Thoughts On Feeling Inadequate

I intended to post this on Friday (the 7th), but in a stroke of cosmic irony, my inadequacy peaked that night. Writing this after the fact is… more powerful.

I hit a low point when it came to feeling valid as a human being. As in, I didn’t feel like I deserved to be alive. (Don’t worry, nothing happened aside from a crying session.) I felt inadequate in every aspect of my life: physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, romantically, sexually… The list goes on, but it was generally in that order.

There are so many ways to feel like you’re not good enough.

I shrunk one of my favourite shirts in the dryer, because my memory wasn’t good enough to remember it was in the wash; because my attention wasn’t good enough to look out for it when I changed the load over from the washer to the dryer; because my body wasn’t good enough to fit into a smaller size.

I had been feeling like crap for the entire day, but when it was 10:00pm and I was folding laundry, and there was one of my favourite shirts I’ve had for half a year… The domino toppled and so did all of the pent-up inadequacies I had lined up. It was one thing after another, a catalogue of how I wasn’t good enough at anything.

That was a few days ago, and I still haven’t picked up the dominoes and put them in a box. I haven’t lined up the things I’m good at. I haven’t lined up the reasons why I’m good enough. I haven’t had a chance to reflect on why I’m okay as a human being, and why I don’t have to be The Best to exist.

I’m going to play the mental illness card again: my PTSD makes me extra hard on myself. I’m significantly reduced compared to the “normal” or neurotypical standards. I feel like less of a person because of things that happened to me that I, for some reason, can’t let go of. How is it that things beyond my control come back to haunt me? Why does my brain hold on to things that hurt it? What do I need to do to make myself good enough to see that I’m good enough?

The standard to which I hold myself is unattainable. I can never reach it. Yet my mind and self-perception constantly reflect back to those standards, to the aspects that will make me worthy.

It’s times like these that I transcend my body in the worst possible way. Dissociation acts as my safety blanket, but it’s the same as starving yourself in order to avoid food poisoning. Haven’t we all learned that “abstinence-only” tactics aren’t the same as being informed about hazards? Living is a risk and dissociating is my way of avoiding risk. Dissociating is the closest I can get to separating from life without committing suicide.

It has been a significant amount of time since I said aloud, “I want to die,” and meant it. I hold back tears now as I look back at myself curled on the bed, weeping around the words. I see myself holding the worn out domino pieces I played with before therapy, before getting help, before putting effort into my well-being, before my diagnosis that explains so much of myself—before valuing myself even a marginal amount.

I’m better now, in the relative sense. It’s not like I’ve put away all the dominoes, but they’re no longer strewn, encircled, around me and keeping me hostage. They’re shoved to the side and I can see past them a little bit. But they’re still there. They’re still within grasp. I still want to set them up again and watch myself topple, because lining up these pieces and seeing how far the line goes seems to be the only thing I’m consistently good enough at doing.

Thoughts On Being Transgender

A pink balloon attached to the string by a white chair in a grey setting.

I’ve hesitated posting this, because it’s part of my identity that I’m still… coming to terms with. The whole reality of gender identity and gender expression and biological sex—it’s a mess in my head, but there are a few things I’m certain of: I’m bigender. I’m gender non-conforming. I’m queer. I’m still questioning. And I’m just as transgender as the Trans Poster Child who plays with “opposite-gender” toys and transitions with surgeries and full social transitioning.

I’m keeping my breasts and my given name and my female sex reproduction organs.

And that doesn’t make me less transgender than someone who would have sex reassignment surgery or another type of surgery to alter their body.

I do not have to hate my body to be transgender.

I do not have to feel like I was born in the wrong body to be transgender.

I do not have to identify with the opposite gender on a polarised scale to be transgender. I do not have to go from female to male, or male to female, and then stay that way to be transgender. I am not zero or one. I can be infinite, but I’ll choose the numbers that fit best.

I do not have to be out of the closet or ashamed of being in the closet or proud of being out of the closet.

I am trans, I am trans, I am trans. I am gender non-conforming and I identify with multiple gender roles constructed by society—sometimes multiple, sometimes only one, sometimes none.

I am transgender and I exist within the changing social constructions of gender.

