18 July 2009

Sleeping With Experience, Waking To Lessons

I seem to have been alternating between sleep and hyperactivity since I got home from my surgery. As far as I can tell, this is normal: I certainly need the rest, but I'm not very good at sitting still. Some of the longest hours of my life were the ones during which I was lying in that hospital bed, waiting to get out for my first walk as a woman. That night, I got one of the longest and deepest sleeps I've ever had.

That cycle of sleep and restlessness is repeating itself now that I'm home. Perhaps this is the way of being born, if not of giving birth. No one is more curious than a newborn; no one has as much to teach, and the need to teach it, as the one who has brought that newborn into the world. Of course, the pedagogical method is not Socratic; rather, it pure intuition for both teacher and pupil. And I just happen to be both.

Although none of this surprises me, it's not quite what I expected. Somehow I expected to nourish myself with the legacy (or carcass, depending on your point of view) of someone I was "leaving behind." Perhaps, in some sense, I am abandoning or, better yet, transcending the person I once was. But now I feel as if I, the birth-giver, has been given the gifts and burdens of that person's experience, and that as I impart it, I am becoming the one to whom I impart it.

If that sounds mystical and you don't like mysticism (Frankly, I'm not much of a fan of it.), well, I'm sorry I can't do any better right now. However, if this sounds like a beautiful experience, I can assure you that it is, at least for me, even more beautiful than I've described.

Late today, I walked to the bodega and bought a pint of La Salle Dulce de Leche ice cream. (It's great with sliced or diced pears and fresh-ground nutmeg.) As I walked home, in the direction of the East River, the sun was beginning to set. The day had been warm but not humid (very unusual for New York at this time of year), and a breeze wafted off the river and rippled against my bare shoulders and my sun-dress.

I would have called what I was feeling "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," with apologies to Milan Kundera, except that it was anything but unbearable. Not to say that it was easy: I was learning, at that moment, my own spiritual weight and how to navigate with it. However, I was not learning through some dialectical, question-and-answer process. Instead, I felt more as if it were some sort of metamorphosis: The one who had been alien in a male body was becoming one who is beginning her life in the world of women. Those days of alienation are past; the days of living "as" a woman--days only recently passing-- were now turning into the early days of the life of which I'd long dreamed.

This is only the beginning of that life. For now, my main concern is recovering. From the surgery, yes, and I'm doing that more quickly than I'd expected. But the real recovery, I feel, has to do with so many of the things I experienced before the surgery--in fact, before I even admitted to myself that this is what I wanted.

Those experiences include rapes, betrayals, beatings (ones that I've committed as well as have been subjected to) and various other sorts of hurt. There are the two former friends who, perhaps, I will no longer think of as "former"--or, as some have suggested, "friends that never were." Rather, they are people who are not part of my life now, and probably never will be. Even if they were to try to make amends to me, I don't think it would be possible: I am as different from the woman they betrayed as she is from the "man" they befriended. They may be different, too, from the people who were in my life, which would make the questions of "forgiveness" and "renewing the friendship" even more irrelevant.

Simply put, they are not part of my life now. Only the lessons I have learned from my experiences with them remain. And, I am learning, lessons are far more useful than memories for moving forward in one's life. I'm not losing the experiences that begat those lessons. Instead, I am finally getting the opportunity to live by those lessons, rather than to continue in the prison of the memories--which are so unreliable--of my experiences. And there are so many new experiences to come.

I want to move ahead and discover them. But I need some rest now.

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