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Thursday, April 21, 2016

People who influence your life

I haven't posted to this blog in a very long time, but there really isn't much in the way of my spouse's transition or my own feelings about it to report that hasn't been said before.  It's kind of just going on day to day as a normal life, like any other married couple, right? :)  This in-between stage is just a bit boring to be honest. Do we have some interesting or different issues than other married couples?  Sure, but really it's not all that different once you're settled into the day to day living and everyone in your lives has become accustomed to the situation.  Once surgery is more imminent, I'm sure I will have more to talk about.

I've been reflecting a great deal in the past few months/weeks/days about how various people come in and out of all of our lives.  I wrote this random thought last night: "Everyone who enters your life is like an actor in a play (or movie).  Every character has their part.  Length of time has nothing to do with importance.  Some are a part for a short time and have a huge impact.  Some stay for a long time but have subtle impact that you don't realize until later.  Even if you don't notice the impact of people in the moment, don't fret...if they didn't matter, it doesn't matter.  If it mattered, you will notice when you need to."

What I see in that statement is that everything in life eventually works out.  No matter what the feeling is in a particular moment,  I believe things will work out the way they're supposed to.  The people you need will find you.  That, in turn, makes me think about what we "need."  Do we need to be liked?  Do we need to be loved?  Do we need to be disliked or hated?  Do we need to have people in our lives who have the type of sickening optimism that makes me want to slap them and tell them that they're dulusional?  Do we need people who have an overwhelming negativity that drives us away?  Do we need to be able to accept new people?  Do we need to lose people?  Do we need to be made fun of?  Do we need to make fun of people?  Do we need to feel connected in some way to the human race?

I say yes to all of the above.  Is it all fun?  No, but I do feel that it all helps us grow as people and be able to empathize/sympathize with others in a way that perhaps we never could had we not experienced some particular thing.  That empathy/sympathy takes patience, understanding and above all...listening to not only what people are saying but paying attention to the tone and body language when they say it.  Every person we encounter reveals our own strengths and weaknesses.  How we handle others and their issues tells a lot about what we've learned in our lives, our choices, and our own self-esteem.  

I'm particularly reflective today because tomorrow is the anniversary of my father's death.  I'm incredibly sad and miss him so much, but right now I'm not overwhelmingly devastated like I had been in the past.  His death sent me into the worst depression of my life.  I did survive it though, and am stronger for having lived through that.  I can finally think about the good things, be grateful for the time we had and smile when I remember him.  That took a long time.

I had grown accustomed to losing people in my life growing up in the military.  It was just a part of life.  People come and they go.  Living in a place now where people simply stay forever, it's much tougher on the people I know who never left this area.  I don't blame them, they didn't have to get used to it.  I'm grateful that I had that kind of experience, even though it hurt immensely at the time.

Departures of people don't always mean it's the end of a relationship.  You never know who comes back into your life and for what reasons.  Life is funny that way.  Knowing that fact at an early age, that relationships are not always permanent have had both positive and negative effects on me.  It has made me more cautious to allow people truly into my heart too soon, which can be off-putting to those who haven't gotten to know me.  It has also has allowed me to (for the most part) be able to not cling to people who are moving on without me.  Are there exceptions to that?  Sure, I'm not perfect.  

Sometimes I wish some people could change or fit into my mold of what I need in my life.  That isn't reality.  I've come to learn, and finally starting to actually accept, that the choices people make in their lives don't necessarily reflect how they feel about me.  Just because I wish someone could (or would) change something that hurts me immensely and they choose not to doesn't mean that their choice is a reflection of their feelings about me.  Everyone has their own issues/demons/feelings/beliefs that guide them.  We all hurt or help others with our actions whether that is our intention or not.

I think about it like this...if someone would be devastated, hurt, angry, or sad because I enjoy eating bacon...well, that doesn't mean that I don't care about them if I eat the bacon.  Bacon is delicious, and I don't think I could give that up for anyone.  If that upsets them, that's their problem.  I might not talk to them about eating the bacon, and would ask them to refrain from talking about the issue because it would be upsetting for both of us.  I'm not saying all of our issues are as simple as that...I'm just saying, if someone gives me an ultimatum between them and bacon....bacon will probably win because that person doesn't really understand me at all.  :)

I've had a few friends lately who have had to deal with significant loss and stressful life situations.  I try to first listen to their feelings, but when appropriate I will attempt to impart a bit of wisdom from my life.  What I have gone through, especially with a spouse who is transgendered, has given me more strength and wisdom than I thought possible.

