beadwork, craft, creativity, design, fashion design

Switching modes…is difficult.

As is making even not-so-difficult decisions about whether to accept an interview (for a temporary position) offered by HR. The HR that let me go, after 10 years of service. That HR.

Then there is my Vocational program assuming that I’ll either be in college or working…when right now I’m re-evaluating my life and what I want to do with it (a.k.a. finding reasons to stay alive — which is important)…which doesn’t quite involve them.

And then there is University, which I’m only in to get an inroad into a job I may actually be able to tolerate long-term, where we’ve entered the end phase of tons of group work and have stopped communicating. I want to ask when we will get started…

Then there is my personal life, which is beginning to turn over into creative work: particularly, sewing and beadwork. I’ve gotten enough together that I could make a good return beading…though I wonder, at this point, if I would be willing to sell patterns as well as (or instead of) finished objects.

The major issue with either is that many beadwork patterns are easy to deconstruct, if you know what you’re doing…and I’d venture to say that all can be replicated, with the right skill set. But I have bought some self-published books that are as good as, or better than, books coming from the major publishers…which would be Kalmbach, Interweave, and Lark Crafts, for beadwork.

There are some decent books from other publishers, too, but as we move from craft domain to domain — the publishers change. The people who publish books on silversmithing might not be into bead knitting, for example. So far as I can see, those are totally different market segments, with different motivations, different investments, and different levels of familiarity with different technologies. But both of them can make a bracelet.

Beadwork (often) entails a love of color, while hot metalwork entails a love of form and fire (and is relatively starved of color work, in my experience — with the exception of enameling, and working with brass and copper [which also technically fall under “silversmithing”, as non-ferrous metalworking which is not goldsmithing]).

I would only expect the love of color and texture to be magnified in bead knitting, which is kind of a hybrid between straight-out beadwork and the tactile and meditative pleasures of knitting…but I haven’t yet tried it. I do have a set of Size 1 knitting needles now, though. I also know a couple of places where I can get (heavyweight) spooled silk beading thread.

The thing is, to do this, you have to have interest and skill in knitting, which is an area I touch on tangentially, not fully. Lacemaking is another area I’m touching on, specifically with tatting — because I could see its application in craft jewelry.

A while back, I taught myself shuttle tatting, though that’s harder to do in a jewelry context than needle tatting. I started working with the latter just recently to see what I could do, without having to wind a shuttle to the middle of the work. Right now, I know I can make button loops with C-Lon Standard (TEX 210) and the heavyweight C-Lon TEX 400. This is with Sizes #5 and #3 tatting needles, respectively.

The resulting buttonholes are large, round, and relatively stiff…not that much of an improvement over making my own toggles out of glass seed beads (which I’m always afraid will crush or chip [after having heard the squeal of Mother-of-Pearl against glass]), but definitely more finished-appearing than a braided loop.

Using anything finer than TEX 210 and 400 basically requires using a shuttle…the needles I’ve been using (Handy Hands) just aren’t the right diameter. In shuttle tatting, you’re wrapping the thread around another loop of thread; in needle tatting, you’re wrapping it around the needle, which may not be the same diameter as the thread. With something like C-Lon, which doesn’t have a lot of stretch, that means it’s hard, with finer diameters, to slide the knots off of the needle and onto the thread itself.

It makes sense now, intuitively, as to why the heavier diameters would be easier to use: you get a lot more wiggle room in relation to the size of the cord. The cord is also harder to flex to create the double knots, which gives extra space next to the needle.

C-Lon Micro (TEX 70), for example…doesn’t work well with any of the needles I have, as it catches at the eye of the most appropriate-sized tatting needle. It will, however, work with a shuttle. C-Lon Fine (TEX 135) also doesn’t work with any of my needles. Either the needle is too wide (causing a “scrunchie effect” once completed), or I can’t fit the thread through the needle’s eye.

I have also tried working with Milliner’s needles, prior to having broken down and bought the Tatting needles: it works, but I question if they’re long enough. (Milliner’s needles are also much sharper, so you have to be careful not to scratch or stab yourself when forming the hitches.)

If I hadn’t tried this, I’d still be thinking of the possibility, but not the reality, of using tatting to form buttonholes for clasps. I still can do it, but the possibility is now limited, in my mind. Either use TEX 210 and 400 with tatting needles, or try TEX 135 or 70 with a shuttle…and keep in mind that you may get a stiff and very round buttonhole.

The other route is to find a set of tatting needles which will work with finer threads, meaning that the eyes have to be especially fine. Given how firm all forms of C-Lon cord I’ve used are, I’m not betting that I’ll be able to fit something like that through (or over) those needles. Tatting (to make lace) is generally done with softer threads — which beads may damage.

On the other hand, I’ve just finished a necklace which has been years in the making. Using the C-Lon Micro for it seems to have been a very good choice: it feels tough, and was thick enough to hold knots at the terminations. As I’ve been using clamshell bead tips to finish the work, I was glad when the knots were large enough not to slip through the holes.

Finding out possibilities and what they actually look and feel like in action, is extremely important. At least so, from a design + construction perspective. Thinking up dreams of, “what could be,” is something I did for years; it doesn’t necessarily get anything done. It takes experimentation to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Maybe I should say, it takes the risk of failure, to find out what works, and what doesn’t.

The forgiving thing about beadwork is that if your design doesn’t work out, you can clip your piece apart and try again.

It feels difficult to get myself out of Academic Mode and into Creative Mode. It’s even harder to let go of Creative Mode, once I’m in it, and slide back into Academic Mode: I want to stay where I am. I get involved with my projects. This happens even knowing I have to get back into Academics at some time, which tends to fill me with dread and anxiety. It’s hard to get out of Academic Mode in the first place, because I have a level of guilt for not spending my time studying.

I’m thinking that’s not a good way to enjoy living. Especially if what you’re studying, in order to earn a livable salary, doesn’t fit your core drives (or relieve your core banes: like uncleanliness, and random social interaction with strangers). It’s just something you do so you aren’t homeless or dependent. It’s not like you actually want to do it, or in a perfect world, would choose to do it. At least not after you’ve encountered the reality of the job and environment.

And it’s like, how many more years, how much more of my resources, am I going to commit to this? For the sake of a salary?

There are other things I can do, if cash is my only motivator. I may not be able to afford to live in the San Francisco Bay Area while I’m doing it…but to be honest, most of the world can’t afford to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. We’re dealing with an inflated economy and gentrification, with high-wage earners moving in from outside, displacing the people who made the place what it was: the people who made this a nice place to live. What I can see is that someday — when technology shifts again, or when the climate shifts more completely — this area risks becoming another ghost region.

Early morning, on November 2nd — I began writing a post after having had a conversation with relatives. Its details should likely go into another, separate post, but I realized that through my clothing and jewelry, I could develop my own identity expression. I could also help others define theirs, or at least give them more options.

I’ve had a consistent problem with being able to present myself as I wish, with ready-to-wear clothing. The problem is that the clothes which fit my body usually also code me as a woman, socially — which is not something I’m set on. I began thinking on how to alter that. It’s not like it isn’t possible. It just requires creative thought, and the ability to realize those thoughts in reality.

That is, it’s possible to create clothes cut for and which will fit female bodies, without also making them to code as, “feminine.” It’s not like there isn’t a market for this: or there wouldn’t be so many people who are assumed to be, “women”, wearing men’s clothes. The problem is, after one reaches a certain point in their maturity, men’s clothes don’t quite fit correctly. At least, that’s been my experience. The body type I had in my early 20’s is not the body type I have in my late 30’s.

