OK the song is about Loch Lomond, and I was at Loch Ness and Loch Laggan today, but I don’t know any catchy lyrics about either of those places that I could use for a title. Give a girl a break.
After ten months I finally got an opportunity to begin to explore my beautiful adopted country. The student society from my College sponsored a trip to Loch Ness and Fort William today and I went along.
Thanks to the generosity of one of my good friends, I was able to overcome the effects of N lending our digital camera to one of her pub friends who dropped it and broke it, and still record the adventure in pictures.
Interestingly, I learned something about being part of a community of international students. My friend is from Sardinia. The camera she lent me had quite a few features. Unfortunately, I was unable to use any of them other than the basic point and shoot, because all the menus were in Italian. The upside is that I now know how to say “change the battery” in Italian.
The original plan, when we decided to move over here, was that N, the kids and I would spend our weekends and holidays exploring our new home. After all, why move halfway around the world just to spend all your time just at home or in school? Through a combination of choices and certain unexpected financial hurdles, that plan never materialised. Money remains tight for a while, so I was only able to take advantage of today’s adventure because it was paid for by the student society.
Next month, the boys and I are planning to go to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival. There are several artists that they like performing and I think we have found a day where we can see a couple of them. Long-term we are hoping to sort out another trip to London and after I have all my PhD and visa details in order, we are hoping that we will have an opportunity to visit my sister and her family in Nice during a school holiday next year.
We will make the plan work, just slightly different from the original design.
In spite of the long-term plans, I felt a little guilty starting the adventure without the boys. They don’t really mind, as long as they know we are planning things for the future and we have been spending some real quality time together otherwise, so I really shouldn’t have worried.
Earlier in the week the youngest and I were discussing the fact that since school let out, he is getting very little exercise. Without the daily walk to school, there is little he does to get out and about. I asked that he commit to at least one good walk a week, and then I had an idea. I walk to the grocery stores several times a week and always struggle to carry everything home all in one trip. I asked him if he would be willing to go along and help me out. He would get his exercise and help me at the same time. He thought it was a great idea, and we went on our first shopping trip together on Thursday.
This is a pretty impressive event when you think of it. How many fifteen-year-olds would be willingly seen in public with their parents in the first place? Never mind the fact that the parent in question is his father who is now living full-time as a woman. Without the slightest bit of coercion, he agreed. We had a great time.
It took over an hour and a half to walk to the store, get the groceries and walk back home. We talked about all kinds of stuff. He helped me pick out meals for the next several days, and I learned all about the online forum that he moderates including some very interesting details about the personalities of some of the people in the forum. It turns out one of the younger members has had some suicide issues and I made sure my son knew that it was OK to use any of the stories of his experiences with me, if there was any chance that they would serve to help this other young man.
I want my son to know that I am not ashamed to tell the stories of the bad times in my life. I am grateful that they are over and would not want to relive them for anything, but if my breakdowns, and the wonderful way my son stepped up to help me, can provide the tools to help others, then they should not be buried.
I also learned a little about his plans for the future and probably gave him way more advice on that than he really wanted. It’s what I do. All in all, a very pleasant evening with my son.
My other son has been pretty deep into two video games. On thing that I like about him, when he is playing, is that he is willing to explain what is going on. I don’t have the time to play these games myself, so I don’t know all the back stories of some of the more complicated ones. It is easy to get lost watching him play. I usually try to hang out in the living room for a couple of hours in the evening when he is playing just to keep contact, and he is really good about explaining things to me when I get confused. I am smart enough to not interrupt him when he is in the middle of some great conquest or something.
I have found that parenting these last two is a bit different from the previous six. First off there is an overwhelming sense of “been there, done that”, and there is a fair amount of burnout that comes from that. From my end, I am a little more skilled at knowing what buttons to push and not to push, but I am also a little more impatient when they don’t get the right answer as quickly as I think they should. There is also an enormous amount of energy that a parent invests in their child over their lifetime.
When you have a large family, the stores of energy can become depleted before the last ones are grown and gone. I have adapted as my mantra for dealing with this situation the idea that these two boys did not choose to be born at the tail end of a large family and they deserve the same amount of time and energy that I invested in their siblings. All the way up until they reach adulthood and we establish whatever relationship we will have then. Just like all the rest.
All in all, I have no reason for feeling bad about taking a day for myself, with my friends and classmates, and enjoying the beauty of Scotland.
The day got off to a shaky start. We had to leave early, and (I know this will come as a surprise to some) it takes me a while to get beautiful in the morning. I ended up rushing out of the house and as I walked past the construction site at the end of our block, I stepped on a stone and rolled my ankle.
I should be grateful that my shoe broke and not my ankle, but darn it! They were this really cute pair of wedges that I just bought last week. I didn’t have time to go back and change my shoes, so I just went on. Bad wheel and all.
Turns out that I would have had plenty of time to go back and change because there was a mix-up at the bus company and the bus was almost an hour late. I was able to fix the shoe after all. In what is quickly becoming the home of everything useful, my purse, I found a small bottle of glue and was able to reattach the broken strap to the sole, good as new.
