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Frankenpussy…Yeah, Not a Halloween Post… GRS Journey cont…

FrankenpussyWe last left our poorly planned protagonist a weepy pee and blood covered mess attempting to make it through the day and not foul up the quaint little bedroom too badly. I recalled the Billy Joel classic, “These are the Times to Remember” and decided he definitely didn’t mean this, but decided to capture them anyway in writing in order to provide ample fodder for future embarrassment. Sunday, after my family left, was a nightmare of splitting headaches chased with Vicodin that only seemed to exacerbate the problem. Why could they not have just given me some morphine to take home? Was that too much to ask?

On Monday I had my first follow up with Dr. McGinn and my spouse’s father and brother kindly drove in from Jersey to take me there. Her office set up seems designed to enhance feeling of awkwardness for both her and her patients. The waiting area is the hallway between her office and the examination room, that requires her to scooch by everyone to go from one to the other. Furtive side-glance acknowledgement exists between you, but you both understand it’s not the time to talk, even though you really want to. Personally, I would have removed some ceiling tiles to crawl above, dropping down in front of the exposed patient like Batgirl. It’s not like she can really get any cooler, but that move alone would double her patient load.

In the mean time, I got to chat with Debbi, who was lovely to deal with in completing my 93 point pre-surgical checklist, and frankly, it was a treat. When my time finally came, I got to see Heather first, who we last encountered giving me the ‘here is everything that might go horribly wrong’ spiel right before they put me out. As she removed my bandages, I found why sitting up felt like I was perched on a WW1 German helmet sewn between my thighs, because the packing was actually sutured on. Next she removed the internal packing material, seeming to endlessly pull a thin strip of batting out like a magician with scarves. I imagined a tiny pissed off mummy in there spinning around as he’s being unexpectedly denuded. I’m not 100% there isn’t, and that he’s armed with a sharp little sword he likes to jab about when agitated.

“When I take this off, it’s going to feel like you are going to pee all over me, but don’t worry, you aren’t.” Catheter removal is so much fun, and she was right; I was sure I was going to pee in her face and then we would have this horrible thing between us forcing me to flee and never come back. Luckily she was right on the money. “Want to take a look?” Hells, yeah I did! Well, it sure wasn’t pretty. Not by a long shot. First of all, holy Bride of Frankenstein with all the angry looking stitches! I felt my neck for bolts just in case, and Heather assured me everything looked good. There was also quite a bit of swelling, and the vaginal opening was stretched open so far it looked like I just serviced the starting lineup of the Buffalo Bills. “That’s just from the packing. It will close on its own and in a few months, no one but your gynecologist will be able to tell the difference.” While no colorful little butterflies came wafting out, I was grateful that no bats did either.

With my feet propped up in the stirrups, Heather showed me how to dilate. I have to say, this whole process from start to dilation initiation really destroyed any body consciousness and squeamishness I used to have. It’s impossible to feel modest when someone is assisting you in sticking a purple plastic dildo up your vag. Dr. McGinn finally joined us and I was thrilled that she was now allowed to admit I existed. She expressed her pleasure on how well the surgery went, and pronounced the hot mess between my legs as looking just damn tootin’ fine. She didn’t say that, but I translated from medical speak. “Make sure you dilate five times a day, even if it really hurts.” I promised I would, though once again discounted the possibility of it actually hurting. I never learn, do I? That’ll get its own post.

The next couple of days became very routine. Wake. Dilate. Eat breakfast. Sit in chair till it hurts. Dilate. Lay in bed till it hurts. Go back to chair. Dilate. Call people. Any people. Seriously, I’ll talk to anyone at this point. Eat. Dilate. Open daily gift (sent with love from Sandy and Tricia).  Eat candy. Lots of candy. Dilate. Fall into uneasy sleep.

By Tuesday night I was about fed up with this schtick. I called my spouse and she suggested heresy. “Why don’t you just fly home after your Thursday appointment?” I could not believe what she was suggesting. I’m supposed to be here until Saturday! What if Dr. McGinn finds out? Anyone who knows me well should be very surprised by this; I’m not exactly known for being a rule follower. Dear lord, what the hell happened to me? What’s she going to do? Find an unused penis and stick it back on me? “So? You’re miserable and you can’t tell me you can’t rest up and dilate just as well at home.” The spell of medical compliance was broken. Book me a ticket. I’m coming home.