Gender is not an inherent part of existence. We make it. We shape it. We create it the same way we create our identities. We express ourselves in certain ways. We express gender in certain ways. It is a category that societies use.

You are not born with a gender. You grow into one. You learn and you create your identity. You make it the same way you make a sandwich. You choose what to include, what to exclude, and some people will tell you what to put on it and what not to put on it.

Be peanut butter. Be jelly. Be Swiss and ham and pickles on rye. Be your own mixture of tastes and flavours and appearance. Be different today and tomorrow and next year. Be your childhood favourite whenever you want. Be Cheese Whiz and smooth peanut butter on crustless white bread, because it feels good that day, and forget anyone who tells you it’s weird or gross. Be my aunt’s Nutella and mayonnaise. Be a sandwich with lettuce or napa cabbage instead of bread. Be a tortilla wrap.

I am transgender. I don’t have to have pronouns “opposite” to my sex characteristics to be transgender. I do not have to physically transition to be transgender. I do not have to change my name to be transgender. I do not have to be anything except a gender I was not given at birth to be transgender.

I am transgender and that still exists in the gender binary spectrum created by social norms. And I am unsure how to reconcile that, or if I even need to. I am hoping I can embrace the social construction of gender while still urging it to expand and be more than what it currently is. Maybe one day, the notion of “gender” will evolve to a point where “transgender” is a different identity to what it is today. Maybe “girl” and “boy” and “queer” will mean different things, too.

I am bigender and my pronouns are “he/him/his” and “she/her/her” and I am happy with whatever you choose to refer to me, whenever you do it, as long as you understand that my gender is not my body. You don’t have to know if someone is transgender. You just have to know that gender is not genitals.

 

Thoughts On Zombies

Moody photograph of tombstones at dusk.

It has come to my attention recently that I have another fear. I’m not very original in my fears, but hey, whatever—I’m not a special snowflake.

I’m scared of

  • Being in deep bodies of natural water, like oceans and lakes—I can’t go swimming in them, but I can be in boats on top of them.
  • The dark—when it’s a dark that produces shadows.
  • Tornadoes—they’re just… so quick to form, do so much damage, and screw off within 20 minutes. The ultimate fuckboy of natural disasters.
  • Decomposition—this is the one I found out about this month.

I have always had an aversion to zombies. A few years ago when I first watched ParaNorman, an excellent stop-motion animated PG film, I needed a few minutes to get used to the zombies. Whenever I saw my brother playing Call of Duty with zombies, I avoided looking at the screen. The Walking Dead? I will never, ever watch it in any capacity. Horror movies are always a no-go, but zombie horror movies—even horror-comedy ones!—are always a never-go. I can’t play zombie-themed video games, no matter how good they are.

I’m okay with vampires and ghosts—I actually enjoy them very much—so I knew the “undead” weren’t really the issue. It was the body horror and gore of zombies that unsettled me, but why? Why the bodily aspect?

Because body decomposition freaks me out.

I was recently thinking about mortality and death, as one does when they have severe depression and they’ve recently visited their brother’s grave. And I kept thinking: I’m okay with people dying. Death itself doesn’t bother me so much. It’s natural. It’s what happens. But why can’t I handle zombies?

I started delving a bit more once I realised what made me the most sad about my brother’s death and my pet rabbit’s eventual death in the future. The fact that their corporeal selves won’t simply disappear.

A corpse doesn’t float off into the afterlife. It doesn’t turn into pyreflies like it does in Final Fantasy. It takes its time. The finalisation of death takes time, and it’s just so gross. So, so gross and depressing.

I don’t want to rhapsodise about the body (oh goodness, did I just make a subconscious allusion to a poet I hate?) or go on a tangent about mortality. I’m just getting into the freaky Halloween spirit by reminding everyone about the rot of life. How life takes its time in dying, because the body has had so much time to live.

I suppose it’s a balance. We take an average of 9 months to grow. It’s only fair that nature can reclaim us in some span of time.

Thoughts On Aging

A macro photograph of a colourful cake with a number three candle.

Yesterday was my birthday. It was a relatively nice day—don’t have huge complaints or worries about it.