I won't say that having a transgendered spouse is what I imagined in my life or that it is easy.  I would say that it has forced me to face myself, my life, the people who come in and out of my life, and my feelings with a much deeper perspective and understanding that I ever imagined I was capable of.  My spouse has her moments of guilt that maybe she has hurt my life in some way.  I keep telling her that our relationship, her, me, and everyone involved in our lives has benefited from her transition.  It wasn't easy, but what great life-lesson is easy?  

I've learned more from the hardships, hurts, my own mistakes and the mistakes of others than I have from joy.  Joy is easy.  In my opinion, harship molds the strongest and bravest character a person could hope to find.  Joy is what comes in after the hardships to remind you why you put up with the difficulties in life.  It's all about balance.

Right now I am grateful for the balance of life.  I don't enjoy the hardships, but I can finally understand that something difficult that is happening in the moment is a teaching moment that I will most likely benefit from in the future.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Holidays and Reflection

Gosh, it's been a long time since I've posted anything.  I suppose that is a good sign?  I don't feel such anxiety about my spouse and what she is going through.  I got a new job that has changed my whole attitude.  I have been diving deep into self-reflection. Even if it's messy at times learning how to feel things again, it's worth it.

What is it about the holidays that tends to toy with emotions so much?  It is supposed to be a time of year to sit back and reflect on the past year, appreciate loved ones and connect with people in the spirit of appreciation and love.  It can also be a type of funhouse mirror that distorts perception, exaggerates feelings and amplifies disappointments with ourselves and others.  

What struck me this year is that my family has become more and more distant in the past 5 years.  Since my father passed away, it just isn't quite the same at the major holidays.  As a family, we don't make as much effort or know how to be happy in the times we are supposed to feel the greatest bond.  I skipped spending time with my sisters and their families at Thanksgiving and there is no plan at the moment to get together for Christmas.  I am conflicted about this because there is a part of me that is relieved not to have the stress of attempting to "put on a good show" for the sake of the holidays when I'm missing my dad. I also miss my family and hate the fact that I don't feel as comfortable with them as I used to.  

I am not quite sure how to interact with my family at times.  We don't necessarily share our feelings on a deep and honest level.  I tend to avoid conflict and am not very direct about my feelings because I don't want to burden them if they are possibly feeling badly too.  I sense that we all feel disconnected and none of us know how to fix it.  I don't think it's impossible to get back to a place where my family and I can be happy and present with each other in moments where we feel close again, but I don't know that any of us really knows how to start.

On the flip side, my spouse's family seems to be getting to a better place with acceptance of each other.  Not just accepting my spouse, but I feel like each of them have been more open and honest about themselves.  It's been nice to see the slow transformation and openness of their feelings about everything in their lives.

I have been extremely grateful for friends lately.  I go back and forth on how much I communicate with my friends, but every time I connect with them, I'm happy that I did.  The reason I may stop communication at times isn't because of them, still my own reluctance to let anyone in on my feelings.  I'm trying really hard not to isolate, but it's something I'm so used to it can be difficult at times to reach out to anyone.  Friends are the family you choose.  They have been the people I can count on and rely on for support that sometimes family cannot give because of their deep ties to the past.  Friends don't necessarily have the past perceptions family may have.  Friends can sometimes accept the changes a person makes better than family can.

My new job has brought out a lot of confidence in myself.  I finally have some of the validation that I am good at my job, I am appreciated, and I can make a difference.  I knew a lot of that deep down, but so many years of dealing with a boss who has difficulty accepting the knowledge or experience of others, trusting others or trusting themselves really took a toll on me.  The "people-pleaser" in me felt like a failure, even though I did actually feel confident about my abilities.  I'm working on that aspect of myself, needing the validation from others, but it does feel good to be recognized for my accomplishments over the years that have led me to have the knowledge and capabilities I have now.