Next time in the thrilling conclusion of a tale too long told: McGinn again; why I hate to fly; and the enormity of swapping out one’s genitals .

Yeah, Who Recommended Surgical Recovery in a B&B?… GRS continued…

B&BYou know those Funniest Home Videos, the kind that never win, that feature a douchebag trying to skateboard down a railing and ends up rupturing a testicle?  Through no fault of my driver, the ride to the B&B felt like that. Last we checked in, I was ousted from the hospital like so much riff-raff even though I was under medical orders not to travel and in need of constant care. I’m not sure why I didn’t pick up on this before, but there seems to be a little oopsie in an otherwise flawless treatment plan. Be that as it may, it was a long ride once off the interstate and navigating winding bumpy roads. My poor aunt was so upset every time we hit a bump that I didn’t feel right letting loose the blood curdling screams building in the back of my throat.

We arrived after dark at the Fox and Hound, an absolutely charming place, and the innkeeper who checked me in was gentleman enough to lug my ginormous bag up the steep narrow staircase. I was half hoping he’d lug my sore ass up there as well, but I think he decided I was a two-man lift after eyeing my generous frame. I really need to lose a few pounds if I ever want to be lifted like Baby in ‘Dirty Dancing’. The room was very lovely with a nice bed, little sitting area by the bay windows, and some old timey looking furniture. I could not imagine a better place to spend a romantic fall weekend, or a worse place to lurch around bleeding everywhere. As I could not get out of bed without executing a cumbersome set of maneuvers meant for someone of much greater flexibility, my mom turned over a trash can for me to use as a bedside table and hand grip. They left me alone to get me some groceries and as I lay there taking in my environs, I decided I was well and truly fucked.

Here’s the deal. Nearly all the literature and advice on GRS talks about ‘you and your companion’ in regards to the post surgery recovery. I simply couldn’t wrap my head around the notion of asking anyone to take 2 precious weeks out of their life and sit with a cranky convalescent. Besides, I am Mighty Michelle and need none of this “help” they so speak of. Understanding I was going to be stuck in this second floor room, barely able to move, and in considerable pain somehow managed to find the chink in my armor. My best effort to prop myself up with pillows left my chin poking into my breast. It’s not as comfortable as it sounds. I kept on a brave face while they put away my supplies, but broke into tears when they were saying their goodnights to head back to the hotel near the hospital.

“What’s wrong?” Nothing. Just a long day. Very sore and all that. Really, I’m… ok….sniff. Ugh, this was so not me, but I was just a little freaked out. What if I couldn’t get out of bed? What if I started bleeding uncontrollably? What if a fire started and finally did away with this rickety old place and the New Hope fire department got a look and me and decided to let nature take its course? Every time I thought of one of these things, my little private pity-party kicked into high gear and the water works restarted. Get a grip on it chica. That’s what I call myself when trying to be mentally tough. Just blame it on the pain meds. They probably would have stayed, but both of them looked bone tired so I managed to put on a chipper face and sent them off to get some sleep. The rest of the night was less fun.

In the wee hours of the morning I had to pee. Getting out of bed, I dumped over my ‘waste basket turned night stand’ along with the mostly full open Ensure sitting atop it. I cleaned up best I could with my foot and a wad of paper towels I threw down. I really didn’t want to get hollered at by the innkeeper, and I for sure didn’t want anyone thinking the chocolate drink was something else. I ambled into the bathroom feeling the unholy fire down below and an angry thunderstorm in my tummy. I won’t go into details, but it was unpleasant. Next thing I knew, part of my surgical packing was on the bathroom floor after falling from between my legs and bouncing off the toilet seat. I had no clue what was really going on down there, so I didn’t know if this was critical stuff or not, but didn’t want to put it back after it was dropped wet side down. I freely admit I turned into a sniveling sobbing mess as I tried to approximate the shape of the packing out of two maxi-pads and stuffed it in where I thought it should go. It was a long night of broken sleep, anguished trips to the bathroom, and many snotty tears.

