Confessions of a bold, shy, inactive activist

My life in three acts. Or maybe one. Or four.

In a world where there are three kinds of people — those who understand math and those who don’t — I’m one who doesn’t. It has always been a foreign language to me, and at the ripe old age of 68 years, I still haven’t found the Rosetta Stone that will unlock those arcane secrets for me.

None of which has anything to do with this story except, perhaps, to highlight just how much my lifelong ADHD influences my thoughts and actions.

I used to be an activist

On the very first Earth Day, I wore a gas mask to my classes at San Antonio College. I was mocked by most of the students, but still I persisted. I sand and played my guitar at sit-ins and various other demonstrations.

We were going to change the world for the better. But I guess we just got stoned and forgot.

Some of the biggest names in what we so sincerely called “The Movement” went on to have brilliant careers as CEOs, politicians, and other similar professions. Me, I sorta drifted from job to job, never really finding what most folks would call a career path. My old guitar sat in its case for years. Over time, I gradually gave away my collection of guitar picks.

A blast from the past

July 2, 1975 found me replacing the strings on my old guitar. That was the day my first daughter was born, and I was able to fulfill a promise I made the first time I heard Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne on the radio: that if I ever had a daughter, I would name her Suzanne. Actually, in a bit of my old obstinance, Suzanne became Suzzanne with 2 zees. I played endless variations of Cohen’s classic song over the years. And I remembered my activism days.

What were the issues in those early days of the ’70s and ‘80s? I don’t really know: I spent those decades living in Alaska, where the biggest issue was were we going to move the capital or not? Paul Simon summed it up best:

Time it was, and what a time it was,
It was a time of innocence
A time of confidences

Jump ahead a couple of decades

I’m living in northern California. My second marriage has failed. My depression has cost me several jobs, as I just can’t bring myself to even get out of bed, much less go to work.

Eventually I get my shit together enough to sell my trailer and move to Seattle to be closer to my daughter. I was a mess.

So much so that when she took me to apply for food stamps and medical assistance, I was assigned a therapist who agreed to work with me. I was still so messed up that she scheduled me for twice a week appointments.

On the third or fourth week, I walked into her office, sat down, and burst into tears. After a good solid five minutes of crying, I managed to stop long enough to say, “All I ever wanted was to be a pretty girl.”

Epiphany

There it was, out in the open. Not so much a blinding revelation as a shameful secret. Lock me up now and throw away the key. I’m a sick bastard, unfit to be around decent society.

If you grew up gay, queer, transgender, bisexual, or any other kind of what have mistakenly and harmfully been called perversions, you know the feeling.

But rather condemn me, Nikki (my therapist) explained to me that (1) there was nothing wrong with me, (2) there was a word for what I was, and (3) we would work together to figure out where to go from here.

And so my activism began anew

The discovery that I was transgender changed my life — to say the least! As I began my journey towards becoming my true self — a journey we label “transitioning” — I discovered (among other things) that my lifelong depression, while genetic, was aggravated my my gender dysphoria. Once I started coming to terms with who I was — and accepting who I was — I was able to cut my antidepressant medications from 5 to 2.

Best of all? I stopped hating myself.

I spent as much time as I could researching what I came to call my condition, almost as if it were a pregnancy, another delicate condition. After all, wasn’t I preparing to give birth to a new life?

Do you live in Washington state?

If so, you’re lucky enough to have direct access to The Washington Gender Alliance, which is probably the nation’s oldest transgender support group. They were invaluable to me during my journey. They have an incredible amount of up-to-date information they’ll be happy to share with you.

And if you’re not in Washington, you’re still welcome to use their web site to access that information.

What’s happening now?

I’ve moved to Rochester, NY. I spent over a year volunteering at the Out Alliance, formerly the Rochester Gay Alliance. I’m living in a rented room in an older home, and I have started writing again. Not only here on Medium, but I also blog — although somewhat sporadically — at My Refined Madness.

Most of all, I’m back in the State in which I was born — New York. I have come full circle back to where I was born and am continuing my rebirth.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I’m still shy, but at least I’m brave enough to help people understand who I am.

90° F. Is Just Too Hot!

