Saturday, March 21, 2015

Love and Friendship

Jon Katz said "I think if I've learned anything about friendship, it's to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don't walk away, don't be distracted, don't be too busy or tired, don't take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together."

I've never had many friends, I've tended to be fairly selective. I understand through countless hours of journalling, blogging, and talking with my dear wife Virginie that there was something that needed attention within myself first. Then, after that was understood, I feel now that I have a light to shine. I admit, it's so bright to me, almost bursting, and I want to show it to everyone, yet to some I've found more of a connection with than others. I've been thinking about my friends a lot lately. I received a really nice gift from one of them this last Wednesday. I was SO grateful! It was more than a gift though. I could tell this person had put some thought into it. On top of that it also said "I love you, and I accept you".

I think this is something I really want to say now to all my friends. I commit to all of you to always being there, to listening, to understanding, and to enjoying every moment I have with you. I commit to being there when you need me, and asking when I need you. I commit to not being too busy or tired. You are the glue that holds my life together, intricately woven along with family, spouse, and work. Yet, friends are different than these other things. Friends are the family that you choose. You choose them, they choose you. I consider it a privilege to have been chosen by my friends.

Perhaps this declaration may be overwhelming to my friends anyway, so I say it with a slight cringe. I don't want to scare anyone away. Since announcing to the world about my decision to transition, and allowing myself to think female, I've been able to accept certain traits about myself, that I've never felt I could accept. Being emotional is one of them. So, to anyone out there. If you need anyone to cry with you... out of pain, passion, fear, loss, gratitude, wonderment, or joy, I'll cry with you.

Running continues to be an outlet for me. I meet people with the same passion and can share with them something with them that we both enjoy. For me, running is more than sharing running though. Last weekend we set off for our LSD (haha, long slow distance as I've recently learned), we paired up. Sometimes I like being part of a big group, but I hoped this day that I would get paired off with one person in particular, and that we would just be able to yap for hours as we ran. It couldn't have been better. Perhaps we were both feeling better than we usually would, or maybe the context of the conversation provided that extra little bit of energy, but as we ran together, we lost the rest of our group and we ended up running together for remainder of the run. We talked about everything, religion, God, marriage, friendship, running, races, food, habits (good and bad) among a host of other things. It was perfect! I admit, I was supposed to run somewhere else, but everything worked out and I enjoyed myself immensely.

Friendship even seems to transcend borders. I've had the good fortune to meet so many people with literal hearts of gold. When I came out to the world 2 months ago, a close friend from my university days got in contact with me.  Even though she lives far away, the following day flowers arrived at our home with a message and chocolates attached. Her message to me was the same: "I love you, I accept you regardless of the shape, body, or appearance."

The best example of friendship is in my Wife Virginie. She's told me many times, I love your soul, and with this change, my soul has come out in more bright colors than I could have imagined. As a result, while there are lots of concerns about my family, I have none. In fact, I would have considered it a tragedy to live as we were, with me constantly hiding that which wanted to shine forth.

Last October, I ran the Iron Horse Ultra (only the 100k lol!). I felt great during the race. Strong, both mentally and physically. I enjoyed myself from start to finish, and made some great friends along the way.

Shortly after the 50km mark, we crested a hill from the west (heading east). As we descended down into the ravine, a new song came on my headphones. I stopped for a moment. The sun was shining bright. It was warm, with very little wind. There was a lake, surrounded by trees, and then me, descending down toward it, the dry prairie grass crunching beneath my feet. It is a moment sketched in time that I will always remember. I pulled out my camera, and took a video. While no video will ever do justice to how I felt, this is the best I can do and I offer it to everyone as the closest to feeling this enormous passion that I have inside. I swear, it's too big even for my body.

Maybe it's too much for just saying thank-you, but to the two people mentioned in this blog (you had better know who you are!!!) thank-you. This entry is for you. Thank-you for being the type of people that make the world a better place. Thank-you for sharing your enormous passion, whatever that is. Your passion for kindness, your passion for charity, your passion for running, your passion for people, listening, feeling, and loving. I swear, the blog title holds. When we love someone, an entire world opens up, and the gift we receive gives so much, we don't have enough room to receive it.

In case anyone is curious, the blog title "When we love someone" came from this song:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

I would wait to blog, because it's late and I  D O N T   H A V E   T H E   T I M E right now, but if I don't, the thoughts and feelings will be gone, and so here I am, at 10:00 at night, when I should be showering after my run, and going to bed, snuggled up to my soul mate.

Yet, here I am.

