My Transgender Life: On The Tip Of My Tongue...

07/12/2016 03:58 pm ET Updated Jul 13, 2017
Caucasian woman standing on train tracks
Caucasian woman standing on train tracks

I really was about to answer the question.

I had every intention of being clear, being specific, and was certain that once I explained all these feelings inside of me, then everyone would nod their heads and say they completely understood how I knew I was a woman.

I really was about to answer the question.

...and then.....as my mouth opened... the words were gone! I was certain that they were just there. You may have had this feeling too at some time in your life. The words, the feelings, that I knew were perfect, were at one moment right there, on the tip of my tongue....... and suddenly lost as I slowly closed my mouth.

It would be too easy to just chalk this up as another of those more familiar "senior" moments, but honestly, I have to accept that I have had this type of experience all my life.

Perhaps the best way that I can explain this is that I am in recovery of sorts. Yes, for so much of my life I have been what may be thought of as feelingphobic. I doubt that I am the only person like this, but if I am correct, the symptoms include not only the internal blocking of feelings in order to protect oneself, but also the aversion to sharing any feeling with others and knowing how to respond to others when they express their feelings to you.

In No! Maybe? Yes!, I talked about my experience during the summer of 2001, to learn how to "feel."

It was somewhat strange for me as I started to explore feelings. I so prided myself in being able to respond to people before they ever finished a thought or a sentence. I often interrupted them with the answer and was clueless why they did not respond to my perceived cleverness, which my arrogant parts usually defined as intelligence.

I could hear those arrogant parts chuckling and patting themselves on their backs with an "attaboy, you sure showed them up," comment. It took a good deal of internal effort to hold them back as I started to listen not only to the words that people were sharing with me, but also the way in which they talked, the emotions, the feelings they had. I wanted to touch these feelings, explore them, and try them on for size. I had so little idea how to do this. Sometimes I succeeded, and sometimes the old parts just did their thing.

Bit by bit, day by day, I had a chance to try on new feelings. I had a part that wanted to get this done with, but over time this part also learned to chill out and has taken on the job as the Feelings Explorer and has agreed to work as a consultant on an as-needed basis. We have become good friends and sometimes just get to chat. I am always in wonder that there are so many feelings to explore, and look forward to each opportunity that arises.

After working for a number of years in a substance abuse clinic, I have learned a good deal about recovery. I know that recovery requires work each and every day. For me, as a recovering feelingphobe, this means I must go inside each day and check in on how I am doing and see if I can find the words to express what that feeling is. Some days this is easy and flows smoothly. Some days not!

There are also the days, when there is a feeling that wants to express itself both inside me and also out to the world but just cannot find the words. I know it is there and wants to express, to articulate what is going on....yes, to describe the feeling in a way that both I and everyone can acknowledge and hopefully understand, and yet, it cannot find the path or the words to do so.

If you have ever had this experience, I suspect you may be as frustrated as I have been on these occasions. However, I have just begun to be able to understand this phenomenon with a new lens.

We are emotional and feeling beings. I will expect that there are many reasons that this is an evolutionary survival skill for our species, although there may be havoc for individuals as we try to understand it all. However as we developed language and words to describe the world and learn how to communicate, no matter how hard we try, we often cannot describe what is going on in our inner world. We try our best to communicate the facts, we learn and know, in a precise and accurate manner. It would be challenging to have a society if we could not do this. However, the communication of the feelings in our inner worlds is so much more challenging to define in a manner that is unambiguous. This includes the way we see ourselves, our core identity is often so difficult to share.

I think we have a need to share, and to have others share with us what these feelings are. I suspect we want to hear from others partly because we hope to learn the words that they may share with us to help us find the words that we can then share back with them. We often search for the right words and will use the closest we can find, even though they may not be 100% correct.

I am learning to accept that I may not have all the words all the time. I have also learned that whomever I am talking to may not have all their words too. I have learned that this is just part of being human, that sometimes the words we think we have may come and go, and that is just OK.

They may be on the tip of my tongue, and make it all the way out, or not. I'll keep trying to find some new words, and it is all OK.

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Grace Stevens transitioned at the age of 64 and holds a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology. She is the author of No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth, an intimate memoir of her journey to live authentically. Grace is available for speaking with Live Your Truth: Discover Paths to Improved Performance. Grace's new book Musings on Living Authentically will be available on 8/13/16. Visit her website at: http://www.graceannestevens.com/. Follow Grace on Twitter: www.twitter.com/graceonboard .