Great Expectations

Great Expectations9 AM. Woke up to a perfect day for crossdressing: no meetings, no terrible deadlines, no people pestering me to do things on their behalf. The sun was shining, but still cold, and a promise of some rain showers later. Still, it was better than nothing. Got my breakfast while wifey was deep asleep.

9:30 AM. Time to take a bath. I’m still shaved smooth over most of the body (except for the face) and the toenails have been painted a dark crimson for the past two weeks. This means lots of time saved. On the other hand, the wig needed to be washed thoroughly. Wifey gets immediately into a bad mood if she sees me washing the wig (it means that I’m going to crossdress “soon”) so I ought to do it while she’s asleep; then it becomes a fait accompli.

Now I have tried pretty much every trick in the trade regarding washing wigs, and I’m still unsure of what the “best” method is. Apparently there is a growing faction that says that the current generation of synthetic fibre is better washed in “tepid” water instead of “cold” water. Well, the wisdom of what constitutes “tepid” water differs. “Cold” water is apparently anything that comes out of the tap, i.e. slightly below room temperature (another source of big discussion). “Hot” water is not boiling, but hot enough to burn you fingers. “Tepid” seems to be somewhere in-between. A good working definition is “around body temperature”.

Well, that’s the temperature I usually set my shower to. So the last few times I washed my wigs, I tended to do it in the shower cabin, because I know that the temperature will be constant that way. This is certainly the “right” temperature for shampoos and conditioners to work best (as opposed to cold water). And, in the past, those wigs didn’t get ruined, rather the contrary, they became shiny as new after the wash. So I decided to do it again, but with a twist: I’d shower wearing the wig 🙂

Actually, by recommendation of my hairdresser (who styles and usually also washes the wigs), I’m not using a “special” shampoo for wigs, but a normal shampoo for extra-dry and brittle hair (because that’s what a synthetic fibre will “look” like, from a chemical point of view) from a good brand (no “white label” shampoo for my wigs, thank you very much! The wigs are too expensive to be ruined by a cheap shampoo…), and that means that it’s safe for human consumption 🙂 This new wig of mine also adheres quite well to my scalp — lots of combs inside the cap and a very good fit — so I gave it a try.

It was great fun, let me tell you 🙂 It’s a wonderful feeling to have all that wet hair on your shoulders and back. It was a completely novel experience for me, who always wore my natural hair relatively short. And, of course, there were new tricks to learn on how to properly rinse all that vast mass of hair. Fortunately, I had observed my wife when she washes her own hair (which is not that long, just slightly below the shoulders, but long enough to require some tricks). This helped a lot 🙂

In spite of everything, I actually found it easier than my usual ways of washing wigs. Following the recommendations on many websites, I mostly use two methods. The first is to “soak” the wig in a tin full of water (cold or tepid, depending on what article you’re reading), drop an amount of shampoo into it, and just wait half an hour or so until the wig absorbs the shampoo. You wiggle the wig inside the water — not twist it or brush it, or it might lose the styling — just to activate the shampoo. That’s the easy part. The hard part is to get the shampoo off the wig, which means filling a the tin with clear water, soak the wig into it, let it release the shampoo as much as possible, throw the water out, fill it again, repeat… and repeat, repeat, repeat. After three or four times the wig should be clean of shampoo. Then you do the whole procedure again for the conditioner — but the trouble is, as anyone knows, the conditioner is much, much harder to get out of the wig! I’ve counted at least a dozen tins full of water just to get the conditioner off, and I was still not entirely satisfied.

Too much time. And too much water spent. Of course, you can recycle it, but my toilet doesn’t take so much water, and, living in a tiny flat, I have no other way to recycle the water…

The other technique is to use the shower. First, brush the wig. Then place it on a stand inside the shower cabin/bath tub, and apply the shampoo like you would do it with your real hair. Remember to let your fingers go through the hair, travelling down towards the tips, so that the shampoo is evenly spread (this process will also loosen up the tangled hair a bit, if the brushing was not enough). Then it’s easy: just shower it, until all traces of shampoo are gone, and use your fingers, doing the same movement from the top to the tips, so that the fibres do not get tangled. Apply the conditioner and do it again. Sure, you’ll need more water to get the conditioner off, but it’s far, far easier than using the first method. It just takes a few minutes!

In both cases, the final step is to put the wig, straightened down (do not curl it into a ball or something!), inside a towel, and pat it dry. Do not rub it (like you might do on your own natural hair!), just pat it, that’s all. Fibre dries relatively well that way! Then place the wig on the stand again and let it dry naturally. You can use a hair blower if and only if it has a setting to blow cold air — never use hot air (unless you’re a professional stylist and know what you’re doing; even so, my own hairdresser never uses hot air on my wigs, and if she doesn’t, you shouldn’t, either).

