Once again, I've gone far too long without an update.  Lots has happened in the last two and a half months.  Some good, some not so good.  First things first, I FINALLY got my own apartment.  It's so nice to have a place to call my own.  For the first week I was there, I slept on the floor, but it was my OWN floor, dang it!!  So that was alright.  Less than a week after I moved in, I got hit by a car.  I'm alright...don't worry.  I walked away with some damage to my elbow (which was more extensive than I thought at first) and a totaled bicycle.  It was a hit and run so I didn't get any information from the driver.  That was incredibly frustrating.  I am finally able to go back to work.  By the time I get back on the schedule at Raising Cane's I will have missed three weeks of work.  Talk about stress....how the hell am I going to pay the bills?!

This takes me to some more not so good stuff.  I was freaking out about my financial situation.  A whole lot. It sent me into a depression and made me feel like a completely different person.  The first month in the apartment is supposed to be a time of great rejoicing and all that jazz, but for me it was frightening.  I had no idea how I was going to keep a roof over my head or the lights on or the cell phone working.  So as soon as I felt like I could do some work without hurting myself too badly, I asked around for some jobs.

This brings me to some good stuff....really good stuff.  Yard work in June in Oklahoma is no fun.  Everyone knows that.  But it was something I had to do to pay the bills.  When you're raised by my parents and taught the lessons I was taught, you do what you need to do to make things work.  There wasn't a lazy bone in my body in June.  I was exhausted all the time.  Fortunately, a few people needed some stuff done around their houses and yards and junk.  It was a wonderful opportunity for me to work for what I needed.  In three jobs, I earned more than half my rent.  My last check from Cane's covered a little more, and my parents were able to help out with the rest.  Now that I had a roof over my head for thirty more days, it was time to figure out the rest of the bills.  I posted another reminder that I'm willing to work.  A few days after one of my jobs, I got a phone call from a friend at church.  There was an angel at the party I worked.  She and I got to talking after the guests left and we got to know each other a little better.  I asked her, jokingly, if I could have a job.  She said she lived too far away or she would have a job for me.  Back to the phone call...I started crying when my friend told me the angel had sent me a check.  The amount is more than enough to cover the electric and cell phone bills.  

I should also say this:  I have been looking for a second job since before I ever moved out.  I hadn't gotten so much as an interview.  After applying at more than forty places, I was getting extremely discouraged.  I've NEVER had a problem finding a job.  A part of me wonders if my transition didn't have something to do with it.  Some of the people I spoke with were extremely excited to hire me until after they found out my legal name.  I don't know if it was just a coincidence...I'm hoping they were excited to hire me and their bosses told them they didn't need any extra help.  That's what I'm hoping.  But a part of me still wonders....a lot.  

It's hard not to see the world through a transgender lens.  People all over are having a hard time finding a job.  I found out that the employment rate for people in my age group is only 35%.  That's crazy!  So, probably, it was just a matter of numbers.  Numbers are not prejudiced against any group of people.  I just happened to be a victim of numbers.  That's one reason, though, why I want to get my name changed as quickly as possible.  Once that happens, there will be no doubt at all in my mind about people judging me because I'm different.  I don't say that to be cocky.  But a lot of times, the only reason people even find out is because my name is legally different.  I am passing almost 100% of the time now (which is great, since I'm not even on hormones yet!) and when I have to show someone my Driver's License, it kills me.  When I have to mark my sex on an official form, it kills me.  I absolutely hate it.  I know, I know, it takes time.  But something as simple as a name change can help the process go much more smoothly.  I'm hoping I can afford to do it soon.

Back to the job situation.  I couldn't find anything.  I was searching every single day.  Newspapers, online, word of mouth...anywhere I could think to look.  Then there was an ad for a company called Vector.  I'd never heard of them before, but the base pay was great and the schedule was flexible.  So I applied.  The next day, I got a phone call asking if I could come in for an interview.  I was there at five that evening.  Long story short: first interview was great, she asked if I could stay for the second interview.  That also went well. It was my first group interview so I wasn't sure how I would do.  The manager was extremely impressed with me.  I was happy I made a good impression.  He was very excited to welcome me to the team.  So I have a job now!  What am I doing?  I'm selling knives. Isn't that ironic?  I kinda thought so.  Anyone who knows me well enough to know what I mean should get a good laugh out of that.

So I have a little breathing room for July.  My bills will be completely paid by the first part of next week.  I'm cleared to go back to Cane's.  My training will only take about a week and then I can start making sales calls.  Things are moving along.  I still have a really long way to go and much left to do.  I'm not out of the woods yet, but I'm beginning to see the light at the end.  I have learned, in the last month, that if I just do one day at at time, making the most of every opportunity I am given, things will be okay.  They may not be okay until the day before rent is due, but they WILL be okay.  

