matters. And fame in a bottle is meaningless.

Why in heaven's name I have chosen careers which separate the creator from the audience, I'll never know. I could have been an actor on the stage, or a singer or musician, where I could see the participants in the presentation of my work. When it was over, or even during the performance, I would get immediate feedback from my audience, and know that they were in the moment with me, all participants in the same wondrous clarity of heart and/or mind.

But here I am, a writer of words published primarily on the world wide web. A constructor of paradigms who is not teaching classes. An editor and director of motion pictures released on video and television where I can never sit in the back of the theatre and watch the audience enjoy.

See what I mean about all the pieces coming together in the big picture. This overview insight is why I chose to write - why I HAD to write this piece today. And now that I see it for what it has to offer, I want to share it with you. But with the backlog of material I draw upon because I cannot bring myself to create web pages when I could be creating, these entries will not see the light of cyberday for nearly four years!

There is a ray of hope.

This last Monday night, Chris, Steve, and I presented out work to the Writer's Guild. It took Steve two years to break through the skepticism and arrange the two-hour event. At dinner in the old Farmer's Market in L.A., Chris asked if I might like to teach a series of solo classes in the story theory as he is doing. At first this opened up the old wounds, and I was sure I did not want to teach story theory at all, certainly not without him. In fact, I almost chose to decline their invitation to join them at the Writer's Guild, but let my head rule my heart as I realized such experiences do not come about every day.

As the evening progressed, Chris (who seemed determined to mend bridges and genuinely interested in rekindling a relationship) and I clicked very well as a team. After our two hour slot was over, more than half the audience remained to see more. Finally, the organizers of the event for the Guild had to pull the plug, but even then, several people approached each of the three of us asking questions and offering comments. My favorite was a young author who stopped briefly by to say, "I was highly skeptical when I came in tonight - now I'm not."

Both at dinner and after the event, I expressed my true feelings to both Chris and Steve. I told them how hurt I still felt, regardless of whether there was any reason to feel that way or not. Chris asked if I might like to partner up with him and create a series of "deep theory" classes for those who want to know more about the theoretical side that is presented in the more application oriented classes currently available. I replied that I might indeed be interested, but that my feelings really needed to know that I had a right to the materials I created so that I could be sure they would be shared.

The new contract we have been discussing since I left last March would give me shared informational rights to the theory (as well as the new products to which we are negotiating rights) so that I could write a book, teach a class, produce a video or a CD ROM about the theory or software without having to ask permission of anyone. Both Chris and Steve said they wanted to speed that contract along, with an eye toward future projects, and I have made the contract a condition of my participation.

I don't know if the guys really care for me at all, or if they just realize they will need me to do any further development. In fact, they might really want me involved as a friend, and yet be absolutely sure they really don't need me at all. Or, it could be the other way around, or perhaps both, but not likely neither.

No matter what the reasons or motivations on their part, having written this entry I now understand much more clearly where I stand on the issues and why. If I don't have shared rights, I can't ensure that my work will be ultimately shared. I don't want to end up like Barton Fink, under contract and unable to get my best work before the public.

Over the past few months, I have hired people to work on my web site, advertised for a director of marketing, and enlisted others to implement my creative concepts. None of them shared the vision or had the drive to push things forward themselves. I have had to supply all of the push, which is at least equally frustrating as tearing myself away from the experiential and creative endeavors, and even more frustrating than doing the work myself since I almost always must refine whatever they do on their own.

Clearly now, I can see that I need a partnership with someone who will take my rough materials, spell check them, print them up, seek publication, keep the accounts, handle the business, etc., while I tend to experiencing the world in heart and mind and reporting on what I find.

The only question remaining is how to find such a person?

November 17, 1996

Would I have the surgery if I had the choice today? That's a multi- parter - first, if I had existed as Dave all these years, the answer would be yes. Second, if I felt like I do today, but was still Dave, absolutely not! Third, if I had a different life situation with more money earlier on and a more emotionally demonstrative wife, probably not. Fourth, would I go back to being Dave now?

I've actually pondered this quite seriously lately. There is a lot to attract me back to it. The biggest part is the ease of physical presentation - no long hair to have to deal with every day, no more shaving legs!, no more worrying about looking too male if I haven't had enough sleep - and, couple all this with the fact I'm still married to a woman, acting as the head of the household, and living in the house in which I grew up.

Yes, that's a VERY appealing alternative, but one I'm not quite ready to exercise at this time because of the fear of all the work I'd have to do to go back, and all the credibility I would lose should I ever change my mind yet again!