But it was an obvious reminder of 1) my mortality; and 2) aging.

The concept of time is very obtuse to me. I don’t quite understand it. This is how I feel about birthdays.

Age is a nebulous thing to me. I often forget how old I am not because I think I’m older or younger than I am—it’s just difficult for me to believe my age is some way to explain my growth or experience.

Because your age doesn’t define the experiences you have.

Where I live, it’s illegal to buy alcohol under the age of 19; it is illegal to drive under the age of 16; and yet these are not definitive of people’s experiences. Kids under 19 drink, and kids under 16 have had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a car.

I guess it’s just really hard for me to understand how so many actions can be defined or justified by our orbit around a giant ball of blazing gas. That’s the real gist of this post. I don’t get it. I don’t understand how age denotes maturity, experience, or qualification.

Like, yeah, of course I’m not going to say that 10-year-olds are mature, experience, and qualified enough to drive a car. When it’s in the younger years, the pre-pubescent years, the years where you need to buy new shoes because your feet keep growing—that’s different.

But now, post-pubescent and reaching a point of—dare I say it—stasis and decay… My age really shouldn’t matter too much. How old someone is doesn’t say how smart they are, how much they know about something, how experienced they are with it. Hell, I started working with HTML and CSS when I was 13, but I’m not going to tout 7+ years of experience—because no employer would look at my age and believe me. They wouldn’t believe I would’ve been self-teaching in different skills throughout my teenage years. Because, for some reason, your teenage years get discredited. What you do in your teens somehow doesn’t have the same impact as what you did after you turned 18 or after you started post-secondary school.

I hate liminal stages in life. Between infancy and childhood. Between childhood and teen. Between teen and young adult. Between young adult and adult. Between adult and elder.

I’m between young adult and adult, and I don’t like it, and there isn’t much I can do about the people who judge me based on 1) how old I am; or 2) how old I look.

Anyway, happy birthday to me. Another package of seasons in my life have passed by.

Thoughts On Meat

My dad and his five sisters grew up on a farm. They had a few horses, cows, chickens, and a number of other foul.

One anecdote my grandma likes to tell me is of a pet goose one of my aunts—my dad’s sisters—had. The goose was good for a while, but started to get real mean. My aunt came in one night in October and said to my grandpa, “I want to get rid of the goose.” They had goose for Thanksgiving.

It’s a type of black humour that I don’t agree with: eating your pet, in a sense. True, they had a small farm, but the goose started out as a sort of pet. I’m exposed to jokes about eating your pet. I have a rabbit. It seems that every damn middle-aged man who discovers I have a pet rabbit asks some question about what kind of stew I’ll make, how much meat is on him, how scrawny he is and how he won’t amount to a good soup. Fuck off. Just fuck off.

I’m not opposed to eating meat. It’s hard to oppose eating meat when your relatives raised and slaughtered livestock. Meat-eating is normalised in my family. One of my aunts recently remarried and moved to Florida, where she is starting her own little farm. My dad has thought about raising chickens in his backyard because the price of chicken is increasing.

I think it takes a certain kind of person to be a farmer. I couldn’t be a farmer. I like the distance I have from livestock. I can’t handle giblets very well, let alone skinning and dressing an animal. I probably couldn’t do it with fish either. But I’m still going to eat meat, because… well, it doesn’t matter. I don’t have to justify why I eat what I eat, because what I eat doesn’t require a bibliography to count as acceptable. My food is not your problem. My food is not your concern.

Part of why I’m okay eating meat comes from the fact that my dad, my aunts, and my grandparents were okay producing that meat. On my mother’s side, her aunts and uncles were farmers too. I am not far distanced from the realities of taking care of and eating animal products.

One time in a class, the professor asked if anyone knew how to milk a cow. I was the only one to raise a hand. I think the majority of people in urban places are used to an urban life. I know how to milk a cow and I know how to churn butter. There’s a fad mentality about “knowing where your food comes from”—and I do. I know what I’m eating when I eat eggs, butter, milk, steak, chicken breast. I know I’m eating something that was living. Same with plants. They were once living, but with a different source of energy and a different type of life. I get grossed out by giblets, but I also get grossed out by the slimy inner seeds of tomatoes.