There is not much new in the way of the transition with my spouse.  She's still living her "full-time" life and becoming more and more accepted by everyone.  We are both very much looking forward to the future and the possiblity of her surgery.  I would love for her to finally get the feeling of being her true, complete self.  I don't necessarily thing the actual surgery will change much between us, but I'm looking forward to finding out how it changes her self-esteem and self-confidence.  All that is standing in our way at the moment is the out-of -pocket costs of the surgery.  Most is covered by insurance, but it is not a cheap surgery, so we still need to save up to make that happen.

We have been working on being in an open relationship.  Right now, it is all on my side...the openness.  I feel a bit guilty about it at times, but also understand that until she has the body she was "supposed" to have, she doesn't feel comfortable exploring her own sexuality.  I have realized that my own sexuality is a part of myself I'm not ashamed of and actually like.  I've gotten to express that part of myself and it has helped me not only deal with my past, but has helped in the communication within our marriage about each of our needs.  

We've discussed the fact that just because one of us may not be able to provide every single thing the other needs, it doesn't mean we don't love and support one another.  As long as there is honesty about what is happening, it is possible that the marriage can survive.  I know that is very controversial and upsetting to a lot of couples.  That's okay, everyone needs to do what is right for them and I am not saying this is the right decision for every couple.  That is up to each couple.  The reality of our situation, however, doesn't allow me to get everything I need and may not provide everything she may need in the future.  What we do know is how much we love each other and what we have in our relationship, so it is our choice.

So, that's where we're at now.  We're pretty close to the new year and even if there are still some questions, room for self-improvement, or areas we need to work on as a couple, I feel pretty fantastic about the upcoming year.  I wish everyone a good reflection of the past year and a positive attitude about what can be accomplished in the new year.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Don't we want the best for our partners?

It's been quite awhile since I have posted anything.  Lots of things happening with me personally, but also things that I've been thinking about coming up for my spouse as well.  Gosh, things have been so confusing at times.

For my spouse, it's coming up on a year of the "full time" status, so surgery is the next step.  I'm so excited for her that she will finally match the body she has always wanted.  There are a few hiccups around that area though.

Insurance only pays for a portion of surgery, so the remainder is our repsonsibility.  For her, she wants to keep the cost of the surgery, travel, and recovery expenses to a minimum.  I get angry about that.  I do not want her, for any reason, to skimp on any part of surgery.  I want her to have the best possible surgery available.  I want her to have a surgeon who understands what it feels like to have gone through this particular experience.

I understand that she wants to consider our financial situation, the impact of the surgery on what we would owe, etc, but I got very angry with her thinking about trying to keep things cheap because of me or us.  I don't think that is unreasonable.  She would not want me to get anything other than the best treatment if I had some ailment that was impeding my quaility of life, why should I want less for her?  I want to know that the surgery is the best possible service and follow-up care available.  I don't care the cost of it.  I want nothing but the best possible outcome for so many reasons.

What spouse would want anything but the best surgery for the person they are married to?  Why wouldn't I want her to have a surgeon who has experienced the exact surgery, but who also can perform it so wonderfully with great follow-up care?

I'm trying to be open-minded about all possible surgeons, but I have done a ton of research and want the very best for her.  If anyone has suggestions, recommendations, or experiences to share, I would love to hear feedback about where the best possible facility would be to have the surgery done.

On other notes...I have gone through some personal revalations, trials/tribulations, etc.  It's so hard to think about the past and what has been such an impact on your life.  Especially when it comes to sex. It took me a very long time to even say the words that I was a victim of "sexual abuse."  I have spoken about this before.  What tripped me up most recently is my counselor suggesting that I write  letter to "the guy" as myself at the age it happened.  I had written angry letters before as my adult self, but not as the vulnerable young person I was when it happened.

Curiously, I had a very strange reaction to attempting to put myself in the frame of mind when I was at the age I was back then.  I started panicking, got scared, got very dark within myself.  I couldn't write anything.  I drank a lot instead.  I numbed it.  I cried.  I got angry.  I didn't know what to do.  I got aa bit angry with the counselor for even suggesting what she  did, writing the letter.

I'm not sure what exactly I'm supposed to be feeling right now, but it's terribly confusing.  Maybe I'm supposed to be dealing with the past, maybe I'm supposed to be contemplating the future, but either way, it feels so uncomfortable that I'm not sure what to do with these feelings.

