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Smile Therapy

Field Notes In/On Transition.

Smile Therapy

There seems to be no end to my disappointment in myself and the world around me. I’m having a really hard time keeping my shit together lately, but I am keeping it together. Almost everything about my current job grates on me. All the little things that no one in their right mind gets worked up over for more than a minute or two. I dwell on these things for days, weeks. 

I’m very grateful to have a job where I’m accepted, my transition at work could not really have gone any smoother elsewhere, unless maybe I worked somewhere with a health plan and the same awesome accepting coworkers. But to me, having a job like that; with benefits, maybe earning enough that I could save something every month instead of putting myself into deeper and deeper debt is like some kind of pipe dream. 

I feel like I have a better shot at winning the lotto. Since I lost some hours in the spring, I’ve been over budget almost exactly the amount of income I lost. I haven’t changed my spending habits to match the already living paycheque to paycheque lifestyle that I was/have always lived really.

The only time I ever felt like I was making enough money at a job since I stopped doing personal care was when I was teaching ESL in Japan, and even then, it was only the last year and half after a couple of raises, that I had my head above water. None of the retail I’ve done pays enough to live on, really. Yet I realized this morning that I’ve been doing this for ten of the last 13 years, so a fair chunk of my working life. More than any other job, I don’t count my writing as a job, because absolutely no one else does. 

I write because I have to, it’s the only thing (even writing this kind of self absorbed whiny shit) that keeps me sane, that and reading novels. I can get through my days because I have books to read, things to write about. If I stop and think about how limited the rest of my life is, or compare myself to my peers, I get pretty morose. 

It’s pretty obvious I have some self esteem issues around jobs and working, doesn’t it? I’m only now coming to understand how little self confidence I have in terms of work, career. I’ve only ever fallen into or “had to” to take every job I’ve ever had. Not once has a resume ever actually helped me get a job. 

I look at career as being those things you do for a living that you actually enjoy, i.e.: writing movie reviews for Terminal City despite only ever earning me like $100, (to be generous) or the bits of graphic design I did back in the mid 90’s, my self publishing in comics and poetry, these things are my “career.” 

Things like working in a store (even if it is the coolest store in the city), it’s still “just retail” in my mind, not that retail isn’t a good choice for some, it’s just not who I am or ever was, despite how long I’ve been doing it.) or doing Personal Home Care or working in that industrial warehouse, these things are jobs that (used to) pay the rent, while I do my “real work” on the side. 

Most likely (as with most creative types in fact) I will always have to work at rent paying jobs (hopefully)  as I do now, or in my home care job. ( which seems so so long ago now) To be honest though, I have had many awesome people to work with in the “rent jobs” that I’ve had. This is one way that I feel blessed, having had so many awesome co-workers at almost every job I’ve ever had, whether the job meant anything to me or not. There are a lot of good folks out there.

Some people I freelanced for were real dicks though. 

Graphic Design, I left doing, because no one ever wants to actually pay you. If someone approached me now, I’d want something up front, based on all the pro bono work I ended up doing when I tried my hand at that side track creative “job”. As a publisher, I leave a lot to be desired as well, one of the things that put me in arrears with Visa way back when was buying a domain for my publishing and a thousand dollar website that never happened.

 I hope that designer spent his pay on the good things in life. The only thing creatively that gives me any kind of hope is my writing, which I know is full of horrible grammar, and little or no interest in structure. I’m very much a stream of consciousness kind of person when it comes to my own story. I may be hung up on things from the past, as well as my dreams and fantasies for the future, but I live moment to moment. I really do. “plans” to me are nothing but lists of your dreams. 

My gut tells me that this cynical view comes from years, decades of living only for these dreams, fantasies, and being disappointed with every single “plan” that came to some kind of fruition. Whether romantic, career, personal, or gender dysphoric, until I started transitioning some 18 months ago or so, I had come to the conclusion that anything I really really wanted was doomed to failure. Because that had always been the case. The only blame I ever attached to these feelings (and still do) is self blame, never try hard enough, never seize the right moment, do the right thing, always choosing wrong.

I know this is not really the objective truth of my life, but it is the emotional and psychological truth of who I have been, these last 46 years. I don’t know why I always feel like I’ve come up short. I can give plenty of examples where I’ve worked past all this crap and done the thing I wanted to do, and done it well even. 

I’m proud of all my self publishing projects, despite not having the hustle to get them out into the world beyond my friends and acquaintances(, yet). There is a lot of joy, and pride in my life from watching the youtube videos that I’ve made, again, in the public, but only “for” friends, family, really. And I definitely have some pride in how I’ve handled my transition (for the most part) my transition. 