The point is that there is cultural space and coding made for cisgender men and cisgender women which signify their gender to people on sight. If you’re a gender minority, however: that isn’t necessarily the case. Not only are there no words to describe who you are, but there are no special signifiers that positively match your identity. And if there were, I’m not sure it would be safe…but, progress is being made.

I’d hope that in 40-50 years, there will be vocabulary and a safe place for people who are gender-nonbinary or third-gender, or otherwise currently not provided with correctly-coded tools with which to present. I would also hope that the erasure of gender minorities in the English language and cultural sphere, finds a way to cease in a respectful manner.

The night before last, I realized that I could and should get back to work on the “blouse” I’ve been trying to make for 10 years. I got about halfway through construction (having cut and marked the pieces previously), though I still have some alterations to make. This is Folkwear #111, “Nepali Blouse,” which I’m altering to have a much longer hem, and side inserts. I appreciated the toile, but it was much too short and revealing, for me.

The pattern itself is for something worn as an undergarment in Nepal, which makes sense if you live there, and it’s cold! Instead of the traditional fabric choices, though, I’m going for a dark cotton batik. After this is done, I can work on some outer layers.

And no, I don’t know the gender status of those who would be wearing this, normally. The pattern and styling is just something I like.

At this time, though, I find myself required to get back to my graded work…which I don’t want to do. Of course. Writing this, is kind of edging me back into thinking in words…which I need.

Wow, though. I mean, wow.

I am wondering when the last time was that I was so reticent about getting back into schoolwork…

culture, philosophy, portfolio, psychology

Sometimes I Wonder If This Means Anything

Recently, I’ve had the time to think about what it means to be a person who is nonbinary-identified, who otherwise appears to most to be a “woman.” That is, what is the difference between, “me” as “myself,” and “me” as, “woman,” when to the untrained eye, we’re indistinguishable?

Well, perhaps not indistinguishable, but a general sense of civil politeness dictates not to draw attention to that aspect of reality, as divergence is seen as a fault. The differences don’t show up until you’ve known me for a little while and notice that my behavior and thought process is, to a sensitive yet civil person, “slightly different”; to a person who expects conformity, “slightly off.”

When I don’t go out of my way to prove or show in any way that I’m not a woman, that is…when I’m talking about sewing and beadwork and librarianship…what is there to distinguish me from the backdrop? (By the way…this article is my own, not in any way representative of my profession.)

Activities assigned a gender by culture do not imply the gender identity of the person doing the activity

Because I participate in pastimes that have been culturally allotted to me because of my assumed gender, that doesn’t mean that assumption of my gender is correct. To skip ahead slightly, if cryptically: I identify as nonbinary because it liberates me from being trapped in the game.

How do I know I’m not a woman?

For one thing, I don’t.

I can’t compare my experience to experience I’ve never had.

For another thing, how does anyone else know if they’re a woman? Without referring to tautologies, that is, such as the most common assumption I seem to find: that sex = gender. That sex, in short, creates gender.

I would look at this from the other end, however, and ask one to consider the possibility that people are targeted for gendered psychological conditioning which differs on the basis of their known (or assumed) sex. That, over the long term, encourages (but does not cause) the development of societally-conforming gender expressions; even though this may cause quite a large amount of distress for the person being conditioned.

Accepting the identity of “woman”, in short, does damage to who I am at core, because I have internalized concepts of womanhood which are particularly damaging and oppressive to me as an apparently female person, who is interacted with, and expected to respond as, a woman (or “girl”) because of it. The response expected can differ widely from the reality.

But you know what? That’s sexism.

In particular, the level of societal violence (emotional, interrelational, and physical) directed at people who are, as I once openly was, “gender-nonconforming”, is something that severely negatively impacted my mental health. The fact that I knew it was being demanded I conform — to be something I wasn’t; to live someone else’s life who didn’t exist, to pretend I was her for everyone else — in order to stop the torture, didn’t help.

From the time I was about 19 or 20, once I knew about gender variance, and that it happened to more people than myself, I had been considering the option of physical gender transition. Right now there are only so many options for that, however; fewer still which will not result in additional societal violence.

As a person who doesn’t have a man’s identity, I won’t be able to transition to male and expect anything better than what I have now. In fact, I’d expect worse. There are differences I’d like to have in this body — unfortunately, the window of opportunity for that (for example, to have a larger frame, to have a flat chest without surgery, to be a fully functional male who didn’t have to take hormones) has either passed, or never existed. Some of the actual possibilities could only have been attained with intervention before or during puberty. In my case, that was in the 1990’s.

Wasn’t happening.

History

If I think on it, my gender nonconformity goes back through my childhood, at least to kindergarten. There were rules to being a (supposed) boy or (supposed) girl that first showed their faces, there. Like not playing actively if one were female, or being targeted for random unwanted kisses (from one particular boy) if one were female. I didn’t know and didn’t care, and that made me something of an outcast — though, of course, I thought the problem was everybody else, not myself.

That pattern has marked my existence since then, though I didn’t have an awareness of it until the sexual harassment kicked in fully at 14. I still have a hard time considering myself to be, “normal.” I have a hard time thinking things are good just because they’re popular, and with the idea of exposing myself to all kinds of media, when I know that some of that media is actively violent towards people like myself.

I think I was perhaps 16 or 17 before I started thinking maybe there was something to the harassment that was thrown at me, and that I could have been, as I was being labeled, a gender-nonconforming female who loved women (two culturally linked but separate things which were both taboo in the institution of high school; I’m uncertain I can say the actual word on this platform, as it is still hate speech). I tried to “reclaim” the label, by actively identifying with it. The theory was that if I built a positive identity around the term, it could no longer be used to hurt me.

That got me only so far, as externally-imposed slurs tend not to leave a lot of space open for identity development. However, it gave me space to break some of the walls of my box, unapologetically, and with minimal loss. Even at that time, I knew there was something wrong — but I didn’t know what it was. This was the period in which I first experienced clinical depression; but I only consented to pharmacological treatment for that after I realized that maybe the thing making me sad was something I couldn’t fix. I can’t fix the world by myself. But avoiding suicide gives me a little more time to try.

It wouldn’t be until I removed myself from that situation (taking my meds with me, of course) that I would learn that I had a choice over who I would be, and become.

Fast-forward: I’m likely around 19 years old, away from my parents — and the community that has seen me grow up — for the first time. I realize, from meeting some people, that it’s possible to alter one’s gender expression, and that I’m not stuck with the name and pronouns given to me at birth; or the roles placed on me by others.

The concept of identities being like clothing in a wardrobe is introduced to me. I realize I don’t have to be what others have told me I am; that I can change out of the leather jacket I’ve been carrying with me, into something that may be more suited. Something that may make me happier.

Woman/Not-Woman: Does It Matter?

It wouldn’t be until far later, in my 30’s, that someone would tell me that they kept hearing me say I was not a woman, but they never heard me say I was a man.

“Man”, never really fit, except within groups where I knew people knew what I meant by it, and within which I tempered the identity by acknowledging my female history. It wasn’t a portable identity, at least not if I paid attention to people complaining about “their” identities being, “watered down.” (Yes, there is exclusion right there; the idea that we couldn’t share the same word for ourselves because we were different. This was before the emergences of the genderqueer and nonbinary communities…and possibly the catalyst for their formation.) I wouldn’t learn that it would be tough for me as male, though, until I was about 25, and had tried living as one — with various interspersions of behavior that I considered distinctly, “unmanly.”

I don’t know where these ideas about men and women came from. But I suspect they’re learned.

