Friday, January 30, 2015

What a Weekend

Personal Essay

It began last Thursday, January 22, 2015 and lasted until Sunday, January 25, 2015. I’m talking about First Event, the first Transgender Conference of the year. Other years, I was excited and jubilant to be going; but this year, I was hesitant and even thought about not going. Depression can do that. What was I depressed about? I had made the mistake of setting myself up by believing that I would be invited to the family gathering on Christmas. It didn’t happen and when I spoke to one of my siblings the day after Christmas, he told me that it was never going to happen for me to be invited to family affairs. That being said, I think you can understand my “down-in-the-dump” blue mood.
Normally, I would have been packed and ready to go the week before. Not this year. Two days before the event, I was still procrastinating on what I was going to wear and to what function. That process carried over into the day before First Event. Finally, I was able to get over myself and, once started, began putting together outfits and planning when I would wear them. Each day and each event meant a change of outfits. There was one for Thursday night dancing; one for Friday day time; another for the Friday night buffet and Fashion Show and yet another for Friday night dancing. Three outfits were also chosen for Saturday.
This whole process of changing outfits actually coincided with the purpose of the weekend. That is, transitioning and all that it encompasses. So, with that in mind, my spirits started picking up and by Thursday morning, I was ready to go and feeling good. When my friend Tanya and I arrived at the Westin Hotel in Waltham, Massachusetts, it was as though we stepped into another world because of all the hustle and bustle of girls checking in, greeting each other, organizers trying to get everything and everyone to where they needed to be. It was great!
The highlight of my weekend came on Saturday when I met with the publisher, Trystan Cotton and editor, Mitch Kellaway of the book, “Letters for My Sisters”, of which I was a contributing author. We hit it off right from the start. I was asked to join them in the workshop and to read my essay, which I did and was moved when I saw that others were moved from my words. It was a great feeling to say the least. In speaking with these two wonderful and delightful men, I am happy to say that I will be sending them some of my short stories in an anthology with the purpose they will be published in my own book. Naturally, there are no guarantees with such an endeavor, but just the fact that they are willing to give me a chance is fantastic.
The only glitch in the weekend happened when Tanya had an allergic reaction to the medication she had been prescribed the week before. Thankfully, she did not require emergency treatment but she missed the Friday and Saturday events and remained in bed the whole time. It was so heartbreaking for me as well because I knew how much she had been looking forward to the conference. I was also disheartened that I was helpless. I couldn’t do anything to ease her pain and discomfort. The only consolation I had was being able to bring her some food and drink to help her keep her strength up until we journeyed home. Thankfully, when we arrived home, her dad took her to the ER and they were able to get her started on meds that helped to counter-act the other meds.
At home, I left everything in the suitcase for Monday to be unpacked, sorted and put either in the laundry or away. Then, the blizzard started and I felt it would be a good time to read, “The Butterfly Club”, written by my dear friend, Phyllis Calvey. Not far into the book, an idea began to formulate in my mind inspired by the words Phyllis had written. She writes about the butterfly being ever so present in so many spiritual ways to people and a sign, almost a premonition of sorts, that gave many a comforting feeling through the death of others and sickness. Phyllis captures the nature of the butterfly in its natural ability to change from a caterpillar to something extraordinary beautiful.
I thought about this and realized that as a transgender person, I have always likened my situation with that of a butterfly. I was born as a male and through time, practically lived in the privacy or cocoon of my mind, always feeling the pull to be who I truly am. Like a magnet, this feeling within kept developing and changing and becoming stronger until I had to break free from the confines of the cocoon and become the person I am today.
Because I have such a strong intimate relationship with God, I prayed and asked Him to guide me with the decisions I had to make. I was finally able to find the comfort in knowing that God created me in His likeness and that His love for me is unconditional in every respect and therefore, if I was born with these feelings, then He knew long before I did. Yet He still created me as I am and still loves me. Not a bad thing at all.
For years, I mentally labored over the reason why God would make me as I am, knowing that I would go through such persecution, both within me and externally from society and family. I didn’t have the answer for the longest time, but when I likened myself to the butterfly, I was able to realize that it is God’s way of making me come to Him even more than ever before. So many times when I had no one to share my thoughts and feelings and struggles, God was the only one who was there for me to speak about what was in my heart.
The Monarch butterfly will travel thousands of miles over land and sea, through different climates and harsh weather to reach its destination and fulfill its purpose… be complete. It is the way it is created.
With that in mind, I look back on Christmas and the exchange of words with my brother and I realize that this is another harsh storm trying to pull me away from myself and more importantly, away from God. How easy it would be to be spiteful and angry and bitter, all that God does not want me to be. All of whom and what I am not. I am transitioning into the person I was meant to be…….a woman. I am a woman who is gentle, kind, forgiving and loving. I cannot do this without the grace of God.
Maybe, just maybe, this is my sign of the butterfly and maybe, just maybe, I am a different kind of member of “The Butterfly Club” because, after all, I am dying to my old self and becoming the new.
  Chelle Munroe©