In the morning, things looked a little bit brighter, mainly because the sun was coming through the window. The innkeeper was savvy enough to understand I had no intention of trying to make it down the stairs to sample their award winning breakfast. I’m also sure they preferred I keep my bloody, smelly self away from the guests who were there for more jaunty reasons, and I can’t blame them. They brought me up a lovely frittata, crisp bacon, toast, a fruit cup and hot tea. Unfortunately I had to eat standing up because I couldn’t figure out how to get under the service tray without dumping everything on the bed. Still though, it was mighty sweet. Every outlook is brighter better with bacon.

Less sweet was the fact that my catheter seemed to have sprung a leak. Though most medical catheters go to a bag that gets conveniently dumped from time to time, this one consisted of a taupe hose emerging from my bandaged loins and capped by a triangular shaped plug. Draining it required standing above the toilet, freeing the plug, waiting for the last few drops to lazily drip out, shaking, then tucking it back in. This all seemed so familiar but I simply couldn’t place it. Anyway, while the ironically flesh colored hose was draining, I couldn’t help but notice that a dampness was creeping down my leg. Just great; like I didn’t feel disgusting enough already. I called Dr. McGinn who impressively picked up on the second ring. Apparently this was common and I should just pee more often. I think I caught her eating dinner.

The best and worst part of this day was a visit from my spouse, son, and mother in law. For a lovely afternoon and evening, I felt loved and embraced. They stocked me up with even more goodies, and I got a wonderful hour alone with my son, who chose to spend the time with Maddy by playing 926 consecutive games of ‘rock-paper-scissors’. I never felt so happy. The bad part, however, was that they had just driven in from Buffalo for the day and were returning home in the morning leaving me alone in my exile for whole additional week. I really should have thought this through a little better.

In our next thrilling episode: The bandages come off, dilation initiation, and Frankenpussy.

Hellooo Nurse! … GRS continued…

NurseOK, before I continue on my thrilling tale of my surgical experience, I need to set the record straight. It seems some think that I had some kind of unusual terrible experience. This is not at all what I’m trying to say. I don’t do a lot of whiney “oh heavens, cry for me” type posts, and when I do, you will know about it. You’ll bawl like a kid who dropped his chocolate twisty cone into a pile of dog poop. At least with vanilla you can pick the gross bits off if you like. I am, however, trying to set realistic expectations so no one has a mental picture of the bandages coming off and pretty little butterflies fluttering out of there. As for the title of this post, your geek cred is hereby revoked if you don’t remember the Animaniacs.

Last we left off, I awoke from surgery with a terrible sore throat and lots of well wishers calling me. I love them all dearly, but was praying for some kind of disaster to take out the cell towers and let me suck tiny ice chips in peace. For the first 2 days I was not allowed to even sit up, so had to find ways to entertain myself. I figured out the exact timing on the morphine pump and tried to hit it the very second it turned back on. If I jumped the gun, I got a heartbreaking ‘ur-uh’ sound, but practice got me good enough to hit that sweet ‘bleep’ every time. Three times in a row, and it would put me to sleep for up to 20 minutes. After 48 hours of this, I was incredibly tired. There was a TV, but it was one of those LCD dealies that only works right when you are looking right at it. Laying on my back, I could only look up and to the left, making all the images a negative view. I can’t believe fucking ‘Charmed’ is still on like 3 times a day.

Many people describe waking up for surgery and saying it was the happiest they ever felt. I love the idea of that, but I have to be honest here; it wasn’t the happiest I ever felt. I was much happier the day my son was born, the day I got married, and really even the time two bags of cheddar and sour cream Ruffles fell from the vending machine. I was very happy it was done, and felt a sense of calm relief, but in terms of feeling different, it was impossible to tell yet. For all I knew it was just a big gag and someone worked me over with a crowbar for a bit, then packed the area with a shitload of ice and bandages. Besides, I always looked at this operation as a means to achieve future happiness, rather than being the answer to all my prayers in and of itself. It’s like new car elation. At the beginning it seems very exciting, but eventually the thrill of going to work and home wears off. It’s the potential of taking that epic road trip or Wallyworld vacation that makes it all worthwhile.

