…to have loved and lost

Transitioning is expensive. And I’m not even talking about hormones, surgeries, or therapy. I mean, how often do you go through your closet and get rid of seven-eighths of everything in there? Then start over again?

You end up re-purposing things you own, not only to cut corners and expenses, but also to hang on to some of these belongings, some of the things that you recognize as still being a part of you; a complete wipe and rebuild comes at a tremendous emotional cost. Surely, you have old t-shirts that have good memories attached? Your favorite pair of shoes? Do you really want to get rid of everything that was between you and the rest of the world and start over from naked?

How about jewelry?

Talk about expensive, right? Some might even be heirlooms. And many have emotional bits attached to them.

I have one ring (not to rule them all, thank you) that I’ve had since 1994. It no longer fits the finger it was originally made for and it’s full of scratches and nicks. It’s a simple white gold band. Inside it, in machine-crafted script, is the sentence “Always I am by your side.”

This was my wedding ring.

I got divorced in 2005, long before my transition began. That’s not actually a bad memory; it ended something that had turned septic and was eating us both alive. It was an amicable split. I took off the ring and stuck it in a box and forgot about it for a long time.

When I began my transition process, I repurposed it, making it into a simple pinky ring that complimented the silver jewelry I prefer. I ignored the now-stalker-esque words inside and enjoyed the weight of it on my pinky.

It hasn’t come without baggage. My partner remains none too pleased that I wear a wedding band from another woman. I know those words are in there and it’s creepy to think that my ex might be watching from time to time (she stalked me once the divorce was finalized, so you never know). And the weight of thirteen years of relationship with my ex still hovers around the thing.

But it also has a lot of positive things. I didn’t have to buy more jewelry. I feel the connection and the history that ring and I saw together. And I specifically got a white gold band when I got married because of Thomas Covenant.

The Covenant books were my favorite pieces of literature during my formative years. For those who haven’t read them, they’re a series about a ‘real-world’ man with a debilitating disease who gets pulled into a fantasy world that he’s sure is a dream. To him, it’s simply a nightmare he’s desperate to wake from. To the inhabitants of the fantasy world, he’s the reincarnation of one of their greatest heroes. And his white gold wedding band is the talisman of ‘wild magic’ that is prophesied to defeat the evil Lord Foul.

Covenant is an anti-hero. His disbelief in the reality of the world leads him to seek escape from the ‘dream’ and avoidance of responsibility while he’s still stuck there. He’s also self-destructive and dysmorphic because of his disease. I identified with Covenant from the time I first read Lord Foul’s Bane in junior high until well past college. I chose that ring like a piece of fan merchandise. My ex-wife’s words might have been inside it, but the band itself was my tangible link to the character of Thomas Covenant and what those books meant to me. And to my past: the dysmorphia I also suffered from and the feeling of being Outcast Unclean.

So when I got divorced, I didn’t do what my friends said I should. Namely, throw it away or have it melted down and made into something else. I kept it, squirreled away in a box and stuffed in the back of a closet. And when I began the transition process, I pulled it back out and wore it as a new talisman: the link to my past, just barely hanging on to the last finger of my hand, almost ready to phase out completely.

Yesterday, I lost that ring.

Between my hurry to get to work and my absent-mindedness while there, it came off of my pinky somewhere along the line. The other three rings I had started off with were still there, but the white gold band was gone.

My first reaction was panic. At one point, I’d been advised by a jeweler that it was wise to inscribe your Social Security Number inside jewelry in case it was lost. That it would be easier to return to you. I knew that sentence was inscribed…but was my SSN? I couldn’t remember. And with the insight of hindsight, I was completely panicking about possibly having my identity stolen. Again.

I searched my bags, my pockets, every place I’d sat or stood at work. Nothing. I went home on my lunch break and scoured the couple of places I’d been when I’d put on my jewelry before work. Nothing. In the parking lot at work, in my driveway, under the seats of my car. Still bloody nothing. Once I got home, I went over the lawn with a flashlight in hand and running my fingers through the grass beside the driveway. You guessed it: nothing.

And I wanted to cry.

How stupid, I chastised myself through my tears. You’re whingeing about a thing you should have disposed of years ago. Maybe this is a sign. Maybe you need to let go of that thing and whatever you thought it represented.

I’d love to say I learned something important from the experience, but all I did was drag myself lengthwise back through the bad old days of grade school and college, the angst of divorce, and the panic of having done something so stupid as to have put my SSN inside the ring. And fail utterly to explain well to my partner why having the white gold was important in a cosplay/fan fashion.

It was easy to toss away the lessons that might have been learned because, as I shucked my purse and my backpack full of crud I carry to work each day, my partner looked at the floor where I was standing, pointed, and said, “Is that it?”

There it was, beside my left foot, partially pushed under the chair I had dumped my burdens in. It seemed so much smaller. At this point, it won’t even clear the knuckle of my left ring finger. I knew that before, but I was still surprised at how much smaller it seemed.

No, my SSN is not inside it, thank the heavens.

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