The thing is: my society emphasizes two (and only two) genders. If a person isn’t one, the next step, often, is to believe that one then must be the other. However…that’s not where my journey took me. “Not-woman” is not the same thing as “man”. “Woman” is not the same thing as “not-man.” One is a positive assertion: many variations on one truth. The other is a negation: infinity-minus-one possible options for truth remaining.

I’m thinking that we’ve had a tendency to think the terms are equivalent, though (much as “not-woman” got linked with “lesbian” for me in high school), because of our particular historical and cultural locus. Most people repeat concepts in this sense without knowing where the concepts came from or why they think what they do, but ideas in this sense are inherited from the past, and sometimes they’re outdated to an embarrassing extent.

What I know is that trying to think of myself as a woman has done concrete psychological damage to me. Because I don’t fit. I’m not a woman — regardless of the shape of my body. Not-man and not-woman (at least, not as this current culture defines “man” and “woman”) leaves infinity-minus-two possible outcomes for me. Not all of them require medical transition or intentional alteration of presentation. Or, “masculinity.”

If one tries to think of oneself as something one is not, chances are that one is going to be riddled with senses of inadequacy. All the time.

When I try to think of myself as a woman, I expect myself to grapple from an inside position with messages about what women are and/or should be, which rarely ever fit. Which makes me angry, as I presume other “women” like “myself” also find those messages and concepts not to fit.

But is that the case? If so, the world really is a dystopia.

And then again, I see myself conforming for the sake of the approval of others. Trying to be someone who doesn’t exist, so I can stop being hurt and excluded. Only now, I’m the person hurting myself. No one else has to torture me: I’ve taken over that job. And I’m getting the perks of fitting in, knowing full well that the external torture and isolation and exclusion may resume if I let down my facade.

Other people then also expect me to conform to messages about what women are and should be — but they (almost) always do that, except when I let people know that my appearance does not infer my identity. On a baseline, people expect me to be able to relate on a level of commonality that I don’t share. Because right now, I’m a husk of a person. I’ve abandoned myself to take on a role that my heart isn’t in, for the purposes of pleasing others and smoothing social relations.

Boundaries. Somewhere in there, I’ve got to stand up for myself, or I’ll never be able to attain an authentic life. And my life isn’t for the pleasure of other people. It’s mine.

Somewhere in there, I got tired of this. Rebelling against compulsory “femininity” versus conforming to compulsory “femininity”; whereas if I thought of myself as male, even as a gentle one, I realized that what to do with this, isn’t even a question. If I discard the concept of “woman” as outside of myself; as meaningless in my domain; I no longer have to rebel, or conform. The concept no longer holds sway over me; my life is no longer led and controlled by the whims of other people. Let the people who don’t understand fall on their faces. Catering to their illusions isn’t my job.

Risk and Flow

It would not be true for me to say that relative levels of risk and emotional safety haven’t played a role in choosing between life options. At first, I began exploring things that were allotted to me because I appeared female, because I knew they might not be allotted to me anymore in the then-near future. I was trying to find anything good about my situation, before I might change it.

Yes, I’m talking about physical — chemical and surgical — transition. In my situation, the treatments were offered on a harm-reduction basis. It has not been unusual for people to attain things like hormones and surgeries illegally, out of desperation to escape their situations. If I was going to alter myself, it would be better to do it through a compassionate health care system than through the black market.

In effect, I was exercising what is known in sociology as, “agency.” Sociology is basically the study of power constraints on groups of people, and how ordinary people find ways to struggle and survive, despite them. In early college, I took up Sociology as my major, though I wouldn’t stay in it. I was told it was, “the study of groups of people.” That’s an oversimplification.

Sociology arose, most markedly to my mind, after WWII: as people tried to make sense of the Holocaust. Notes online, however, say it began much earlier due to the French and Industrial Revolutions. In my view, Sociology is the study of how power dynamics and methods of social control form among people and how culture is — at times — complicit in, or even driving, that.

Agency may be, in this discussion, said to encompass ways of individual or group existence alongside social control; defying it, without being destroyed by it.

So there are reasons — I would say at their base, coercive ones — for certain things to be considered either “men’s” or “women’s” work. Coercive, because one runs into barriers if they try to do work which has not been allotted to them by their social station.

I’m not a person who likes to fight. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how long staying neutral is, or can be, an option. These are not usual times. And, as I am learning, my voice can make a difference. This is still a democracy, after all.

There is something that just came to my mind…I’m not certain I’ll be able to communicate clearly enough to really explain it, especially as it has to do with what is known in the West as Philosophical Daoism (or Philosophical Taoism). I learned about this after having studied Chinese Buddhism. I was trying to figure out where the Buddhism ended and Daoism began. One could write books on this, though unfortunately I have pretty much no reading ability in any Chinese dialect, so research would be difficult (even if possible).

It has to do with the concept of water. Or, Water, if you prefer. The element.

Water always seeks the lowest point, the place where it can settle no further. It is stopped by barriers like dikes, and flows where it is given space to flow. But in floods, it can overwhelm and cross those dikes. In tsunamis and typhoons it can destroy towns. It’s a gentle thing that carves mountains. Crushes and splits stone. Comes down in drops and forms oceans.

It is also something which we depend on for life; without which, there would be no life.

I don’t aim to be a fighter. I aim to be like Water.

To know this is useful; to know this is also slightly frightening, because I know that I also will always have to deal with that drip, drip, drip…building up, building pressure, pushing against boundaries and walls, finding cracks, threatening to spill out. Always.

As for whether I’ve recently overflowed (I wonder if the Japanese term あふれる [afureru: to overflow; I don’t know the correct kanji] is related to this)…it’s hard to say. I hadn’t thought of the one recent instance in those terms until I wrote them, here.

There is also the difference between the “soft” martial arts and the “hard” martial arts, which may aid one in understanding what I mean. Hard martial arts, like karate, are force-against-force. In a battle between two martial artists each using force against force, considering all else equal, the bigger and stronger one will win. In a situation where one is going up against a stronger opponent…it doesn’t make sense to fight force-against-force. I’ve always had to be faster, smarter, choosing my battles. Choosing my questions, finding weaknesses, finding my strengths.

So even though I can’t say that my environment had no hand in shaping the person I am now, I can say is that what you see of me now is genuine — even if, under other circumstances, under different constraints, I may have grown in an entirely different direction.

That’s what it means to be full of potentialities.

That’s also what it means to be human.

“Women’s Work”

One of the difficulties of living in this transitional era is what to do with older identities, aspirations taught to us by our foremothers, made for eras which no longer exist. In my attempt to see if there were anything left for me in being female, I was in some respects immersed in pastimes which — in years gone by — I suspect must have been done by people who were stay-at-home mothers or homemakers, or otherwise supported monetarily from outside (as is the case with me and my parents). I can’t imagine their being able to survive any other way.

Implied in this is marriage to a person who can give one children, and financial support thereby. Also implied is the willingness to be impregnated, and to keep and care for the child(ren). It’s not a given that everyone wants that.

My relations with my own reproductive potential have never been easy. But neither have been my relations with anyone else’s. I’ve never given myself a chance to get pregnant. After having written the rest of this, I’m no longer surprised at having some level of discomfort around reproduction. But my dysphoria is minor, as I’m able to use birth control, in addition to abstinence — which may in fact have run on long enough to become celibacy.

Since I was in high school and realized that marriage to a man was likely not to be comfortable for me (given how few males I was attracted to at all, and the fact that the ones I was attracted to had a tendency to be gay or transgender), I’ve channeled my creative urges into the making of, “things”; objects; writings; not children. Instead of raising a child as my legacy, I’ve realized there are other methods of having an impact on society.

