I have a hard time asking for help or for directions. I like to figure things out for myself. I have a bookcase full of books on women’s studies, lesbian herstory, gay liberation, butch-femme dynamics, queer theory, and transgender rights. I’ve got another one full of cookbooks and dog behavior. But, the book that helped me the most was written by a straight, white, upper-class, married woman with children, who lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It is a New York TImes best-seller. It is pop-psychology. Welcome to “The Happiness Project.”
I was not trying to get happy. I was trying to understand why I was discontent and ill at ease in my life. Why I procrastinated. The answer was on page 18. Gretchen Rubin outlined her Twelve Commandments and I got stuck on the first one, which is “Be Gretchen.”
“Be Gretchen” means to stop trying to be who you wish you were, and be who you actually are. Stop pretending to enjoy what you think you should enjoy, and acknowledge what you really do enjoy. Stop ignoring your true desires and interests, and spend your time, and money, on what you really want to do.
When I read “Be Gretchen.” I realized that I could not “Be Amy.” No way. I was not an Amy, I was never going to be an Amy. I might be able to experience happiness but it was not going to be with the name on my birth certificate. I did not want to be defined by a girl’s name. I needed a new name.
It was a fast epiphany with a slow implementation. Just thinking about re-naming myself made me happier. What kind of name would make me happiest? One that was suitable for a boy, but not silly for an adult. One that was gender neutral and would still work if I transitioned. A name that made me feel cute. Handsome. It had to fit. I had to be able to “Be” it.
Jamie works. As soon as Donna started calling me Jamie (for practice) I started smiling. Being called Jamie makes me happy. Being legally Jamie makes me happy. I still have some questions about what it means for me to “Be Jamie,” but, I can finally relax a bit, accept my transgender-ness, let my butch loose, and stop trying to be someone I’m not. I was also able to identify what makes me happy.
I am happy playing with Gracie. I am happy lying in bed with Donna. And vice-versa. I am happy at the ocean. I am happy reading Yotam Ottolenghi‘s “Jerusalem” and then cooking from it. I am happy shopping at the Greenmarket. I am happy reading “Swerve“. I am happy listening to Joni Mitchell and Radio Tarifa.
I don’t make enough room for what makes me happy. I clutter up my time with last Sunday’s New York Times and this week’s New Yorker. I half-listen to All Things Considered while I catch-up on some blogs in the WordPress Reader. I think I should be more cosmopolitan, I want to be more informed, but, I really need to make time for being Jamie.