Sunday, 5 April 2015

Not a matter for celebration

It may seem very strange to pre-op transitioners, but after a while post-ops don't celebrate their surgery.

Uuuuh? Surely that's not right? But I mean it.

All right, there may be some who do. Every year, they clock up another anniversary and make it the excuse for a party. Why not? It was a life-changing event. It was a long, complex, potentially dangerous operation that could have gone wrong, as every operation can, and surviving it is worth a big cheer in itself. Living on to enjoy the satisfaction - and the very special life - that the surgery has brought is also worth constant celebration. There's every justification for marking the event annually, indefinitely into the future.

And yet, as I say, there comes a point, quite soon, when people stop writing blog posts to tell the world that, following their metaphoric rebirth, they are now aged 'two' or perhaps 'three'; when they cease to reminisce about their stay in hospital, or how it was getting home again; or how they coped in the weeks that followed; or say what they eventually did with their changed life. If there is an annual reflection on what has occurred and its consequences, it has become a strictly private matter, for thought only, and it's not discussed out loud.

And to respect that silence, post-op etiquette says that one shouldn't contact a friend to remind them (gleefully) that their Great Anniversary is here again. This seems to be universally observed. I abide by it myself.

Today for instance is the anniversary of a dear friend's op. But I haven't texted her, to let her know that Her Date is in my diary, and that I have been thinking of her. The same for another friend three days back. I'd rather like to. But etiquette says no, and indeed there might be some good reasons for not sending a gung-ho text and suggesting that it's party time. Some people may have got what they wanted from their surgery, but had an uncomfortable time in hospital, and don't want reminding. For some, having the surgery hastened the disintegration of a valued relationship that till then had kept going. Naturally they don't want to think about all that pain.

And there is one reason in particular why a person might not wish to celebrate a surgical event. It's a reminder that the body had to be fixed. That it wasn't always as it is now. That there was a Dark Age. A time when the present life was denied, when the name was different, when one's world was thronged with people now sadly vanished. All things that one might not want to recall. Things that could still drag one down if dwelt upon.

Above all, if one's psychology has gone so far (as does happen with some people), if one absolutely believes in one's present appearance, and everything else in the present world that has come to exist and depends on the harmless illusion that it always was like it is now, then references to 'the surgery' are not welcome. It's mentioning an uncherished fact. A detail to be popped into a box and forgotten about.

That may be why so many post-op people live in the present, and think only of the future, and try very hard not to look back. Even to the extent - if they need to - of destroying photos and other relics of their past life. So that, as far as can be, the hated past is obliterated and cannot rise up again and hurt.

This isn't of course how I view my own life. I see my life as a cradle-to-grave continuum, with distinct phases that I lived through successfully, and can look back on with great interest. The latest phase is the best, because it's lived authentically. But the previous phases all contained experiences I want to remember and learn from. Essentially I see experiences as the only things really worth having. And by and large, I want to talk about them.

But that's definitely not how some see their lives, and their feelings have to be recognised.

So a cheerful text on the lines of 'FIVE YEARS POST-OP!!!! Yay!!!! I bet you're DESPERATE to talk about it all!!!! And sink a few drinks!!!! Shall I pop by and treat you to one, hun????' might well be out of order.   

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