The issue — my main issue, at this point — is finding a way to stay alive while staying creative. To find a way of feeding both my desire to create, and my physical needs, at the same time. The system, as it’s set up…is there a method of independently supporting oneself while staying out of poverty, and still taking the time to do “women’s work”? I’m not certain. But then, I live in one of the most expensive places possible, in this country.

Then there is the fact that “women’s work” in the public sphere — nursing, teaching, clerical, childcare, librarianship — presuppose a level of social intelligence (and inclination to be social) that I just don’t have. The only one I can think of that doesn’t, that I know of, is housekeeping — but I’m not about to go there. Germ phobia, remember?

But that’s sexism, again.

I’m not entirely sure what to do about this. I’m a person who was raised to become a woman who is not; who has to enter territory long held by men in order to survive. That’s not easy for me.

む (Mu)

When I began writing this post, the idea of, “myself as a nonbinary person,” and, “myself as a woman,” were looking too close to call. The difference seemed like splitting hairs. To the extent that both nonbinary and woman identities are cultural constructions and not inherently existent in and of themselves, that’s still true. Hence, the question, “am I a woman?” could be answered in the single Zen term, む (or, “mu”).

The answer of “mu” to a koan, or riddle, means that the foundations of the question are formulated so that no right answer can be given. The example I’ve seen is the question: “have you stopped beating your wife?” when you have no wife; or you do have a wife, but you don’t beat her. The presuppositions of the question are faulty in such a way that to answer either, “yes, I have stopped beating my wife,” or, “no, I haven’t stopped beating my wife,” would be false.

Hence: む. Neither, “yes, I am a woman,” nor, “no, I am not a woman,” are wholly satisfactory, because the term, “woman,” is mutable and has no inherent reality. (Neither does, “man,” or, “nonbinary,” for that matter. They’re all terms which, on some level, most of us just loosely agree have similar-enough meanings to be able to get a rough idea of what the other person means when we say them.)

Of course, that doesn’t mean, in a different sense, that no women exist. But I like the opt-in model, based on authentic thinking and deep reflection; better than the mass-assignment model, based on surface appearances or biological statistics.

From the outside, it doesn’t matter on a large scale (likely to anyone except other nonbinary people) whether I’m called a woman or a nonbinary person — although I will get tripped up when I’m referred to as “that woman” (it has happened)! What matters to me most is how I think of myself, because that’s all I have direct control over. It’s much more important that I give myself permission to think freely about my own gender, than it is that other people agree with me about it or support me in it. (Though support is nice, when it’s asked for and given. When it’s not asked for…there may be a reason.)

At this point, however, I’ve realized things are much more complex than I’ve given them credit for.

To a greater or lesser extent, I believe that all of us have been subject to conditioning, based on the way we’ve looked; on our physicality, or on what little is known about us. But that’s not the total picture. There are patterns we have which aren’t immediately visible based on how we look, or which can be predicted by an image. Nevertheless, they are real. Going back over my history, showed me that.

My experiences as a child, youth, and young adult, are not something that everyone would have been vulnerable to in the same way. As an adult, I’m still not typical…even if my experience is more common or relatable than I imagine. And it is easy to imagine…easier, now…that I am actually truly “normal” even in my diversity. That people the world over have experienced what it’s like not to fit in, for one reason or another.

People are not always what they seem. I’m proof of that.

And that should give me hope.

creativity, personal, philosophy

Yearnings

No amount of purchases will get rid of the hole in my heart. Even art supplies. It doesn’t work if you buy them and then don’t use them.

Right now I’m in bed, fighting off the last of a cold which hit me over Christmas. Well: I’ve been sick for the last week. Although I’m in the mood to be vulgar with this, it’s wordpress.com (not .org), so I won’t be: the worst part of this is that it hit me when I otherwise had the opportunity to see distant family. (Distant in regard to space, not in regard to relation.) It’s good to be back home and not in a hotel. With a kitchen and my art supplies and medications and plentiful books.

But still, I don’t have much of a life here. In regard to friendship, that is.

We’ve been considering moving out to Hawaii for years. But…it’s a really hard place to live. I think I can say that. For most of the time we were out there, being indoors was constantly like someone had just taken a hot shower and vented the hot, moist air inside. It was everywhere, except the places that were air-conditioned. My books wouldn’t survive. I’d have to find a way to put them under climate control, or leave them behind, or forget about them.

The latter is hard to think of, as someone who has trained to be a Librarian.

Tonight, I broke back into my Baochong oolong tea, though I was out of it (fatigued) enough that I thought it was Jasmine. So when it was a little savory, I was kind of like, “I don’t remember Jasmine tasting like that.” Because it’s Baochong. Oolong. Not Jasmine green. Silly dumpling.

And yes, having the water temperature 15° F above optimal, for that oolong, makes it taste burnt. I didn’t know water could burn tea, but I think I’ve found, it can.

So…right. I now have enough tea for like the next two years, but a bunch of it “expires” (does tea expire?) early next year. (My Tieguanyin [Iron Goddess oolong], I was told, was likely fine even though 2-4 years past expiration, I can’t remember anymore. The Jasmine Pearls from that batch were better than the fresher tea I got to replace it, which meant I had to make a run to the good tea store in order to get decent whole-leaf Jasmine green, as versus whatever was in the bulk aisle.)

Granted, I’ll have at least a season to get through it and see what it’s actually supposed to taste like, before it ferments further. But it’s a pretty sure thing that given where I got these from (in Hawaii), maybe that data about expiration was based on Hawaii climate. Like mid-70° F temperatures and high humidity at the end of December. (What is it like in July?)

It was unseasonably cold while we were there, though. High winds, and a storm (with lightning) coming through right on Christmas Day. I still had the window open until the rain got too…sideways, however.

When I was a kid, particularly M would buy stuff for us as a token of love. She wasn’t great at expressing it to us after we got older (though I can remember plenty of times when she picked me up and tried to soothe me when I cried as a really young child — like I don’t know how young, I wasn’t paying attention to my age at the time — but it had to be under six years old, because I remember it happening in my first apartment).

I’ve been doing some reading about Reader’s Advisory and the value and neurological process of reading the narratives of others, which is probably why I’m back here writing this, now. I mean, you know, I’ve realized that writing isn’t totally worthless. Which, again, is a surprising thought coming from someone who has trained to be a Librarian. But it was made pretty clear in my Creative Writing program that Creative Writing wasn’t something one did to make a living.

A lot of that history, though, it’s kind of messed-up from the point of view of an adult looking back on it. If I had to do it over again, I would have at least tried getting back into the Japanese Language and Literature program. But I really wasn’t thinking that far ahead, probably like most people around the age of 20. Actually, around the age of 20, I was just trying to survive.

I won’t go more deeply into that, here, but I will say that my worst enemy was myself, at the time. I didn’t think I would make it to 30; so getting into my young adult years, I realized that I didn’t have a career plan. That’s why I became a Librarian. Or trained for it, anyway. I still have some experience to accrue.

I’m also, now, getting to the point that “young” adult, as a description, is no longer accurate. I’m just an adult, and I’ve got adult problems, albeit Millennial adult problems. Like worrying about how long any of us will survive. What to do if and when my parents are no longer here to help me. Disputing the personal value of faith and belief and religion in the face of guaranteed death and fragmented communities. (For some reason, the term “bad faith” just came to mind — can’t remember who said it, though. Sartre?) And, though I’ve been watching myself for the last 25 years, trying to figure out who I am as versus who I think I am. Because the two don’t have to align.

