Estrogen high

I am not my abuse. I am what my abuse was trying to prevent. I am the person everyone was afraid I would be. And that person is starting to wake up.

There is much that I only technically consented to. Because it seemed best. Avoided some perceived bigger problem. A problem which often was manufactured, for the purpose of gaining consent. A concentrated decade of this. After a diluted lifetime.

I just accepted the fact I couldn’t do anything. The last time life seemed to carry some possibility was some 24 years ago. Today I feel I can just, make it mine. This is my life, my world, my body, my self. Even the aches and pains, they’re mine.

I can feel my mask slipping. There’s a sort of a hand-off. The person I’ve been forced to pretend to be, who has shouldered all this garbage, has begun to rest, and allow me to take over and just exist.

That other person is another life, with its own anxieties and concerns. They carried me, found me, helped me figure out who I am and what I need to do. They’re tired, harried. They need to go back where I’ve been hiding all this time. I’m grateful. They did their best. They protected me as well as they could. They’re done now.

Now it’s my time. The real me.

The Bafflement of Care

I got some stuff done at the doctor, and it was all constructive; better than a worst-case scenario. Then a nurse who wishes to remain nameless offered me a lift. I guess they’re technically not supposed to do this, but her partner was waiting around to pick her up at the end of her shift, so she went down and asked him to use that time to drive me home—all the while gendering me semi-correctly.

She did keep asking to make sure I wasn’t a serial killer, which I tried to assure her I wasn’t. I was a little unclear on how to respond to that, especially after the first time. I also approached the endeavor with a certain amount of caution until I saw everyone involved. And, when I saw the scenario it was clearly fine.

I’m so unused to people just… doing nice things that the moment I was dropped off I started to feel so guilty. What am I not doing? I thanked them both profusely. Should I have… done something else? Made some gesture of my own? I don’t know how these things work. Was I rude? Did I act like a jerk? I just. I’m trying to figure, sometimes people are just nice, and leave it at that.

On top of this, all the gendering (which I’ve been getting regularly of late, often in the strangest scenarios). I mean, I know it’s part of her job to be sensitive to that sort of thing, but, like. Again, it’s a lot.

Just. Oh my God, I don’t know what to do with someone just going out of their way to do something like this for me, for no reason, and against policy. I’m kind of overwhelmed.

Normally the worst part of check-up appointments is the hour-long trudge home after the blood draw. Today I got to just decompress, and drink the complementary ginger ale; spike my sugar back up a little. Normally I am completely wiped out by the time I get home, but this time I had enough energy to actually get groceries (where I continued to get ma’amed, somehow, despite looking like a melted slug).

Agh, interacting with people is so strange. I don’t know what I am doing at all. Just, accept it.

Conservation of Trauma

I appreciate that in Steven Universe violence is always a tragedy. Sometimes it’s necessary, even justified, but that doesn’t make it good. And there will always be consequences. Those who glorify it do so out of damage or ignorance, and it will eat them. The discussion is about cycles of abuse—in families, relationships, the broader social structure—but the show uses its ostensible format as an action-adventure series to subvert all the things we’re told are glorious and righteous, to assert that, no, actually, violence is just violence.

Take the “Stronger Than You” battle between Garnet and Jasper. On the surface it’s triumphant, an early high note for the show. And indeed Garnet was left without many other options. It was an act of self-defense. Jasper was never going to be reasoned with. Something like it had to happen, to prevent other violence. But that doesn’t make it innately virtuous. It still passed along trauma in unpredictable ways. It was necessary, and that’s the tragedy—because violence doesn’t cancel violence; it only mutates its form, maybe puts it out of sight and mind for a while. And boy, that keeps happening in this show—from thousands of years before its start, all the way to the end.

To an extent the Gem War was necessary. It redistributed trauma away from some of the most vulnerable, even as it ravaged all that survived. And the show only ever plays that with ambivalence, except through the eyes of characters who were clearly warped from the violence beyond the ability to cope. It’s a tragedy that it was necessary, and the consequences are endless.

Then all those themes that have been building up since 2013, they culminate in Future. Where would all the violence land, but in the lap of our central character? Including the fallout of Jasper’s history of war and insecurity, heightened to the point of mania by her battle with Garnet. All those millennia of hard-won victory and juggled, mutated trauma come home again, to be absorbed by a single target.

In other shows, the Perfect Steven reveal would be a cathartic triumph, a symbol of growth and success. Here it’s tragedy. It’s clearly wrong even before what happens. This is what violence has done to our boy; this is how it’s warped him. It’s the show’s message from the start, but now it’s personified so you can’t ignore it, much as the trans issues were brought to the forefront at the end of season five.

Abuse and neglect, they don’t just go away. They don’t evaporate when you stop looking at them. It’s like conservation of energy; all they do is transfer and change forms. They linger and fester until they manifest in some new unexpected form. The only way to stop the cycle is to acknowledge it, take a step, back, and show unconditional love.

Which is easy to say, of course. But all we can do is forge ahead, day by day, step by step, and try to show care where we can. And maybe one day it will be enough to make a change.

Ding

Food, when I was growing up, amounted to, “I don’t know; don’t bother me. Make yourself a bagel if you’re hungry.” My school lunch was perhaps a Fruit Roll-Up and a Kudos bar, in a brown paper bag. If there was nothing readily available, I just didn’t eat.

I think I never really got in the habit of food. Even four decades in, I remain vague on the idea of Eating Things. Even when food is available, it’s this abstraction. Yes, ideally I would consume it on occasion. Mostly, I forget—and mostly, I don’t.