I'm not suggesting men are wolves, but I am suggesting the cartoon depicts quite well how "male bonding" has always been for me. It's foreign, and as absurd as the cartoon shows. Whatever I said, seemed to be ask fake as I felt inside. But you know what? I'm tired about talking about what things were like, too many wonderful things happened today.

When I die, I will remember today as a turning point in my life. It was the day other half of my life, my "work life" found out about Stephanie. It's funny how things work out. Inspiration comes in the most unlikely of forms. My running has been slowly degrading over the last 6 or so weeks. The answers are clear now.

Spironolactone is a powerful testosterone blocker. Unfortunately, it does much more than that. The feature that killed my was that it works also as a "potassium sparing diuretic". This means, I pee frequently, and whenever I do,  I pee out everything except potassium. Two things happened because of that. I became cronically dehydrated, in spite of the fact I was drinking 3+ liters of water a day, and my electrolytes were thrown completely out of whack. This led to frequent cramping, fatigue, nausea, and a whole host of other goodies, that made running "less than enjoyable".

A few days ago, I called the nurse to ask her, and after discussing, stopped taking the spironolactone. Things have improved. For example, my 15k time last week was 1:20. This week, it was 1:08. A pretty big improvement. Plus, last week it was a very hard fought 1:20. This week? I bet I could have done 1:05.

There is another side to this though...

I was seeing some amazing results, just taking the testosterone blocker. My appetite increased. I was having some major food cravings, and I began to become much more emotional. On Sunday nights, our family likes to watch documentaries. We watch them on just about every topic imaginable. We've watched internet safety, dogs, natural world, popular science, astronomy, technology, and last Sunday, epigenetics. It was very interesting, and informative. While watching, I was glued to what they were saying. I guess the combination of music and message got to me, and I began to cry.

I've always wanted to cry, but as a man, it seemed forbidden, but that night it felt wonderful. I was so happy about epigenetics!!! I just couldn't contain myself.

Then, I stopped taking them.

It was then that I realized how much I wanted to transition. It became clear that my councillor's advice that "it will become clear when you should make your announcement at work" was 100% correct. That time was now. I had an email proof read by a friend, and again by HR, scheduled a personal meeting with my team, at 1:30, and hunkered down intent on getting something done.

I'll post the email that was sent around. It was wonderful to write it. I don't feel like I'm much with words, but every now and then, I become obsessed with the moment as I write. The words flow into the keyboard with confidence, and with ease. This morning was such a moment.

The meeting with my immediate team went well. Everyone, although somewhat shocked, was immediately supportive. The email went out at 5:00pm, and within a few minutes, messages began to pour in with messages of encouragement, congratulations, and support.

To top that off, an old friend emailed me up. We got together last month talking about jobs, and he mentioned his company was looking for people. I saw no reason why I should rush into things, but I like to keep options open, so I agreed that I would be interested in meeting with his senior management.

A job offer came in this morning, along with a possible salary that makes my head spin.

I don't understand why so many wonderful things are happeneing right now, but like words on a page, everything is flowing together as perfectly and beautifully as the moonlight sonota. It's too perfect to ignore. All I can do is get on my knees, and thank whatever being is, or is not up there from the bottom of my heart, for making this day possible.

As I ran home, this message stuck with even more certainty. It was all there, the steady rythym of my feet, the cool air, the wind in my hair, the breath in my lungs. It, like this whole day is a moment seared into my mind with the glue of gratitude, that will be my tresure to cherish for the rest of my life.

My faith in humanity is being restored. It's being restored in everyday heroes that say "I love you" not with words, but with their ears. They listen and carefully consider. I wish I could thank all of these heroes, but it's already 10:37 now and I promised Virginie that it would only take 30 minutes.

To all those who made this day possible, thank-you. Really, from the bottom of my heart, I thank-you.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Coping with change

Warning! This blog post will have more details about changes happening in my transition. If these make you (the reader) uncomfortable, I'll mark the paragraphs that are more PG in nature so that you can avoid them.

Every fall it's the same thing in our house. The kids go back to school and within a few short weeks, the sniffles come into our house. It goes around most of us, and then we are okay. Fine until the seasons change.

My body has been coping with lots of change recently. It affects quite a few things. My energy level in particular. Not good for a person training for two 100 mile races this year. I don't know right now how I'm going to pull it off, but I'll run tomorrow, strengthen every day, eat healthy, stay hydrated, and listen to my body, both the good things and the bad things it's telling me.

It's no different with changes happening in my body right now. For example, the medication "spironolactone" is amazing. It's a diuretic, which I have realized today, is not a laxative. Laxative = poop, diuretic = urine. Basically, it makes me pee a lot, and it lowers my blood pressure. Could be a good thing, but when I run, I'm already dehydrated, and when you combine that with the fact it's hard to drink in the winter because I have to dig trough my clothing and pull down my zipper with cold hands in order to get to it.