I am not even sure anymore that I’m a creative person, or if that is something that characterized me as a psychologically vulnerable youth. I mean, I know I’m writing, here. It’s just that I keep accumulating the props of being a creative person, and then not using them. Then that perpetuates the hole in my heart that I try and refill with buying more stuff, when not-being-creative and buying paints and inks and pens for some ideal future destination where I use them (and then don’t), doesn’t heal me.

I actually am using the pens for writing; that is one spot of healing. At the same time, I can only use one, maximum two, pens at the same time, unless I get into some gymnastics; so how many pens does it take to fill that one hand for that one session?

Buying stuff is not working. Using stuff, might; but as I realized on our trip, I do have a bent towards paint and brushes and inks and pens. I’ve overlearned pencils, though pencils can be the base of other art; it’s just that pencils and drawing the same stuff all the time has gotten so rote as to be discouraging. I realized over the holiday that I really don’t like pencils, now. At least, not the ones with tiny points and HB graphite lead. I’ve done enough of that.

In addition — I’ve decided to let the Art and the Writing go their separate ways. There’s no reason why I should, or have to, or need to, force myself to make comic art. Right now it’s influenced a lot of my work…but if I look at it on its face, I’m a much better writer than I am an artist, and I deflate at the prospect of illustrating a book of my own work. How much drawing it is.

With that out of the way, I’m free to paint and make mandalas and study plants, all I want. Right now, the mandalas are pointing me in the direction of abstract art, of which I think I have an inkling. Particularly, looking at some of my portfolio pieces from 2016, I know I have it in me to do this — I see things I was afraid of acknowledging before, like the shapes of women — and I hope that by getting further into it I can discover more about where these things are coming from. Of course, that might possibly lead into the place where I figure out I’m lesbian even if I don’t consider myself a woman and don’t abhor some sweet technically-male things who sometimes (or often) wish they weren’t; but forget judgment, this is your soul talking.

Well, this is your soul raging, isn’t it?

I think it took watching a Dr. Who marathon and voicing that I thought Clara Oswald’s character was cute, to get me to share that I can be/am still attracted to women. (I have a close female relative who cannot stand Clara Oswald [“she’s too perky”]. But then, she also can’t tolerate “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”. It’s too screechy for her.)

To each their own.

I still haven’t resolved how and if a person can be lesbian if they don’t identify as a woman. Then again…I think I’ve already resolved (in my head) that the category of “woman” is a social construction, a name for a concept generated by people which is not real on any ultimate level of truth.

Like I was thinking of saying before, not believing in “God” doesn’t mean you don’t believe in “Christians”. You can recognize that Christians exist without proving the ultimate reality of God. I mean, seriously: it’s obvious that Christians exist. The thing they define themselves in relation to, however; that’s not obviously existent, but to them, it’s part of their reality; inasmuch as a multi-tiered system of worlds, dependent on internal personal vibration or resonance, is part of mine.

I almost went there in my last counseling session, but I didn’t. The person I was talking with seemed to imply that being agender (akin to “atheist”, as I used it [I don’t think that’s usual]) meant being “gender-blind”, which is something that I definitely do not espouse. There can be men and women (who believe that they’re “real” men and “real” women) without gender ever being a solid universal or ultimate concept that lines up with reality. It just means that the definitions are personal and vary among people.

That also should mean, though, that maybe I shouldn’t lock myself out of groups based on my own personal gender definitions, when I know that those definitions only apply in my own head.

That also means, however, that it’s possible for me with qualifications to say that I’m a person who has the potential to love a woman (or someone who looks like one or is similar to one in some way). I just look like a woman, though. Just let me get too close to a woman in public, and I’ll automatically be slotted as lesbian; because most people still don’t know about the nuances of the LGBTQIA+ communities. Some may even take any apparent gender difference to be proof of a preference where it comes to who I love. Because why would there be a gender difference if it didn’t have to do with sex. Or something.

In the same way as everyone has to be a “man” or “woman”, everyone has to be “gay” or “straight”. And some people’s ideas of gender boil down to, “like me,” or, “not like me,” which…is worse.

In my reality, though…I find it hard to deal with being in a community where no one else has seriously questioned their gender. I don’t know what it’s like to, “fit in.” Without trying. The closest I’ve come is gender-nonbinary community, but even there, it’s fairly obvious that…well, we’re not obvious. I’m not obvious. And I don’t have any obligation to be.

My reality is much messier than any definition could hold, but you know what that means? It means I’m being authentic to myself. The issue is, then, regulating a channel through which I can contact and interact with the outside world, and I’m not sure how to do that without compromising my identity.

personal, philosophy, psychology, self care, spirituality

Reclusiveness?

Today, I didn’t go to work. It was intentional. Unfortunately, the vast majority of today was spent asleep. That…may have been a good thing, if I’m looking at keeping up my immunity. However, it did feel like time wasted (especially as I was called at least three times yesterday and this morning, to pick up an additional position).

I’m getting better at laying out my future Substitute positions. Last night I figured out when and where I’d work for the next two weeks, though I expect to be called in for more. As it stands, though, I can predict the minimum amount I’ll be paid — at least, unless I get sick. I’m starting to get concerned about the latter. I have a hint of throat irritation, though in the scheme of things, it’s nothing. What it means is that I need to continue to eat, drink water (especially), and rest. Some Zinc and Vitamin C probably wouldn’t hurt, either.

Over the past week, the weather has changed from Fall to Winter, rather dramatically. Of course, it isn’t quite Winter, yet: though I have always said that it would make sense for the solstice to mark the midpoint of Winter, rather than the beginning. But I can’t really change the Gregorian Calendar by myself.

Last night, I did lay out a number of things to do today, but to be honest, most of what I’ve been doing is eating and sleeping. I’m pretty sure it’s because it’s what I’ve needed to do…considering that one of us is already sick. There are a lot of things I could be reading: in particular, I bought a number of books on Reader’s Advisory which would help me out with work. I am concerned, though, about my vision, particularly when I’m looking at digital displays (e-books): if I read for too long, my vision blurs and doubles, and I can’t really get it to un-blur. I usually end up sleeping it off. It’s a bit disconcerting.

There is that 20-20-20 rule, where every 20 minutes you focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds, but in an interior environment, I do have to get up and find something that far away — like looking down a hallway. Generally, where I read, I don’t have anything that’s actually 20 feet away for me to focus on. It’s also extremely easy for me to lose track of time while I’m reading. 20-20-20 is easy when I’m reading something I don’t want to be reading, as it breaks up my reading time into short bursts. But when I’m actually absorbed; when the writing is actually good; it can be a bit difficult.

But if it will make it so that I can read for more than a couple of hours at a time, it will be worth it.

I’ve been intending to write in here over the past several days, but it has been a bit of a challenge, as I’ve also been questioning the use of sharing my inner thoughts with others. The difference between the way I feel now and the way I’ve felt before likely has to do with the fact that I’m more socially engaged on a daily basis.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but I have had a tendency to not have a lot of real-life friends. However, with the new job, I’m dealing with people almost constantly, including co-workers, patrons, and more distant colleagues. When I’m not at work, I have my family. It’s alleviated some of the need to be social.

On top of that, there are some upshots to communicating in ways that aren’t…you know, publicly recorded.

What I have been doing is writing by hand, but I’ve also been watching my blog languish. It’s just one of those things where, if I don’t see myself putting out some form of generativity or creativity, I get…well, a little sad. Since I’ve been blogging for over a decade at this point, I have a tendency to look online for evidence of my own existence.

The major issue I’m dealing with is anonymity, the lack of it; or possibly entering into a phase of my life where discretion matters. Either this, or I’m just experienced enough now to do things differently than I did as a youth. I knew the time at which I would know better, was coming. I’m just not sure now, at what time it’s going to actually fully kick in.

