Getting Into the Flow

© Julie Anderson All Rights Reserved

I know how to chase my tail, how to let my ego spin me into a tizzy. I know how to let my ego convince me that I was no good and that to survive, I needed to suppress my womanhood. I learned how to do that early.

These days, though, I also know how to be in the flow, to be present, to show discipline, so I can receive the blessings that come from my receptivity to my feminine heart.

From being tossed by the choppy seas of denial to getting in the flow has taken a good five years, marked by important milestones. I was grateful to go back and revisit two scenes from my days of denial, which let me feel the beauty of being in my flow.

The first milestone came when I went dancing at Das Bunker, a gothic club. Five years ago, I often danced there while I wore a wig, scared to grow out my hair in case people close to me suspected I was queer. I confined my queerness by using all my energy to deny my feminine heart. The shiny and superficial attracted me then, reflecting the mask I wore, as I looked for someone attractive to give me a thrill before the dawn broke, and I had to scrub my face, take off my wig, and continue to convince everyone I was as manly as the day was long.

When I returned to Das Bunker for the first time since those days, all that posturing, that choppy squeeze, was gone. Like other women, I wanted to set myself free, letting go of the corporate face I wore during the workweek. My inner emotional cadence dictated how I swayed my body on the dance floor, reminding me to focus on the music.

How far I’ve come in the last five years! To think I was so scared of coming out to my friends or being discovered by my family, that I used to go to Das Bunker to discharge my potential, searching to blow out the energy inside me so I would return numb and deflated when I got back to my life of denial.

Investing toward building a good life, toward seizing opportunities for growth and integration forced me to make changes I could only see looking back. Here I was at Das Bunker five years later, owning my womanhood and confidence in ways I never imagined I could do during those bleak times when I only allowed my feminine heart a few hours of exposure per weekend.

By the time my friends and I left the club at 2 a.m., my rebirth was triumphantly affirmed. An emotional reboot had taken place, and I didn’t need to turn to old knee-jerk reactions to smash down my flowing emotions. There was no crazy driving and venting my aggression on the freeways or in other unhealthy ways.

My pride didn’t have to be washed away with the makeup at the end of the night; rather, I could stay in the glow even into the sunlight of the following morning. The volume of affirmations I received at the club were revelatory. All the work I had put in allowed me to get to where I am today. The writing, the therapy, the long hours of consulting with my life coach on the east coast; so many blessings—ranging from situations where I reflected upon my milestones to meeting shamans at the right place at the right time —were necessary and had to take place for me to finally hear the lessons and integrate my wisdom into real growth. What an incredible and long road I have taken, one step at a time. It is something to hold me through my next steps.

People often say “when the student is ready the master will appear,” but what is often omitted is that even once the student is ready and we hear the wisdom from our master, we still have to do the work to own and integrate the knowledge around us. Everyone heals in their own time, and their way and that process are often bruising, where the fruits are revealed only when we look back and celebrate the person we have become, the beauty we show today.

Sure, we can speed up the process by staying present and alert to the lessons and gifts we receive, but the work still has to be done, and no one else can do it for us.

For the work, I have done to get me out of choppy waters and more into the flow, I was proud.

Then I was gifted a second milestone at Sharpshooter’s—a shooting range—where five years ago, my transgender friend Mika presented as a woman while I dressed as a guy. I was so jealous that she had the grace to go anywhere while presenting as a woman. I lacked her courage. I just didn’t think it was ever going to be possible for me to go to venues in broad daylight that were so male dominant.

This time, I was back, and I went in there without batting an eyelash, except to one of the cute boys who was two lanes over to the left of ours.

My friend Jean owned a revolver, and she let me go first. After firing several rounds, I noticed a drastic difference in my approach towards her firearm, towards how I had been treating everything in my life as of late. How we do one thing is how we do everything, and my approach has, over the past five years, gone from a steady dose of posturing and running away from my feelings, to a now more receptive and feminine mindset, as I appreciated being present and allowed myself to feel the emotions involved at the moment without thinking too far ahead or trying to show off that I could do things better than those around me.

And even though I shot well and put the majority of my shots in a small groove, I was giggly, radiant, and relaxed for reasons that came from my heart expressing itself authentically, and not from my ego posturing an identity cast on a mask to hide my femininity. I didn’t let my ego take over and infiltrate my behavior to demand an even better performance. I instead stayed in the flow, reminding myself that I was there to have fun, to enjoy an afternoon with a girlfriend, and to not worry so much about winning or being competitive. It reminded me of how, just like at Das Bunker the night before, I had adopted the same approach in other areas of my life, like when I was at the park shooting hoops. I had entered the flow in multiple areas of my life, and it was all because I was coming from my heart and not from my old socialized patterns and boyish upbringing.

I even left the shooting range welcoming the possibility of purchasing a revolver, something that I would have never contemplated in the past, because for so many years, I wanted a handgun that could hold the most rounds and looked the coolest. But the mindset of wanting the coolest and biggest phallic firearm was dropped, with my mindset, instead shifted to the focus on something practical for self-defense, something that felt good when I shot it with my gal pals.

The following morning, when I was getting ready for work, I recalled the dream I had the night before; a dream that my subconscious used to consolidate my growth:

My therapist from 2011 was sitting on a stool, and we were at a café, sharing a casual chat. She told me she could see how far I’ve come as a transgender woman, and how proud of me she was. I told her that it took a lot of work in getting over my damn self and opening up my mind to the different choices I had to make, even though it meant letting go of my old defenses.

Then my father appeared out of nowhere, and he told me he was having trouble making a faculty decision for the university that he’s teaching at. I told him that regardless of if his decision was right or wrong, that the key was to make one anyway, because staying inactive with fear would result in a worse outcome. He thanked me and patted me on the head…

As grueling as my gender transition has been — where I had to navigate choppy seas on a daily basis — I couldn’t help but smile at the journey I undertook, as it made being in the flow feel that much sweeter, topped off with my dream that validated everything that I had worked for during the past five years.


Natalie Yeh

Liminal Spaces with Natalie Yeh -- aerospace engineer with a penchant for the spiritual, artistic, and cerebral -- is an attempt where she tries to accept her own messy humanity in exploring the gifts in her everyday stories and milestones with compassion, gratitude, and mindfulness. Gifts she believes we can all share and learn from when we choose to see our continuous threads of connection in our common humanity rather than uphold paper walls of illusions of separation that some treat as real. When she has free time, she loves to cook, shoot landscape photography, practice martial arts, write and dance. Her Chinese American background, bilingual upbringing, and transgender history all lend to her experiences in exploring the liminal spaces where her history, her present and her future are at odds and of a piece, creating herself and her writing as unique, cross cultural art.

2 thoughts on “Getting Into the Flow

  1. doriowendoriowen

    Beautifully written piece, Natalie, capturing the roller coaster of feelings…I think it’s your best one yet! I would love for you to read my essay here, “Lost in Transition,” about my friend Paula’s experiences. I know she shares much of what you feel. I’m so glad you wrote this–you really nailed so many thoughts on so many levels. xD.

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