28 July 2009

New Words In An Old Friendship

"You sound really good!"

Bruce, who is not given to speaking in superlatives, said that. Today we talked for the first time since my surgery. He'd been away and, given my nonexistent-at-this-moment sense of time, I wasn't sure of whether or not he'd returned yet.

He was on a holiday that's typical for him: a Zen retreat and some hiking. And, he capped it this weekend when he and other family members took his mother on a hot-air baloon ride for her 85th birthday.

I don't think I've ever before been so happy to talk to him in the nearly three decades I've known him. "From the moment I woke up from the surgery, I felt as if a weight had come off my shoulders."

"Really?! I can see why."

"Yes. I could actually feel it. And it's a good thing..."

"Oh, I'm sure."

"You bet it is. From all this inactivity, I have no upper body strength."

And then the patented Bruce Groan. Every time one or the other of us--or anyone else--has made a really silly joke or bad pun, I've heard it. Today it's another sign that I'm home. But now it's even better: I am the person I was always meant to be, and he welcomes her.

Now, of course, I had been living as a woman for almost six years before I had my surgery. But I think Bruce sensed, even before I voiced it, the sense of completeness, of wholeness I now feel. My journey is not complete--at least I hope not!--but at least I can move forward with more emotional and spiritual integrity.

We've made plans to have lunch on Friday. I was hoping to see him on Thursday, after my appointment with Dr. Jennifer. But, he has one of those meetings that no amount of cunning, charm or chicanery I may or may not have ever been capable of can get him out of.

Omigoddess...that last sentence. And I teach English! I hope my department chair doesn't see that one.

So why am I letting it stand? Well, I guess you can say that I care a bit more about sincerity, "heart" and trueness to myself and to the truth than I do about propriety. Deep down, I've always been that way, although I put on my stuffy grammarian's mask when it got me influence (or the illusion of it, anyway) or it simply made me feel superior to somebody else. But now....Speaking in a language that's accurate and truthful will do all sorts of things for me that perfect grammar won't. Or so I believe.

Now I wonder what it will be like to go back to the college, and to teach, this fall. It's not that I don't want to do either. I just wonder what, if anything, I will see or do differently. What will matter more to me; what will concern me less? Or will I still care about the same things in more or less the same ways?

I guess those are the essential questions when it comes to any kind of change a person undergoes. Will I come to realize that the things I've been teaching my students are even more important than I thought they were? Or will I see them as roadblocks against arriving at the truth about ourselves? Could it be the language I've tried to teach them simply cannot express the things they--or I--need to say?

I keep thinking about Michelangelo's David. Michelangelo kept on chipping away until he found David; all of the work and the surgery were about getting to the woman within me. Could it be that--as I've suspected--it's necessary to chip away all the dead language, all of the words, phrases and other structures of language that have grown obsolete, or simply tired, in order to get at the truth? Sometimes I feel that my education--and whatever education I've imparted to my students--is based on the premise that our truths can be fashioned from the words we learn. Or, worse, we receive the message that more words, more phrases, more pages are better.

Enough theorizing for now. I'm thinking about Bruce again. He may well be the only real male friend I've ever had. Take that back: I consider Millie's husband Johnny a friend, too, though I probably wouldn't have met him if I hadn't met Millie. Anyway...I expect my friendship with Bruce to continue. But I can't help but to wonder whether anything about it will change. Maybe it won't be dramatic: It seems that he and I stopped relating to each other as one male to another a long time ago, if indeed we ever had such a relationship. And I don't think the changes will be negative, either: After all, he's seen me become happier and more integrated over the past few years, and I feel that it's deepened our friendship.

And now he says that I sound better than I ever did before. I can't wait to see him on Friday: We've planned a lunch date for then.

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