Spironolactone also blocks testosterone production. Because it's so low, it means that my estrogen is higher. As I understand it, cellular receptors for hormones accept either estrogen and testosterone. If they accept estrogen, the individual develops secondary female characteristics. If they accept testosterone, the individual develops secondary male characteristics. It's obvious the medication is working, because my testosterone is quite low. My breasts have become very sore. The nipples are erect almost all the time, and my breasts are growing. Quite fast might I add... My Wife and daughter are telling me, they will kill me if I'm bustier than they are. It's probably still okay to shower with the guys, but I'll definitely be getting weird looks. I'm proud to be me, so maybe it's not a big deal. I'm happy with my body so far. Super happy actually! I hope I'm at least a b-cup eventually, but I won't complain with anything. They will be mine.

As for the running part of it, I'll keep training, without giving myself excuses on why I'm allowed to go slower, and less hard then before. I believe everything will work out in the long run. After all, in the end, when you're running 100 miles, it doesn't matter how slow you go, so long as you cross the finish line. (At least, that's the way I see it).

Virginie and I went to a clothes exchange last week at the pride center in Edmonton. There was a LOT of clothes there. I still feel very shy around those people, but they are all very friendly. I'm sure I'll eventually open up. I just need to give myself time. In the end, I got a whole bunch of really cute stuff. Mostly tops. When I wear them, along with my new girls pants, I can see a hourglass figure coming through. It's not a lot, but it's something, and I'm so happy with it!!!

My confidence has gone up as well. I think some of my favorite times are with my new friends at the Fast Trax run club. I have always had a tough time opening up to people, and trusting them. Now that my transgender secret is out, and literally everyone in my run club seems to be fine with it, I trust these people completely. I can talk, laugh, and socialize with a better degree of confidence. This is something I've never had before. Next weekend, I'm running with a couple of girls. I've never ran with them before, but I'm super excited to do so. Seriously, I want a HEN running party. I was never allowed into these conversations. All my life I've never been allowed, even those this is the way I want to socialize. Yesterday, after a challenging interval session, I was at the Second Cup with my pals. One of the gals told a story involving me. It was funny. The really cool part was, she got her pronouns right! She called me Steph, and said "she". Those little things mean so much to me! There is more to it than that though...

When growing up, I always always always heard others telling funny stories, or conversing about shows that I was not interested in. For example, "Kids in the Hall". I thought that show was raunchy!!! I watched it once, and down comes my Dad just as 2 of the guys started to kiss. He looked at me and said "Are these the shows you like to watch Steve?". I hung my head. "No..." I replied sullenly. I immediately turned off the TV, and decided I did not want to be a part of those conversations anyway.

It was always like that though. I would hear people talk, want to get involved, but didn't now the subject, or even the dynamics of holding a conversation. Yet, when this friend told her story about me, and people laughed, along with the right pronouns, and the laughter, I felt so included, and accepted.

We all love in different ways, but regardless of the way, it says "I accept you", "I affirm you", "I enjoy you". You see, I don't have to be anyone else. I don't even have to be a man anymore (not that I knew how to do that in the first place), and I'm still loved by that group. If I miss out on a workout, people are texting me to see where I was. When they say, "We missed you" I actually believe it, because they have proven that already to me.

In stark contrast, there is another couple close to me that won't listen at all. They tell me "You may be happy now, but you won't be happy later, you'll regret it", like they know me better than I know myself. There message to me is "Your too perverted to make a sound decision on this". Guess what? I often think I act the role that I perceive people place on me. If they treat me like a pervert... well... you know. If they treat me like I'm worth their time, and my friendship is valued, it they love me unconditionally, I feel loved. Then how do I act? quite differently actually. I'm more open to listening, feeling and loving myself. When in doubt, act with love and kindness.

One more comment about living with regret. Many a book has been written to tell us how to avoid it, and they are probably all right, and all wrong. What I mean is, we run all information and experiences through our own paradigms. When we do this, we keep some, and discard (often for protection) elsewhere. You know, back into the dark recesses of ones brain so it can be forgotten. The message I feel is, "don't do this so you won't have to deal with the regret". It's suggestions straight from their own paradigms. I don't think anyone can avoid living with regret. Yet, we can all choose to not regret things, or we can do something about regret when it comes. I have no doubt that there is always a way to handle it well, to me, everything is fixable. Just some fixing takes longer than others, but when you are in the process of fixing something, at least you are in control. The process is started!