On Thursday I experienced vast improvements. I was finally given food in the form of the ‘not so clear’ liquid diet. Hot tea, milk, juice, weird tasting “vanilla” ice cream, and something just plain nasty labeled ‘strained cream soup’ that I think was meant for toddlers as it tasted like a mixture of paste and boogers. Ironically, after all my aching and griping, I was no longer hungry. They also took me off of my sweet, sweet morphine pump and replaced it with stupid Vicodin. I was finally allowed to sit up and hate ‘Charmed’ from a better view. Best of all, my mom and aunt finally arrived after being lost in the wilds of Pennsyltucky for many hours, fastidiously following the directions of a malevolently erroneous GPS that they borrowed from my sister. I warned her not to use it to scrape ice off her boots, but whatever.

The nurse gave me fair warning early on that they were expecting me to attempt getting out of bed and standing later on that day. I made myself ready. Prior experience with nursing staff taught me that once a doctor, even one that didn’t see you in person, decided you were ready for something, it was going to happen. The easy way is to do whatever is necessary to comply and maintain a friendly, positive relationship with the staff. The hard way is to listen to your body and offer complaint or resistance and invite irascible prodding with escalating urgency. I took the easy way, and even though it felt like I was straddling red hot iron saw horse. I grit my teeth, rolled over, and stood on shaky feet. “Do you think you can take a few steps for me?” You bet your ass I can! My call button was always answered immediately when that damn machine started its beeping again. This is definitely going on the list of hints and tips I’m putting together. Work with the nurses and life is sweet.

I received a trans visitor not long after my first walk. Cynthia popped in to say hello and it took me a day and a half to figure out that she wasn’t a patient, even though she probably told me. I was super impressed that she was in real person clothes and walking around unassisted. I later found that her wife was the one who was Dr. McGinn’s other patient of the week. There is something very heartwarming in encountering one of your own in challenging situations, though I felt terrible that her wife was having a harder time getting up and probably getting a bit more of the pissed off nurse routine that I was so much trying to avoid. I got a little something that maybe there was some underlying irritation that I was zipping up and down the corridor like some fancy pants show off, but even so, she could not have been sweeter.

Friday came and they were ready to give me the boot, and in grand hospital tradition, at some undisclosed time. I truly doubt our military keeps the timing of critical operations under wraps half so well as hospitals. Could be this morning, could be after lunch, could be tonight, tomorrow, next month, or never. Who really knows? I was given my first solid breakfast and devoured it. I’d say the bacon was the best I’d ever had, but I say that about every piece of bacon I cram in my pie hole. At the specified time, my mom and aunt were ready and waiting. A few hours later, I managed to get myself dressed and was wheeled down, along with my humongous suitcase (Really? You aren’t going to move that yourself. No. ~ Dr. McGinn), to my aunt’s car. Several acrobatic moves later, I was seated uncomfortably in the passenger seat on my donut pillow and off to the bed and breakfast.

Coming soon, or when I get around to it: Why a donut pillow does jack shit on a bumpy road; the worst night; I cry; and why a B&B is a gorgeous and insanely ill advised place to try to recover in.

I Love the Smell of Anesthesia in the Morning – GRS cont…

Operating RoomThrough no fault of your own, I seem to be back on an accelerated schedule in my writing. Maybe it’s the time off from work, maybe it’s the need to publish after these long hiatuses, but more likely it represents a sadistic desire to have you all share my pain and triumph, but mainly the pain. Ahem, be that as it may…

When last we left off, our heroine was fervently checking her alarm and bemoaning a combination of hunger and a freshly sanded back door. I had just fallen asleep when the alarm went off on schedule. As per my standard, I gave myself enough time to ready myself in a hurry, and then stare at the wall for an hour until it was time for the car service to pick me up and take me to the hospital. The car was due at precisely 5:30 sharp, and by 5:40 I was in a total panic as the creepy lightless street remained headlight free. I was right to be in a Tijuana tizzy as this always seems to happen to me. If a name is going to be left off the roster, it’s always mine. Usually it’s because my last name usually sends me over to the back of the page that no one ever checks. Zelda Zyxzz, you know what I’m talking about girl.