There has been a lot of difficult changes/challenges that I never considered, like all the crying. I can count on one hand the amount of times living as a (whatever kind of) male I was, that I shed real tears, really cried. I cry every day now, and mostly tears of joy, or at worst melancholy, or empathy for someone else, or a horrible situation in the news. 

The self absorbed self loathing tears are still hard to come by, but they are there waiting, and sometimes, like yesterday morning, they make their appearance. They blind me to anything but their existence. Yesterday was a long Sob, the entire day. I even got my c0-worker to come in an hour early and I let go of an hour’s pay that I probably need. But I needed to be home reading my book, more than I needed to be earning my living, for that hour.

Here’s an example from yesterday of the “little things”  that grind me down so much. This single mom who recently started coming back to the store after a long absence. 

(I remembered exactly who she was, what her name was, even. I have a bizarrely strong memory for people, much more so than anything else in the world. If I meet you a few times, and learn your name, you are there for life. I don’t use this superpower much at work though, as it freaks people out, and they look at you with suspicion.)

Anyway, I’ve always loved her sense of fashion (different from mine, but so elegant) and have been really happy to be helping her navigate the kids section, where like most single moms she does most of her renting. Yesterday, she got a movie for each kid and one for herself, and constantly misgendered me; “give this to the man, say thank you to the man, etc.”  The kids looked at her a bit quizzically, but obeyed. I so wanted some approval of my female self from this stranger, that as they left... I was sobbing into my chest. Understanding that, made me even sadder. So what if someone I don’t actually know at all doesn’t “see me.” Right? 

So, I took a few days off from writing this blog post, the weekend. I avoided writing, I didn’t even read that much. I played on the internet, overspent (all my shopping is overspending) buying some long socks, and leggings for the upcoming winter/rainy season. And took the opportunity yesterday to do a lot of walking in the sunny day we got squeezed into the rains, and get some exercise, and work in some new (barely used, but used) loafers.

I do feel a bit less stressed by life. After a couple of days of ignoring all the things that were bugging me, and ending yesterday with some gaming on my ps3. I’ve played the hell out of Fallout: New Vegas. It's likely no surprise if you know me, that if I do play video games, they are of the sandbox variety. I like being able to explore virtual worlds, see the crazy worlds, or realistic ones in some games. Mission oriented games where you can’t play further if you don’t complete a mission, or a time frame are boring to me. I want to be able to virtually ramble. I have several games that while awesome in terms of graphics, ideas, just annoy me because you don’t get to play further if you don’t drive to some location in a certain time frame, or capture all the flags. Buzz kills.

I’ve probably logged more GTA time without killing anyone, or even harming any characters other than my own (driving in those games I find really hard. It's all James Dean all the time) than anyone. I just want to see the cool graphics, and worlds that have been built. of course I do like finding cool items for my characters to use in these virtual worlds. My Fallout character LuLu9, has a collection of vault jumpsuits and quirky armours, just because. She is also stocking her motel room in Novac with teddybears, and toy cars. I get from gaming the alt.World experiencing of life that I can’t get in reality. I’m still collecting, hoarding stuff, but killing far more Giant Mutated Insects.

I do get some perspective and some much needed ya-yas out, playing video games. I’m not obsessive, though, once or twice a month, spending a whole Saturday, or Sunday on it is my habit there. 

Slowly but surely, the point of this whole piece which came to me, while posting a selfie this weekend (shocked? Thought not.) is that I’ve become very aware that having a smile on your face, forced or freely can really help change your mood. I used to sometimes (see May 2013 posts) post unhappy looking selfies, when feeling glum, but not anymore, at some point this summer, while applying blush to my cheeks, I noted how much better it made me feel to grin wide like that for an extended few seconds while layering on the old rouge.

 And further, I thought, realized that all the zillion selfies I take make me feel good just to see myself smiling a big grin, more and more, just the act of smiling is a bit of a weapon I use to bring myself out of my funk, if I can. Sometimes it works, it really does, not every time, but it’s okay to be sad or angry sometimes too. Some of my personal therapy on this journey really does seem to be simply learning to smile. Maybe if I do it enough, I’ll start be less cynical, have a bit more hope? I hope so. 

Where does all this take me as far as my “prospects” go? maybe not far, but my selfie/smile therapy, and reading, lots of reading have help me de-stress much faster than I could possibly have done back in the Spring. The last few months or so; I feel like any time I notice (usually quickly, unlike before, when I was always surprised by my own grumpiness, or others’ anger) if I’m going to be grumpy with someone, or snarky, and I have almost every time, turned the situation around; turned their frowns, and mine upside down, turning a possible negative encounter (that I would fuss over for days, nights) into a pleasant exchange. 

Work isn’t all bad, but I still think I need to evolve soon in that direction. I’m still at a loss though as to how, or what I’m doing about it.

Baby steps, Josie, baby steps.


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