How do you get over the past and move on???

My spouse wants me to deal with my past, I want her to deal realistically with her future.  How do we come to good compromises?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Can a Polyamorous Marriage Work?

I haven't posted in quite awhile, there has been a lot going on with self-discovery, thinking about my relationships, thinking about my wants and needs, and just evaluating where I'm at and where I want to be.  Part of that is returning to counseling, part of it is the medication, but I think most of it is the communication I've had with my spouse.  We have decided to become a Polyamorous couple now.  I never thought that was something we could actually consider, but sometimes events occur and are a catalyst for the inevitable. 

Going back to counseling has been a wonderful thing for me.  I thought I had been given the proper tools though books or insight (or perhaps just stubbornness) to figure things out myself without having to go to counseling again.  I was wrong.  I forgot what it was like to have someone who could listen objectively and ask seemingly simple, but very tough questions.  I think we forget sometimes to take a step back and ask the simple questions.  What do YOU want.  How does that make YOU feel.  Why do you think YOU reacted that way?  I had forgotten about myself.  I spoke about it in a previous post, but it came crashing down on me that I had forgotten about myself and my needs.  I was ignoring some pretty serious issues that were causing tension in my marriage and other relationships.

I had felt for a long time that I couldn't, or shouldn't, say anything that might upset my spouse because I thought it might set her back in her progress of finding her true self during her transition.  Maybe it was the right thing to do, maybe not.  What happened was that there were so many feelings bottled up inside me that we became more and more distant with each other.  We pretended things were okay, but we didn't really talk about it.  It began to build resentment and anger on both our parts that things were getting strained, but we continued not talking about it.  If we pretended things were okay, maybe they would become okay again, right?

We had discussed the idea of open marriage on a few occasions, which was uncomfortable for both of us.  I didn't want to need anything from anyone other than her.  She wanted to believe she could give me everything I need, even if I have historically been heterosexual.  The two ideas simply don't mesh.  I have physical needs as a woman. My spouse had started opening up and things in the bedroom were vastly better than before, but it still isn't the same as being with a man.  As much as I have enjoyed our intimacy since the legal name and gender change, I wanted to be lusted after and needed by someone for sexual fulfillment.  I wanted to be wanted.  A situation was presented to me that was the catalyst to a major change in our marriage.   I saw someone look at me with that look of lust.  I responded to the looks and it stirred things in me that I forgot existed.  

I didn't know how to talk to her about my feelings except to just mention that I was being flirted with by someone and that it was flattering.  I saw the look in her eyes that she understood what I meant, but we still didn't really discuss it in depth right away.  At some point, I started feeling the pull of that desire and the feelings I'd been pushing down about my sexual needs and those desires came out in a discussion one night.  We talked about it and she gave in to the idea that I should be able to fulfill something once in awhile on the side.  I was doubtful that it would work, but a little excited at the prospect.  After our discussion where she gave me a "pass" to fulfill something she could no longer give me, she got very quiet the next day.  We discussed it the day after and it got very intense, with discussions that our marriage may not work out after all.  

I was devastated by the thought of my spouse not being willing to "bend the rule" of a traditional marriage...and very angry.  During the transition, I had been forced to think about and accept that my spouse would be changing to the opposite gender, try and reconcile that I am not a lesbian (bi-curious would be a better description) but still love my spouse and I was willing to try working on those issues to make our marriage work.  I was angry that I had done so much thinking about what I could accept from my spouse's gender change, what I would need to sacrifice and what that meant for our marriage...but the first sign of me needing something that made her uncomfortable felt like a deal breaker.  I asked her, "What did you really expect?  I'm not a lesbian.  I like sex with men."  It was a bit volitile because I let things out I hadn't expressed in the year and a half to two years she has been going through the transition process.  