OK, everyone calm down, the car did come after two hissy fit calls to the dispatcher and the ride to the hospital was uneventful. I couldn’t help but notice we passed a gorgeous looking Sheraton right near the hospital with fun looking eateries right nearby. This would haunt me in the days to come. I have to say, the Lower Bucks hospital staff was fantastic and acted like people blew in at the wee hours of the morning every Tuesday to have some major remodeling done to their tackle. A beautiful calm settled over me, which is totally unusual by the way, and I went through the motions of donning the faded backless gown and socks with the little treads on them. For once I didn’t worry about tucking; if anyone had to guess what I had down there, I was in deep shit.

The wheeled me in a gurney to the pre-op area where I was delighted to see that Heather, the PA from Dr. McGinn’s office, also kept drastically early hours. With the best bedside manner ever, she went over the standard mountain of paperwork with me, most of it indemnifying everyone in a 40 mile radius in case anything went wrong. I had to wonder if anyone at that point said, “yeah… fuck that”, hopped off the gurney and went to hunt down their gear. I realized my relaxed state was mainly due to the promise of sweet, sweet anesthesia right around the bend that would take away my hunger pangs and give me some solid shut eye. Hard to have performance anxiety when your primary role is to act like you are sleeping one off. Dr. McGinn dropped by briefly but rushed off like she had something important to get started on for some reason. Shortly thereafter, they wheeled me into a surreal room.

I immediately understood why Target was always short on 1500 watt bulbs as the eastern seaboard supply was simultaneously lit in the operating room. I squinted my eyes as masked men helped me shove my fat ass on to a table nearly identical to the one I was already on. People shuffled around looking professional, very busy, and yet like it was the usual Tuesday morning hump at the same time. I caught another glimpse of Dr. McGinn. I’m going to be able to eat right after this, right? “Um, no.” Dammit. A friendly man put a clear mask over my face after giving me a shot in the arm. Determined to fight the effects for as long as I could, you know, just for kicks, I faded to black.

The piss about anesthesia is that you wake up microseconds later still tired, but the clock is indicating you accomplished nothing all morning, you useless sack of crap. Immobile and disoriented, I was grateful to realize I was in no pain below the waist, though from the neck up I was a hot mess. I once read of an Inquisition era torture technique where they would use water to force a piece of scratchy adhesive linen down the throat, and then yank it out to tear out the esophagus lining and I was reasonably sure this had been done. Fuck, my check to the hospital must have bounced. These guys don’t play around, do they? Let’s just hope they didn’t install additional testicles down there. No, it was just the intubation that somehow managed to produce the same tortuous effect in a caring medical environment over 400 years later.

I yearned for the tiniest sip of water to ease the smoldering wreckage that was once my throat. I painfully croaked my desire to the approaching nurse. “Sorry dear, no water for a while for you. Oh, and here’s the phone. It’s your mom.”

Stay tuned for the thrilling next episode in our serial in which Michelle figures out the exact timing when the morphine pump goes live again, receives visitors, and manages to hump her ass out of bed early to the ire of the other patients.

Twas The Night Before GRS… so, so hungry…

hungry-womanThe time has finally come for me to recount my great surgical journey. Yes, I know the title seems to indicate that I’m going to draft some kind of clever poem full of wit and homage to a Christmas favorite, but that’s simply not going to happen. I thought about it, but I already infuriate the grammar police in my readership with run on sentences, mixed metaphors, and made up words. It’s all in good fun until someone comes by and pokes my eye out. This is going to be a multi-part post to accommodate my enthroned readers who don’t want their legs to fall asleep.

Twas a beautiful Sunday afternoon when my spouse, son, and mother-in-law dropped me off at the fabulous Ramada just down the street from Lower Bucks hospital. My plans to do a walk about and see the sights of this gorgeous north east Philly suburb were dashed by the hotel being situated in what appeared to be a side access road to a long closed military base. There were a few other sad looking hotels, sure, but there wasn’t even one of the ubiquitous shitty convenience stores of low rent areas that will sell beer to 16 year olds.  Trust me, I had known a thing of two about sniffing those out. I concluded that Dr McGinn made her recommendation based on a desire to discourage panicky clients from escape attempts on foot.