Oh!  I almost forgot!  My voice has already started changing pretty dramatically.  A month ago, I was singing first soprano comfortably (vocally speaking, I hated singing with the women because I don't fit there) and now, I'm singing with the tenors....comfortably.  I'm even doing two duets on Sunday.  The male voice sounds so different to my ear.  I'm getting the hang of it, though.  The mechanics are the same so that helps.  And those I'm singing with tell me I sound great, so that's a good sign.  Hopefully this means I will be able to keep singing when I start on the hormones.  Pretty sure I will end up being a bass when it's all said and done.  Which is crazy, but exciting!  Just think, how many guys can say they were able to sing in every single section over the span of 8 months?  Pretty cool, huh?


Life's Little Reminders

This is a tough night for me.  I've realized that I can't do some things the way I wanted to...not yet, anyway.  I have to learn how to be patient with myself.  I've also got to learn how to deal with these reminders in a more healthy way.  I'm getting a little personal here, but isn't that what blogging is all about?  Giving you a glimpse into the way my brain works.  It's a scary thought, really.  

I've recently been visited by mother nature.  She brought a little gift and it sucks BIG TIME!  I've talked to another guy about it.  His experience is very similar to my own.  He would get severely depressed every time he was on his period.  It was just another reminder that he was stuck in the wrong body.  That's exactly how I feel.  These are the things that make it the hardest for me.  It isn't necessarily the people, although that's hard, too.  It's the physical reminders that I'm not where I want to be just yet.  That it will take time.  While I'm finally okay with admitting who I am and happy to begin living my life for me, it is hard with those limitations.  I also tried to switch to the tenor part in my church choir.  It was okay the first night.  I didn't feel very much pain at all.  I figured it had just been a long time since I'd been in my lower register.  As the week progressed, though, and I practiced more and more, I realized that I was in pain after every song.  That was hard to admit.  I want so badly to be able to sing with the men.  But I still have a female voice.  God has blessed me with the gift of song, and I am grateful.  It just sucks that I can't sing where I feel like I need to be.  It sucks that I have to wait even longer to be able to do it.  I've waited for five long years to be able to say who I am.  Now I have to wait for at least a few more months before I can begin to make some of those changes in my life.

This isn't going to be an easy journey.  I've known that from the very beginning.  But I had no idea that it would be this hard to transition in the every day things.  My name and the pronouns are something that will just take time for everyone to adjust to and I'm not really worried about that at all.  But the fact that people still expect me to act, look, dress, behave in a certain way simply because I am still biologically a female...that frustrates me to no end!  I think that's why it hurts so badly when I find I can't do things to help the transition along, such as sing with the men in the church choir.  These things seem insignificant to most people.  To me, they are huge. Maybe I am just making mountains out of mole hills, but it seems like a pretty big deal to me.  

I have to learn to be okay with where I am right now.  Right now, I still have to deal with nature's gift to women.  I still have to sing soprano in the church choir.  I still have to mark "female" on all important paperwork.  I still have to sign my name "Gretchen Reiswig".  That sucks.  That's not who I am.  That's never been who I was.  And still, until my name change becomes legal, that's who I have to claim...at least on the important stuff.  When I pull out my license to prove my age, I still have to deal with some very confused looks from clerks.  I still have to explain my situation to people who are unaware.  These are things that I have to learn to deal with in a healthy way.  These are my struggles.  Yes, my family is important to me.  It would mean the world to me if I had their full support.  Yes, my relationships with my friends mean everything to me and I am grateful for the support network I have found.  Yes, I know my God still loves me just the way I am.  But I have to learn to be okay with the fact that my body still doesn't match my brain or my heart.  I have to learn to focus on the positive things in my life rather than the negative reminders that only make me depressed or angry.  That's way easier said than done.  I know I'm not alone in these feelings.  I'm sure that everyone who has ever transitioned has fought with these very situations.  I know that people who haven't transitioned have also dealt with similar feelings.  I have to learn to remember that I am not alone in this life.  On these nights when I feel all alone and depressed, I have to reach out.  I have to call the ones I know will be there.  I have to get off my butt and do something productive.  I have to continue to live life.  I can't stop living just because of these reminders.  


Feeling My Feelings...It Sucks!

This has been a really weird day for me. I haven't really felt like myself. A good friend of mine attributes this to my extra exposure to the sun yesterday. While that might be part of it, I think there is more. I've been through some pretty tough stuff in my life, specifically in the last few months. I've made some major changes. Most of these changes have been for the better. For instance, I haven't had a cigarette in over a week, cut myself in over a month, or drank myself into a stupor. I've also been trying to make sure I get plenty of sleep. The drugs help with that, but I have to be willing to give myself eight hours to let them work. That's hard for me sometimes. There are nights when my brain just won't shut up and all I want to do is get it all out on paper. That's a really good thing for me. Writing is almost always a good thing for me. There are times, though, when it can hinder me from feeling better. When I've been writing for hours and I don't feel any better, it's probably best for me to just go to bed. Things will look better in the morning. Or at least I'll have had eight hours when I didn't have to think about whatever was bothering me. Then there are nights like tonight, when I desperately need an outlet. I choose writing.

