Cleaning house

It’s said that moving home is one of life’s most stressful experiences, and I think I’m quite inclined to agree with that. By now, I’ve mostly lost count of exactly how many times I’ve moved, but each time I do, I certainly think it’s been quite enough. Being a medical doctor, and working in multiple different government-mandated areas necessitated a good few of those moves. But even the absolutely necessary ones have been rather taxing.

jarmoluk / Pixabay

In truth, I’ve definitely become better at not letting myself become stressed out by matters inconsequential in recent years. Now, I’m far off from enlightenment, and I still get flustered on a regular basis – all I’m saying is I’m getting better at it. So this recent move, aside from some concerns over whether the movers would even show up, and some missing boxes (still unresolved, much to my chagrin), was certainly less stressful for me in terms of logistics.

What I really was not looking forward to – and what I have now been wrestling with for a good few days – was the process of unpacking. Much of it is quite straightgayforward – like the pots and pans. Unpack them, wash them, dry them, put them away. No big deal. Same mostly goes for the clothes and all the furniture and the Magic cards – it’s just a matter of wiping things down and finding new places for them to live.

The tricky bit is that some of those boxes held a lot more than just pots, pans, clothes, furniture or Magic cards. For context, the majority of these boxes have been in storage for over a year. And when I packed them, I was very anxious and stressed, and time was tight. At the time, I sorted through as much as I could before I packed anything. And I disposed of a lot of old stuff. But nevertheless, inside those boxes there were still pieces of an old life, of a broken childhood, of complex and confusing feelings.

When it came time to open the boxes… well, I knew that there were still memories and artifacts of the past inside them, but I didn’t remember all of the specifics. And I knew that there was a good chance that opening them up, and seeing it all again, and figuring out what to do with it would be emotionally taxing, if not utterly painful… but again, it was difficult to appreciate the full extent.

I briefly looked through the boxes on the day they arrived, just to get a sense of what I’d put in them. It was difficult to remember after so much time. But, once that was done, I sort of just set them aside while sorting out more pressing matters – linen, crockery, cutlery, appliances, clothes.

I spent the next couple of days trying to psych myself up for the eventual process of going through those boxes and their contents. By the time I’d done all the rest of the work, and could ignore it no longer, I was already tired, frustrated, and tender. Probably not the best time to start facing up to such a daunting task, but I was becoming increasingly annoyed and anxious having the cloud of it loom over me.

Some of it wasn’t all that difficult. The old medical registration documents, or letters from insurance companies, even old bank cards and driver’s licenses. A pretty simple matter of tearing them up and throwing them away. There’s no emotion invested there – they’re simply documents that bear a deadname, and which have very little relevance on my present day life. The biggest concern I had around any of that was just that I managed to find and purge it all.

It’s not that it’s all that much of a big deal, even – I’m at a stage now where mostly that name just doesn’t mean anything to me at all. But, I’m also at a stage where I’m letting new people into my life, and inasmuch as I can, I’d prefer to spare them any encounters with my deadname. I wrote recently about how I can’t always understand what someone experiences when they’re in a relationship (of whatever nature) with a trans person – there’s a good chance that most of them might find my deadname as utterly irrelevant as I do. But somehow, there is still some comfort in the idea that most people I interact with regularly have never known me by any name other than “Anastacia”.

Of course, those boxes didn’t just have outdated impersonal documents in them – that would have been far too easy. I also had to make my way through love letters, birthday cards, photographs, gifts. Remnants of a life left behind. Reminders, both of some very good times, as well as some absolutely awful ones. My life has always been complicated, and if I look back to my youth (the few parts I remember), the evidence of such is plainly apparent. There are many things that happened to me that left me wounded or scarred; and many of those scars I still bear. There are also many instances where I betrayed myself, or failed to stand up for my principles, or when I was confused and didn’t know any better. Instances that, by reflex, I feel shame on remembering.

Make no mistake, I’m proud of the woman I am. She’s strong, independent, courageous, ethical, and compassionate; though admittedly, I still struggle sometimes to remember all that. Nonetheless, the crucible in which I was forged… it’s a set of experiences, encounters, places and people that I don’t always find it easy to reflect on. I’m not bitter; there was a time when I was, and I know that time has passed. Angry, sometimes. Lamentful, often. Bewildered or overwhelmed, nearly always.

marczulet / Pixabay

I’m always seeking new or better metaphors for transition; after all, it’s such a difficult concept for me to understand, and I’m living it myself. For me, transition felt like a leap off a cliff’s edge. Or, perhaps more appropriately, like setting fire to everything that I thought I knew about the world, or myself. To everything that characterised or defined my life up to that point. Like cutting out every part of me that wasn’t authentic, and letting it burn.

There’s no remorse. and there’s no regret. What rises from the ashes is far purer, far stronger, and far more beautiful than anything that came before. But it would be a lie to say that there were no tears shed. Not tears for the falsehoods themselves, but perhaps just for the circumstances that had necessitated them in the first place.

It’s not easy to cut away, or to set fire. I’ve had the benefit of much introspection and reflection and growth, to help me discern what’s important and what isn’t. And, I’ve had the benefit of some time and distance, to give me a degree of perspective. I’m learning, albeit slowly, to differentiate the qualities of my character from the clothes I wore, or the haircut I had. To differentiate the experiences and feelings I shared with others from the name by which they called me.

JohannaIris / Pixabay

I read through the old letters and cards. The trinkets and gifts. I remembered some of the experiences that gave them context. And then I found stillness and clarity and peace, recognising that the bits of paper and card needn’t hold me hostage anymore. I freed myself of them, and the relief as I did so was palpable.


I refuse to let myself be defined by an image I was forced to project, or the circumstances I found myself in, or the abuse that I had to endure. I refuse to let falsehoods or misrepresentations hold weight now as I stand in my power and my truth. I refuse to be held back by imaginary chains or shackles, when I have the strength to choose freedom instead.

I refuse to be lost amidst the ashes, when instead I can rise from them.

1 thought on “Cleaning house

  • Very, very moving. So much insight.
    I do not mean to minimise what you have gone thro by saying, many of us (I, for example) lay claim to what you have said here. Jumping off a cliff. Yup. Tho the stream – – torrent you swam against was much, much stronger. Tho that is not how mine seemed/seems to me. Mine seemed like a torrent to me, too. And still does.

    Society is fickle and ignorant. When I moved to USA in 1977 (for 34 years), my extended family thought I had totally lost it. I may as well have announced I was going to change my gender, the response was so loud, and angry. How was my change changing/threatening their lives? is what I always ask when a hetero couple vehemently opposes gay marriage – how does it affect them personally? Is their marriage going to be declared null and void because 2 gay people married each other? Gimme a break. There is no cure for stupid. Which is not to say that stupid people can’t be very, very cruel indeed.
    The point I am trying to make is, we do anything different, esp in SA, and people feel threatened. I doubt very much that you (or I) would have gone thro what we did if we lived at the time in say NY or London…but then, if you had, you would not have met Mathilde. We win some, we lose some. Sometimes I say to myself, “It’s over now”. It sort-of is. We will always be scarred. But we done it. I am proud of you, and I am proud of myself. xx

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