The entire universe works on a life-death cycle. I will die and provide sustenance for some other life form. I want to be cremated, so my carbon ashes will fertilise something. Even if only worms eat me, at least I’ll be returned to the cycle. Everyone is part of a greater cycle, so it’s up to you—the luxury of humans, actually—to decide where you fit in that cycle. Where in that food chain you’ll sit.

It’s like in The Lion King, when Simba asks Mufasa about eating antelope. Mufasa tells him, “When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass; and so, we are all connected in the great circle of life.”

You could be the antelope or you could be the lion. Or you could be both.

(I am aware of the large-scale effects of meat eating and production; I am one person who does not eat a lot of meat and tries to contribute less to that unfortunate reality. Don’t jump down my throat about how I’m contributing to the atrocities of capitalist livestock consumption, because I’ll be dead in 50 years and I buy and consume less than 1kg of meat each month.)

Thoughts On Meat

Feeling Like It vs. Doing It

The crux of my procrastination is that “I don’t wanna” or “I don’t feel like it” emotion that serves no purpose. For me, it’s worse than laziness.

It’s apathy.

It’s not caring enough at that given moment to do something that I truly want done. It’s a thick blanket on my dreams and goals, and all the little steps it takes to complete them.

You don’t have to feel like doing something in order to do it—even if it’s a creative endeavour. The Muse is a philosophical idea. You don’t need to rely on this personification of “inspiration mixed with motivation” to produce anything. Sure, it may not feel as nice as it could, but that’s the point: you don’t have to feel nice about it. You don’t have to feel anything.

I’ve lived most of my life believing my actions and my emotions need to be married while doing something creative. Painting, drawing, poetry, writing, singing… These all sit within the arts (and there are others, which I’m not skilled at). And the arts need emotion, right?

Wrong.

A career (or intended career) in the arts has become so laced with an emotional investment that people think there needs to be emotion in the artist in order to produce emotion in the viewer. But that’s not true. In my experience, you just need to be saying something. That’s it. You just need to be saying something, whether it’s the truth or a lie, and some reaction will form in the reader or viewer or listener. You, as the creator, don’t need to do anything else but make a statement.

If you aren’t writing confessional poetry, then you don’t need to feel anything in order to write it.

You do not need to sit in a place where you want to do what you’ve decided to do. This doesn’t remain isolated to creative acts. It can be anything, whether it’s having a shower, going for groceries, or doing a school assignment. Why do you have to “feel like it” to do it? Can you imagine if you lived every action of your life invested in the desire to do that action? You would be exhausted after half a day.

What if a firefighter didn’t feel like risking their life? What if they didn’t feel like responding to a car crash? Do they let their lack of desire stop them from doing what needs to be done? No. And the arts are no different.

The point is that I’m not taking into consideration whether I feel like doing it. I may not feel like sitting and writing a blog post—literally how I feel while writing and editing this post—but I do it anyway. Because it doesn’t matter whether I feel like it. Because what matters is that, from the depths of my being, I want it done.

I want the end product. That’s what matters. It doesn’t matter how I feel going into the start, because I don’t care about how I start or when I start. I only care when I have something at the end. Even a shitty first draft.

My biggest piece of advice for anyone is the motto I’ve been telling myself.

You don’t have to feel like doing something in order to do it.

Here is my disclaimer: I have chronic depression. I often do not feel anything. How can I do something, whether it’s creation or housekeeping or hygiene, if I feel numb? If the abstract location for my emotions has turned into a void? If I let the black hole of depression continue to dictate what I can, can’t, will, and won’t do?

I will not let the whim of indifference control me when it is kin to apathy.

Feeling Like It Vs Doing It

Thoughts On Photoshop Retouching

Listen, I have an opinion when it comes to photo retouching—Photoshopping, if you will, though I know Adobe frowns upon that verbage.

Not all of it represents a negative or unrealistic version of a human body. I mean, most of it does, but not all of it.

