Still Waters Run Deep?

Today marks yet another transition for Jessie and, if we are going to be honest here, me.  This morning I brought her to what will be her first true camp experience as a girl.* After many sleepless nights and countless conversations with other moms, I was finally able to take a leap of faith and register her for the creative arts program offered at the nearby community center.  I did so with a healthy dose of anxiety and trepidation but if the drop-off is any indication of what is to come, we might be good. (Note to readers: that is me being an optimist.  Take it in…it may not happen again for a while.)

I had determined that swimming (which she loves) would account for the trickiest part of her camp experience (solely because of the need to change into or out of a bathing suit) so I was forced to discount several excellent camps for the exact reason I would have chosen them when Jessie was George: the number of times they swam each day.  Many offered swimming several times throughout the day which my “son” would love, but my “daughter” would find stressful – again, for no other reason than the need to change into or out of a suit. As a result of this conclusion,  I was faced with the task of finding a camp that offered the creative challenges that she delights in which also only swims at the end of the day.   File under “things you never thought you’d have to think about” – a file which, incidentally, has grown exponentially thicker over the past several months.

After batting it around and hoping the complexities of the situation would somehow (magically) work themselves out (they didn’t), I finally made the call to the director of this camp.   The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, I have a few questions for you, but before I even ask, can you tell me if you have space available during weeks 7 and 8 of camp?  (I wanted to ensure that there was space before launching into our story.  Good thinking, right?)

Director: We do.  Is your child a boy or a girl? (Not intended to be a trick question, I am sure.)

Me: (Ignoring her query) Are you able to tell me when the ten-year olds swim? (I am sure this struck her as an odd first question.)

Director: (Ignoring my having ignored her) They swim once during the very last period of the day.


Me: Excellent.  Do you have a few minutes to talk?  (Now that I had gotten the “right” answers to my inquiries it was time to bring out the big guns and tell her a little bit more.)

I then proceeded to tell her all about Jessie.  And she was wonderful.  (Aside: Prior to calling her I did ask several people who know her how they thought she would react.  To a person they told me she would be great.  They were correct.)  She told me that she had not had a transgender child in her program before but was perfectly comfortable working with me to ensure that my child (be it a boy, a girl or a martian) could have a fun couple of weeks doing the stuff that she loves.  She further commented that she has lots of “quirky, left of center” kids at camp which, not surprisingly, made me love her.  This might just work.

We arrived at camp this morning just like every other kid and parent.  I found Jessie’s counselor, a young man who had an easy smile and enthusiastically shared with her the activity choices offered for the week.  They included: costuming, mosaics, pottery and costuming again.  Jessie was thrilled.  She shuffled me out of the camp area (always a good sign) and I headed down to the gym to work out.

En route to my date with an elliptical machine, I bumped into the director with whom, as you know I had spoken, but never met.  I introduced myself and we chatted for a few minutes.  I asked her if the counselors knew of Jessie’s situation and she told me that they had been told at the beginning of the summer that there would be a transgender child in the program but it had not been discussed further.  Translation: no big deal, no special treatment.  Perfect.  I laughed at the thought of the more astute of the staff eyeing each and every kid wondering if this was the one, but I also felt very grateful for the slice of normalcy.  Jessie is considered just another kid at camp which, particularly after this past year, feels great.

With drop-off and introductions having gone smoothly, I exhaled ever so slightly.  Ninety minutes later, as I was leaving after my workout,  I happened to catch the eye of Steven, Jessie’s adorable counselor, who pointed to Jessie in a crowd, smiled and gave me the thumbs up.  Here’s hoping this transition continues to proceed as easily as it started.  We could all use a little bit of smooth sailing right about now.

* Her cooking class of last week – which provided my family with the five finest nights of eating ever – was fantastic, but not traditional camp in terms of activities or transitions.  Oh, that word…

p.s. Thank you to amj5376, septyacht, TheJulian, okJ4, Maurazoe, Anotherkate and a few zyngawf #s not only for starting Word with Friends games with me, but for, to a person, kicking my ass.  Yeah, thanks for that.

Make. Me. Laugh. Please.