The parting was difficult, especially when my precious 6 year old who decided to break my heart by bursting into tears in the car. I was left  alone to begin my pre-surgical fast with nothing by my thoughts, a TV, Kindle loaded with 11 books, 2 music iPods,  and 1 iPod loaded with 8 books on  tape. Oh, and 45 pounds of saved magazines. I was nervous about digging into any of my media as I still had 2 weeks to kill and didn’t want to run out. My heart leapt. I was in a hotel! The comfort of many lonely nights of business travel was but a click away; pay per view movies! No, no, not the ones you hope won’t show up on the bill; recent Hollywood releases. Yes, I was that kind of pathetic business traveler so sue me. The Ramada, however, apparently catered to the thrifty set in spite of the room rate and only had regular TV and fucking Showtime. Ugh. Bored, I decided the whole recommended fasting bit, 48 to 24 hours, was really intended to gravitate closer to the 24 hour number, so I wandered down to the attached pub grill.

The only thing creepier than staying in a nearly deserted hotel on a post-industrial, post-apocalyptic road is wandering into an empty pub. The muted TVs broadcast a game of no interest and I stood there, feeling like an intruding jackass when the burly proprietor materialized before me. I took a seat in the corner, but allowed him to coax me into the center of the seating area to enhance my feeling of uncomfortable exposure and maximize the probability that someone was going to creep up on me. In honor of the environs, I ordered the Philly steak sliders, which contrary to the menu description, turned out to be egg rolls filled with shaved steak and cheese whiz with a side of marina dipping sauce. It was like ordering a lobster roll in Maine and having it served in the center of a donut.  I scarfed down my last meal for 5 days and went back to the room.

Waking up the next morning, I knew my eating days were done for a bit, and my stomach acquiesced by screaming for breakfast. Fortunately it changed tune later when it began screaming for second breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, supper, and evening, night, and mid-night snacks. Confined to “clear” liquids, I was allowed water, ginger ale, tea, and a whole host of things I would have found delicious had I the forethought to bring them. It’s bad when you start hallucinating cartons of Swanson chicken stock.

The hunger took a break from time to time when I began my “cleanse” at 4 PM. I’m not going to describe this as it’s immeasurably gross. As the evening wore on, and more and more painful trips to the bathroom were made, I further discovered that the hotel cleverly replaced the normal toilet roll with a trick variety that dispensed increasingly coarse grades of sandpaper. Between trips I tortured myself by watching the Food Network almost exclusively. I know what you are thinking, but it’s no different than a horny businessman putting on Skinamax after being shot down by the waitress at Appleby’s; happy ending aside of course.

My long day over, I managed to fall into an uneasy sleep, rousting myself every half hour or so to double check my alarm was still set for 4:00 AM and piss out all the water and ginger ale. I’m going to end this post with a confession. I still peed standing up. That’s right. As long as I had the equipment, and was not in a public setting where such a thing would be noticed, I never sat to take a whiz. Seriously, why would anyone go through the trouble to take everything down and sit when complete avoidance of the filthy bowl was possible? I already understood myself as female through and through and making the extra effort wasn’t going to make a difference. I’m OK with that option being gone mind you, but if you are pre-op trans and shucking your pants down against the underside of the nasty toilet when no one is looking, take a moment and ask yourself why.

This concludes the boring and relatively anti-climactic prologue to my surgical experience. Stay tuned to next episode when we explore a frantic ride to the hospital, pre-surgical rigmarole, going under, and waking up to find your penis missing.

Where’s Michelle?

Question MichelleI know what you’re thinking. “So, little miss thing here got too big for her britches and can’t be bothered to put up one damn post in a New York month?” Clearly I think of you as Nell Carter, and for that I offer no apologies. Also, a New York month is typically 30 days or equivalent to an Oklahoma weekend. It’s OK, I’m going to explain right now.

Before that, let me just quickly add in that this is going to be a shorter than normal post. For those of you who print these out to read on the can, I’m sorry; you are going to have to stare at the wall for spell I’m afraid, or finally polish off that old Newsweek that still has Gadaffi on the cover. You know those people who can just cheerfully type away leading back on a couch, wrapped in a blanket, a cup of Earl Grey balanced on one knee, and write a fricking novel? Yeah, I hate them too. I cannot do this and instead sit stewing in resentment watching reruns of Modern Family. Since sitting in my writing chair (actually just a dining room table chair moved into a different room) is currently akin to being perched on Satan’s own commode, even with the donut pillow, the fuse on this post is already lit.

