I'm not talking about religion here.
Right now, I'm talking about your team. Your crew. Your people. The ones who will get you through a tough time of change and transition.
Last year was a rough one for me. In fact, there were quite a few rough years leading up to this massive change I just took on. But the last one was pretty tricky.
In those last few months as I was staring down decisions about permanent changes to my body and identity, I was struggling. Grasping at straws many days, I felt as if life were bottomless. A deep dark abyss that awaited my eventual drowning.
To say I was depressed is an understatement. You never suspected that? Well, that's because I had a formidable crew of supporters to sustain me during the darkest, scariest of times, just like Frodo's crew in the Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Each person/dwarf/hobbit/elf, etc. in that group added an unique skill or talent to help Frodo accomplish the tremendous task and journey he elected to take on. Just like the Fellowship of the Ring, the members of my fellowship all possess different skills and traits and bring unique perspectives and gifts with them. I am grateful for each and every one, and I couldn't have done what I did without them.
Here are the top 5 qualities in my friends, therapists, coaches and mentors that I need and am most grateful for in my past, present and future transitions:
1) humor: I love funny. I love wit. Anyone who brings this into my life to lift me up gets bonus points. I especially appreciate it when it comes in the form of sarcasm with a laser-focus set on intentionally bringing me out of a funk. The witty, "I'm saying this to make you laugh" sarcasm. For instance, the other day I said to a struggling friend, "eat some broccoli, cut the shit. Go be a warrior." She texted me later, "that was the best advice I've gotten in months."
2) deep listening: don't nod and say, "uh huh". Don't "yeah" me to death. Freakin' listen to me, tell me what you hear me saying and ask me if I need or want any advice or feedback. One of the best skills I've learned and developed over the past 5 years is how to actually listen to someone. I don't do it perfectly all the time but I think I do a better job than I did in the past. And I really appreciate someone who does it well for me.
3) homemade food: I can't explain what it felt like coming home from my surgery to weeks of homemade food from my friends. There was no feeling like it in the world. I felt like they really really knew me and my values and I felt incredibly safe and well-fed, as a result. And the people who let me cook for them? Winners. Food is love, and I like to give and receive it as much as I can.
4) no agendas: my best supporters during my time of massive change and transition were people who listened to me process what was real and true for me with no agendas of their own. There weren't any questions about hard things or if there were and I resisted or shrugged, they dropped it. There was no pressure to answer or explain myself because they wanted to know more details about issues I was struggling to bring into my consciousness. They existed to support me--not to use me as a classroom. There was no timetable in place--never once did my best supporters say things like, "well you have to make a decision soon" or "when will you use male pronouns--because I'm confused". Yeah, I was, too. And it was hell trying to get up and function every day but I still did it and sought out people who didn't need an answer to be able to love me. In fact, they got early on that it was damn near impossible for me and they took my lead when talking about it.
5) awareness: probably the best and most valuable skill my friends brought was a deep awareness of what I was going through. Not all of them were particularly trans* savvy, but they possessed a deep awareness of my process, perhaps as a result of their own deep suffering or transition of some sort, that enabled them to be fully present with my struggle. Some members of my fellowship were trained therapists and practitioners, some were deeply intelligent and intuitive people, some were learning through me but gentle enough to keep their questions for later. They got that it was big, all-consuming and incredibly scary. And even if they didn't fully understand and couldn't relate, they gave me the space and time to sort through it.
Who are the people in your crew? What qualities do you need in your friends to accomplish what feels impossible to do by yourself?