There is truly nothing like a belly laugh to improve one’s day.  Up until this afternoon, it had been a long time since I had cracked up to the point of tears (my tears have been decidedly more negative) and I must say, it felt really good.  Perhaps even better (on the titillation scale, anyway) is the fact that the interaction which made me laugh so hard is so over the top, so ridiculous and so laden with just the right amount of grotesquery that I cannot share the specifics*, but suffice to say: I managed to not only draw attention to myself as I cracked up in the coffee shop earlier today, but to my partner in crime (and teller of the insane story) as well.  It was awesome.

When in the throes of whatever insanity we happen to be dealing with during any given moment of our lives it is very easy to lose our senses of humor.  I am not referring to being funny; in fact, I long ago realized that the worse things are going for me, the funnier I tend to be.  My wit increases with my anxiety, my snappy comebacks improve with my depression and my facial reactions become more elastic in keeping with how overwhelmed I am feeling.  All of those are sure signs to you, with whom I am interacting, that I am sliding down that slippery slope.

What I am referring to is our ability to laugh at ourselves.  It is something that my father used to remind me to do every time he saw me taking myself too seriously (which was often)…it was part of his “everything works out” attitude towards life.  Despite his having told me this more times than I could possibly recall, I have not always successfully done as told.

Throughout the past year (yep, it has been almost a year) since my son came to me to tell me that “his whole life he has wanted to be a girl” I have been really funny (that is code for anxious, depressed and overwhelmed) and have, more than once, lost my sense of humor and got caught up in the freaked-outed-ness of the situation.   I am not always cognizant of it at the moment it occurs, rather it sneaks in to my head when I am supposed to be asleep at three in the morning, or when I am driving along, minding my own business and suddenly sense the telltale signs of a panic attack coming on.  I don’t necessarily make the correlation during those unpleasant moments, but as I sit here now, all calm and collected (which could morph into hysterical and unglued on a dime) it is obvious to me what those moments are really about…I’ve lost my sense of humor.

Very shortly after my snorting, foot-stomping laugh this afternoon, I got a call from my agent.  Most of our correspondence this summer has been over email so we spent a few minutes catching up on one another’s warm weather adventures. (Hers are much more exciting than mine.  Hell, the cat’s* are more exciting than mine…) As all good mother’s do, she shared how her children were driving her to the brink of insanity with their squabbles and general being kids-ness, “But,” she continued, “I’m not complaining…my daughter doesn’t have a penis.”  We both laughed and it was genuine.

Despite “my daughter with a penis” being a phrase that I myself have used (I’m not sure, but I might even be able to take credit for having coined it) there was a time that I would have chuckled on the outside, but literally be nauseated by it on the inside.  Even though I have been fairly funny lately (see definition above) I did see the humor in her comment and (or because?) I could almost hear my father reminding me to continue to not take things too seriously.  Even the serious stuff.

This all reminds me of a moment with my father while he was in the throes of treatment for Stage IV metastatic lung cancer and needed an emergency MRI.  While in the waiting room at a renowned cancer institute, along with a couple dozen equally ill patients, his moxie wearing thin, he elbowed me as I sat next to him and implored me to do something about the wait.  (Read: get him to the head of the line, somehow.) I made an exaggerated scan of the room, turned to him and stage whispered, “Dad, I can’t play the cancer card…everyone here has cancer” at which point he, I, and the people on either side of us all burst out laughing.  At that moment, none of us had lost our sense of humor and it showed.

It is a good lesson for everyone: the ability to laugh both internally and externally in the face of crappy-ass times in our lives.  Trust me when I tell you, based upon my more-than-fair-share of life adventures, the times that I have maintained my true sense of humor and been able to not only laugh at, but appreciate the experience, have yielded the best results.  And while none of us can (or should be expected to) maintain this at all times, as long as it is a better than fifty/fifty split I think we are good.

That said, I still reserve the right to get caught up in my challenges and lose the faith, but no more than fifty percent of the time.  It is at those moments that you should feel free to remind me that I can do this and to see the humor in it all.

*Don’t ask me.  I will not tell, mostly because it is so over the top, ridiculous and laden with grotesquery that I don’t think I would even be able to repeat it.  That includes you, RRL.

**Update on cat who was on the skids just a few days ago: aside from a quick barf earlier today, seems to be completely healed.