Shane's death has really shaken me. I've lost enough friends to know that grief is normal and that it's okay to be mad and confused. I get that. But there is something different about this one. I'm not sure what just yet. Usually, deaths put me out of commission for weeks, unless I can “cope” with any of my vices. I think that's part of the reason this hurts so much. I can actually feel my feelings. That sucks. I freaking hate it. I have to face my feelings. It hurts, it's scary, and, quite frankly, I just don't want to do it. I don't want to admit that he is really gone. I don't want to admit that about any of them. I don't want to say goodbye. But I know I have to one day. I know that I will only be haunted by their memory until the day I can let them go. Knowing that in my brain and being able to connect that to my heart are two different things.

Sometimes, I just wish I could not care about the people in my life so much. Sometimes, that's the easy way out. If I don't care, then it won't hurt when they walk out of my life forever. But that's not me, damn it. My heart aches for people. I hate it when people are hurting and I will do whatever is in my power to help whenever I can. I can't just not care about people. I am called to love them. An old mentor used to tell me all the time, “No man is an island.” What I do affects other people. If I withdraw from society and just do what I want to do, then I'm not helping anyone, including myself. I might be the only light that some people will see in their lives. If I choose to keep that light hidden, they might live in darkness forever. No one likes that. It's not fun. It's lonely and it's miserable and just isn't worth it. So I have to care about people.

But what do I do when I am hurting so badly that I can't care about people? No matter how much I want to, I just can't right now. I love my friends and family, I don't think that's ever been in question. Most of the time, I love being around them or even just texting them to say hi. Today, it was all I could do to get up and go to church. Anyone who has known me for more than about ten minutes knows that I just don't miss church. It's where part of my family is. It's the most peaceful place in my life. That's where I draw wisdom, love, and compassion from those around me. In that sanctuary, I hear important lessons that will help me through the hard times. This morning, though, all I wanted to do was stay in bed and not talk to a single person. I didn't, though. I got up, went to church, tried to interact with fellow human beings, and just took the next right action. That's what I've been doing all day, just taking the next right action. Well, I'm trying to, anyway.

I went to coffee with an old friend right before we went to a meeting. I thought it was going to be a great time. It probably would have been if I had been able to be present in the conversation. But my mind kept wandering. I kept thinking about Shane. It's just not fair. I feel like that's all I can say about it, but that's not the only feeling I have. I can't seem to be able to communicate my feelings accurately. I think this is a skill that comes with practice. For so long I tried to hide my emotions and just pretend like everything was okay. Well, I was drowning inside. I couldn't ask anyone for help. I wanted to, but something stopped me every time. I'm trying to learn to reach out to the people I love. I'm trying to keep the communication a two-way street. People can tell me they love me all day long, but unless I take the step to ask for help it won't matter.

I feel like I'm whining about the same old stuff. I feel I sound like a broken record when I tell the stories of my friends' deaths over and over again. My heart is screaming out but my mouth won't produce the sound. I hate that they are gone. Yeah, I'll see them again someday, but that doesn't really do anything for me right now. I want to be able to talk about them and then lay their memories to rest. Not to forget about them, but to quit carrying them around with me all the time. I feel like they are haunting me, but I know that's only because I refuse to let them go. I don't know what I need to do, but I know I need to do something. For now, all I can do is list their names. Each of them brought something special to my life. They all made a difference to me, either in their lives or through their deaths. They've touched me in some way. Christopher, Amanda, Daniel, Stacy (and unborn child), Eli, Maggie, Jake, Linda, Shane, Jamie, Stacie, Jeannie, Ted...the list goes on.

It pisses me off that I've only been to two weddings in my whole life. TWO! And I can't even list all the funerals I've attended? That's freaking backwards. These are the things that get to me. It's not necessarily the temptations in my life or those people I hung out with when I was drinking. It's the loss of life that affects me so deeply. When people are hurting, I hurt, too. I'm just so sick of pain. Yes, my life has gotten better in the last few weeks. I've given up some bad habits, picked up some good ones. I've also strengthened my support system and am taking an active role in my recovery. But still there is pain. Still there is a need for expression that I can't always fulfill. Nights like this one, if I'm not writing or talking to someone, will put me right back in the hospital. Nights like this are what break people like me. I feel like I've talked and talked and still haven't been able to say what I'm feeling. It's an attempt, at least, and it's better than what I did in the past. Take from this what you will. Someday, I hope to have wisdom to pass along to my friends that might help them to not hurt so badly. I just have to get through my own pain first. This is a step in the right direction.