A friend of mine nominated me on Saturday via Facebook to come up with three moments of gratitude a day for five days. Well, that was about five days ago, and I haven’t done it yet, but that seemed like a good direction for the blog this week. So Amanda, here’s my list; thanks for the inspiration.
- A partner who will join me on silly, spontaneous adventures. Last Thursday, I had the wild idea that we should rent a car over the weekend and drive to Cedar Falls, IA to catch Joe Stevens in concert. The conversation went something like this:
A: We should go on a road trip and see Joe Stevens!
E: But it’s Iowa.
A: But concert!
E: But IOWA.
I acknowledged it was a pretty ridiculous idea, but I was a little sad…until I got off work and was greeted by a text to the effect of, “So, about that concert…”
- Friends with whom I can escape reality for a while. Saturday was Dungeons & Dragons & Knitting, which is the monthly Pathfinder game with some folks in our knitting circle (the original idea was to play D&D, but Pathfinder ended up happening instead…we just never changed the name). Four of us have an adventure in group storytelling while our partners hang out in the other room and knit and make fun of us. It’s consistently one of the highlights of every month.
- Open spaces. We did end up renting a car this weekend and going on a road trip into Iowa, taking a detour on our way to Cedar Falls so that I could show Ethan some of the northeast corner of the state, which is not entirely flat and very, very pretty. The farther we got from Chicago, the more I relaxed. Don’t get me wrong: I love living in Chicago. But wide open spaces do wonders for my soul.
- People who choose to love me because of who I am, not in spite of it. The reason I know that there is a pretty part of Iowa (the aforementioned northeast corner) is that my grandparents live there, on a farm in a valley surrounded by trees and bluffs and wildlife and gardens. I remain convinced at age 26 that their farm is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. We were close enough on Sunday that, had I so chosen, we could have stopped by for a surprise visit. But I didn’t. I love my grandparents very much. They love their grandchildren very much. But when I came out to them as Alyx in a letter two years ago, their response (also in a letter) was that they would never call me Alyx, because Alyx was “an imaginary person.” I am almost entirely certain that they don’t know that I started any sort of physical transition. I haven’t seen them in over two years, and I haven’t been on their farm in at least three, and I don’t know when (or if) either of those things will happen again, which is heart-wrenching whenever I think of it. But it also reminds me that I have a whole bunch of people in my life who not only accept that I am Alyx but actually celebrate my life with me, and that is a great comfort.
- Those moments of recognition by others in our communities. Visibility is such a huge thing, both for those of us who are still frequently misgendered, and those in our community who pass so well that no one believes they’re trans. There were a handful of those moments this weekend.
- Approachable heroes. Meeting Joe Stevens was great: he’s one of our songwriting idols, and is just a fantastic person. But even better than meeting Joe was the fact that we got to actually talk with him. By the end of the night, we were giving each other hugs goodbye. We’re now friends on Facebook. This is still blowing my mind.
- Adventures that lead to more adventures. When we got to Cedar Falls and started talking with Joe (and River Glen, who’s touring the Midwest with him), we mentioned we’d road tripped it from Chicago, at which point they told us they were actually going to be playing a house concert in Chicago on Monday night. Throughout the night they told us several times that we should come. We got in touch on Facebook and got the details, and despite the fact that my partner had only slept about 45 minutes and had worked a full day, and the fact that we’d returned the rental car and weren’t entire sure how we were going to get home after transit stopped running, Monday night we found ourselves in the very humid basement of a hippie couple we’d never met, sweating with strangers (and new friends, and someone we met at a karaoke bar three-and-a-half years ago), enjoying more music.
- Music that inspires me to create more music. I felt two things in regard to the music at both shows: first, that my songwriting is totally inadequate, and second, that I want to write more songs. There are times when I get the first feeling but not the second one; this was one of the beautiful moments where my feelings of inadequacy were outweighed by inspiration.
- New friends. We met some awesome people on Sunday and Monday.
- Thinking about the future. My partner and I have been doing a lot of talking about our future together, and it’s really wonderful not only to have a partner I want to have a future with, but to be able to think about the future at all. There was a long time when I could barely see past tomorrow. I’m learning to dream again.
- Air conditioning. This is a silly one, but it’s been ridiculously humid in Chicago this week. We don’t have AC at home, but I have it at the office, and I’m grateful for the times I can spend in places where everything does not feel soggy.
- Comfort in my skin. This isn’t a constant, but I’ve been feeling fairly centered and okay within myself this week. I was able to go to both concerts without feeling more than momentary social anxiety, and a lot of that had to do with being comfortable being myself. I spent a lot of years stuck in self-loathing, and while I’m not my biggest fan, I’ve at least reached the point where I feel a sort of benevolent indifference toward myself, which is unbelievably better for my mental health.
- Fresh perspective. I’m not sure exactly how to explain this one, because it’s been a largely internal thing. Mostly, there have been tiny things happening in the past few weeks that have helped me to look at the world in new (or old but forgotten) ways, and it’s been refreshing.
- A (mostly) calm brain. There have been a lot of storms here in the past week. My brain tends to get really uncomfortable when the weather is shifting back and forth rapidly. I’ve felt surprisingly stable in the midst of all of it.
- Concrete future plans. I alluded to this in last week’s post, and now that I’ve told my family, I can announce it to all of you: at the end of September I will be filing the requisite paperwork for a court date to legally change my name. By the end of the year I will legally be Alyxander James! There aren’t enough exclamation points in the world to express how excited I am.