I felt I deserved a piece of my life back too.  I felt I deserved some understanding that something I need might be uncomfortable for her, just as her transition was uncomfortable for me.  It wasn't that I didn't support her, but I just wanted her to think for a moment how this must be making me feel.  Yes, I knew she was confused when we first got together.  She also knew my stance that I will probably always need sex with a man.  I had to consider, from the very beginning of serious talks about transition, every scenario she might go through with her hormonal changes, desires, need to befriend women, possible sexual attractions, my role in supporting her with family and friends, etc.  I was angry she hadn't even considered what my position might be in the situation up to that point, or that if she had, we had never discussed it seriously.  I felt forgotten completely, like everything since the decision to go forward with transition revolved around her.  It wasn't totally her fault, I didn't let my needs be known, but I still wanted her to recognize what I might be going through too.

I thought a lot about what my drive was for being with a man again.  For me, it was about being desired and recapturing a youth I never really had.  I grew up too fast.  I was beholden my whole life to other people, especially when it came to sex and relationships.  That was before I met the person I married.  When I met my spouse, I found someone who fulfilled me in every way a relationship should...except sexually.  I was ashamed of what I wanted and she wasn't as experienced or kinky as I was.  I think I subconsciously chose to be with my spouse because it validated my own shame about what I like in a sexual way.  I didn't want to want the things I did, but the desire was there.

It's very confusing when your first sexual experience is "abusive."  That phrase, "sexual abuse" is still extremely difficult for me to say.  I was willing, I liked it...so it wasn't abusive, right?  I was far too young and the other person was a much older married man who took advantage of a young girl just seeking some kind of connection. It happened over the course of a few weeks, so I became quite confused about the whole situation.  That experience  and subsequent experiences impacted me in a way that might actually help explain my current situation.  It isn't healthy, it is just a fact.  I have completely detached my sexuality from my emotions.  I conditioned myself not to care about sexual acts because the first, and many after that, resulted in a deep shame within myself.  I was capable of breaking my moral standards and I had been used by many men... then discarded.  I had to shut my emotions out of sexual activity out of a sense of protecting myself from further heartbreak and shame about what I'd done. 

I finally realized that the problems my spouse and I had in the bedroom were not just her fault.  We couldn't connect on the same levels.  I couldn't connect emotionally, she couldn't connect physically.  We both had things to learn about ourselves, each other and how we work together as a couple.  I am able to be open to emotionally connecting with other women without me being involved.  She has been able to accept my need to physically connect with a man from time to time.  Neither of those things mean that we feel less for each other.  

Eventualy, I did end up sharing a few experiences with someone else, and it did fufill something I felt I was missing.  I was able to express a part of myself I had been hiding and was ashamed of.  I was able to re-claim something within myself that had plagued me for years.  I didn't have to feel so vulnerable to my sexuality, I could be in control of it and enjoy it without the shame that had haunted me for most of my life.  I could admit that I am a sexual person, and that doesn't mean there is something wrong with me.

The amazing thing is that I think this experience brought us closer together than ever.  It sounds weird, but it opened us both up to talking about things we never talked about before.  What we need, who we really are, where our life might be going.  Hard topics, but it was good for us to communicate in a loving and understanding way about what each of us was experiencing without anger or resentment.  I am excited to hear about her connections with others.  She isn't ready to hear about mine yet, but that's okay.  I have been honest about the few times I have indulged in what I have needed in a physical sense, but respect that she doesn't need to hear any details.  I think there is a part of her that feels more freedom that she can explore relationships with other people too without it being a threat to our marriage.  The key is the open communication.    

The whole situation and decision to become a Polyamorous couple was a very valuable lesson for us both.  My spouse was able to admit that there was a part of her that was angry or felt guilty that she couldn't provide everything I need.  I felt angry or guilty that I was not able to be the only person she was emotionally connected to.  I realized what I was really looking for with having a sexual connection with another person was to be desired by someone who wanted me to reciprocate.  Yes, I understand that there is a component of someone being trans* that inhibits their ability to allow someone to focus on their body, but that can leave a void in the relationship.  Human beings want to feel connection on some level.  Some of us need physical connections, some of us need emotional connections.  Neither is better or worse, more or less valuable to our well-being.  In my mind, to feel truly connected in either sense requires reciprocation.  