There is, that is, the question of what to do when you know that actions can elicit consequences, positive, negative, or neutral. As a youth, a person has the excuse of not knowing better. As an adult, one actually knows that they should know better, because they’ve made enough mistakes as a youth. And it helps when we can leave those mistakes behind.

In an era when we’re all free to publicly surveil ourselves and each other, however, I don’t know to what extent that is possible. Nor do I actually know to what extent it ever will be possible again, in my own lifetime.

So the thing about writing…is that it displays some of the innermost parts of one’s own sense of self, and experience of life, to others. Of course, some of this is by choice; a lot of it is unconscious. But it seems that to participate in public life, it’s required to show others a bit of who one is. While it is granted that in my later years of experience, this has been more positive than not — the earlier years were fairly nasty.

As a child, I learned that the more others knew about my own identity, the more accurately they could target attacks directed at me. So I learned sometime as a pre-teen to hold back information and promulgate disinformation, so that when they attacked me, they were (from my perspective) attacking someone else. They didn’t really know who I was, and that made it clear.

I haven’t had to do that for a while. The major difficulty here is not knowing who you are, because you’re too busy throwing people off your trail to practice being yourself. It wasn’t until around my 35th year that I began to get a good grasp on who I actually was. That, in turn, required a lot of unraveling social constructs, learning about people different from myself, and realizing that one of my most salient identities was not a positive, culturally preexisting statement, but a negation of multiple other identities. Despite that, it also includes elements of what I am not: I don’t force myself to conform wholly to being or not being one thing, because those “things” ultimately don’t exist. I have the choice to believe in them or not; I choose not to.

And then, there is the point that pretty much no matter what happens, this is the life I’ve got now, maybe the only one I’ll ever get; and that I really shouldn’t have shame about who I have been or who I am. It’s a work-in-progress. There’s also the point that it isn’t like anyone else is perfect, either. It’s kind of a “human condition” sort of thing.

Earlier tonight, I started to get into more depth on what I’m referencing…but those thoughts aren’t fully formed yet, and I know from past experience that maybe I should wait and think on them, and in three to five years, they’ll be fully formed and available for discourse. Until then, my discussions are speculation, because my thoughts and experience are relatively incomplete.

As a note to my future self, though: these thoughts are including the possibility of being agender/asexual (thus why I have spent so much time on the Internet without my body or sound with me, to code my gender) and having an atheist tendency (though I do have my own, “spiritual,” or at least, “contemplative,” bent; my beliefs have been challenged recently by the specter of our species destroying all life on this planet). I don’t think I would go nihilist, but there is the question right now of what is happening in this country and globally, that brings into question the value (particularly, pragmatic) of “faith” as versus the vulnerabilities that are inborn in faith.

But that’s another question. And I don’t have it in me to answer it, right now.

personal

Gender shift.

For the first time in a long time, I woke up recently with cross-gender feelings. Since I was about 20, I have (or had) been considering gender reassignment to male. It’s been over 15 years since then. It was before I knew things were really more complicated than my being Female-to-Male transgender. (Over time, I’ve gotten to know more variations on gender identity than I knew of in early University.)

Normally these days, it’s more like I’ve been neither a man nor a woman, and happy that way. The option that has presented itself is to masculinize; and then still be, internally, neither a man nor a woman (though that is, honestly, not something I think I could do). I can put on “man” in my mindset, and though it throws other people off (the unprepared expect a “girl”, and my “man” mindset is pretty dark due to being constantly misgendered), it works, though it’s not good for my social adaptation. But it’s still also role-playing. I need to get beyond that.

I had been waiting to see what I would think of transition, while clear-headed (which I was definitely not, in my early 20’s). I don’t think I’m totally clear right now — the thoughts I’ve been having detract from that, largely in relation to not being taken seriously because I haven’t physically marked myself — but it’s notable that my gender identity did shift. That means that on some level, I’m still gender-fluid, and not stably non-binary (the latter of which, I had been hoping for: it makes things a lot easier to deal with).

I did do some writing before this entry on paper, so I got most of the extremely personal stuff out. I think I’m still processing things from relatively recent events, and somehow in my mind went back to the last time I was at a normal developmental place where it comes to intimate relationships. That was high school. (!) It was during that time and shortly thereafter that I felt I needed to be celibate to protect myself and others. It was just way too risky for me at that time to participate in growing in that manner.

This was in no way an issue for other students, though. Maybe I just saw the bigger picture.

It just feels safer to be gender-nonbinary and celibate than it is to obviously have an intimate relationship with someone of one’s own phenotype, or for a female to declare themselves a man (though I know I’m not a man, at this point, so this is moot). For that matter, though, it’s also tough to appear to be a man, and then be constantly challenged to, “live up to expectations,” when you know that you transitioned yourself into an even more vulnerable place than before you began.

Due to a number of factors, I’ve for a long time felt that I must be asexual. But what if that’s not the case? What If I’ve been practicing celibacy (voluntarily not indulging any sex drive) instead of being asexual (experiencing little to no sex drive)? If I need to know I’m recognized as myself and not my image, as a precursor to letting anyone get close to me — and I haven’t let anyone emotionally close enough to me to have the opportunity to get to know who I actually am (as versus what I look like) — that kind of precludes any opportunity for physical closeness.

Of course, with a lot of people, relations just stop at what I look like (assuming female = woman, woman = “girl”; implying all sorts of things about who I must be that I am not), regardless of whether I give them the opportunity to learn. It’s a reason (among many) I’ve broken up with people, before, though I’ve never had a romantic relationship that I was really, “into.”

The major thing I’m dealing with is the fact that I don’t know how to be any kind of woman in a romantic relationship. When I think of myself in a relationship, it’s in a masculine role, regardless of the sex or gender of the other person. (I would also add that I’m not attracted to any one sex or gender, so even though people often assume I’m lesbian, I don’t see this as the case — both because I don’t see myself as a woman, and because I’m not exclusively attracted to women. Most people don’t get that fine distinction, though.)

Some of the gender shift I experienced, is likely due to the fact that I’ve decided to stop waiting and hoping for a future incarnation where I have a fully-functioning male body. This life is all that’s guaranteed to me, that is, and I’m living for now, now; rather than for a hypothetical future. Earlier on, as a young adult, I was leaning back on the Buddhism and hoping that a next life would be more fortunate, but I’ve come to realize that, should Buddhism be true, it’s a relatively dark view of the world. For me, in my interpretation.

It’s compounded with knowledge that we’re in the middle of a mass extinction. I don’t really want to choose to believe that I’ll be reborn for eras as a cockroach on an overheating planet because we’ve interfered with the ecosystem so much that the only things that can survive are “less desirable” rebirths. (Although cockroaches do tend to look happy a lot of the time.)

At the same time…what I can do with testosterone to alter my form, is basically not what I’m looking for. It’s just not. I would rather be muscular and still appear female, than look male and be losing my hair and have to deal with (more) acne and (more) facial hair maintenance and (more) body hair and arteriosclerosis and a pot belly, etc. And that’s without what I actually want, which is to be larger than I am and stronger. I basically want to be fully physically male, which isn’t going to happen.

It would be more worth my while to trim down where it comes to my fat, and bulk up where it comes to muscle. Especially as I have no desire for surgery. To tell the truth, I have no desire to inject myself with hormones every week or two for the rest of my life, either.

