After Life

Book Two: Purgatory

From Journeys and Transitions

by Melanie

A Clip from Melanie's Video Journal - November 20, 2005

Chapter 91

Road Show

November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving Day

Yesterday we drove from our home near Placerville down to Burbank, where my family lives, some four hundred plus miles away.  Normally, it would be a seven hour trip, but with the additional holiday traffic, it took nearly eight hours, still a good time, considering.

Unfortunately, it was a very somber trip, heavy with negative emotions, all emanating from me.  Apparently this excursion had touched on a number of issues – triggers that got my angst running at full throttle.

For one thing, having disassociated myself from Mary and Keith due to their lack of involvement in my life, I was uneasy with the thought of returning to the in-person interactions that I have come to see as largely one-sided – a give/take relationship in which I did the giving and they the taking.

Naturally, that is a one-sided point of view.  I’m sure their giving was in the area of putting up with my transition and my emotional outbursts.  Also, I’m sure they gave in the way of sticking with me even though I did not and could not provide the male energy they both truly craved.  So, disservices have been proffered on both sides.  Yet, even realizing the balance of fault (or if not a guilt-issue at least the multi-lateral sources of the family’s discontent), I was not hearted with the thought of stepping back into that situation.

Further, I have changed since Cocoon House.  And though, to me, it seems as if I simply fully realized myself, I am not sure if I will come across to my family as the same, or as having completely altered my personality.  I no longer see the difference in myself, other than a larger sense of my true nature.  But I know I am different, and wonder how they will receive that change.

And more, I was truly troubled that morning at the prospect of spending four days out among the peoples of the world when I had so little confidence in my appearance.  And so, the morning preparations for the trip were performed in an atmosphere not unlike getting ready for a funeral.

I was certain to make clear to Teresa, several times, that she was not the cause of my mood – it was my own lack of confidence in myself, and also the aforementioned issues that engendered my dour disposition.  Nonetheless, spending time with a person in a mood such as mine is no joy at all, and it is much to her credit that she neither tried to artificially raise the mood with exaggerated enthusiasm on her part nor did she allow herself to be dragged into the same depression.  Rather, she provided the even keel, the certain solidity against which I needed to play out my pathos.

Without belaboring the details, suffice it to say that I hardly spoke during the entire trip, and for one hour-long period managed to cry, while driving, without alerting Teresa, as I screwed up my face so tight as to burst something so that no gasps or sniffles escaped to be noticed.

By the time we arrived at the hotel, I was so emotionally raw that I could hardly talk at all.  In my own way, I lost it a bit.  I cried, Teresa held me, then I said I had to get up and fix my face for bed.  As I approached the mirror, I said, “Yeah, I gotta fix my face…  I have to fix THIS face…”  And then, I started beating myself about the head.  Yes, it sounds almost comical, but I was crying and whimpering, and literally pummeling my own head and face.

Why would I do such a thing?  I saw no hope.  I felt that time had passed me by and it was too late to ever enjoy the fullness of life I had always longed for.

But Teresa, again, was my heroine.  She held me and comforted me.  She calmed me down.  She engaged me in conversation and eventually settled on a point that (though I had touched on it myself in previous entries in this journal) had never been expressed TO me, and with such eloquent clarity as well.

She told me that my problem was not gender-related, it was age related.  A lot of women get mannish as they age.  When I was young, my natural bone structure was fully acceptable as a being that of a normal woman.  But, as with many, age had overcome me. 

And then I cried again.  I sobbed that I had been fully presentable before we had moved up to Pine Mountain Club.  While I was there, I was burdened with anxieties such as financial issues, and I gained weight, and I never got enough sleep.  I thought, all along, that once the finances improved, I lost the weight, and slept enough, I would be right back where I had been.  But when all that came to pass, something unexpected had happened.  Age had overtaken me, and the life I had before was simply no longer available to me.

Yet all that alone would still not have caused all my angst.  No, I would simply have set about combating the effects of aging until I had returned to the life I had left behind.  Except, I had become convinced that it was too late.  I was too old to make it back.  I had degraded too far to return.  I was so old that I could never wear the younger clothes I wanted to without looking foolish.

The certainty that there was no amount of work, no degree of effort that could achieve my goals left me feeling helpless, hopeless, and forlorn.

And that is why I cried.  I don’t mind work; I don’t mind waiting.  But I do mind knowing there is nothing I can do.

But Teresa countered this.   She said that since the issue wasn’t even gender related (directly), there were all kinds of things that I could do, and plenty of time to do it.  We can’t prevent aging, but we can roll back the clock.  And so, she made a pact with me that we should work together to raise the money needed for each of us to get whatever surgeries or treatments we felt we needed to look the very best we could at our ages.

Slowly, my tears subsided.  Gradually, I came to accept what I had just heard.  I wasn’t a man dressing like a woman, I was a woman who had aged to the point that certain attributes looked mannish.

What’s more, one of the key elements of aging is the lengthening of the upper lip.  And my nose surgery had robbed me of the little curl on my lip I used to have.  So, by having this particular procedure, the gender affecting aspects of aging would be instantly reversed, leaving me with nothing but the normal aging concerns of the ordinary woman to consider.

Was it that simple?  Was it right in front of my face, as it were, all along?  Seems to have been.  The symptom of my disease was the mannish look of my face that tipped the balance of my features that fall in the DMZ between the sexes.  But the disease itself was aging.

Is that what a mid-life crisis is all about?  Do we all focus on some specific facet of our lives that has been diminished due to aging, and work to fix it, without ever realizing that aging itself is the enemy?  And should we embrace aging to avoid conflict, or fight against it all the more vehemently once we clearly see the true villain?

I, myself, am not ready yet to forge a treaty with such an evil entity.  Nor am I willing to simply surrender.  Just knowing the face of the threat invigorates me, and focuses my resolve to gain as much ground as I can before entering into negotiations.

And so, we fell asleep, alternately holding each other, and slept so well that Teresa missed her pain medication for several hours, for the first time since surgery.

This morning, we awoke so gently and pleasantly.  We lay in bed for a quite awhile before rising, turning on the TV, and brewing some coffee.  Then I ordered breakfast from room service, and while Teresa was showing, it arrived.

We sat on the bed eating French Toast and sipping our hot morning drinks, and the closeness and trust we felt was stronger than it has ever been.

Later, I showered and dressed while watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade.  And when I finally went to the mirror to put on my makeup, my face looked different.  It no longer seemed like a man, but to be that of a middle-aged woman finally showing the signs of her years.

It is just twelve days to my lip surgery.  I am now so excited with anticipation.  Once that is done, I will no longer have to worry about the mannish qualities my aging has placed on my face.  I will look just as feminine as I feel, simply older than I’d like.  And then…  then I can simply work toward affording what means are available to remove, mask, or diminish those attributes that belie the youthful heart inside.

Sure, I may end up softening my looks, perhaps the brow bossing will go, and the nose may be redone.  But no longer will that be something I seek to make myself look female – only to make myself look like a prettier female.

The gender part of this journey will be over in less than two weeks.  And then the path will carry me through the same land all of us who are fortunate to remain must eventually face.

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