   January 29, 2015

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Cold Attitude

Part Two

 “How’d you find that out?”
“I asked one of the cleaning girls if she knew anything about her.”
“She’s probably got pneumonia from sitting out here on the ground,” Paul added without any recognition of compassion in his voice.
Again, Mark just stared at his friend and tried to fathom why Paul was so cold and uncaring. Not being one to pry, however, he let the moment pass and they proceeded to the restaurant.
At the end of the day, Paul informed Mark that he was going to stay a little later to work on a layout for a new account they had acquired.  Before long, the cleaning ladies came in and Paul asked one of them if she knew the hospital where the young girl had been taken. She didn’t know but returned a few minutes later with the information.
Without knowing the girl’s name and not being a relative, it took a bit of doing before he was able to find out what room she was in. She was in the Intensive Care Unit and when he inquired about her, he was told her name was Sandra and that she was in critical condition. He also learned that she had no family, her father having left her and her mother when she was a baby and her mother having passed away when Sandra was ten years old.
The nurse brought Paul into the room and he sat in the chair next to the bed. A couple minutes later, the nurse returned and checked the tubes connected to Sandra’s arms. When the nurse went to adjust the bedding, Paul noticed that Sandras’s legs were misshapen.
He closed his eyes as his words about knowing life’s hardships came back to haunt him. Having lost his own daughter Tina at two years old, he had turned bitter and resentful. His marriage split up and he could never involve himself with anyone on an intimate basis. He had wallowed in his loneliness in spite of having had all the means to overcome it. Now, as he sat in the hospital room, with the monitors beeping, he realized that he knew absolutely nothing about real loneliness. Sandra, on the other hand, did. Yet, in spite of all she had lost and been through, she still smiled and offered a blessing.
He now understood that her panhandling was to stay alive. The cruel words he had spat at her on so many days invaded his mind and tore at his heart. What kind of a monster had he become?
“I’m sorry,” the nurse’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “Your fifteen minutes are over.”
Paul glanced at Sandra and then at the nurse and nodded. He stood up feeling like all the energy in his body had completely drained out of him. He was a shell moving robotically toward the door. In the elevator, he vowed to return and to speak to the doctors to find out what could be done to help Sandra.
That night, tortured by the memories of Tina and the visions of Sandra lying in the bed hooked up to machines, Paul was unable to fall asleep until he practically passed out from emotional exhaustion. His concentration in the office the next morning was anything but focused. At lunch time, he explained to Mark about Tina and his visit to see Sandra the night before. Mark sat quietly while Paul informed him of Tina’s death and Sandra’s deformed legs and being hooked up to the monitors.
Mark was then able to understand Paul’s cold attitude in the previous weeks and sympathized with all that his friend had gone through. Having children of his own, Mark also shivered at the thought of losing one of them. Such pain was beyond his comprehension and wondered how Paul would have endured for so long without having shut his emotions off.
After lunch, Mark headed back to the office while Paul hailed a taxi to go to the hospital. He was determined to find a way to help Sandra. In amongst his angst to help her, thoughts of possibly adopting her weaved in and out of his mind. He kept thinking that their meeting was more by design than happenstance.
At the hospital, Paul forced himself to remain calm and patient as the elevator seemed to take forever to open. He made his way to the nurse’s station and inquired if the doctor had been in and how Sandra was doing. The nurse informed him the doctor would be with him briefly and told Paul he could go in to see Sandra.
Paul reached out and took Sandra’s little hand in his and was shocked at how cold it felt. He covered his other hand over hers and whispered, “It’s going to be okay. I’ll keep you warm. I’m so sorry for all the things I said to you and one day I will explain why I had such a cold attitude toward you.”
One of the monitors in the room started beeping loudly and two nurses came running into the room. One of the nurses came to the side of the bed where Paul was standing. “There’s a small room down the corridor and once we see what’s going on, we’ll let you come back in.”
Paul reluctantly walked to the small waiting room for family. He sat down and closed his eyes.
A short time later, the door opened and a man came in. “Hello, I’m Dr. Sinchow,” he introduced himself.
Paul stood up. “Can you tell me what’s wrong with Sandra and what can be done to get her back to good health?”
Dr. Sinchow cleared his throat. “I’m afraid there is nothing we can do for Sandra,” he offered somberly.
The words startled Paul. “Her condition’s that bad?”
Dr. Sinchow lowered his eyes then looked at Paul. “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but Sandra has little time left.”
Paul felt his knees weaken and sat down. Tears flowed down his cheeks. A number of things raced into his mind but none of them coalesced into a coherent thought.
Just then, Dr. Sinchow’s pager beeped. He glanced down at Paul and said, “You can go in to see her if you are up to it. I will tell the nurses.” He then left the room. Moments later, a nurse appeared and asked Paul if he was okay and whether he wanted some water. He shook his head and whispered, “No. Thank you. Can I go in now?”
The nurse nodded. “Yes, come with me.”
Paul stood by the bed hating the fact that there was nothing he could do once again. His heart was breaking. He reached down and took Sandra’s hand in his. “I don’t know if you can hear me Sandra, but I am the man who treated you meanly when I came out of the office at Weller & Wheir everyday. Please forgive me for my stupidity.”
He stretched his leg out and hooked his shoe behind the rung of the chair, pulled it closer and sat down. He bowed his head and closed his eyes wishing with all his might that she would be all right, yet knowing that his wishes wouldn’t come true.
Paul wasn’t sure how long he had been there but he heard Sandra give a deep sigh and then the monitor went flat screen and he knew she had died. When the nurses came in, he was still holding Sandra’s hand. His cheeks were stained with tears.
Paul left the hospital a short while later and decided to walk back to the office with Sandra’s words burning in his mind: “You shouldn’t be so angry all the time.”
He took a deep breath and knew in his heart that his life would be changed forever: a change for the better because that’s how Tina and Sandra would want it to be.
  The End
   Chelle Munroe©
   January 10, 2015

