1998: Christmas Remembered
|La Campaña de las Catalinas. The bell of the Catalina Mountains. How beautiful it sounds - the name as well as the bell - in this Spanish language I have learned in Arizona. My friend had explained that the superb restaurant in which we were dining was formerly known by that name.
Set in the foothills of the Santa Catalina range, Tucson has some special charms of its own compared to Phoenix. Phoenix is major-city-America at the turn of the millennium: three million souls, every possible amenity, with all the problems that accompany such crowding. Tucson, much smaller, has its own distinct personality. It's a mixture of the Old Southwest with a major influence from one of America's great universities. I've been in Tucson this week at a medical meeting. People from all over the country have come together at this beautiful resort, and it's always enriching to meet other physicians and learn about their worlds.
I anticipated some free time at night, and brought reading material: The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. How far I have come, I mused: years ago, before my life transition, I would actually have been afraid to possess such a book. "New Age," I would have labeled it. "Nothing good can come of reading such a thing." Such was the fundamentalist mindset I tried to inhabit in those days.
But that was long ago, in another life. Time and circumstances have convinced me of the bankruptcy of that point of view. The God who loves me is so much bigger than that. My God is not threatened by new ideas. My God is able to show me the love and beauty in this world through so many diverse sources. These local surroundings, for example: earlier in the afternoon I had strolled the grounds of our resort and watched quail and jackrabbits scurry just off the path, then turn, unafraid, to watch me as I passed. All around were agave, ocotillo, brittlebush, mesquite, and of course the grand saguaro cacti. A huge owl was dozing in the high branches of the acacia tree where we had taken our lunch break.
The "Insights" of the Redfield book mention the beauty of nature and how it connects us with our own spiritual energy. I see nothing in that concept which is alien to my spiritual life. One evening after class I was sitting on the balcony of my room reading, and a sparrow flew onto the branches of the Mexican honeysuckle growing up beside the balcony wall. He sat there, not four feet from my face, and we looked one another in the eye for several minutes. I concentrated on appreciating the beauty of the little brown and gray bird who had no fear of me. No, I didn't experience any mystical revelations, nor did I expect any. The moment was satisfaction enough in itself.
I recommend the Redfield book highly, and plan to read the others in the series. The message is universal: we can experience life on a higher plane, "evolving" and becoming aware of the universal energy in all living things, enriching others with our energy and filling our own resources as we give ours away. How natural it is to imagine such a transaction of love in the life experience of Jesus, and it makes it easy to understand how we can connect with the same spiritual force which empowered him.
Love exists. I know it exists, because I feel it; I experience it. It is real. And it truly is the best way to live; as Paul said, "a more excellent way." If love exists, where did it come from? If we were created by a God who is not a God of love, then how did love come to be a part of our human experience? Can we be "better" than our Creator? I do not believe that is possible. I think our God is truly a God of love, and even though we humans live in this imperfect creation, we can experience this love which is God's greatest gift to us. We are loved, and so we can love.
Surely this love is what our God is about. He is not about hatred and rejection. He doesn't gloat over human beings "burning in hell" as do some people who claim to preach in his name. Jesus said, "By their fruits you will know them." It seems to me that fruits of love are more likely to come from God than fruits of hatred.
I feel a lot of love right now, even as I sit by myself typing these words, and I intend to be a channel of that love to you as you read them.
As much as I enjoyed the Wednesday meal with my dinner companion, a friend from my current professional environment, my mind was on someone else.
On Monday morning, along with the handouts for the seminar, we received a list of the hundred and twenty or so doctors in attendance. My curiosity led my gaze down the columns. I saw several names I remembered from past seminars, but stopped abruptly on the last page when I caught the name of a doctor I had trained with years ago. Do you suppose he will recognize me? It was unlikely. He didn't live in Jackson, and I hadn't seen him since I finished my cardiology fellowship.
Now, please understand that this is not a very unusual occurrence. I've been to a great many medical conferences in the last six years, since beginning my transition. I can remember several occasions when other faces from my past were in attendance, and almost without exception I have left them alone and never approached them. They never give any sign of recognizing me either. Why, then, did I even think about changing my policy on this occasion?
Trust your intuition, says Redfield. And, there are no chance encounters. Everyone who crosses your path has a message for you, and you have a message for them. Be open to the message.
I remembered Steve as being not only a good physician, but one of the nicest and friendliest people I knew during that time of my life. He always had a smile and a kind word. If I lived in or near the city where he practices, I would want to be his friend. He's a special individual. I had no idea, of course, if he even knew about my transition, or what belief systems he held dear which might cause him some distress in dealing with me.
On Monday and Tuesday I just concentrated on the meeting and waited to see any sign of recognition. There was none; once just a polite smile from him as we exited the room one after the other. I turned the idea over and over in my mind. Tuesday night I had dinner with one of my special friends, a young transsexual college student who has the full support of the University for her transition. Wednesday was a full day at the meeting, and I became so involved in the workshops that I didn't take time to think about an encounter with Steve.
By Thursday I had finished reading The Celestine Prophecy, and I knew what I would do. We had a twenty minute break in midafternoon, and I saw Steve was one of the few people remaining in the meeting room as I got up to leave. Here we go, I told myself, and sat down next to him. "How are you enjoying the meeting?"
"Well - fine." I could tell he was a little surprised, and then he extended his hand and introduced himself to me. He really doesn't know. Last chance to back out, Becky.
"Hi, Steve. I know who you are. We were in training together."
And so began the routine which I had experienced quite a few times over the last six years, but not in a long time and not here in Arizona. As I revealed a little more and more about myself and he finally realized who I was, a smile of surprise and happiness came over him. "Oh, my. Come here and give me a hug."
Yes. No rejection this time. What a nice "message". My intuition had been right.
What a joy it was talking with him after so many years. He couldn't get over my changes - and my demeanor. "You seem so happy. You really are happy, aren't you?"
The end of the break came too soon. My only regret was that I didn't greet him earlier in the week; he and his wife had plans for the evening, then Friday we were all leaving for home. But I suspect we will stay in touch from time to time.
It is wonderful to feel such acceptance. At the beginning of my transition, as I wrote in "The Real Life Test," I sometimes experienced rejection from former friends and colleagues. It made me afraid to disclose for fear of that rejection. How glad I was that Steve didn't feel that way.
What a beautiful place are these Santa Catalina Mountains. Nature's splendor is everywhere.
What a beautiful experience this life can be.
Send your love to someone very soon. Perhaps you can trust your intuition also.