We’ve been experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures here in Rochester, and while you folks in the Southwestern USA might scoff and welcome such temperatures as a welcome break from even warmer days, 90° is just too hot for this transplanted Alaskan. Even though it’s been almost 30 years, my blood still hasn’t thinned enough to handle the heat.

Which is why I haven’t been writing lately: who wants to even boil a pot of water, much less drink it, in this heat?

Not that I’ve completely stopped drinking tea; on the contrary, I’m going through record amounts of iced tea-flavored juice mixes.

But when I woke up this morning and came downstairs to discover that the temperature was still under 80°, I knew it was my chance! 10 minutes later and I was enjoying a nice cup of hot Earl Grey. Of course I had to make a second cup.

Sadly, by the time it was done, it was already 84°, which made it too hot to drink hot tea. But no worries: it’s sitting in the fridge awaiting until the next time I want a cup of iced tea. And with the temperature expected to once again reach into the 90s, that won’t be too awfully long a wait.

What About You?

Do you have any special ways of coping with the heat? There was a time in my life when I did live in a warmer part of the country. San Antonio, Texas, to be exact. And while I didn’t much like living in Texas, San Antonio still remains one of my top choices of cities I wouldn’t mind living in.

I discovered that some of the houses—the ones that had been there since the city’s earliest days—all had flat roofs, with exterior walls that reached some three feet or so above the roofline. I learned that they were designed this way so that whenever it rained, the rainwater would be trapped and collected on the roof. Later, as the temperature rose, the water would slowly evaporate, sucking heat from the houses and making them bearable. In essence, the entire house became a swamp cooler.

How Hot is Hot? Perspectives on Heat

When my father lived in south Texas (McAllen is just a couple of miles from the US-Mexico border), he told me the story of when he had visited one of his parishioners in her nursing home. She explained to him that she preferred living there because she couldn’t stand any of her relatives.

It was her 100th birthday. She had been born and raised in McAllen, and never ventured more than 20 miles from that city.

You have to understand McAllen’s climate to truly appreciate what I’m going to tell you. My father would leave his air-conditioned house in the morning, drive his air-conditioned car to his air-conditioned office…and then come home at lunch to change his shirt. The heat and humidity were that bad a combination.

Anyway, he and his parishioner—let’s call her Mrs. Johnson—were discussing what it had been like growing up and living in McAllen for so many years. My father told me that when he asked her, “Mrs. Johnson, how did you manage to live with such heat and humidity before you had air conditioning?”

To which that wise old woman replied, “Why Pastor, before we had air conditioning, we didn’t know we was hot!”

And that, dear reader, is perspective.

Until next time!

Is This The Ultimate Writing App for iOS?

Ulysses. Ancient Greek adventurer and explorer. Legendary traveler. And now, a writing app for the Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

I discovered Ulysses whilst searching for a new blogging and writing tool. I had several requirements that any system or app had to satisfy:

  1. It had to be reasonably priced
  2. It had to have a clean interface
  3. It had to have a free trial period
  4. It had to be compatible with the apps already in my existing Writer’s toolbox
  5. It had to allow me to sync between my iPad and iPhone.
  6. If possible, I would like it to sync with my windows laptop.

Price

At $4.99 a month or $39.99 annually, it definitely is reasonably priced. That took care of the first requirement. It also comes with a free 14-day trial period, thus fulfilling number 3.

So far, I’ve not found any conflict with my existing tools. That was number 4 on my list.

Syncing

As far as syncing between my iPhone and iPad, I originally installed and configured it on my iPad. When I installed it on the iPhone and launched it for the first time, it was already synced with the iPad. Since my documents were set to store in iCloud, what I had written on the iPad was already available on the iPhone.

And syncing was almost instantaneous: I started this document on the iPad, edited it on the iPhone, and when I moved back to the iPad, all of the new changes were there!

As far as syncing to my laptop, I haven’t tried it yet. But since I can export documents in MS Word docx format, I don’t foresee any problems.

The Interface

Finally, the interface. It doesn’t get much cleaner than this:

One of the reasons for the clean interface is the fact that Ulysses uses markdown language for all of its formatting. There are only 25 commands to memorize, but if you’re lazy like me, there’s also a pop-up menu to give you access to all of them.

Of course, as I use the program, I’ll become used to and will learn the language.