We all want to look good in our own eyes. We all have a version of a self that we want to obtain, whether it’s through clothes, environment, general appearance, reputation, etc. We have standards for ourselves. (And if someone doesn’t, well… I have other opinions on those people that I’m not going to share. Because I’m legitimately, occasionally a bitch.) People will wear makeup to do something to their face. Maybe they want to show something artistic. Maybe they want to present a skill with an example—“I’m skilled with makeup. My current face is an example.” Maybe they want to enhance what they think is beautiful, with eyeliner or lip liner or highlighter. Maybe they want to cover up a blemish that will eventually heal.

The thing is, our faces and bodies change and move so much in real life that it’s impossible to photographically capture all that our faces and bodies are.

I recently retouched a selfie of mine that I absolutely adore. I love the way I look. I look at that picture, and I think: “I am beautiful. I want to feel this beautiful, and as beautiful as I did taking the selfie, every day.” It’s a confidence thing. I retouched the photo to remove some pimples and blemishes that are no longer there. Having them there would technically be an inaccurate representation of my appearance—I’d also have to add in new pimples if I wanted a really accurate representation. So I just took out the flaming red irritation on my forehead. I didn’t alter the way my bone structure looked. It was a simple retouch to clear up my skin.

Nobody has outrightly judged me for this. If they did, I wouldn’t care too much. I’d care a little, but I’d get over it, just like they would also (probably) get over it.

I’m not ashamed. The unfiltered and unretouched selfie is on my Instagram and I’m okay with that. I’m not trying to make a statement by showing my face as-is. But since I’ve started using that particular selfie across my social media, I want a more general appearance.

I wanted to show my face the way I want to be seen. So I gave it to myself. I opened the picture in Photoshop and quickly, easily removed what wasn’t there anymore. I’m allowed to do this because it’s my face and my picture.

Thoughts On Photoshop Retouching Selfies Self Confidence Technology

Thoughts On Gender

I think “male” and “female” describe gender the same way “spring” and “autumn” describe seasons.

You expect certain things of spring. You expect flowers and rain and milder weather. But that isn’t always the case. The weather can still be damn cold. The flowers can bloom late, or not at all, or only some of them. Maybe there’s a dry period of time, and instead of rain, you get wildfires. The hurricane season starts early. Maybe the weather, as it is while I’m writing this, is summery and disgustingly hot despite it not being officially summer.

But the thing is, you still call it spring, despite those variations. Something binds attributes with that time of year, in that hemisphere, and in that part of the Northern Hemisphere. Florida’s spring is starkly different from Yukon’s spring, but they’re both still called spring. They vary and everyone’s awareness of spring varies. Maybe it’s based on specific dates that correspond with astronomical variation. Even those dates change: some years it’s March 21 to June 21 and others, like this year, it’s March 20 to June 20.

For me, spring is when it beings to rain more than snow, regardless of how much snow there is. I anticipate spring’s arrival when I see the lush green stems of flowers, before the blooms. I see the buds on trees. Spring doesn’t correlate with a day of the year for me. It’s how the weather changes. Between Windsor and my hometown north of Toronto, I can feel two different seasons. Maybe it’s winter up north and spring in Windsor.

And if you go to the southern hemisphere, then the dates for spring are irrelevant. It’s not March to June at all. Now what? Do you think that spring doesn’t exist in Australia or Chile? No—you realise that it’s simply in a different time slot.

And autumn—the same principle.

What I’m getting at is that even within these descriptors, certain dates, personal traditions and indicators, there is no cut-and-dry definition of the season. Of any season. But there are patterns and associations that help to define them.

And that’s the same with gender.

There is no cut-and-dry definition.

And there are still things we associate with genders. Women with long hair. Men with deep voices. Women with wider hips. Men with broader shoulders. Genitals. Social roles. Those kinds of things.

But it can reach summer temperatures in spring and women can have deep voices and short hair. Men can have wide hips and narrow shoulders.

Let’s say “spring” is synonymous with “female” and “autumn” is synonymous with “male.” You get preconceptions and expectations, but you’re not going to say it’s still winter when it snows on May 12th (true story; it was such a weird day). You get thrown a bit, a little disoriented, but you take that snow in spring and still call it spring because you know it’s spring, dammit, and no amount of snow is going to make it winter again.

