To The FemmeMobile! Away!

{April 7, 2012}   Just a wee bit broken.

When I was sixteen (maybe seventeen?) I had my arm in a sling for six months. We couldn’t figure out what the heck was wrong with my shoulder. We finally decided a rotator cuff tear, and treated it with physical therapy knowing that someday I might need surgery.

For that six months, I learned how to do things with one arm. I could type one-handed like a demon, I’m telling you! I could mount a horse, ride (even somewhat direct reining — where you use two hands) with one hand, do homework with one hand, everything. Which isn’t to say it was the easiest thing it the world, but I figured it out.

The sling was great for attention, too, and sometimes I loved it. I decorated it with buttons that said things like “I am eruditer than you.” I was happy to tell people, in gruesome detail, about my shoulder injury. I even learned how to turn a conversation to it, if I was feeling ignored.

It also hurt. I wasn’t in a sling for nothing, and ironically it turned out (when we finally figured things out) that the position the sling held my arm in made it worse. I had muscle cramps so bad from pain that it pinched the nerves, so I’d get sensations like a hot brand down my arm and into my hand and fingers. It was Not Pleasant. There were times I couldn’t sleep, and times I couldn’t think because of the constant ache. I still live in fear that it’s going to come back. (For good reason; it occurs occasionally — and when I say ‘occassionally’ I mean “it hurts a few times a day, but only really gets annoying a few times a week, and every few months it ramps up to I-can’t-sleep-because-it-hurts for a night or two — despite the fact that I’m anal about my PT. It’s been about 14 years.)

I was careful of it. Bumping it hurt. Jigging it hurt. Leaving it too still for too long hurt. I was constantly aware of it, and constantly careful of it.

I was broken. Not broken in the hand-wringing, despairing sort of way. Broken like, “Gee, this doesn’t work so well. Hmm. Let’s do the best we can, and be aware that it needs a little extra time and care. And sometimes sit down and be sad, but other times show it off. But always, always, have it on your mind and be aware that it’s not like everyone else, and everyone else will probably forget and might occasionally do something really stupid, like clap you on the back. So be wary.”

I’m feeling that way a lot lately. Broken. It sounds melodramatic, but I can’t think of a better analogy. I don’t feel like my life is terrible, or that I need to sit and weep (though I am a little emo from being overworked). Sometimes I show it off, and sometimes I need TLC, and all the time I’m aware of it and wary of what people are going to do, themselves unaware or forgetting it.

I’m remembering things lately. They’re on my mind. Like my awesome cousins who were so great about me bringing my girlfriend to Christmas dinner, knowing the rest of the family would Not Be Okay With That. Like my mom, who really couldn’t care less what gender I date (OMG she LOVES Q, which is vaguely terrifying to me), but is also sometimes casually — and in a way, I suspect purposefully — oblivious. Not like, “I don’t want to deal with your gayness,” but like, “I’m going to pretend like I don’t see why you’d even care to hear this and isn’t your aunt so silly for even saying it, but I’m still going to tell you your aunt says you’re welcome to come to Thanksgiving dinner and they love you regardless. Isn’t she silly? Of course you know that and/or don’t care.” (This from the Baptist aunt, if my mom can be trusted. Which… she can’t always. I swear, she hears the most interesting things that people didn’t mean, and she honestly believes she heard it…)

Articles and things on acceptance are making me cry regularly. I always think that things like that are an indication that I have something I need to deal with, and sort of I do. But it’s not my immediate family — they’re awesome — or my friends — also awesome — where I feel the lack of acceptance. Or maybe it’s just that stories about people being supportive make me cry. Or maybe the lack of support in society makes me feel unacceptable. Or– I don’t know.

Part of it is me. Ever since I was a little kid, stories about people being supportive have hit me really hard. REALLY HARD. I don’t know why. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s hardwired into me. Maybe I had a non-supportive past life. I dunno. I just know that they’re like crack for me. They fill something that feels unfilled. They put paste over something that feels broken.

Right now, that sense of broken-ness is coming in the form of gay stuff. I’m not sure if I like this. I mean, before it’s always been a nebulous thing. Now it’s specifically gay stuff.

It’s still a muddle in my head. I know this: I feel broken. I always have. Now I can put a finger on the spot and say, “Here. This sexuality bit? This is what makes me feel broken.”

I’ve learned to work with it, and I’m good at it. Sometimes I show it off to people, to make them coo or to piss them off. Sometimes I give myself extra pats and TLC. I’m always aware that some people don’t know and others don’t remember, and will say and do stupid things that I have to protect from, never meaning harm. They don’t understand what it feels like, because they’re not broken in this way.  Which is funny; everyone has something like that, but I often think we aren’t careful about other peoples’ broken bits. It really is just like that sling.

I have to remind myself that everyone has things they feel broken about. Things that don’t fit what society says we’re supposed to be. They’re not skinny or not Christian or not white or not male or not not not… I wonder if they feel as broken as I do, or if they shrug it off. (Of course, I imagine they shrug it off, and I’m the ONLY PERSON WHO FEELS THIS WAY. Riiiiiight.) Though I know the answer to the question, I still find myself wondering: if we’re all broken in some way, why is it so hard to be compassionate for others who are broken in ways we might not understand?

I’m ready for this ache to go away. I am overworked and running too much lately. I’m hoping next week, which should be calm, will help. But in the meantime, the ache in my broken bits is keeping me up at night.



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