Happiest of New Years!

Over the past decade or so, I have spent my fair share of time putting out fires; some big, some freaking huge.  Through it all I have learned just how valuable a friend, or even an acquaintance, can be.  I try to reciprocate and  hope that I am succeeding.  If I am not, let me know…nicely, please.

That said, if you are reading this you have, at some point, somewhere, sometime, somehow in the past um, nearly fifty (but NOT fifty) years been a part of my life, even if just on the pages of this blog.  Perhaps it was in elementary school or junior high or, and there is a great likelihood here: BCDS.  It could have been in ‘Toga for four years in the mid-eighties.  It may have been at JCC Preschool, or TENS or Soule or Baker or BHS.  Then again, it might have been at Pine Manor, or BC, or Brandeis, or Thomson or Streamline or Hill’s, PRU, Millennium or TCS.  Or, maybe it was at Temple Emeth or Healthworks or the J…who the hell knows or, for that matter, cares.  What matters is that you are a part of my life and, to a person, I am grateful for all the support, love and laughter we have shared.

As we enter the new year (aside: how can we be possibly be at 2014 already?) I resolve to stay calm as I await whatever surprises, challenges and opportunities lay ahead, what bumps there will be in the road (you will note I did not question if there would be bumps in the road)  and where (and, some days, how) I will make my way in the world.  And this is where you come in.

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I am smart, articulate and great at getting things done.  I am the person you want around in an emergency (provided, of course, there is no vomit involved). I am a seasoned and successful salesperson, can write a bit and know how to work a room. I am (by some miracle) both high energy and surprisingly optimistic (well, most of the time.  No, really, I am. Shut up, I am.)  I want to make a difference, but I also want to make a buck (or several).

My professional life has been eclectic.  I have worked in academia, finance (at least I think it was finance), start-ups, high techs and (lots of) food-related stuff.  I have been one of two employees and one of thousands.  I have been the youngest team member and, gulp, I have (okay, often) been the oldest.  I have worked in suburbia and in the city.  I have had jobs that required I wear grown-up clothes and others where jeans are the name of the game.  (Anyone who knows me well knows which I prefer).  If that doesn’t demonstrate my adaptability, than I don’t know what does.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because I think one of you might just know of a good opportunity that is waiting for someone like me to make it happen.  One of you has a role to fill, or knows someone who has a role to fill (and chances are excellent I will know that person, too) and I just might be the perfect fit.  One of you is as interested in pairing people together to get things done as I am.  One of you knows the feeling when you want (and, frankly, need) to do more but are not quite sure of the details.

So, file this blog under: Creative? Unusual?  Gauche? Rude? Brilliant?  Obnoxious?  Clever? Smart? Embarrassing? Shrewd? Shameless? Ridiculous? Honest?

You know how to reach me.  Oh, but if you don’t:  julielross65@gmail always works.

Wishing you, yours (and the people who might not even have met yet) a joyous, happy, healthy, fun, creative, clever, and honest 2014.  Remind yourself, no matter what you are facing, that you can do it.  Remember the lessons learned and use them to make tomorrow (even) better than yesterday or today.  Be true to yourself, have the courage of your convictions and let me know if you have a brilliant job opportunity for me.

xo

Happy? 2nd Birthday

The following is raw, brutally honest and from the heart.  I suspect I will be criticized for my honesty, but that is a risk I am willing to take.  I cannot continue this blog in any other way…it would be unfair to you, to me, and most importantly, to Jess.   That said; feel free to comment, but try to be kind.

So.  Jess’s birthday is on Wednesday.  She is turning twelve.  In many ways it is really her second birthday, as she made her transition literally overnight on December 11, 2011. That was the day my son became my daughter, the boxer shorts were replaced with bikinis, the t-shirts with camisoles and the buzz cut with a ‘do.

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I wish I could wax poetic about the how the whole experience (thus far) has made me a better person, or a smarter person or even a more tolerant person, but as I sit here and delete three, yes, three, entries all reminiscing about the transition, I realize that, in many ways, I am not necessarily on much more solid ground than I was back when it all began.

In the two years since George left and Jess came on the scene, much has changed yet much has remained the same.  George was always a challenge.  So, too, is Jess.  George was artistic.  So, too, is Jess.  George was unpredictable.  So, too, is Jess. George was funny.  So, too, is Jess.  George was complicated.  So, too, is Jess.  George was always pushing the envelope.  So, too, is Jess.  George was “all boy” (even with all the dolls and dress up).  So, too, in many ways, is Jess.  George had short hair.  Jess’s is long.  And has blond tips.  George had a pierced ear.  Jess has both ears pierced with two holes each.

I have, through various means, been in the company of many transgender kids over the course of these past two years.  They are, to a person, amazing folks.  (I am talking to you Jonah, Cameron and Aiden).  They are also entirely resolute, at peace and thriving.  Jess, however, is still a work in progress.

I was told (by a psychiatrist who specializes in gender issues) that a full eighty percent of children who identify as transgender while prepubescent change their minds.  I have always considered this statistic to be both a blessing and a curse.  I grapple with the joys that I associate with both seeing this through for a lifetime and aborting as puberty kicks in.  If I am being honest (which I always am), I sometimes do hope that it is a “phase” if for no other reason than the fact that I know it will be an easier life for my child if she proceeds on a more traditional trajectory.  I am sure I am going to be criticized for admitting that.  I am sure that I deserve to be.  I am also sure that you would feel the same way if you were in my shoes.

