Some times call for lament. It is not something I do easily. As a dutiful Sunday school student, I memorized the names of all the books of the Old Testament, including Lamentations, though I was clueless about the subject, or even what the word meant. (The word means the passionate expression of grief or sorrow.)
I’ve never seen the word “lamentations” in a newspaper article or a contemporary novel. Americans don’t talk much about lament. I spent most of the last eight days in lament. I cancelled everything I could, and holed up alone in the foothills of the Rockies.
When I was a male, I dealt with difficulties and setbacks by ramping up my busyness. Speed was my hedge against lament. I became crazy busy. That is what I did when I was avoiding coming out as transgender. It didn’t work so well then, but nevertheless, it is my default avoidance mechanism. I choose the word “mechanism” with intent. When I resort to busyness and speed, I am attempting to engineer results instead of trusting the flow. It is not a good life plan.
When you run yourself ragged by engineering results, you do not pay close enough attention to the needs of those around you. Over the past week, I did not hold space for the feelings of one close friend, and I marched right over the expressed thoughts of another. That stopped me in my tracks, rather literally, and ushered in an exhausting week of lament. The lament took hold in a number of different spaces within my heart. One area of my lamentations is private. The others I can and will share.
I always acknowledge that my experience is my experience. I cannot speak for anyone else. I write often about living in a liminal space, somewhere between male and female, holding in tension the two genders within. Recently I have been lamenting that part of the female experience I will never know, particularly the experience of growing a child within your womb and everything that relates to that holy experience.
Since the She Is Called Conference in May, I have been lamenting my inability to enter into the sacred circular I observe among women. I reside in its borderlands, close enough to intuit something holy, but far enough away to realize I will never know what I cannot know. Women have been helping one another give birth since the beginning of time. It is the foundation of their collaborative intuition. So much female energy springs forth from that seminal experience. I stand back and observe in awe.
The loss of testosterone and addition of estrogen affects the body in innumerable ways, including ample neurological changes. Women understand the effects of estrogen. Add to that the degree to which my brain was never at peace in a male body, and you are left with a transgender woman with a plethora of complex feelings. Sometimes they pile up, like laundry, and you have to sort them before you throw them in the wash. This has been a time of sorting.
I rue the days when in fear I refuse to trust the flow of my feelings and return to the old discomfort of engineering results. In those moments I do not hold space for all the things being born in my heart. In my time of lament, I listen to the flow of my heart, both its male and female parts. I weep from the insights and wisdom that come bubbling up, out of the pain, as precious as the Holy Grail.
I am grateful I am not alone. I am blessed with a precious few who walk ever so faithfully by my side. With speaking offers and requests for book proposals and the like, the world wants to hear what I have to say from my home in the borderlands of gender. I am an inadequate messenger. I miss stuff, and sometimes the stuff I miss is pretty effing important. I need help from those who are gracious and patient enough to nudge me back onto the path every now and again. This learning to live as a female is serious business.
And so I grieve and lament, grateful that I dared to choose the road less traveled by, with its fallen branches and stones and all. Like I said in my TEDx talk, “Would I do it all again? Of course I would! Because the call toward authenticity is sacred. It is holy. And it is for the greater good.”
14 thoughts on “A Time For Lament”
I relate to using busyness to fill or even sometimes resolve discomfort and grief. Thank you for pointing me to lamentations- i sense it will be a helpful one for me.
Bless you. Bless you for sharing your experiences. I too studied the Book of Lamentations as a child; you never understand lamentations until you have lived a bit of life…
I was intrigued by your coping mechanism; I too engineer busy-ness and avoid feelings. I think it’s a human thing, not male or female.
I understand your feeling of loss at not experiencing carrying a child and giving birth-I was pregnant twice but was too scared, too poor and un-trusting of my current partners to have the babies. How could I put them through the suffering of life when I had suffered so much due to poverty, lack of parenting and guidance, etc.? It just didn’t feel right. Now as I enter menopause, watching that ship sail into the distance, I too grieve at what I will never know. Maybe I will adopt a child because now I feel stronger and understand that life is hard for everyone and that I do have people who love and support me and I maybe could give a child something that they wouldn’t have unless someone takes them in and loves them.
Learning to live as a female is surely a trip; learning to live is too, right?
You are loved. You are supported. You give me hope and inspiration. Don’t worry about whether you’re doing it right all the time. Just keep doing it.
Thank you so much for writing. And yes, learning to live is quite the journey!
Keep Doing “The Next Right Thing” as they say in the 12-Step Programs and that is what you are doing, The Next Right Thing. You are brave, you are articulate and you are helping make a difference. Hang tough and keep sharing. There are many who need you!!! Thank you. Dave
Oh my goodness, dear Paula……there are so many cis-gender females that “do what you do” ….I have the feeling that women are terribly misunderstood b/c the world has been viewed and defined ONLY from a male perspective!!! It’s tricky for all of us……I’ve been waiting for a transgender like you ever since I met my first male to female transgender years ago….you are the FIRST (hopefully, not the last ) that has been the gift of articulation that will do nothing but help ALL of us live together in understanding which……..are you ready……BIRTHS love…..birthing love ain’t too shabby”:^)))))love you, melanie
Thank you so much Melanie. I do my best to bring a little light into the world.
I really don’t know how to express how much I appreciate you, Paula. I have not even met you, yet you have a space in my heart. Recently, an old teacher of mine died. She too has a place there. I’ve been revisiting her videos, and this, “Thinking With Our Hearts, Feeling With Our Brains,” is something you might like.
Thank you so much Jane.
Beautiful and lovely. Lamenting is so challenging. For me, it almost feels like disobedience to lament because I’ve always been taught to be a cheerful Christian. God has been sending the word “lament” to me alot lately. Looks like I have some authenticity work to do. Blessings to you Paula as you lament a space you cannot enter quite as fully as your heart desires. I’m praying with you.
It is blessed work, isn’t it, Kellyann.
At my church where I attend and am a member earlier this summer we did a several-lesson study on lamenting with opportunities to actually lament. And we are frequently reminded to, and encouraged to lament as part of our Christian life. It has been very, very helpful!!
Ooh, I like that church!
In the past year, I have discovered how powerful it is to lament. What I once perceived to be just extreme sorrow is now more clearly in my mind a passionate cleansing process in which pain is precisely named and more fully resolved. In some cases, the resolution is never complete. I ache with you about the things that you, that we, will never experience. I am also learning, however, that lamenting allows me to more easily move on, not without the scars but definitely more healthy and better able to face the future. Thank you, Paula, for wonderfully sharing your lamentation, and allowing us to identify with your pain and move on together. That is, after all, what the lamentations in scripture are all about, isn’t it?
Thank you so much Melissa.