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Cold Attitude

Paul Callan and Mark Jannitz stepped out from the office building and turned to the right. Sitting on the ground was a young girl with a blanket wrapped around her holding a cup and a sign with a string draped around her neck asking for donations.
Mark reached into his pocket and pulled out a bill and placed it in the cup.
“God bless you,” the girl smiled and looked toward Paul.
Paul turned his head away and started walking. “Why do you encourage her?” he asked when Mark caught up to him.
“I’m not encouraging her,” he replied. “She’s just a kid. Who knows what her situation is that’s got her out here begging.”
Paul looked at him. “Don’t be so damn na├»ve all the time. She’s probably out here because her mother’s at home with a bunch of illegitimate kids and don’t get enough from welfare. Trust me, you’re not helping her, you’re enabling her.”
Mark shook his head. “Why are you so bitter and callous?”
Paul avoided answering. Inside the restaurant, he said, “We need to get moving on this project or we’ll both be sucking our thumbs if the jungle drums are right.”
“Have you heard anymore about whether the company is going to just down-size or close?”
“Not a thing. I believe I have enough years to keep me locked in if they have cut-backs.”
Mark cleared his throat. “I don’t want to sound like I have cold feet but are you certain this concept of ours will hold water?”
Paul stared into Mark’s eyes. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I’ve been testing the waters and I already have a few companies who are interested in marketing their services with us. They believe our marketing strategies are the best they’ve seen in years.”
Mark took a deep breath and sighed. “It’s going to take a lot of capital to get this off the ground. I mean, I’m risking everything.”
Paul nodded. “I know that. Look, we’ve been friends for years. I’m not going to send you to the poor farm like that kid we just passed.”
The men talked and ate their meal and then headed back to the office. Neither of them noticing the young girl had left.
Four days later, Mark got his notice that he was being let go. He walked into Paul’s office holding the slip up for Paul to see.
Paul stood up and walked around to the front of the desk. “I’m sorry. I heard it about three minutes before you got called into the conference room.” Seeing the worried looked on Mark’s face, he added, “We’ll be okay. I’ll make some phone calls this afternoon to see if I can get some appointments set up.”
At the end of the day, upset that he had failed to get any definite appointments, Paul left the office in a bad mood. Outside, he spotted the little girl sitting where she had been days before. When she looked up at him, he said, “Why don’t you go home and tell your mother to get a job.”
In spite of the hurt reflecting in her eyes, she still managed to smile at him and said, “Have a nice day.”
For the next two weeks, regardless of what time he entered or left the Weller & Wheir office building, Paul was confronted by the young girl collecting donations and each day, she would wish him a good day and each time he would grunt and walk past her, sometimes even saying cruel things.
On the following Wednesday, Paul was given his termination papers and packed up his personal belongings and carried them out of the building.
The young girl was sitting in her usual spot but instead of wishing him a good day, she simply said, “You know you shouldn’t be so angry all the time.”
That got his attention and he stopped and looked down at her with a scowl. “How old are you?”
“I’m twelve,” she answered, staring him straight in the eyes.
“Twelve, huh? Let me tell you something. You’re not old enough to be giving me advice. When you get old enough and have to work for a living instead of pan-handling, then you will know what the hardships in life are all about; then let’s see if you’re so happy then.”
At that, she smiled her usual smile and said, “Have a nice day.”
He shrugged his shoulders and stormed away. “Stupid kid,” he mumbled under his breath.
The very next morning, Paul and Mark got their first big break and landed an account. From that moment on they seemed to be in a whirlwind of events. Ironically, they were able to get a large office in the Weller & Wheir office building just four floors down from their former employer. They were on their way.
Each day, they encountered the young girl and each day, Mark gave her some money. Of course, Paul voiced his opinions and objections and ignored the young girl’s wishes to have a good day. 
As the days passed, Paul realized he hadn’t seen the young girl sitting outside the office building collecting money. Finally, he made mention to Mark as they were going to lunch. “I see your friend hasn’t been coming around.”
Mark looked at him questioningly.
“The beggar,” Paul supplied.
Mark glanced down and then looked around. “You’re right,” he said. “I wonder what happened to her.”
“The cops probably nabbed her for vagrancy.”
Mark just shook his head and continued walking toward the restaurant.
At lunch time the next day, Mark stated, “I found out the kid’s in the hospital.”
    Chelle Munroe © 
     January 10, 2015