We are both very realistic people.  We don't know that a Polyamorous relationship can work forever.  It would be nice, but might not work in the long run.  We are both at a very good point within ourselves and with each other.  It's still a little awkward to discuss that we do have interests in other people, but in a way it's very freeing.  I'm hopeful that we can keep the core relationship of everyday living as it is, but be able to explore other sides of ourselves with other people at the same time.  If either of us found "that person" who fulfills all of our needs and desires and vice-versa, I think we would be happy for one another and we could part on good terms.  The realist in me says that it just isn't possible and being open to loving multiple people might be the best way to live a fulfilling life.  What a wonderful world it could be.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Keep on Keepin' On...

So, about another month since my last post.  I have to say, there has been a lot of self-reflection as well as reflection we have had as a couple since then.

I wrote last time about my depression and that I was getting back on meds.  Since then, things have opened up for me in a way they haven't in years.  Why do those of us who need these meds think that we can cope with life without them?  I suppose for myself, I thought my depression was mostly due to specific situations when I needed the additional help of medication.  Maybe that was true, maybe I was kidding myself.  Yes, I have triggers that make me more prone to the "super depression" that I feel, but I had to face the fact that I might just need them to keep my brain in line.

Since the last post, I have opened up to my spouse more than I ever have.  I have started to open up to other people too.  It's a bit scary at first, but what I've found is that the people I have struggled the most to connect with in the past are the people who I have started connecting with in a way I never have before.

What I have found is that the people who I have had the most conflict in my day to day life might be struggling with the same issues I am.  By that I mean that they might also be dealing with anxiety and depression.  The more I opened up about what I was going through, the more they opened up and started having more compassion for me and also revealing some of the same things about themselves.  It was really strange.  I really thought some of these people hated me, but what I realized is that we had such similar issues and maybe we fed off of the negativity of each other, possibly we were angry at what we recognized in each other.  By expressing my feelings and vulnerabilities, they seemed to react with genuine care that I didn't think they actually felt for me.  I found the same compassion for them in return.

I finally went back to my counselor a few weeks ago.  I didn't realize it had been about 5 years since I had been to counseling.  It helped me see how far I had come within myself and dealing with my co-dependence issues since I had last seen her.  Yes, I had made progress.  Yes, I did start revealing my feelings to people.  Yes, I had started recognizing patterns of behavior and started speaking up.  Just speaking to her about the things I had done since the last time I saw her made me realize that I really had been making progress over the past few years.  Sure, it's slow, but it's still progress.

One of the scariest things for me right now is actually feeling things.  Any feelings.  I wasn't able to express what I was feeling for a long time (before I got back on my meds) and there is a huge difference in what I feel now.  Starting meds again, the highs are so much higher, the low are so much lower.  When a person is in the midst of depression, it is so hard to explain to others the way you feel.  Basically, I felt numb to any type of feeling, good or bad.  It's confusing to get back to a place where you actually feel both the highs and lows of emotion.  That is one thing I'd like to stress to anyone dealing with someone who is going through depression.  It is confusing for everyone.  We don't know why we feel what we do any more that the people we love know what we're feeling.  Please just be patient and compassionate that we're trying to adjust.  

As much as I wish I could say that I understand or can be empathetic to what my spouse is going through and vice versa; none of us know the struggles other people have within their own minds.  We all have struggles.  I think what we have come to in our relationship is that neither of us will ever completely understand what the other is going through...but that's okay.  As long as we can really listen to one another and be compassionate and understanding, we are on the right path for a life-long relationship.

I was given an "assignment" to watch another TED Talks that dealt with vulnerability and happiness.  I watched it once, then asked my spouse to watch it with me.  She obliged and it opened up some great dialogue for us.  The central thesis was basically that in order to feel full joy and happiness, there needs to be a vulnerability of being hurt.  We need to be able to be open to all feelings, regardless of the outcome.  Then, and only then, we are able to feel the true joy and happiness we are longing for.  It's so scary to be vulnerable in that respect but without taking the risk, we won't be able to feel the full extent of our own feelings, nor anyone else's.  

I thank my counselor for opening my eyes (once again) to things that were right in front of me all along.  Fear of being hurt has closed me off to true joy.  I would like to let go of that fear in order to feel the joy, happiness and love I deserve.  No matter what happens in the future, I need to be able to feel and rejoice in the feelings I have at any moment in order to feel happy and fulfilled in life.  I have that right now within my spouse, my family, my friends.  I need to simply accept it and feel good about it.