Field Notes In/On Transition
Blather & Bibliomancy
From my most recent Freewill Astrology:
"You cannot use butterfly language to communicate with caterpillars," said psychologist Timothy Leary. That's good advice for you to keep in mind in the near future. You might want to find a way to carry on constructive dialogs with people who have a hard time understanding you. It's not necessarily that they are stupid or resistant to your charms. The problem is that they haven't experienced some of the critical transformations you have. They can't be expected to converse with you in your butterfly language. Are you willing and able to speak caterpillar?
I have been feeling like this a lot lately, like I am speaking another language with well, mostly everyone. It's extremely frustrating for me, and I’m not good at speaking caterpillar, to keep the metaphor going, my pronunciation and caterpillar accent are old fashioned, or something.
What I’m getting to, is that I feel like I can’t communicate what it is that I want to pretty well anyone. I can talk circles around it, but if someone asks me bluntly, “Well, what do you want to do to keep yourself from being homeless, and starving; if you are tired of retail?” My answer is almost always “I don’t know.”
Which is true, maybe it makes me an ungrateful lazy so and so, but I don’t want ‘a job’ anymore. I know I should be grateful to have any job in the economy we have, but should I really be doing just any job I can get, should I not want a bit of satisfaction in at least one part of my life? I feel bad saying that I feel at this point in my life I should be doing something that is mine, my idea that is being sold or borrowed, or whatever. I don’t want to pay someone else’s bills with my time.
These are my desires, but I really do not have the strength to make changes it seems in this avenue. With maybe the odd blip my work has been a place that I get away from the other stresses of my trans life. I have a lot of supportive customers and friends that have really made my very public transition a lot easier than it could have been, though maybe smoother is a better word than easier.
Nothing about it is easy. Despite the fact that It doesn’t pay me enough to live where and how I do, it is a very good job to have, not many people working retail with no commission make more than I do.
Yet when I got my taxes done recently, I qualified for a ‘low income’ bump from the province on top of my GST cheques. My rent is more than %50 of my income, and I have been putting money into an RRSP since 2007. I have been living, for a couple of years a few hundred dollars over my income, either on Visa, or my line of credit (which I have only had a couple of years) I have been trying and failing to get my budget figured out, until this month. I had a bit of stress at work, and needed a break, so I took a few days off (which is a hit on my paycheque, but is worth the lost income) to go on a short mini vacation in Victoria, nearby Vancouver at least as the seagull flies.
Getting to Victoria, though on your own, by transit and ferry takes almost as long as flying to Toronto, sometimes.
But I am getting ahead of myself, the day before I left (last Thursday) I also took off, so I could finally deal with my banking. I was planning to either just suspend my bi monthly payments for awhile, or at least lower them, I even had in the back of my mind if the bank clerk was weird about it, closing it out and taking the penalties and tax hits, so that I could pay off some of my debt, as if I do end up even more under-employed this summer, I have some room to have that happen, on my Line of Credit, etc.
The clerk was really nice actually, and we changed up my investments from what he says were not diversified enough to a portfolio that has been their most consistent performer for the last ten years. The system also had me down as married for some reason. I have never really had a partner ever, let alone be married. I was weirdly embarrassed by that part. I am still putting away a tiny $25.00 a month into one of those non taxed accounts we can get in Canada. But my RRSP is just sitting there until I can find a way to increase my income.
“So Josie, what is it that you want to do to make money, then?” You might ask me.
What do I see in my minds eye when I am asked that question?
I see a blank white wall, that I only recently realized wasn’t a wall but a blank piece of paper, or a blank screen, one that I will fill with words and stories.
For most of my life I attributed that image being accompanied by my many “I Dunnos.” to my fear and lack of confidence, I was seeing nothing, emptiness, because that’s all I could conceive of other than doing jobs you don’t really want to do, while you do, did, your art on the side. I thought that’s how everyone lived. The difference between them and me being, that when they were asked that question they had an image, and something to answer with other than ‘I don’t know.’
Now I realize that that blankness is the metaphorical, and literal blank page that every writer or artist starts with. That blank page might be space on your hard drive that you fill with photos, videos, or writing, or an actual paper, or canvas, maybe a lump of clay. I have always been a writer, sometimes I was an artist too, but in all of these things, I never had enough confidence to really hustle and work hard enough to make a living doing the things I am actually good at, the things I want other people to see.
I have published three books of poetry, made over 90 youtube videos, and been blogging since 1996, when it was called having a web site or web page. It’s not like I haven’t been pursuing my art as a profession, but I always and too easily let ‘paying the rent’ be more important than anything else. I have been employed pretty much full time since I was 18 years old, I worked a lot throughout University, and have only had a couple of patches where I couldn’t find work. But I have always let my ‘job,’ none of which were things I wanted, but things I was able to get, wear me down, and keep me (as an excuse) from being as productive in putting my art out in the world.
