dariaphoebe: (redhead)
As she joined me at the table, I picked up bits of the conversation she was having on the phone. I wasn't sure, at first, but it quickly became clear it was an interview. My guess as to the topic was quickly confirmed as she continued to talk.

Three days earlier, I stood with her parents and two mutual friends, tucked into the loud corner of a nightclub. The evening represented the culmination of the girls rock camp she'd participated in. Nine groups, 9 numbers. As we came to the last, I set my phone to record video, and tried to hold steady as I watched.

It was hard to not get into the music. Her music. The song was one she'd written, and she poured every ounce of her own passion into it as she sang. When it ended, I kept still, even as the crowd applauded, cheered, and burst into high-fives. Keep the camera rolling, I thought. I suppose it shouldn't have been a surprise that what I saw when I looked to her parents was pride. She'd brought the house down.

We'd planned to all grab a bite shortly thereafter, a wise plan given she hadn't eaten since half a day earlier. So, after offering my kudos, I stood quietly and watched as so many other continued to. I understood the anxiety she'd brought with her. In addition to her worries about her performance, there was the overhead of other issues with which I was intimately acquainted. But it was plain as I continued watching that the fear was unfounded. Today, she was a star.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
My day had started 14 hours before, in another city. My ex delivered me to the airport, and I worked while having a modest breakfast before boarding for the first leg. Hours later, as the second air hop ended, I found myself looking out over the oldest city park in the country before touching down for a slightly rough landing on runway 4 right.

Just before arriving in the church where I now sat, we'd tromped across that very same park. We'd been a few minutes later than had been intended, but our seats together midway back in the center were certainly fine, and the acoustics and layout had worked very well for the first half of the concert.

As the lights were about to drop, I opened the program and looked over the numbers we'd hear for the final half. The show was the inaugural public performance of only the second transgender choir in the country, one featuring voices more often scorned than celebrated.

One of the performers stepped up, having felt they were off a bit at an earlier solo, and nailed it on the second go. The explanation from the director was one noting that how you hear yourself can be skewed over a testosterone-fed voice change. The problem was all too familiar: the gender biography I shared with my therapist had indeed called out that very point in my own history as a rough one.

No emotional respite followed as we rejoined the program for the next number. My feelings flowed just as the words did, like endless rain into a paper cup, as the chorus put their all into their rendition of the song. When they hit the refrain, I softly whispered along. The irony of the line I'd sung so often while trying to redevelop the voice I missed was that in spite of what protestation I found myself vocalizing, my world had, and seemed bound to continue, changing. Perhaps nothing else was doing it. Maybe it was me, right along.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
As we pushed away from the just-retracted jetbridge and back from our gate, I pressed play again on the device laying loosely in my lap. The music came up quickly, leading into a song about a woman who shared her name with a modern programming language. It finished before our taxiing did, but only barely. Shortly into the next song, our wheels left the ground, and we were gone.

We curled northeastward from runway 35R, and I watched a city drop away below me. For someone who'd visited only thrice, it was astoundingly easy to pick out familiar landmarks as they receded into the distance of the window beside seat 13A in the European-built aircraft hurtling me away from somewhere I wasn't ready to leave. I knew the highways that connected the city southeastward to its airport, to be sure, but I also found myself looking at a dam I'd bicycled over just two days prior.

So much territory -- both new and familiar to me -- under my wheels, most of it in the delightful company of someone whose ability and temperament practically duplicated my own. Leaving to return to my own bicycle might well have been something to look forward to, but it wasn't. Its heavier weight and lower cost are practical necessities in my life, but riding more slowly and invariably alone aren't really a thing to be strived for.

It seemed only fitting when, upon deplaning at my layover, the next flight was cancelled. Only when I complained that they planned to send me a long way and cause me to miss the final bus into the city did they offer another option, and I ran to make it -- barely -- before proceeding to Philadelphia, another place I knew well from the air.

The final leg included a look beneath the clouds just long enough for me to see where I'd be sleeping and figure out which approach pattern the weather was allowing. The clouds then returned until we were just about 5 miles from touchdown. A world obscured by the grey blanket that separated me from the soil below had at least made the question I rolled in my head more real than its original, metaphorical intent: where is home?
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
I wasn't in the best place, mentally or physically, as I climbed into the passenger side of his car. The sedan was clean, and I knew the song which was playing as it reached my ears: an R&B hit which was about as old as I am. I exchanged a momentary greeting before falling into silence as he climbed over and descended the hill toward the highway.

