Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Alia: Holding on

I feel a long rambling post coming on. I feel like such a girl for wanting to share a whole bunch of my feelings with you, which is silly... it's not even something I would have been concerned with as a guy so why I'm suddenly feeling self-conscious and guarded, I don't know. Which is... kind of the problem.

For a few days after I transformed, I was in "superhero crisis management mode." Even if the new victims didn't particularly want my brand of help, at least not all of them, I felt important offering it to them, and it gave me something to focus on. That week I alternated between stress of holding these unfortunate peoples' hands (those that were new to the process - and "Max," who was showing signs of doubt as to his ability to cope as a male) and the euphoric relief of being female once again and putting this mess behind me.

But on the way home, I had a lot of time to think. And the more I thought about going back to Toronto and resuming my life, the more I worried that I was kidding myself.

I started thinking about the last time Todd and I had been together. By now it's been over two years since our break-up. We reconciled, briefly, before he went to Maine, but by the time he "came back" to Toronto, he was another person.

I've never really explained what happened in detail. Even knowing what I know now, it's hard for me to separate the Todd I know from the person who was Todd during that time. It wasn't simply a matter of Deb, the woman in his body, letting me down gently. In fact, for longer than seems appropriate, she went along with it. Through August and September of that year, we were a couple, and I let myself believe that Todd was acting normally and everything was okay.

Partly it was the curse. Partly it was that I didn't want to be alone. When, in fall of 2008, I realized things were simply untenable between us that what Deb-Todd and I had was not a relationship, it was still a long time before I acted on that impulse. And when it finally ended, the ease with which "he" let it go was painful. Knowing what I know now doesn't ease the pain it caused, and it certainly doesn't excuse what happened next.

I realized I didn't like being alone. I couldn't handle it the way I had in high school, because I'd spent the better part of 4 years with someone I still cared about. And that's why the thing with Sean Flaherty happened (and why Erica LaFleur got with Deb-Todd resulting in their daughter.) And it was this desperation that led me to following Todd to Maine, and ultimately, spending a year with a penis.

So it seems like everything's worked out, everyone's back where they belong, happy endings all around. But it was Fletcher-Beatrice's words that haunted me all the way home.

During one of our time-killing sessions before changing, I asked Fletcher why he (at the time, male) kept coming back to the Inn. If he found a body where the owner can't come back, or doesn't want back, and can get comfortable, why not just settle down?

What he told me is that it was harder to quit than I might think. To simplify it somewhat, it's like how people keep playing the lottery after they've won. Knowing you can just slip out to Maine for a few weeks and come back with a new life, that you get to keep for at least a year, how could you say no? I said "easily," now that I've got my own life back.

He said it was more complicated than I thought it was; that changing once changes you, and going back does not mean returning to normal. I didn't think anything of this until I left the inn, then it hit me.

I had tried to ignore it, but it did feel weird to be a woman again. I felt uncoordinated, weak, unattractive. I got my period the day I headed back to Canada and I was so unprepared for it I wanted to destroy somebody. I had gotten too used to the relative simplicity of manhood, I felt like I was playing pretend, like the first few weeks of being Rob. I was literally uncomfortable in my own skin.

I was still depressed about it by the time I got back to Toronto but I was too exhausted to say even a word to Todd or Bryan. In fact, for a few days I was just a useless, barely-conscious walking corpse, wondering about the futility of it all.

Todd did his best to reassure me that things were fine now, we were out of the woods and ready to get back to reality, but as far as I was concerned we left reality a long time ago. We spent our nights in silence, I slept on his couch.

Then one day he went off to work and left me by myself in the apartment. I got up and made myself some lunch and began to imagine myself, back in Philadelphia, back in Rob's place. It was just a grilled cheese sandwich -- the poor guys aren't much for groceries -- but as I stood there in the empty apartment, I felt a bit better. This is going somewhere that probably seems really obvious but is really hard to learn when you're living this.

I've lived through this whole ordeal. It's part of me. My time as Rob is as real as my time in High School, as much a part of me as my first job. I can't leave it in the past, because Fletcher was right, it did change me. Just like being Anne-Marie definitely changed Todd. And maybe I'll never be the girl I was before I went to Maine, but I can live as the woman I've become. I think.

As Rob, I learned to be on my own in a way I hadn't as Alia. Yes, I had my moments of weakness... I especially regret my error in judgment with Sam... but I've grown a lot stronger, and that's an experience I can't write off. Wouldn't want to. It's all me, even if being me doesn't mean what it used to.

And so it goes. I've moved all my stuff back to my little attic apartment. I'm still with Todd, in a sense... I know he was very gung-ho about us getting right back together, but I do need to take it slow, to get to know him all over again, before we can get back to where we were.

And if it doesn't work out... if all this was for nothing and we have to get on with our lives, so be it, I suppose. It'll hurt, but I don't think there's anything I can't survive, now. I hope everyone, no matter what their destination, gets the peace of mind I've gotten from finally knowing who I am.

Here's to the big scary future. I'll let you know how it goes.


Anonymous said...

You've been through a big ordeal. Give it time. Take a break. But don't throw away something that meant so much to you just because you're not used to it anymore.

Anonymous said...

You just need to give yourself time to further digest the experience; also, even though you're back in your own life, after a year in Rob's life it's going to take some time to readjust to a new (old) routine. It took Todd a while to adjust to being back in his old life, too.

I think that in the long run, this experience is going to strengthen your relationship with Todd. The forced separation helped you both to realize how much you really cared for each other, the experience of having to adapt to and live someone else's life and handle their responsibilities has given you both a greater degree of maturity and wisdom, and of course, the fact that you each spent a year as the opposite gender will help you understand each other in ways that most couples can't.

In the meantime, just take it slow. This is the first time in two years that the two of you have been in a position to have some semblance of a "normal" relationship. Since you've both been changed by this experience, you both need time to get reacquainted with each other.

Anonymous said...

My last post probably came across really accusatory. Sorry. I'm just coming off a relationship that ended badly and I kind of hate to even consider the possibility of it happening again, even to someone else. Not very rational of me. I'll get over it eventually I suppose.