When I was a little older, the same friend who helped me to escape from my most recent abuse scenario and set me up where I’m living now—his parents sent me a sort of care package; just, all this food, to eat. Since they knew there was never anything at home.

I stored that in my room for a few months, until I worked through it. Saved me having to enter the same air as my parents.

The two of them, they had their own specific things they ate, which were always, uh. One of them was just liver and onions, all the time! The other, I hope you like boiled rhubarb. If not, tough. And if so… well, it was theirs, right. So they did them, and then went their way. And I had to figure things out on my own.

When I was a little older my paternal grandmother, who was a horrible person in every respect (I won’t approach the racism), regaled me with a story of when I was perhaps two, and she saw me trying to make a bologna sandwich with green luncheon meat. Which… tracks, yes.

Come to it, when I was really young they did that thing of, if you’re bad you don’t get to eat, right. And I was “bad” all the time because I was a weeper. It seemed like everything made me cry. So I just got used to self-punishing and keeping out of the way.

I’m 6’5″ now. I wonder how tall I’d be if I weren’t malnourished most of my life. I wonder if this has anything to do with how late puberty hit me.

Every so often my father would scream at me that I was anorexic. And, then, well, that was the end of it. He just needed to scream that at me, so that I knew it. It wasn’t technically true; I was just scrawny, as I remain. But let’s just say that I was. Do a little math. Why does one imagine I might be that way?

Both my parents were… shall we say, deficient, as people. It’s not my job to sort through or apologize for what damage may have brought them to the point that I entered the story; they were who they were, and they were the kind of people Roald Dahl served to illustrate. Of the two I think my father took a little pity on me, inasmuch as when he happened to be stuck with me and we were out of the house he would always take me for fast food. Often my choice. So there was that. When he had to be there and see that I existed in front of him, occasionally I received the bare minimum of care.

Too much contact, though, made him uncomfortable. If he could get rid of me he would. I’ve already talked about the mall thing, where he’d dump me all afternoon, evening, and night until closing, because he didn’t want me to burn down the house, as he put it every time, but if I chanced to burn down the mall then that was out of his hands. If he remembered he’d give me five dollars for pizza. But with my training, I could easily not-eat—especially if there was a new game in the arcade. Something that introduced new ideas, like Rolling Thunder or OutRun or Double Dragon or Rastan. Or one of a few favorites that happened to cycle back in somehow, like Vs. The Goonies.

As I unpack the tangle of disasters that has brought me to my current situation, I gain more and more perspective on the complicated intersection of ways in which I was set up to fail in life.

My whole response to any scenario, I was taught: go away; don’t remind anyone that you exist; keep quiet, don’t show any emotion; don’t give them reason to punish you. I was taught to be a non-entity, to want nothing, not to attend to my own needs if I even knew them. I’m a bad student, but eventually I learned.

If I make myself invisible enough, I an rewarded with neglect instead of active abuse. So, I can stay quiet. I can make myself sit still. I can just not ask for anything. Ignore my bodily functions. Remove myself from the equation, remove myself from myself. 

Maybe I should eat something.

Between all this and my lack of romantic or sexual attraction, such that every relationship I’ve been in has been a matter of other people inveigling themselves into my life, telling me they’re my best friend until I rely on them, then handing me this ultimatum where for the friendship to continue it must do so on their terms, to which I have replied, “no, don’t go; I’ll do what you say; I’ll be good,” I can recognize a few central mechanics to the manner in which my life has, historically, sucked.

Of course now, as I approach my 42nd birthday, I have begun to learn my own systems—as opposed to the whims of narcissism that have shaped my my every fear and expectation for the first two score of my knowledge. So we’re not great, but we are at a turning point. Had I the capacity to cope with everyday life, and could I support myself financially, I would be well on the path to hunky-dory, and could begin to address some bigger structural issues. For now… I have a quesadilla in the oven.

Got to eat, Azure.

The Longest Yarn

Every so often I feel like a girl. And my whole body gets warm. The world starts to feel real. Everything begins to make a little sense; I feel connected to some kind of a story. It just comes to me, a realization. A toggle. And there it is, and somehow I’m human. Complete.

I’m not used to feeling like anything. Just this fuzzy ball of consciousness, resenting my humanity. This goes back forever. As far back as memories make sense. I’ve been an abstraction, unable to recognize or tolerate the entity holding my place in this game I cannot understand.

Now there’s this anchor. I’m still a space cadet, and I’ve got a whole host of distractions. But, I have a tether to this body and the world it inhabits, and now I know the truth, and sometimes when I don’t think about it, I find myself back on the ground. And I finally get it.

This is that sense of self it seems that everyone else has by default. They’re worn and damaged and a big old mess that I need to keep toiling away to repair, but they exist, and I like the model and the controls make a kind of sense to me. Sometimes I wake up, and they’re me.

And it’s just… kind of astonishing. There I am. There I’ve always been. What did I wake up from? It’s like that morning haze where you clear away the dream logic and sort out where you are and what day it is and what you need to do this afternoon. Except so much more vivid.

It comes when it comes; brains do what they do. When it does, it may follow my evening meds. It’s not hard to connect those dots. What strikes me, though, is how not just right but transparent it feels: this wave of Self and Reality and Truth. The pills are only a catalyst.

This gender business, I don’t mean to play by anyone else’s rules. I’ve been messed up for far too long, and this is my own scenario to sort. I’m going with whatever seems true and correct. And where I get that wrong, I will adjust. I’m a girl, in the lower-case. I’m just me.