As we pulled up to the last traffic light before the highway and waited our turn at the five way intersection, I apologized for my silence. He dismissed my apology, noting that while he was happy to chat with those who felt like it, there was no requirement. Somehow, though, we quickly got to the topic of where each other hailed from. He ticked off the places he'd lived, but said he always came back here. I explained that I was a 42 year native. "Both sides of my family are from here," I shared before describing the places my progenitors had resided.

After pausing, I choked back the tears that were forming as I clutched at the small brass disk dangling about my neck. "I have a 1922 Pittsburgh trolley token that I always wear, to remind me of where I am from." Barely able to not cry, I let him fill in the conversation as I contemplated again if it might be time to leave before recomposing myself and picking up where I'd left off.

Any safety net that might have been under me had been dismantled and reclaimed. I feel naked and unprotected. Still, my life is fully mine and mine alone, for better and for worse. At least if I come crashing down, there will be no collateral damage.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
"I suppose you want to be the little spoon," she said, and I meekly assented. We'd reached the first hour of the new day while I was walking. My trudge had been cold, colder than the gloves I was wearing were ready for, and the world was cold and empty. I'd reached a critical juncture, one where to save distance I considered a more remote, less-well-lit trail, before considerations of personal safety tickled my brain. It was fortuitous, as upon turning back to the sidewalk she was waiting behind me to complete the 2 mile walk that had separated us when I set out.

The day seemed destined to end as it had started: quiet and solitary, a fact drawn out by the chirping of crickets that punctuated the air as I prepared to climb the stairs and bed down. A question from her, though, about a bottle of beer I'd left with her for another day tripped through my wires, and after a brief discussion I slipped my outerwear back on and stepped out the door.

I did not always appreciate the value of touch, despite the longstanding recognition of my tactile nature. The laptop which has rested on the other half of the bed with me for weeks now is warm, to be sure, but not in a way which provides emotional fulfillment. Not even the cute but sometimes-hyper fur-balls are around to rest at my feet and occasionally atop me.

Yet I can say that despite the relative paucity of opportunity for the human contact that helps keep me grounded in my humanity, when the moments present themselves as this one had, they serve as a reminder to their value, to not simply deadening oneself emotionally as I tried at a younger age. I may be vulnerable, but I am not weak.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
My headphones pulled in audio from the satellite receiver on the plane as the map of my journey unfurled in front of me. I looked aside into the passing darkness from 30000 feet as I let the words to the song that had just come on absorb into my brain. "How apropos," I thought.

A conversation from earlier that day, after an exchange of hugs before I headed into the subway, plucked at my neurons. I professed my unease with flying; she countered by explaining she reveled in it. For someone who'd traveled across the country by train not once but twice rather than fly, developing a time-constrained life had been a hard change to make. Today, though, I knew my way around my home airport like the back of my hand. I knew the approach patterns we might fly, what fun things to look for on each, and where I'd wind up taxiing to my gate from.

I replayed the last three trips, six legs, in my head. The unexpected jaunt to Nashville brought with it a stunning sunrise over the eastern part of the city, one which reminded me that I had failed to enjoy the approaching light of morning for too long. The journey back brought some stress, but I was able to have some fun before heading off to my volunteer gig. A month later, the trip to Austin was one of excitement for the people I planned to meet and the conference I'd be attending, while the return was rather more melancholy. This time, the anticipation that came with the departure for Boston was easily eclipsed by the warmth in my heart as my Pittsburgh-native pilot steered us toward his home.

My life had become undeniably complicated over the preceding half-year, but as I looked down at the inky blackness I took on faith to be the upper Delaware River valley, I found myself yearning for the trips that seemed likely to follow amongst those four endpoints in the ensuing months.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it." It wasn't the first time I'd played over those words in my head. Now, though, I sat looking off at 'Road Closed' signs while waiting for a red light. My subfreezing bike ride back up the hill would be about a third longer now. The bridge was no longer there to cross: it had been imploded a week before.

Earlier in the evening, we sat on the same couch we did so many other Mondays over the past 18 months. He'd heard many stories of our relationship, ups and downs. This night was a bit different, though. After a brief exchange of pleasantries -- we hadn't seen him since before the holidays -- I offered a simple summary:

"We're getting divorced."

