I was attempting explain to my therapist what the tipping point was like where I realized my mind was locking up leading my pursuit to transition. As usual, I relied on a common analogy to explain a more complex issue. It’s a habit of mine, often hated by others who bank on the avoidance of understanding to curtail further discussion. I like achieving that effect, so I do it all the time now.
“It’s like when you have the Task Manager open on a Window’s machine and the CPU usage turns bright green.” The first thing he asked me was what a ‘Task Manager’ is. I should not have been surprised as I had to explain what Facebook was the previous session, and spent half of another teaching how to back up his Outlook file. He never did make good his joking threat to refund his fee that week, but nevertheless. We have all struggled through a thousand and one clumsy ways of trying to describe our feelings to cisgender people. It’s no easy achievement, and as far as I know, it hasn’t been accomplished yet. It’s harder than those fifth grade assignments of describing what a peanut butter sandwich is to someone who never heard of bread. Even if we could take that approach, the listener is as likely to tune out as quickly as old Mrs Eckert did reading, “So there is this stuff called flour…”.
I thought using an analogy would be a wickedly clever way of at least capturing tiny aspects of this, even if they were wide right of the mark. Of course I didn’t take into account the possibility of having to describe the universally understood elements, putting me right back into sandwich land. It was like explaining an exceptionally funny joke, punch line and all, but I finally got the message across. Once I did a few fancy demonstrations, locking up his PC to the point of forced reboot, he understood and felt it was as an apt an analogy as he had heard. I’m not convinced he got it though, there being a suspect motive of saving his clunky old machine from my crazy experiments, so thought I would put it out there for critique.
Computer operation over the years has come to resemble the workings of human thought. They really have to in order to make them marketable, as an operating system that mirrored a cats thoughts would be infuriatingly difficult. To make them even more intuitive, an exploratory trepanation hole was installed in the form of the Task Manager. This allows the user to see all the various process currently running, in both the forefront and the subconscious of the machine, and how many resources they are using. Each use some percentage of both the memory and processing capability. Usually, any given process is decent enough to use only what is needed, leaving enough for all the other necessary processes. Sometimes, however, things go wrong.
No one really know why (If you do, shush! Don’t ruin my analogy, please.) some background process chugging along suddenly goes crazy and starts sucking up more and more of your resources. At first you notice things are just a bit… off… but no importance. Sometimes you don’t even know it’s there, and if so, usually it was easy to put it out of mind. The situation becomes harder to ignore when drafting a simple document takes hours because that little “I’m doing something, you are going to have to wait” icon starts popping up more and more. After a while, forget trying to start something else, or god forbid, attempt to surf the web. Now the document has turned translucent with a little “Not Responding” message at the top. Great. Just great.
You may not have been ready to stop what you are doing to go and try to address this, but it got to the point where there is simply no going forward until you hit ‘ctrl-alt-delete’ and launch task manager to figure out what is going on. Sure enough, some bugger of an application is hogging 100% of what you need to even function anymore. You try to do the easy thing and ‘end process’, but either a warning of dire consequences comes up, or the computer simply refuses to let you. This thing is way too critical, and you need to either address it for real, or throw the whole damn machine away. Such is the chain of analogous events that bring one to transition. It comes down to this if the world expects to get any further use out of you.
OK, I do admit this isn’t perfect, and might not even apply to everyone’s unique experience, but it sure does mine and I can guess I’m probably not alone in this. Any comments are greatly appreciated. Yes… I know some of you are Mac users and my little example doesn’t apply in your wonderful little land where nothing ever goes wrong and apples grow on trees.