Penny's Story

A cute little drummer living her dream.

Archive for April 3, 2009

God’s Dream

   A few months ago the person offering the reflection at the Crossing posed the question: “What is God’s dream for you?”

   I’ve had that question floating around in my head ever since then. I don’t think I have a definitive answer, or anything, but I have thought about it enough to at least write some of it down. I consider my relationship with the divine as much more intuitive than a direct question and answer line. How can I really know the mind of God? How can I have any real idea what God envisions for me? 

   The best I feel I can do is try to gather signs from the world around me, use the faith that I was raised with, and my own sense of intuition to divine what the divine has in mind as my dream existence. When I examine the last five years of my life, I find too many coincidences; I believe the hand of God was very active in my life. I’ve often said that part of the reason I transitioned was that I finally gave up and stopped fighting against the obvious reality of my life – the fact the I am a woman, born with the wrong parts, became too strong to fight any longer; another way for me to look at that is that I finally gave in and accepted God’s dream for me.

   I struggled with my faith for most of my life. I was raised in a very traditional Lutheran congregation. I went to Catholic high school. I had perfect attendance for twelve years of Sunday School. I became Born Again when I was 18. I dabbled with Buddhism. I searched and searched and searched for something real to connect with; some part of God that felt like it was reaching back for me. But I couldn’t find anything. I learned the moral lessons as best I could, but that sense that I was connected to the divine always seemed like a leap of faith I just could not complete no matter how I tried.

   And then I stopped trying. I’d say I gave up looking for God in my life by the time I was 24 or so. I think being transgendered strongly impacted my spiritual journey; how could it not? I was such a shattered identity at that point in my life; living one existence on the outside, but keeping so much hidden, so much bottled up. I lived with so much self-loathing; I knew I was broken and worthless. If there was a God then God certainly cared very little for me, how could any but the most sadistic of Gods create a person with such a tragic flaw as being born into the wrong body?

   I lived in this state for a long time; stuck thinking that the best I could do was bury every feeling of my true self beneath a “normal” life, stuck thinking that either God didn’t exist or was callously ambivalent toward my situation. As I said in a reflection that I once gave, I was pretty bitter.

   And then I gave up fighting. I gave up trying to be something I wasn’t. I gave up resisting the obvious path that I was being called to follow, no matter how hard that path appeared. And a funny thing happened: I started noticing God in my life. It hadn’t occured to me at the time, but once I stopped fighting everything ~including God~, God was suddenly there for me.

   It was small at first; I was groomed. There was teaching a drum line in a church; there was the Episcopal priest who, when told of my impending gender change said: “If there’s anything we can do support you, just let us know;” there was the friend who gently spoke with me of her spiritual journey and my own; there was drumming in church; there was the night my Gram died, when I ~most definitely~ felt her spirit touch me and leave me some of her strength; there was The Crossing; there was the call to preach; there was the support and celebration of me being myself by the most spiritual and religious people I knew; there was the prayer circle and blessing before I left for Colorado for my SRS. God was patient working her way back into my life; I never would have been ready for a blinding revelation five years ago, but with the last five years that I have lived, it would be impossible for me to not believe that God has been most active in my life.

   And so, even though I know this will be a changing answer and a changing equation, when I think of what God’s dream for me is and will be, I see a continued acceptance of self, I see a call to make the world a better place for transgender people, I feel drawn to raise a family, and of course to continue drumming in such a way that connects me to the divine stronger than anything else. When I think of where I am and where I’ve been, I’d like to think that God is proud of me; proud of the strength I have exhibited in the last five years; proud of the person I have become. Of course, the test now is to continue to make God proud of me, the journey gets no easier just because I hope I have done good.  🙂  The most important part of what I imagine of God’s dream for me to be is that I trust; I have always been obstinate and contrary, I need to trust my senses that I don’t need to fight truth.

   One of my most consistent prayers is that I hope I am living up, in some small way, to God’s dream for me. It’s sort of, by its very nature, an unknowable truth – I must simply strive to fulfill God’s dream for me as best I can. I certainly try to, and I will continue that hope and prayer and effort.

   ~amen~

Brave Hypocrite

   So, enough people have told me enough times that I’m brave and strong that I guess I finally believe it. Transition is hard work, and I muddled my way through it. Fine; I’m brave; I’m strong. I still don’t think being transgender is as difficult a life as lots of other lives, but it is a cross to be borne, sure. It would be impossible for me to deny that I have worked very hard to find the happiness and success that I have found; I guess what I’m saying is that I feel like I deserve so many of the positives in my life because I actively pursued them, often times with great effort and at great personal expense. I’m not lucky; I don’t live in a fantasy-land; I worked hard, pushed myself, and I have an amazing life. I am loved by more people than most people would ever hope for; I have an awesome career; I have an amazing relationship; I have a great family. I am one of the happiest people I know.

   But I wasn’t always this way. Part of my journey included me feeling hopeless and lost and weak and depressed. I drove several people nuts with my circular thinking and persistent negativity. I was hospitalized for depression, after all – it hasn’t always been days of wine and roses. I know all too well how insurmountable of a hill transition can seem – hell I know all too well how daunting just getting out of bed can be; I understand all too clearly why so many transfolk end up dying early deaths, either by their own hand or that of someone else. Living a transgendered life is often difficult and painful. I am thankful everyday that I have found my way through it as well as I have. As much as I am finally comfortable embracing my own strength and bravery, I am also very cognizent of how much help I have received along the way from an amazing array of some of the most beautiful people on the planet. I am well and truly blessed.

   But I’ve noticed an interesting thought process creeping into my brain recently, especially since my surgery – I’ve flipped it around, I’ve become impatient with others living this life. For as long as I struggled I seem to be forgetting how hard it was. I look at where I am, and I know where I was, and it’s almost like I feel like the old saw: “if I can do it, anyone can.” I’ve almost made it “easy” in my memory. This is why I think it’s so important for me to embrace my own strength and bravery; I need to remember how hard the last five years really were, and how hard the 34 years before that really was too. I have found myself becoming frustrated with fellow transfolk who are in the midst of the struggles that I was engaged in just a few short years (or even months) ago; it’s as if now that I have had my surgery and gone on to live the “life always dreamt of” that I’ve somehow forgotten the difficulty in getting here; it’s somehow become less painful and difficult in my memory than it was in reality; I’ve actually caught myself thinking: “What’s the big deal? Just figure out what you want to do and do it.” Ah, if it were so easy…

   I’ve been forced to confront the reality that my attitude lately would not have served me well a year or two ago if I were my own friend. I need to remember how much patience I required of the people around me; and I know that many times people ~did~ get frustrated with me, but that should only remind me of how important it is for me to be patient with other people. I can think of at least two people that I’ve become frustrated with in a way that felt ~very~ hypocritical of me; and in some ways I do feel that I’m trying to balance outright support with a loving kick in the pants, but I do worry that lately my tough love has gotten too tough, and possibly even bitter – and that’s bad. We’re all just trying to get through this life as best we can, after all. 

   As much as it’s annoying to catch myself being hypocrital, I am glad that I’ve noticed this happening, because it means that I can work on it. I’m kind of very hardcore when it comes to thinking that transfolk are special and have interesting perspectives on life and the world; the last thing I want to do is add to the pressure that people struggling with their trans-status feel, especially friends who I hold close to my heart. Just because I’ve “arrived” doesn’t mean that I’m better than anyone else; I need to be extra patient with people who are still struggling with parts of their journey.

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