The issue is not wanting to be considered a, “girl,” on sight; and also for people important to me not to be blinded by my appearance and the things stereotypically associated with that appearance. When those things blind others to who I actually am, there’s a problem. The problem, however, I don’t see as sourced in me: I see it as sourced in society, which is (or was, when I was new to the scene) apparently the main thing differentiating me from a mainstream “transgender” person. It’s the major reason I have not requested a testosterone prescription. The problem is not mine. It’s a systemic problem embedded in the fabric of society, and I just happen to lie at one of the pain points.

On the upshot, I have been presenting a strong “aura” (for lack of a better term) recently, which I don’t see as gendered (though it’s still apparent that I’m female). It’s actually good this way. I don’t mind people seeing me as female, as long as they know that my sex doesn’t determine my gender. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for the majority of society, still; and particularly in formal communications, there is no universally accepted, accessible way to address someone without assuming their gender (or lack of gender). The best thing to do is ask, but do you ask everyone? For some people, it isn’t an easy question to answer, or may feel intrusive (I know). It’s easy, that is, to default to the assumed gender; but it amounts to coming out to the questioner, if the answer is anything different.

The thing I’ve got to be better at is being able to…you know, not intentionally hold back information that interferes with smooth functioning. Of course, there’s a scale here, where at one end I accept and reflect what is expected because it makes social interaction happen more easily; and at the other end, I basically assert who I am regardless of others’ feelings or opinions about it. I may be better off at that latter end, but it’s been a new thing to be accepted on sight. It’s something that I had come not to expect, until I got my first job and realized that people — on the whole — intend to be decent. It’s very different from either school or the Internet.

It is possible to present as masculine for me, still — even though solidly into my “adult” years, now, I’ll need to lose weight if I want to wear clothing made for men. (Aging has come with curves by default.) Right now I’m wearing what fits, and it’s working. It doesn’t say much about my gender, but I’m not sure I should even deal with trying to express my gender through store-bought clothing. I mean, finding something that fits and looks all right and covers my body, is good enough.

And now that I’ve written all that out, I feel better. It’s tiring to get blindsided by these things so often, though in all honesty, it’s been quite a while since I shifted so strongly. Possibly relevant is that in a dream preceding that morning, I saw myself as male…but I was a vampire at an Otherkin convention.

Yes, I know. ;)

No, I’m not a vampire.

;)

jewelry, personal, psychology

Recap, and envisioning my future self.

Okay, so…that bit of time when I was up until after midnight this last Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning, and had to wake early Wednesday? I’m still feeling the aftereffects. (Of course, it is only Thursday. The days seem to be going slower for me, recently.)

I fell asleep by accident at 8 PM last night (Wednesday), then woke up at 3:30 AM (today, Thursday) from the local fox screaming in the backyard. (It’s probably a girl; we read that vixens scream to attract mates.) At that time, I realized I had missed my 9 PM medication…by 6.5 hours…and got up to take it. I also had to eat a little bit to avoid becoming sick from the meds — plantain chips. (It must have worked, as I didn’t get nauseous, and I wasn’t nauseous when I woke up.)

Then I brushed my teeth and got back in bed, to wake up at 9 AM for the live meeting of my current course. That was relatively difficult to get through; I went back to bed at 9:50 after it ended, skipping produce shopping for today.

So…I think that will have to wait until tomorrow, to avoid being on the road during rush hour. We did go out, though I basically had to eat two meals to stay up. The only way I am staying up right now is that I drank a caffeinated soda. I’m also eating some chocolate, which is likely not a coincidence.

I still haven’t written about last weekend, though…I wonder if I wrote anything by hand? I know I did, some. Any names mentioned here would have to be altered or omitted for confidentiality reasons…but basically, my dad’s cousin had a family gathering, and I got to meet family whom I had met maybe once before. There’s a lot of history that precedes me here; some that precedes my father; it’s not proper for the blog, but whose family history is…?

In any case, it was nice to meet people, though I kind of wish I had been more up to the task of being social. Because I’m a shy person by nature, I did do a little tatting at brunch to withdraw a bit. I am amazed at how many people know what tatting is! It’s sweet when they find you and recognize what you’re doing. <3

I’m also starting to really love tatting, or at least the fact that it’s extremely portable, and calming. I find that I can listen and be aware of my environment at the same time as I’m paying attention to what my hands are doing. Having my attention nominally on my handwork, though…it means that I’m not expected to talk.

I guess it’s kind of like the smartphone in the hands of the kid sitting next to me; it gives the impression that one is occupied, though I find that tatting doesn’t take up as much cognitive attention (as versus fine motor attention) as the phone does. I gave him some visual cues to signal that I could talk, but he was absorbed in his phone. I assumed that he didn’t want to talk as much or moreso than myself, so I left him alone.

So…after that, we headed off to Monterey. I still have most of a bag of candies from there (okay, about 60% now)…it’s kind of hard to visit Monterey and not come home with salt water taffy. The time we spent down there, we were with one of my aunts. It was nice to talk with her one-on-one, though I wish I had said more than I did. I just happen to be a listening kind of person, I guess.

Also, we visited the aquarium, which was interesting and cute. There were two high points for me: one were the birds (including the aviary [where I saw someone unsuccessfully try to entice a Snowy Plover into his hand: the plover just looked at him, about eight inches out of reach] and the Pigeon Guillemots in a separate exhibit); the other was the diving beetle exhibit!

Okay, so the two Pigeon Guillemots whom we saw in an exhibit were playing with the people looking at them by acting cute (trying to swim up to us, even though the glass obviously blocked them). I’m thinking they had learned that if they interacted with people (even people behind glass), they could get us to do things. :) They went away when I looked up to try and figure out what they were. I think they thought I was signaling disinterest (they couldn’t see the sign I was looking at), though I was really just a little embarrassed by how cute they were (and that I couldn’t give them any fish).

The diving beetles, though…that was just amazing. It was crazy seeing all the little beetles swimming around underwater! They have two paddle-like legs, and a bubble of air under their shells, and they just…swim. It’s amazing. I’ve never seen diving beetles before! (They were at the end of the Viva Baja exhibit.)

So…the places we stayed were also really nice, although I think there was some covert racial bias we encountered outside of the hotels. It’s hard to tell if it was that, or just a couple of instances of poor service.

So I don’t forget myself, I should mention that I visited a gallery/boutique on Cannery Row where I was able to purchase a black ceramic ring with a metallic polish. It reminds me very much of a hematite ring I had (and loved) in high school, and kept until it finally got a stress fracture. I found out later that hematite isn’t the greatest material for rings, as rings have to be hard-wearing, and hematite is vulnerable to stress fractures from rapid temperature changes, and also to fractures from shock (say, by putting one’s hand down on a table).

It doesn’t take a lot to crack hematite. It reminds me of another stone, fluorite, though fluorite is orders of magnitude more fragile than hematite (I’ve chipped it just by trying to bend a wire I’ve strung it onto). Opal is another one of those stones that is extremely easy to damage…it has acquired a reputation for bad luck because it’s so difficult to set.

Anyhow, the ring itself is really nice. The ceramic itself is a very hard, strong, and durable ceramic called a, “gem ceramic,” made from zircon. The last time I wore it to work, I found a shiny black chip trapped under the ring, and realized upon examining the ring for damage that the chip had to have come off of the paint from the shelving cart I had been handling.

I was just really amazed at the fact that my purchase decision was so easy — in lieu of getting a graduation ring, I got this. It has, however, also made me want to expand my earlobe piercings again. I stopped and let my piercings shrink down because I wasn’t sure I would want to go to large-gauge jewelry. However, at this point…this ring really matches the aesthetic I was going for. I’ve also worn plenty of my own jewelry, and I think it’s really okay that I wear jewelry which is different from the jewelry that I make. It’s a style decision.