Getting to the point (see how much faster I do that now?), I had my surgery on Oct 22nd. Remember that writers block I was whining about months back? Yeah, that’s just gone now, and I’m dying to fill up pages and pages with my experiences from the lead up, the surgery and my stunning (fine… average) recovery in full Technicolor details. In the mean time, thanks for bearing with me in my recent silence as you will wish for those days as you awkwardly fumble around this page trying to figure out how to unsubscribe.

Ode to “Michael”

Me at Saudi Bus StopIt takes a real piece of work to actually go and write an ode to themselves. I mean really, who has that kind of self-absorbed chutzpah anyway? Well, as it turns out, apparently I do. That sounded suspiciously like an opinion, even though we all know you are reading a blog entry titled “An Ode to Michael”. Has Michelle finally lost it? Is it OK to call her a douche-bag, or is that just for guys? OK, perhaps I better explain.

Not long ago I was speaking with someone who recommended that I consider holding some sort of funeral for “Michael”, you know, since I wasn’t going by that identity anymore and because some of those closest to me might have some feelings about it. While not totally opposed to the idea, I considered my audience for such a thing and decided against it. My spouse, someone highly suspicious of the medical care industry and hospitals in particular, already has enough worry over my upcoming operation. I think introducing the concept of a generally death related ceremony at such a time would only fan the flames of anxiety and miss the point entirely. As far as my immediate family goes, I believe such a thing would be characterized as a ridiculously fluffy exercise necessitating either a Crayola decorated shoe box or functional  toilet. Yeah, it’s not going to happen.

I’ve talked before about still casting Michael’s shadow and what that means. At that time though I mainly talked about how other people felt about my change. As this is a very self-indulgent exercise, I think it’s time to concentrate on how I feel about it. There are two stories that usually get told about transition. One is about the complete euphoria that comes from expanded self awareness and the courage to do something about it. The other is about the heartache and difficulty associated with rejections, losses, and the vast number of hoops one has to jump through just to be reclassed as second banana citizens. This is different. I want to talk about the feelings associated with the loss of an identity I put so many years into.

Old, pre-transition pictures of me are still hanging about the house, and my mom naturally has dozens everywhere you look. I sometimes look at them and ask the boy or man in the picture why I couldn’t just remain that way. I had a really good run as Michael and was the for the most part very happy and living an idyllic life. I had the respect of others, a decent reputation, a strong marriage, a wonderful child, family I’m close to, a good job with a track for upward mobility, and a heady sense of self determination. As Michael I could have kept all of that going and added even more into the mix. I could have also completely avoided causing a great deal of heartache, sorrow, and loss in those closest to me. The greater sense of inviolable self determination has left and at many turns I feel but one step away from living out that Bob Dylan song about a Rolling Stone (I really love that song). Why could I not have just kept Michael going and made everyone, including myself, happy?

Well, we all actually know why. Under auspices that it would have been easier and better to do nothing at all, that option was never really on the table. After all, I did choose that from the moment I became self-aware at 4 (or earlier) up until early 2011 when I faced the reality that the identity of Michael was just not mine to keep. The best threats and bribes I and those around me could muster were nowhere close to the asking price to retain it. A happy caterpillar still reaches a day when it’s time to start spinning, even if continuing to defoliate my tomato plant seems like the best of all possible worlds. No power known can halt or slow the ticking of the clock that brings with it the beginning and end of all things.

So to Michael, I acknowledge that you had a really good run. You did your job, had a quiet charm, carried my load, and did little harm (OK, I didn’t mean for that to rhyme, just so you know). I know people are going to miss you, and honestly, so will I. I liked myself as you, and that feeling is just a little harder to achieve at present, but I’m learning and at least now it’s real. Had I been able to afford you, I would have been happy to keep you on, but that account is empty and now closed. If you don’t mind, I’d like to leave with you my fears, my failings, my limitations, and my secret self-loathing; buried so deep none of us knew it was even there. Though you are behind me now, you will always be remembered by me and others and I can only hope that I carry with me forevermore the best parts of you, and farther than you could have ever gone. Rest in peace, still with us and forever inside me.

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