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What shit is

  • Posted on August 10, 2013 at 10:40 am

‘Shit’ used to be a deprecated word in English. But it’s a very old word, a purposeful word, and an honest word. It’s the stuff that’s left over when all the goodness has been extracted for the purpose of sustaining healthy life. It’s the stuff that isn’t good for you. It’s the gunk that was always bad, or useless, and it was the indigestible fibrous bulk that was necessary to get the bad stuff out efficiently.

And the thing about shit (unless it’s a medical thing, and you analyse it as information) is that we handle our own OK, but seriously dislike everyone else’s. It’s a healthy attitude really, but it’s partly a cultural thing too. We don’t talk about it, even though we encounter it every day from birth to death. We don’t talk about it like we do about food, even though it’s just the opposite end of the same argument.

I’ve taken in a lot of good stuff all my life. I’ve been lucky to have had a stable childhood, a good education, an adequate social circle, for a while a small degree of affluence (in UK, not global terms – I accept my position there is very different), a few wonderful (romantic) girlfriends, a successful and long marriage, two grown-up children, and a series of jobs that I could at least really make my own. I have skills and talents I indulge in expressing, and now … And now?

From some things, all I have left is the shit.

My soon-to-be ex hears all my sadness and grief as anger and recrimination. I hear all her coping mechanism as defensive, cold and distanced. There is no exchange of love any more. There is no meaningful relationship. This is refined shit, with all the goodness taken out. My daughter hasn’t spoken or communicated with me for over two years, and I frankly expect no change any more.

And I have no intimacy and no sex, and I can’t remember the last time or when. That’s pure shit too.

I’m worth more than this. And yet I have to ask, what am I feasting on now?

A new diet

Last week I blogged anger about Pride becoming carnival rather than protest. But as I walked up the main road to the event, surrounded by hundreds of lovely people, most of whom had been through a similar crisis of acceptability and identity as I have (and realised I was the only trans* person in sight) I saw openness, vulnerability, strength, romance, love and happiness. We joined thousands already in the park, the music was loud, the atmosphere was amazing, and I felt completely safe, completely accepted. Why should I not be happy too? In the Literature Tent, some of the anger, the protest and the meaning of Pride was voiced. Enough for me not to do the same. My angry poem stayed in the folder, my envisaged introduction unspoken. There was a consistent, articulate trans* voice in the event, and that was enough, so I added my own with a different poem.

I’d never even brushed close to Pride before, and here I was seriously enjoying myself and meeting new and lovely and welcoming people I could never have met before. If my flat purchase in Hove succeeds, it will feel very much like coming home. ‘My people’ are different people now, and it feels good. In fact, where was I, and where were they, all my life?

Today, once more, my legs are aching, but my feet less sore, from dancing barefoot all evening. This week, not Five Rhythms, but ecstatic dance. What? Who? Me? Yes me, dancing with 30 others, doing my thing, synching with people I’ve never otherwise met, flying around the floor at times like a bird set free. This is the person who was the massage client described only a few years ago as ‘very different’, not for being trans* in hiding or denial or not understanding, but for being so conventional! My previous life-diet signified one thing: either I was severely constipated, or I was shitting pure goodness without digesting it, and not growing as I should. And now I am learning where the best food is, chewing it, appreciating it, accepting the shit.

The whole point of this, is that these last two years have been a really bad time for me, to go through such heartbreak, so many destroyed ideas of what love and life are all about, feeling that I have only ever been loved as an object of significance, not as person of value. I haven’t lost everything at all. A lot, yes. Things that most people would only imagine losing through infidelity, serious misdemeanour, or death. But everything was a result only of my integrity and their choice. I have told the story to death, and the book’s binding is tearing loose, the lettering no longer gold.

With all the goodness extracted from the previous three decades and more, I have been left with the shit. And the significance of this, is that everything in the shit was inside my life before. Some of it just useful roughage, but the truths of being loved for significance rather than self were there all along. Contingent love looked different when its dependency was safe. And now all the crap is out. That means no longer in. It should instead feel like relief.

I love. I love other people. I have a few deep friendships, and a new ability and freedom to truly encounter and share with the people I meet. I know what it means that women are sisters. I know what it means for me to express my emotions and intuition openly and freely, and to find the same in others. I know that in some ways I have entered a whole new world of personhood, inhabited by people I could never truly have known before, who share my love and exploration of life and meaning, who eschew ordinariness as impoverishing. I will probably never live in a suburban semi with garden again, though somewhere I can have a cat or dog would be welcome

I have real questions about my previous concept of marriage and the merging of people into singular coupleness. I like the word ‘partner’ because it sounds more equal and less role-dependent. It seems to leave people intact and able to do their own thing and find their own way. I would love to find romance, and real commitment, but without the suspiciousness that marriage can bring. Maybe it’s my age! And I really long for kisses and intimacy … My diet may have changed, but I still need a complete diet.

It takes a while to understand shit, to accept that it is waste, and is meant to be waste, that it can contaminate and needs to be disposed of and washed away properly. But there will always be some, and it is better out than in. It is the product of imperfect goodness, and no reason not to feast. The shit is over. Long live shit.