The ride to Loch Ness takes about three hours and the scenery is beautiful. It is also long enough to play several episodes of the famous Scottish weather game of how quickly can the weather change. We went from sun to rain and back again at least six times on the ride. Weather-wise, the whole day turned into evidence of why I carry, sunglasses, an umbrella and a light jacket in my purse at all times.
By the time we got to Loch Ness the rain and wind were winning. The boat cruise was nice enough, but we couldn’t really go outside to take pictures because of the rain.
The cruise ended at Urquhart Castle, the largest medieval castle in the Scottish Highlands.
I love history and I love castles, so I was happy to brave the wind and rain to do some exploring.
Let me offer a little perspective for my American readers on what I mean by history when I am talking about places I visit here in Scotland. The first events recorded on the timeline of this castle took place in 580 C.E. That is 400 years before Leif Erickson established the first European settlement on the North American continent. This castle was burned and set to ruin in 1692, only 72 years after the Pilgrims settled Plymouth Colony. This castle predates white people in North America by four centuries and its history was over 84 years before the United States began.
That’s history my friends.
Overall, it was a lovely day. We went on to Fort William for some lunch and some shopping afterwards. I had a great time with my friends and classmates.
I give two of the women enormous credit. They have not interacted with me socially since I came out. I was at a party with one, but she was there only briefly. The three of us went clothes shopping. I could tell it was a little weird for them at first, but as we went on they made me feel like I was every bit one of the girls.
I thank them for that.
Except for the dodgy weather, it was a very good day.
Why then did I find myself sitting on the bus riding back home in a complete funk?
At first I attributed it to guilt over not sharing this with the boys, but I then went over the things that I laid out earlier and realised that was not it.
So what is it? Life is mostly good. I have been making progress in many areas of my life. My work is going well. I have a little uncertainty about my future right after I finish my master’s dissertation, but that is not unusual nor is it overwhelming. I really have little to complain about in my world right now. Why can’t I find peace?
Then it dawned on me. You have to go back to some of my earliest posts to see where I describe the phenomenon of the buzzing in my head. The overall dysphoria created by the fact that my physical sex does not match my gender identity. Now, I have gone to great lengths to address this issue, and I have had great success with many of them.
I have a new name. I have a new wardrobe. I am learning to interact with my surroundings from a more naturally feminine angle. Just yesterday, I commented to my girlfriend at the prison where I used to work how much more comfortable I am with opening up to people and developing real friendships now that I have nothing to hide. On the surface it would appear that things should be much better, and in many ways they are.
What hasn’t been addressed are the physiological factors. Every day I engage in certain rather uncomfortable actions that are designed to hide all evidence of my maleness. I shave so closely it hurts. I tuck and bind my genitals in such a way that there is absolutely no chance of any embarrassing bulges. I wear a wig that makes my head sweat and itch. All of these because, whenever I see any evidence that I am still in a male body, I get ill. I know that I am doing this and I know that at this point it is just a cover-up. Until I can make permanent changes, this will continue to be a problem.
More importantly, I have mentioned in the past that I have both read research and seen a fair amount of anecdotal evidence that points to the fact that the constant flow of testosterone into a brain that is wired to accept estrogen creates the buzzing. Story after story tells of the sense of peace that is felt after starting hormones. I have recently heard one person compare the experience of her running out of hormones to that of a junkie going through withdrawal.
Everything I have done to this point, while important, is just window dressing without addressing the physiological aspects. I lost track of this, because my life has returned to normal for the most part, and for my entire life, the buzzing has been part of my normal. I never understood how it fit in, but it was so constant that it often faded into the background sounds and was able to be ignored.
It’s a lot like the way I can honestly say that I have known all my life that I was a girl and then in the very next breath say, just as honestly, that I didn’t tell anyone sooner because I didn’t actually know I was trans.
I’ve had the symptoms. I didn’t, and in many ways still don’t, understand them. I know more today that I did yesterday. Yesterday, I knew more than the day before that. Each day I learn more about myself and what is going on inside my head. Each day these confusing pieces start to fit together a little better. Each day I can go back and answer something that I couldn’t answer the day before.
Sometimes that knowledge involves going back and grabbing something that I had forgotten and lining it up with the newest things I have learned. Today’s revelation was one of those moments. I need to keep moving forward with all the other things that I am doing and have done, but until I address the root physiological issues, until I take the hormones and have the surgery, things will still be wrong. The buzzing will not stop.
I desperately need for the NHS bureaucracy to move its glacial backside and get me started. Until then, I will remain broken.
As if to confirm the validity of my revelation, just as I formed the thought, we turned a corner and saw the most beautiful, vivid rainbow that I have ever seen. It was so remarkable that I and the girl sitting behind me both exclaimed at its beauty at the exact same time. The rainbow spanned Loch Laggan, and for the first time in my life, I was able to clearly see both ends of a rainbow.
I started out mentioning that there are no songs that I know of which mention Loch Laggan. After today, there should be.