I could offer no anger, hate or pain. There was no reason to. My reality and the possible outcomes had been on the table right along, just as it had in my first marriage. I didn't expect the path forward from that moment to be easy, but the route to that point wasn't, either. The process of making myself whole involves further self-discovery, steps typically long past for people my age. And so the divergence.

I pushed on into the cold for the second half of my ride, knowing that in spite of the inclement conditions I faced, the road ahead was entirely within my capability.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
crossed into the second county of the day, according to the sign I passed, while rolling along a brief level stretch. One more, in the next state, lay ahead. As had been the case the day before, the roads falling under the wheel beneath me were familiar. I'd only biked this way once before, but rolling down dale before pumping up the next hill, everything fit like an old shoe. I remembered the previous occasion and couldn't help but feel it had been done with the wrong motivation.

I didn't even remember how long it had been since my therapist and I had had the conversation, but I felt like it may have been a half a year. "Did you marry a woman you yourself wanted to be?", she queried. My denial was effortless, because I hadn't. I was sure I had married for the right reasons. Still, though, it was unquestionable that I'd tried to live vicariously many experiences I felt were denied to me. I acknowledged it to her as we talked, but it hadn't been a recent realization.

If nothing else, I certainly felt my progress had made it very easy for me to neither want nor need someone else to live the life I wanted. It was now seemingly in my grasp, if not fully realized. And so, I pushed on through the beating sun, dress flapping behind me occasionally in the wind, tights keeping my legs from sunburn, through the unshaded countryside toward my goal in the next state.

You can, by the way, wear tights under your dress while camping. But only if you want to.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
"Here's your year," it offered as I scrolled down the page. I didn't even look at the story. I didn't need to.

2014 was the hardest year of my life. Even with another week left, I feel no compunction offering that. The year included a legal battle, as yet unresolved, complete with a seemingly-bottomless money pit. There were relationship challenges beyond what I was even remotely ready to deal with. I had professional stress. And that was all with a background of the turmoil of change.

At the same time, the year hadn't been without rewards. I found time to spend two days on a bicycle and do a ride I'd wanted to do for years. There'd been travel, if not for long, and much time with friends. And objectively, there was more personal growth this year than perhaps ever in my life. To be sure, much of that was because the only other choice was to give up. But the further I pressed, the more apparent it became that I was on the right path. It was a far cry from the early demise I feared I was on the path to 18 months earlier.

Indeed, for the first time since I began adolescence, I can tell you that I am happy with who I am, or at least where I am heading. So my goal is to keep moving forward, and more importantly to find ways to pay forward the unexpected, and tremendous, support I've received. If you are reading this, you are part of that story. My story. And I thank you.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
I was curled up, not quite in a fetal manner. "I'm scared", I told her. As I continued moving the bicycle forward to the top of the ridge line, I could see the moment in my mind's eye. The hardest part of the journey was behind me, but the climb was not over. The daily hill climb started as a way to continue to get exercise in the winter, when the distance trips via the bike trail were impractical due to snow cover, but turned into something else, a daily gauge of my mettle. I remembered the days where the ride included nearly passing out because I was out of breath as well as barely catching myself as I started to fall sideways when cold-caused head congestion left me without balance following a sneeze, and wondered how close I had pushed myself to my demise. And each day I'd go out for another go, pushing as hard I could, without much regard for how close to self-destruction it might take me. It wasn't that I was consciously trying to cause myself harm; The path my life took meant, simply, that it could happen. I wasn't going to hide from it.

A few days previous, a discussion ventured toward circumstances under which one might take one's own life. I can say that even in my darkest moments, the idea of doing so intentionally is not one I've entertained with any degree of likelihood. At the same time, almost exactly a year ago the goings-on in my life aligned in such a way that I could conceive of a set of circumstances which resulted in my early demise, one which was not any sort of certain, but the stepping stones on that race to the bottom were each things I could see realistically coming to pass, and I despaired that because the actions on my part in the chain would be reactionary, a way to stop the slide was not obvious. Communication would be required, but I lacked the words to express some of the problems as well as the courage to use them if I'd even had them. By some stretch of luck, the path forked and I managed to find my way off the path of immediate demise, even though the process of doing so included a bloodied face, and a broken hand. With the benefit of hindsight, some of the mistakes along the way have slowly become obvious, but the biggest, fearing communication, was one that surely needed additional, possibly life-long, concentration.

Step 49: Prescience is a gift, but it's not enough. Unless you take action on what you foresee, you're doomed to a path that's not the one you'd choose. Your desired outcome requires your input.

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dariaphoebe

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