Right now, I’m thinking that I’m okay with going up to 10 gauge, and with purchasing earrings at that size (as versus making them). Of course, at the moment, I’m closer to 20 gauge — standard earwire girth. It will take months to safely expand my piercings again, but I’m up to it. When I originally got pierced, it was at 14 gauge, I was young, and I told myself that I wouldn’t go up in gauge until I was very sure I wanted to.

Hey, it’s been about 15 years, and I’m pretty sure I’m good with it, now! Also, if I’m going to be a Librarian or Information Professional, I pretty much don’t have to worry about bias instigated by my jewelry. A lot of younger people wear this style, though it started (here, at least) with Generation X. I’m from the generation that followed.

So recently…I’ve been able to get more of a handle on dealing with my own style. For instance…I’ve decided to keep my hair long, and to wear it with its natural curl. I’ve found that if I clip my hair back, it puts less strain on my scalp than it does when I wear my hair pulled back. We have also been visiting some beauty supply stores, and I’ve found a type of shampoo and conditioner (by “Shea Moisture”) that is gentle enough to use frequently. It does seem to be a very good thing for me to use sulfate-free shampoo.

I do need to trim my ends, but I also found a styling aid that makes it much easier to comb. I’m considering — once I get my sleep stuff under control — taking a shower in the morning and washing my hair every day or two, so that I can wear it long and curly, without having slept on it first. I also finally have a decent hair dryer which I can use to target my roots, so I don’t get too cold, and so that I can avoid mildew growth. Hair care is the major reason for me to cut my hair short: I have a type of hair that is very high-maintenance (thick, wavy, and curly), and in the past, I didn’t want to be burdened with it. However, now I know that having it long is a choice, not a requirement.

I also now have enough makeup to practice, as well; though I need to wash my powder brush. There’s that, and the fact that I have to keep my body hair trimmed, if I want to wear sleeveless shirts and dresses. Then there’s the exercise which I want to get back to so that I can tighten my body up again and regain some leanness and hypertrophy (and energy). I really don’t have anything against being larger; it’s just the belly and the health drawbacks (and the specter of the weight gain from my medications not ceasing) that are causing me to work on myself.

I almost can’t believe how much identifying (and finding a community) as gender-nonbinary has freed up so much of my energy, and ceased so much of my angst about conforming or not conforming to standards as either a man or a woman. It’s enabled me to just release it, instead of being trapped in a two-gender dialogue between compulsory femininity and rebellion against compulsory femininity.

I used to hear trans* men say similar things (a great sense of freed-up energy and sense of well-being) about their lives after transition to male, though (which made me want to transition, before I realized I wasn’t them; thus, their solution wouldn’t work for me), so I want to emphasize that the happiness, liberation, and sense of calm comes with finding your authentic self, whoever you are, and finding your own way to engage with the world, over all the noise that tells you that you shouldn’t be you. It has nothing to do with the specific identity of the point you find to be happy at.

For me, getting to this point has had to do with finding what makes me happy, and negotiating out a way to do that, with the world — regardless of others’ opinions of whether or not what I’m doing is, “correct,” (against what standard?) or whether I’m being, “trans enough” — because, cis and trans are relative and culturally contextual terms. In my case, I know I’m going to stand out (firstly, because of my race), no matter what I do, and regardless of whether I want to. My thought is that I might as well aim to become a person I am proud to be: my authentic self; and then let things play out as they will. No regrets.

personal, self care

Hygiene, exercise, pride

I have meant to write in for the past couple of days, though in practicality, most of yesterday — after an emergency meeting and clothes and produce shopping — was lost to sleep. I still haven’t really begun this next section of my coursework, on Library of Congress Classification (LCC; a form of classification used mainly in Academic [College and University] Libraries)…but on the upshot, I’ve been taking care of myself better, now that the classes don’t hold my future on the line. That really is the silver lining to this.

Well…”silver lining.” These classes are optional. I shouldn’t stress myself out too much over them…especially since right now I’m seeing work in a Public Library as more within reach (as versus Academic). Or maybe I’m just saying that because learning LCC is HARD. The class I’m in puts it much more within reach than I would be on my own, but it still requires neuron growth. Neuron growth can be intimidating and uncomfortable, especially at the beginning of the process.

Instead of staying home to work on this, I went to the gym. I’m really glad I did. I see now why my prescribing doctor has wanted me to exercise: not only is it going to help me distinguish between “awake time” and “sleep time” (I was much more awake afterward than I would have been if I had stayed home to study), but I need to be getting activity in order to stop and reverse the weight gain caused by one of my medications. As well, the recent injury I’ve sustained is likely to be related to my current weight as versus the strength of my ligaments and tendons.

Today, then, I started with cardio and moved on to lunges and squats (a bit gentle, as I’m still healing), then to abs, and then I started spot-training my delts (shoulders), which was the only machine work I did today (I can lift 20 lbs. overhead; my deltoids are among the weakest muscles on me). I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve realized that it’s really OK for me to want to be buff again. It’s something I was discouraged from, a while back, and I’ve gotten to the point of realizing that the person who was discouraging me really had his own things going on that had nothing to do with me. There’s more to the story, of course, but not so much for public consumption.

Later that day, I went with someone to a makeup store, and got a foundation — which helps me feel better about my skin. Right before dinner, I took a shower and washed my hair (from the gym), and did a deep scrub on my face, followed up with an awesome moisturizer. That…is going a lot better, as well. I’ve realized how attractive it is to work out and be clean at the same time, and to maintain my self-care even when I don’t have to. It isn’t about other people, after all; it’s about me, and it’s becoming about how much I value myself.

That also means that I don’t have to be conventionally, “beautiful.” I can do what I want to, when and in the way that I want to.

So…I’m introducing myself to (or being introduced to) the concept of taking pride in my personal hygiene. I think it’s probably because I’ve recovered enough, and have enough spare time, to do more than the minimum to get by. I kind of wonder what it’s like to live with me while I really — for example — need a shower; and I don’t want to make my family have to tolerate that anymore. I want to be a person who is not a chore to be around, even with the people closest to me.

That much is said; more could be said about getting ready to face the day (basic hygiene — brushing teeth, washing face, showering, using deodorant) even when I’m not planning to go out of the house — or brushing and flossing, even when I know I don’t have to. People with my condition (separate of being gender-nonbinary) tend to have problems with self-care, and I am intending at this moment to break that stereotype. Of course, I haven’t yet started the routine…but I think it will be OK.

I want to use makeup again. And I’ve realized, that’s also OK.

Since school has ended…I’ve had the time and energy to put into things like being more social, and caring for my dwelling and my personal care. I did go to a meeting recently…expressly to be social, because outside of online and work and family, I don’t have much of a social life. That meeting is easier than most to deal with, because we basically all understand each other.

I actually had a kind of profound realization that I’m attracted to people who exhibit an unusual combination of gendered traits…and that there are people who very naturally exhibit (and aspire to) those mixtures. It’s possible that I haven’t had an intimate relationship (that I was involved in) for a very long time, because I am attracted to certain people, who both understand me, and whom…well, whom I can appreciate.

It’s different, that is, to be with someone who has no experience having a gender they are not seen to embody, as versus someone who can actually let me be me, and who can understand that what I look like doesn’t determine who I am; that even if others find my voice associated with women, that doesn’t mean I have to agree. Who understands that I don’t have to see myself as a man or a woman (or “boy” or “girl”) in order to exist, and to be worthy of respect and love. Actual love, not just being an object of fascination or possession or abuse.

Have I gone into this on this blog, before? I don’t think I have…