It’s what you label something that matters, regardless of the small variations, I think. It’s autumn if you think it’s autumn, regardless of the first frost or the first snow or an “Indian summer.” It’s autumn, not winter or summer, because that’s what it’s called for that kind of position in the year and weather and hemisphere and latitude.

I think this is why I’m okay with having genders—but not with a strict binary. I think gender has a place, but our notions of gender are a bit skewed. The binary thing. I’m not okay with it. But I am okay with specific genders. It’s a helpful label, like seasons.

That summery weather outside of summer is kind of how I think “transgender” should be seen. I often feel like it’s seen as the flip from the northern hemisphere to southern hemisphere: if you’re March to June, you’re either spring or autumn. And I think that’s wrong. You don’t have to go from male to female or female to male identity to be transgender. If someone tells you you’re autumn, but you feel more like a winter, then… that’s still transgender.

I just think it’d be easier if “transgender” weren’t a thing. If we had more than two genders widely accepted.

One comment related to transgender identity comes with how pet owners correct pronoun usage for their pets. I think it’s an inaccurate comparison. If someone calls your dog a she when it has a penis, and you call it a he, the person you’re correcting gets it faster. It’s based on biological sex. People are quicker to associate pronouns with biological sex, and using the pet comparison only emphasises the role of biological sex in gender. It’d be like telling an Australian they’re wrong for thinking it’s winter because it’s the middle of July. It’s not the same thing. (Also, pets and people are not the same.)

Gender is not your genitals.

Gender is your own version of a season.

Thoughts On Gender

Thoughts On Change

I personally don’t understand people who lament about change. The ones who get personally offended when a new house is built in the neighbourhood. Or a road is expanded. Or farmland is sold and upscale condos replace it.

I drafted this post while I walked in the trails winding through the village where I grew up. They had changed since the last time I walked them. Trees fell. Leaves covered once-loved paths. Water washed away chunks of cliffsides. Another rock in the rapids. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the changes, since erosion had affected the trails and I needed to find different routes, or the trail had gotten incredibly steep. But I wasn’t sad or hurt or upset. Two hundred years ago, before any of my ancestors left Scotland and Japan, these trails and this river housed water mills.

This is nature. It moves.

I know some people have difficulty adapting to change. They get anxious, or nervous, or angry, or confused. They have their reasons, and I’m not going to delve into why some people find change and changing things to be difficult. There are always a wide variety of why people can’t handle change. I have never been one of those people.

Sometimes I think back on how my surroundings used to be, compared to how they have changed. But the world does not need to line up with a single snapshot from my memory. Who even knows if that memory is accurate and truthful to what the past was? What if I’ve changed my memory based on how my life has changed since then? There’s no way to know, so there’s no reason for me to complain.

I think a large part of my understanding and acceptance of change comes from my childhood. Nothing was ever secure. The predictable aspects of life came from the disjoint and the sudden change. I could rely on change. I could rely on something abrupt. I could anchor myself and pretend that hectic chaos was normal.

Of course, that isn’t very healthy. Needing chaos to function? Only feeling security when something is up in the air? I’ve deviated from those childhood lessons. I plan things and prefer when things are either set in stone or set in motion. (Eyy, there’s a set of antonyms for you.) I don’t like when I can’t predict something, but it doesn’t matter what I like or dislike. Uncertainty or surety exist whether I want them to or not in a situation.

Even when there is a new rock in the water’s course, it flows around it. When a cloud is battered by wind, it doesn’t stand firm in the atmosphere: it shapes itself to the current. A flower wilts. A fruit ripens. A construction crew and a housing company sign a contract to turn the forest behind my childhood home into a set of unneeded suburbs. My grandparents put the childhood home on the market. I move from this village to Windsor to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. I contemplate—seriously consider, really—moving out of the province. My hair grows because I decide to change.

I think change and control go hand-in-hand. Maybe there is a conflict between them for people that makes them dislike one or the other. Even controlling something in order to get change, like controlling a diet or exercise regime to change your body. That’s an opposition between change and control. Using one to get the other. Changing something to gain control. Controlling something to incite change. If something is out of your control, then why the fuck are you getting offended? Or upset? Or disappointed? You can’t control everything, just like you can’t change everything. Maybe expectations and desires come into play too.