Gravity of wait

  • Posted on November 23, 2013 at 11:31 pm

Sandra Bullock spinning wildly, freely in space. ‘Untethered!’ – she remains professional, following communications protocol, completely unable to control her spin or direction. There is no traction in space, hurtling weightless around the planet. One person (George Clooney) has the capacity to save her, because he has a jet-pack. But he has too much to do, with what little resource he has …

I won’t spoil the story if you haven’t yet seen the film Gravity, but I will recommend the 3D version, for the tears in space.

The gravity of gravity

I work in a place where the value of gravity matters. We make machines that measure force, and the loadcells at their heart need regular recalibration to remain accurate. This in done by suspending static weights, but the same lump of metal will ‘weigh’ differently, depending on where in the world you are. Gravity is not a constant, but a feature of where you find yourself.

Where I find myself affects many things. Location, location, location? You bet. I love the place I live, but not everything about it. In the past I have been quite electrosensitive, and this block of flats is screaming with wi-fi and DECT phones, as well as mobile phone antennae. Having everything I need within walking distance is offset by wondering if my electrosensitivity will get worse again. I’m not going to worry myself about it, but already I have EM-shielded my bed and sleep better. One day I may have to sacrifice geographic location again for electromagnetic comfort, but realistically there are few places to go.

What I am saying is that life isn’t about being safely tethered, and sometimes there is nothing you can do about where you’re travelling. Things you thought constant may seem out of control, but your best bet is to keep in communication in an intelligible way.

The weight of a wait

It’s been a mixed week for me, from a really successful book launch of a poetry anthology under my Bramley Press imprint, to being hit hard from behind by another car, whilst sitting, brakes applied, in a traffic queue. I was waiting, and was hit by significant force without warning. Minor whiplash and a car needing some structural repair are in turn a physical pain and a real inconvenience. I was hurt also that the man who hit me never apologised or asked if I was alright, and tried to bribe me out of an insurance claim.

In the midst of that, I phoned to find out why my surgical team appointment hadn’t yet come through. I’d been told it would be January or February, but two months after my clearance and referral, the letter still has not been written. When it is written, it will be up to five months to get the appointment, and maybe another nine months before treatment.

So what? you may think. I’m not in pain, I’m physically healthy, so why should it matter?

It’s all a case of location: where I am in my life, the pressures I feel, my mental state, my ability to form an intimate relationship without confusing the hell out of someone, whether moving affects available funding, and so on. The gravity of this wait is very individual.

Maybe I am stable and safe (not about to commit suicide because the system is doing nothing for me for yet another year). Maybe I am seen as able to cope. But in all the time I’ve been ‘in the system’, I have had no clinical scrutiny, examination, follow-up or check-up to se how anything is going for me. Is my mental state now as good as it was when I walked with total confidence into my first psychiatric assessment? I am now released from all further involvement with the mental health unit. Yes, it has taken 18 months to work out that I am sane, just born transsexual. Now I am approved as sane, I feel untethered and spinning in space, unable to gain any traction or direction.

The gravity of the wait

Is this good for my mental state? I can’t tell you how gutted and diminished I feel by the one service I can turn to. I no longer have the money to go private, having left to live alone. It feels as if I simply don’t matter. They’ll get around to me when they have time. Life on hold. Please communicate clearly and obey protocol, or communication will be lost. There is no jet-pack, resources are limited, there is no escape pod for re-entry, and no George Clooney to provide inspiration for that last magnificent effort to save myself.

The gravity of the wait is something the system knows nothing about. Maybe I am strong, stable and patient. It will be alright in the end, I am sure. But maybe the state of the mental health service I was forced through unnecessarily (for me) will have done more damage to my mental health than the 40 years it took me to work out why I hated a part of myself.

Don’t worry, my tears won’t wobble out of the screen at you, because I keep all that to myself now. But spare a thought for the weight of years of constant delays, false hopes and disappointment. That can be as tough as being abused for being different, or simply deeply lonely because no-one wants to get that close to a trans woman.

What I liked most about the film Gravity was not the storyline (it’s thin and ultimately predictable) nor the acting (which is very good), or the effects (which are brilliant – how do you film weightlessness?), but the success it achieves in immersing you in the experience of helpless detachment and isolation. I’m just saying here, that it happens for real, and we can all choose to be rescuers as much as being lost in space.


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