Exporting

When I’m ready to publish, Ulysses will export my WordPress posts directly to WordPress. It’s an easy enough setup, and you can configure the program for multiple blogs.

My New Default Editor

Ulysses has replaced Scrivener as my default text editor. I still use Scrivener to archive my writings, but Ulysses is much easier to use.

Find it here. You get a free two-week evaluation period before you have to buy it.

It’s Been too Long a While

It’s been too long since I’ve posted anything here. Let’s just say June was a very bad month and let it go at that.

I promised to keep you updated on both Drafts and Ulysses, and I’ve failed on both counts. I’ll be making up for that—and a lot of other things—this month.

I’m surprised that I’m writing anything at all, to be honest; at 10 a.m. it was already 92° F/33° C. Even though it’s been almost 30 years since I left Alaska, my blood still hasn’t thinned enough for me to be comfortable with this much heat.

Yesterday I moved my “writing center” (laptop, iPhone charger, iPad, and iPhone) downstairs just outside the den-cum-office, which is the only air-conditioned room in the house. Even with that, I can only work about an hour at a time before I have to go sit in front of the AC and let it cool me down. And yes, I’m keeping well-hydrated.

Why So Many Devices?

Why so many tools? Because while I firmly believe that humankind has not yet evolved to the point where we can truly multitask, my ADHD keeps me hopping from thought to thought faster than I can process them, and so I try my best to write down those ideas before they disappear. My electronics have replaced my physical notebooks. And no matter how high the quality of Moleskine notebooks, by iPhone is just easier to carry with me.

And no, it’s NOTE “mole-skin:”

“We want people to feel free to say the name the way they want. Having said that, “moleskin” as a word is originally an English word. So the English pronunciation is ‘Mole-skin.’ But then you know, it was moved to France and over there, an ‘e’ was added and the French pronunciation is ‘mol-ey-skine.’” https://www.marketplace.org/2013/05/20/business/corner-office/moleskines-ceo-papers-advantages-and-how-pronounce-moleskine

Another Example

I wanted to find a couple of bookmarks in my browser to add to this entry—and I ended up spending 30 minutes sorting and rearranging my bookmarks. And no, I didn’t find the ones I wanted.

So I ended up spending yet another half hour finding and bookmarking some excellent references sites and tools, which I’ll add to my writer’s toolbox, an updated version of which I’ll be posting sometime this week.

In The Meantime

I’ll be spending the rest of the day doing a few mundane yet oh-so-necessary life tasks that we all would much rather not have to do—such as the laundry.

Until later,

Robyn Jane

Stop Saying Suicide Is Cowardly

This is going to piss off a lot of readers, but I don’t care. The people it will piss off are the ones who have already pissed me off by their uneducated, ignorant claim in the first place.

The first thing I’m going to say that will piss them off is this:

If you have never been plagued by depression, or never watched a loved one crippled by this disease, kindly shut the fuck up.

I can’t state this enough. You have no business pontificating on a subject about which you know nothing. And by making your statement, all I hear is, “I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I’m going to give you my opinion anyway, because I know more about it than you do.”

I hate to burst your bubble, but here’s an uncomfortable truth: People with depression don’t want to die!

People with depression don’t want to die!


Here’s the thing: on both occasions I tried suicide, it wasn’t because I wanted to die; I simply wanted the pain to stop. I was in a place where I could no longer think rationally. After all, do you really think that if I could see any other solution I wouldn’t have chosen it instead?

And that, dear friends and critics, is the difference between my depression and your “sanity:” the inability to think clearly and rationally. Did I really want to die? Did I consider how my death would affect my family? My friends?

Of course I didn’t: I was so overwhelmed by my depression and its pain and agony that I was incapable of any thought at all, much less rational thought.

Was I a coward? Or was I in a state where suicide was my only rational choice?

Do you see the contradiction here? That I was in such pain that I was incapable of clear, rational thought that to me, suicide seemed to be the only rational solution.

Unless you’ve been there, you won’t understand. And being there, you don’t see any other solution. Which is why depression can so often be a fatal disease.

So before you call suicide “Cowardly,” or “The easy way out,” or any other stupid thing, stop and think: what would you do if you saw no other way out of a soul-deadening, horrifying life of agony, with no hope of improvement?

One more thing: there’s a reason J. K. Rowling modeled the Dementors on her own depression.