To be clear, I am not saying that I do not support Jess in whatever she wants and needs to do or be. Nor am I saying that she will not have a happy and fulfilling life, no matter what course she takes.  I guess what I am saying, on this, the beginning of the third year, is that I still am not sure where we are going to land.  I am still not sure how Jess feels, deep down, about the whole thing.  I fret as I watch her skin break out, her appetite soar and her voice deepen (just as Harrison’s did at her age) and the other changes that are not even around the corner, but within spitting distance.  I honestly often see a boy in a girl’s outfit about to change in ways that are going to have a profound effect on her.  On me.  On everyone.

As this third year begins, I feel less confident in my ability to manage this.  I feel more anxious about walking alongside my child, hoping for nothing other than her contentment.  I feel an utter lack of control.  But, and this is important, I also feel tremendous pride in her brute fortitude as a tween navigating the world.  She is, without competition, the most stalwart person I know.  I am one hundred percent certain that she is going to land on her feet and, it is safe to assume, will be the one walking alongside me.

Thinking of Linda D.

Every six months for the past nine years I have had an appointment at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.  I always go on Tuesdays and I always schedule the first appointment of the day.  By the time I arrive for my 8:30 visit the garage is nearly full, the building is in motion, filled with people walking the halls in various stages of cancer.  It is easy to distinguish the newly diagnosed from the “veterans”, the terrified from the stoical, the agitated from the resigned, the physically weak from the physically strong.  It is nothing if not humbling.

I often say that I got off easy.  Yes, I had bi-lateral mastectomies, but was, by some miracle, spared the intensely emotional (not to mention physical) tribulations of chemotherapy.  I have even managed to feel guilty about this, having watched my father, father-in-law and more friends than I care to recall get their asses kicked by the poison that was trying to save them.  Our stories are different but all too familiar.

I am acutely cognizant of these feelings each and every time I enter the building for my appointment.  My scars, at this point, are largely just physical, yet as I step into the elevator for my ride to the 9th floor (female cancers) I straddle that fine line between making compassionate eye contact, engaging in gentle banter and trying not to look too long or too hard at the struggles which lay in front of me.

Yesterday, for the first time, I watched a woman and her husband/boyfriend/partner have as raw a moment as I’ve seen and today, better than twenty four hours later, I still cannot erase it from my mind. They entered the bright, sunny and beautifully appointed waiting room, he pushing her in a wheelchair.  It was hard not to notice her massive mane of blonde hair pulled back into a curly ponytail which covered her entire back.  Unlike the other women who were (it seems comfortably) donning colorful hats, scarves and some proudly displaying the fuzzy new hair that was growing back, she was not wearing an “I am having chemo” badge.  Her hair stood in stark contrast to the shiny heads around us. She did, however, have her plaid shirt open just enough to show what looked to be a newly implanted port for the cocktail which was soon going to course through her veins, doing every in its power to kill the cancer.

I looked up from “People” as I sensed someone nearing me and became keenly aware of the fact that she was avoiding any and all eye contact.  She moved gingerly, with the help of the man, to a sofa by the window and pulled her legs up under her, Indian style.  And then she started to weep.  Heaving, shaking,  nauseating weeping.  Her head fell into her lap, her vast ponytail following, as she convulsed and attempted to rid her body of every emotion that was pounding around inside of her, dying to get out.  Her partner?  Absolutely powerless, frozen by his own fear and, it was clear, incapable of even moving his body.  It was truly heartbreaking.  They both so desperately needed comfort and neither was able to provide it to the other.

I put down the magazine, suddenly horrified at the inanity of it and grappled with what to do.  My initial instinct was to move closer to her and silently offer a hug. But that felt presumptuous and, furthermore,  assumed (perhaps incorrectly) that she would be okay with a total stranger touching the body which has already betrayed her.  I considered picking up (again, silently) one of the many strategically (although, in this case, not appropriately) placed tissue boxes and placing it nearer to her.  Or to him, so he could help her, if even in a minor way.  That, it seemed, would only put her in a position that she felt a need to engage or thank me.  I even toyed with getting up and moving to another area of the waiting room to grant her some privacy but I did not want her to think she was doing something deemed offensive, by me, the bitch who (G-d willing) has this cancer stuff in her rearview mirror.

Within a few (very long) moments it was over.  The couple sat in silence, exhausted and bereft of any emotion, strength or attitude.  They stared in opposite directions from one another and remained that way until her name, Linda D., was called.  As they gathered themselves and Linda rambled back into the wheelchair I again felt the urge to embrace her and remind her that “she can do this”, but I didn’t.

Now, hours, and better than a full day later…I wish I had.

It has been a long time since I have had a crying episode (long time readers will recall that I am not a crier, but when I do…oh, man) and I felt the exhaustion from Linda D’s.  I have been thinking of her all day and wondering if today has been an easier day for either her or her partner.  I have no idea what her story is, much the way many do not know mine or yours or anyone else’s.  I do not know if her breakdown was the first or if it will be the last, although I suspect it was neither.  I do know that the raw, painful emotion which was bursting out of her made me desperately want to tell her that it was all going to be okay, that she was going to be okay and that her partner’s silence spoke not of his lack of compassion, but of his own fears.

I don’t often talk about just how hard it can be to deal with the challenges and uncertainty of Jessie’s being transgender.  Or living with the loss of my breasts.  Or wondering where my story is going to take me, my children and my family.  The pure release that Linda D enjoyed is something which I found both heartbreaking and liberating.

I felt like a voyeur during Linda D’s release and her partner’s paralysis.  I want to commend her, though, for allowing herself to feel the fear and let it all out and him for sitting strongly beside her.  I am thinking, no, hoping, that she felt better afterward and that today is a better day.