Friday, June 21, 2013

A Thousand Tiny Glories: Standing Beside Yourselves

"Who is that?" * "I think that is me"
Friends & I looking through old photographs


Broken Selves

Last night I saw a few pictures of me from high-school where the child (almost hard to say it's me) looked so sad beneath a forced smile, a spirit clinging to a body, making it go through the motions to avoid the appearance that anything is wrong --- a real zombie --- although I was clearly with friends which were the best parts of those years.

I scraped past a point which is terminal for approximately 60% of trans people, and generally hell for everyone else. Globally, we can do better. Locally, there are reasons that people do survive and flourish --- and in these pictures (as well as around me now) I can see their faces.

Keeping busy with shared work towards a shared community, i.e. theater, orchestra, RPGs, speech-team, provided a feeling and logic of acceptance and value externally, enough of which pierced into the internal to give a reason to get up the next day. Passing photos around the table, most of what I can remember from high-school happened in the auditorium, practice rooms, or hallways in between.

These places provided me a way to simply be. To persist. A zombie may mostly do a bunch of staggering forward and eating things now and then, but often that is enough. It is enough to exist, especially in a community. I could live for them, because I knew from experience that they were worth the struggle, even when I couldn't see that in myself. Working hard to do it for them, was enough for a time, when I couldn't yet do it for myself.


Breaking with the Self

And over time the zombie travels, after circling and falling over, every so often getting its head bashed in, until maybe it becomes something else.That something starts small. Desperately small. A flicker. A dark dot that most anyone wouldn't notice. A life. I've written before about "a thousand tiny glories" and for most things and many of us, we exist inside those tiny ontologies, those mico times, those pez-strip universes.

In many ways I do see that person and me as two different people. One child that would pass away carries and sustains the seed that would bloom into a wild and sensational life. I don't see this distinction as absolute nor simply as one of utility, although there is a genealogy, but the distinction is important. It's my way of honoring that person who would give birth to me. 

People can be really harsh about enclosures, setting things apart, but growing up Catholic and generally preferring the indoors (specifically small places where only I could fit), I always thought that giving something a frame was one way of marking it as special. CS Lewis in That Hideous Strength (one of the better passages) and Cary Howie in Claustrophilia (one of my favorite theory books on the Middle Ages), both attest to this logic. To mark something as ending, is really to mark a transition, but change is without sense or value if we don't recognize the bounded spaces and times in which things and persons exist.

 Of course, often in anecdote or even in looking at other photographs, I will freely use the "I" across divides and transitions. There is a part of me now in the then, just as the then is in the now. The evidence is in my company, my friends, some of which I've known for well over a decade and approaching 20 years. That cross-fertilization of identity is what binds us together. It's what binds me to myself. Across lives, across deaths, across unlife and the undead.


Standing Beside Yourselves

Remembering those crossings, looking at their remains, telling stories, walking those paths, seeing those faces and living in a world which is the same but changed, gives me so much. A part of me comes back to myself and tells me how I made it through hard (perhaps harder) times in the past, showing me not only that I can persist through present cross-roads, but showing me how I might do it; what sorts of things may come in the next life; and the one after that; and the one after that.

As each of these mementos come back across my path, they carry me a little further and across them all I get the sense of an even bigger story. One that encloses every version of myself in this world. I get a sense of the story that I am not only telling, but living, for whom I may not even be the best audience. My values, challenges, and choices emerge as patterns. I find those patterns comforting (I generally find patterns to be somehow comforting). 

These things open me up to new ways I can change. They hold my hand as I find ways to persist. They remind me that I can do this for another person, not only my community, but the person I may become. Give myself as a gift to that future. Also, they remind me to do this & be this for myself; whoever, whatever, whenever, and wherever that may be. In the dark avenues of memory outside of time, I stand together with my selves and glorify the value of each other.

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