Fifth, would I ever go back in the future? Well, I've been happy in a few very short relationships with men since surgery. But I just can't seem to find anyone worth being with these days. And, the effort to go through all those endless lunches and coffees is a real pain, and makes it too much of a price to look.

I've been working out of my home since March, and hardly talk to another soul. My feminine style is getting rusty. I've taken to wearing blue jeans and T-shirts most every day, and often go two and sometimes three days without showing, throwing myself instead into working on my web site, even though it has made me physically ill from becoming addicted to the attention.

Well, just this last Friday I've limited myself to one hour a day on the Web work. And, I've made a commitment to get showered, dressed and go someplace outside the house at least once a day. (Living off royalties without monetary fears has had its drawbacks!) After the first of the year, I hope to get involved in some real-world things like clubs, organizations, events, and just plain fun stuff that I've been ignoring. I want to spend much more time with my kids before my 17 year old son leaves for college in 11 months, and before my 13 year old daughter grows too independent - things I've ignored while building a career and building myself.

Now, when the kids are gone and I share the house alone with Mary... will I have found a man by then who treats me like a lady, or will my career and the public knowledge of my gender change grow to the point that I never will find that guy, and choose to go back to living as a man again just for the simplicity? I actually don't know! The only thing I DO know for sure is that (as with any major life journey of test and tragedy) having gone through this incredibly emotionally taxing period of time, I was lucky and didn't drown. I came out stronger than I was, though I don't think I'm any better a person for it. And because of that strength, I am now at the point where I will never ever do things I don't like because of fear - fear of poverty, fear of loneliness, fear of ridicule. I've got anger now - an emotion I never used to have. And when that anger kicks in, I can do what's right for me.

Changing sex wasn't right for me. It was just the only path left to look for happiness without falling short on all my obligations to people. Its the same reason my mother got fat from eating as an emotional crutch. Its not what I wanted, but the only way I could go without breaking my commitments. I THOUGHT it was what I wanted, but what I wanted was to be an 18 year old bikini babe, rich, well-loved, jet-setter, travelling the world, involved in the creation of art and new science, supporting charities, fitting right in.

What I AM is a 43 year old man who was lucky enough to latch onto the creation of a product that pays the bills with royalties, who is soon to be without his son, then without his daughter, and then still living in the house he grew up in with a woman who has never been overly affectionate, stuck in the body of a woman who sometimes looks like a guy.

Now, recognizing this and being happy about it - that's the trick, isn't it! All the things I wanted to be are what make up my web site. They are not lies. Everything up there is really me. But I created it as another limited part of myself - an edited version from the complete person that conformed to my image of who I thought I could become. But no matter how much you practice denying parts of yourself, they always surface in the end to remind you that underneath it all, you aren't your image, but rather you are the mechanism which creates the image.

So, there you have it! I am neither sad nor disappointed, not happy nor satisfied. I have spent ten years of my life becoming absolutely neutral - or perhaps "balanced" would be a better word. Strange how people see you as "centered" and imagine that you are even throughout. When in fact, being centered simply means you have managed to balance the good and the bad, the positive and the negative.

Being centered is like being one of those pie plates the spin on sticks in variety shows. Round and round you go, running in circles at great speed and appearing stable to the outside observer. But should you ever slow down, the slightest imbalance will send you over the edge. The trick is to slow down slowly. To get off the pinnacle and find some solid ground.

That's what I've been doing since March. It seems to be working. What I lose in a sense of direction, I gain in stability. Eventually, I'll be stable and directionless. Then, perhaps, I'll see who I really turned out to be.

I don't mean to scare you off or to suggest this is the way it will be for everyone. I know a multi-millionaire who is now five months into living full-time. He made his fortune and is now pursuing his life-long dream. He has kept close ties to his wife and kids, though he lives alone and is dating. He has had several recent cosmetic surgeries and come out just fine. His future looks rosy as hell.

I know of a woman who had surgery six years ago. Her son visits every weekend. She dates. She draws a fine salary in a steel producing company as an executive.

I know of a woman who had surgery a year ago and just got married. Her husband does not know.

I know of a pre-op who committed suicide.

I know of a post-op who committed suicide.

I know of a person in surgery who died on the table.

There is no path, there is only territory to cross. The scenery we will encounter depends as much on what makes us different as it does on what makes us the same. And the beauty, tragedy, wonder, and hope of it all springs from certain knowledge that we will never really know how we feel, until we reach our destination.

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