Monday, December 31, 2007

The New Year is Not The Biggest Transition

It is hard to imagine anything more fundamental to ones sense of self than ones appearance. Issues of race and gender aside, our notions of who we are is inextricably entwined with our notions about the flesh that contains us.
It should be no surprise, then, that Leo is mourning ~and a bit shocked by~ the gradual loss of his beautiful bronze skin. And so am I, just a little bit.

The doctors here can not fathom why he would not want to be rid of one of the most visible symptoms of his liver disease. Lost on them is the fact that, in addition to being a shocking transition that he had not anticipated, it is a loss of something fundamental to who he was, and to how he had always thought of himself.

His color was uniquely his own, and for the most part, for much of his life, it was beautiful. He and I spent so much time out doors, often for long stretches in the high country of Oregon's wilderness and that much closer to the sun, that his slightly jaundice skin took on a brilliant and striking shade of bronze. With his lovely flaxen hair tumbling down his dark shoulders, he looked the very picture of "mother nature's son". People complimented him on the gorgeous tone of his skin, even envied it, and to Leo this seemed only right and proper.

Who is he, then, without his mane of gold and skin of bronze? I, of course, would love him every bit as much if he were bald and green. But for him almost too much to bare, on top of everything else. On top of being separated from his community, friends and pets, on top of the isolation of life in the hospital, on top of accepting a stranger's liver in his body and the massive scar that came with it ~on top of everything~ he is having to come to terms with a radically new identity, and along with it, a strange and unfamiliar body that neither looks nor feels like anything he has ever known

It is going to be an interesting year, many changes yet to come.

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