Every Monday, I am reminded to forgive myself.
Each week, as I sit on the bathroom toilet or the edge of the tub, poised with a 1-inch needle hovering above my thigh, I decide once more. I sit there for a while, sometimes 30 seconds, sometimes five minutes, as I summon the courage to slide the needle through my skin and into my muscle. It's scary. After three years of doing this every week to supplement the hormones in my body, I am surprised each time how difficult it is. I know it won’t really hurt if I do it correctly but still, I hesitate. And I hesitate with forgiving myself for having to do it at all.
Each week I endure this reconciliation process with myself, because no one got me here but me. I chose to transition. I chose to make this part of my life experience. I took the steps to alter my whole life and my very identity, irrevocably, forever.
And as I sit there, I battle myself a little. Because the injection is only one of many difficult or unpleasant aspects of my transition, and I know I could have chosen differently and not had to deal with any of it. And then I smile, take some deep breaths, complete the process and put my Band-Aid on because I know I have another decision to make. I can make this more difficult or I can make it easier on myself. I can suffer or I can find forgiveness.
Our lives and our identities are created by decisions. On the turn of a dime, we can go from left to right, A to B, here to there. My transition came about from making hundreds of decisions over the past three decades, from the day I chose to overcome my eating disorder to my first days as a vegetarian and then years later when I had a hamburger again. My decisions about physical self-expression using the skin I’m in included the moments I got my nose pierced and my first tattoo. My Buddhist identity came from a decision to abandon the Catholicism of my childhood and another decision to spend years under the umbrella religion of Unitarian Universalism. Many of these decisions included breaking conventional norms or societal rules. These decisions went against what I had been taught or how I had been raised. Sometimes I had to break rules I had previously set for myself. The way I made these decisions was to choose powerfully and forgive myself for wanting something different.
We can live our whole lives avoiding the criticism or backlash from other people based on how they live their own lives. We can limit or restrict or hide what we want or need from fear of what our peers will do or say. Look what happened when Caitlyn Jenner, a beloved American icon, made a choice that challenged what people considered normal or appropriate. They freaked out and projected all of their needs and wants and opinions and comfort zones onto her.
Challenges prompt the process of finding forgiveness. If it was easy, anyone could do it. It happens when someone judges us, or we fear they might. It happens when we made a mistake or did something we think is unforgivable in the eyes of others. It happens when we break norms, defy rules or live outside the lines in some way, either intentionally or just because it is who we are.
We can spend our whole lives searching for forgiveness or approval from others to live the lives we want or to let us off the hook for something we’ve done or who we are. In the months before my transition, I heard myself saying out loud, “I’ll be punished, I’ll be in trouble” and it was weird to hear myself say that because I had lived independent of my parents and their opinions for so many years. At least I thought I had. I made the decision anyway, and my premonition came true. But I can spend the rest of the time I have here regretting who I am and what I’ve chosen or I can make a different decision. I can seek forgiveness for who I am outside myself and wait forever or I can find it within my own heart. We get to choose how hard we make it, how many hoops we force ourselves through, to find self-acceptance. We get to decide if we live in compassion or in perpetual shame. It’s a process, made of many decisions.
Just like anything precious, forgiveness may be tough to find at first but once you have it, it’s yours, baby.