Even now, I really only market myself to my friends, many of whom, are artists, somehow making a living mostly with their craft, but also many of whom are in my boat, or sailing the same slow river. The world is really against artists being paid. Famous wealthy artists are sneered at as sell outs, and everyone else needs to ‘get a real job’ is the mainstream view.
Man, I am easily sidetracked, but I’m keeping that rant in, as I like the flow, and I’m getting to the trip, now.
Armed with getting my finances at least a bit easier to deal with, the next morning, I took a (maybe not so) rare Friday coffee at my cafe (Turk’s, on the Drive) and set out for the bus, then the train, then another bus, then a ferry (which was the only pleasant ride), then another bus to get to Victoria. I left the cafe at 9 AM, and got into downtown Victoria at almost 2PM.
It was way warmer than I had dressed for despite the forecast, I’d glanced at the day before: after walking down the first corner I came to, after getting off the narrow, not made for people with luggage, double decker express bus to Victoria (slowest ‘express bus’ ever btw) I had realized on the trip over, that I had forgotten sunglasses, deodorant, razor, and hairbrush. But before I found a drugstore, I needed to eat something to kill the stale taste of the $8.00 bread garden sandwich I had on the ferry.
I walked down a street that had 3 comic book stores, a game store, and some nice antique shoppes, “Holy crap, Mecca!” I’m pretty sure I said out loud. I made a note to revisit that street, and found a cafe across the street from those stores that looked funky. It was a cozy place called “Lady Marmalade,” I had a very nice Club Sandwich, and a local beer (Blue Buck) The prices were a bit steep, but it was worth it; good food and atmosphere.
Sitting there decompressing a bit I realized that while I was on the ferry I had gone to the Ladies Room, and also at the ferry terminal, and nobody had yelled at me, or misgendered me. There were no scenes, One lady complimented my hat while we were washing hands, in the rest room on the ferry.
Not only was this my first ‘overnight’ trip anywhere since I started transition, I had broken the multi-user bathroom fear that has mostly kept me from going to clubs or restaurants with multi stalled bathrooms; or at least from going to the bathroom, even if I really need to. I tend to look for all gender ‘bog’ kind of restrooms, in public.
Having heard a lot of horror stories from the internet, I had a lot of fear, which in my stress from travelling, I had forgotten all about. I had a bit of glee and light poking out of my exhaustion from being on crowded busses, and waiting in long lines. I really, though didn’t feel like spending the afternoon not getting to my destination, for sleeping, which after having another beer, was already what I was most looking forward to.
So, fortified by my sandwich and beer, I got a hold of my Friend I was planning to stay with; who lived further out of town than I had realized. I had to get another bus, waiting about 50 minutes for it to arrive. It was a long trip to my friend’s place, and I couldn’t see street signs due to the height of the bus, but I asked a lady across from me, and she knew the stop I needed.
I got out near a tavern, and called my friend. She came around the corner and got me with a giant white dog, in tow. While I was on the bus, en route, though, she had received some news of a family emergency.
The majority of my evening, I sat on the sofa feeling helpless to help my friend in her crisis. All I will say about that, is that I was very impressed with my friend and her family, and how they pro-actively dealt with a crappy situation.
I did get a bit of a chance to hang out and chat later in the evening. But it wasn’t the evening any of us had envisioned. I stayed there, overnight and most of the next day, just hanging out, my friend still dealing with things from the night before. We got in a bit more catching up here and there, and even made some bread, later in the afternoon, she gave me a lift into the city later in the afternoon.
That’s when I had this weird reoccurrence of car sickness, something that a week before, I had. I used to get car sick when I was a little kid, but never since then, until just recently. I am blaming too much coffee, as it’s the only thing the same in both cases: more coffee than my usual cup or two in the morning, and very little to eat, also in both cases.
So, we had to stop for me to get my bearings, at a drugstore I got some cheesies (oh healthy, I know but it was the only thing that was appetizing to me,) and some water. I also had a few peanuts, and eventually I felt okay enough for motion. But was stressed out at feeling like a burden to my friend. Of course I doubt she saw it that way, but there it is, how I take things on whether I need to or not.
In the city, I was dropped off at another friend’s place, who lived walking distance from downtown. He was having a ‘Game day’ to celebrate “International Tabletop Game Day." Apparently people all over the place were hosting tabletop games all day, that particular day. I play Tabletop RPGs, but rarely ever play any of those Settlers of Cattan type games, or even scrabble much, except online.
It was refreshing, and a lot of fun. The first game we played was called “Zombicide,” I came in partway and grabbed up an NPC character and we ended up winning that particular game, in that we barely escaped the zombie horde in this one building.
We had some really nice bagels and cream cheese from a local place that was to die for, some bacon wrapped scallops and so on, also there were a lot of expensive, delicious craft beers consumed by all. I had a few glasses, and stopped early on that front though, not wanting to have any more queasiness on my trip.
We played another game after that, that I would love to play more often, called Betrayal at the House On the Hill. A group of people are in a haunted House, one of them will turn out to be a traitor, but it depends on certain things in the game happening. No one knows until it happens, who the traitor is. Great atmosphere, game design, and gameplay. No I couldn't afford to buy those games, either.
It seemed like a game where there is lots to keep you playing it over and over. I really enjoyed playing these games. I haven’t really played anything other than D&D or that sort of table game in a long time. To cap off the night, we played a game that involved a bunch of gambling, (like monopoly, but with games of chance, like craps, poker, dice) it was fun, but not really my speed. I preferred the ones where there was a story to be told, maybe not so oddly enough.
I crashed on my friend’s sofa, and got to meet his kitty cat, named Evangeline. (which of course made me think of a comic book from the 1980’s called Evangeline) What a nice kitty she was/is. I really liked the cat, and bonded with her in ways that I wasn’t able to with the big drooling dog who was a huge part of the first part of my trip. Dogs are awesome, but I really am a cat person.
The next day, my friend and I walked downtown for some breakfast at a great joint called simply “John’s” They are famed for their various Eggs Bennies, and I had the classic one, which was really delicious, and bottomless half decent coffee, which I was careful not to have too much of. Then we did a bit of a tourist trek through downtown Victoria, going into those comic shops I mentioned earlier, and a few other places, like Victoria’s tiny but lovely Chinatown, which is the oldest in Canada.
I got a ton of great photos. Around lunch time we took a break and went home for a while to rest the feet and so on. I had some more of those delicious bagels and cream cheese. We got in my friend’s truck and went driving to the part of the city by Beacon Hill Park where there are some nice beaches, and boats out sailing, we checked out all the super rich people’s mansions, and had a really nice visit, and sightseeing trip. My friend has only recently moved there, so hasn’t seen all there is to see yet, himself.
The trip back the next morning was about an hour or more shorter, as my friend gave me a ride to the Ferry. I am so glad I didn’t have to take the ‘express bus’ again, crowded, and too narrow. Though, I did enjoy getting to ride in the top half of the double decker bus, cramped as it might have been, as I had never done been on a double decker bus before.
I was pretty exhausted when I got back and wanted to just blurt out this story, like I have here, but had a hard time connecting with people that afternoon, eventually I went over to a friend’s place and was able to get a bit of it off my chest, even though my friend had her own problems to deal with when I got there too.
It’s taken me a few days already, to decompress from the trip, which I mostly enjoyed, but well, it needed to be longer. I just can’t afford that right now. So, I’m continuing to try and be present at home, work and play, to keep my self open to change and doing things like going places that might be out of my comfort zone, and to keep trying to figure out what my next step is.
How am I going to get from Retail to being the Sci-Fi/Fantasy novelist that I really am?
I started this blog entry with a quote from a book I read a few weeks ago, “A Discovery Of Witches” by Deborah Harkness; that affected me in ways that a dozen Trans* memoirs, and books that I revere even more have not. I identified with the main character in so many ways despite her being a young, ambitious athletic, time travelling blonde witch, and me being me. The portrayal of how Witches and other ‘supernatural’ creatures have to ‘pass’ in the human world, is something that I think any Trans Folk can grok, and perhaps anyone who feels the outsider, that you have to ‘pass’ yourself off as someone you are not.
What, though, I really grokked with this character, is highlighted really eloquently in this passage below:
“This bargain you made about magic and its place in your life - you made it when you were a lonely, frightened child. Now every time you take a step, it’s as though your future hinges on whether you manage to put your foot down in the right place.”
- From “A Discovery Of Witches” by Deborah Harkness
I really feel like there is a pretty obvious parallel to my life and how I have always been afraid of my own power and abilities, as depressingly non-supernatural as they might be.
Just how am I going to go from retail to being the novelist that I know I am? Simply by sitting down, and doing just that, writing novels. There are no middle steps, no ‘dues paying’ My dues are paid in full, I have lived an interesting and productive life, despite all my gripes. I can write thousands of words a day every day. That is what I am doing, now.
I have finished my ‘research and meditation, light grammar edit of my novel, and I am ready to start working on a readable draft, that I hope to be ready by the Fall, with a final edit (most likely with some pro editing advice) ready for self publishing by New Year’s. I am going to start concurrently writing the sequel novel, which I recently, through the editing of the first one, have figured out where it’s going.
By the time the first one is ready for publication, my plan is to working on the third book in the trilogy. After that, I already have a whole other series of stories I want to write. Some of those stories, will start as short stories, I plan to also find time to write, and publish myself, or perhaps even submit here and there. I have a second trilogy in mind, there, and a bazillion other ideas bouncing around in my brain.
Ambitious? I don’t think so. I’m not one to pour over my writing for years, I like moving quickly when I have an idea, otherwise I get stuck in the mud of inertia, and lose interest in the project. I have to get moving.
I might have to take on some other kind of work, or just keep plugging away where I am for a while, maybe years, but I am going to keep writing, keep publishing, "Just Watch Me," to quote some politician’s Dad.