The disadvantage of method #2 is that you will have to do most of the work either inside the bath or cabin, or, well, bend over in order to do it (which will not be good for your spine!).

Now I have a third technique: wear your wig while taking a shower. So much easier! And as a bonus you’ll wash your own hair too, although you have to remember not to use a very scented shampoo, or else your colleagues or family will think you smell funny! In fact, you should not use scented shampoo on a wig, although, again, my hairdresser does that all the time, and what is good for her is good for me, too 🙂

11 AM. Whew. All water activities finished. Wifey still asleep. So now I know that on the days I crossdress she’ll be in a foul mood, saying that I’m wasting all the time instead of doing house chores. Thus it was time to do all the house chores that don’t make a noise, like washing her underwear (and some of mine too, from last Sunday), putting it to dry, taking the already dried clothes on the line and folding them, and so forth.

Noon. Wife stirs in her sleep. By then, I had pretty much done everything, including keeping in touch with work issues as well. But while in the kitchen I noticed that she had done a shopping list. Uh-oh. That means she’s in a shopping mood again, and she would pester me to death until I drove her to the supermarket. In resignation, I went back to the remaining chores while she had the breakfast in bed — doing the loud and noisy ones, namely, cleaning the kitchen, putting the dishes out of the dishwasher in their places, and leave everything ready for lunch — like I usually do almost every day.

Half past noon. Wifey walks out of bed and, without a word, drops in front of the computer. The Conclave in Rome started today and she wanted to catch the news. No word about either lunch or going out shopping; she’s still in the foulest possible mood after waking up. At least her cold seems to be better. I return to unanswered mails and minor work issues; at this stage, I cannot engage in anything which is time-consuming and requires all my focus, because at any moment, without warning, I might have to either go out to shop for food or set the table for lunch.

Several hours pass. Wife continues to read the news and play a game or two at the same time. No idea of when she will start ordering me around. I patiently wait. Her mother calls: apparently, our planned free vacation goes ahead, she managed to get the voucher in her daughter’s name. Wife grumbles a lot; she’s not interested in the free vacations in the slightest. She immediately announces that although the voucher is for a whole week, we’ll be off only for five days. No, make it four. No comments on where the vacations actually are (i.e. which town and which hotel). I’m supposed to guess right, of course, and probably on Saturday just drive in a southernly direction for 250 km until she deigns me worthy of knowing where to exit the highway — and that at the last possible moment, making me miss the exit, of course. We’ll see how that goes. In her  mood, of course I cannot dare to tell her anything about my own crossdressing plans — neither today, nor during the vacation.

3 o’clock in the afternoon. Wife decides it’s time to do something for lunch, and wonders why the table is not set yet, which I immediately prepare. It’ll take her another half an hour or so, anyway. She announces proudly that “today we have to go shopping for food!” There is real delight in her words; she had been to the bathroom, where the wig is left to dry, so she makes an extra-hard effort to delay everything.

Lunchtime. How this works is like this. She’s a superfast eater — you wouldn’t imagine how fast she is, since she’s so petite and, these days, rather thin — so that means that every second counts. So, after cooking, she runs to the table and waits for me to bring the dishes — darting furious looks at how slow I am to cover the distance, which is about eight steps. When I put them down, and while I take the few seconds to take my seat, she has already eaten half of it. Well, almost, but you get the idea; when I go back to the kitchen to take the dishes away and bring a bit of the chocolate tablet to have as dessert, she has already given up on me and returned to her seat in front of the computer. Total lunch time was about 2 minutes and a half for her, five for me as I deal with the dishes, a few minutes longer to clean the kitchen, etc. I smoke my after-lunch cigarette on my own.

Decisions, decisions. It’s half past three now, and I wonder what I’m going to do next. I have no clue about what she’s going to demand. Will she have an after-lunch nap? But she was asleep until noon, so probably not. Should I have some coffee? Should I have my own after-lunch nap? Do some meditation? Get back to work and see what I can do until she says something? At the end, it’s clear that she’s having great fun watching the opening session of the Conclave. She announces that afterwards we can go out to shop for food. Great. Half the day is wasted already. But there is still the other half left.

The Conclave opening session is simple. 117 cardinals line up and pronounce their vows. We joke at their accented Latin and try to figure out from what country they come. The Germans are easy to spot, as well as the Americans. The British and Irish have the better accent. The older the cardinal is, the better their accent. Spaniards sound funny. Brazilians don’t. It’s a game, like everything else; a game that takes until five o’clock. And what was the whole point? Neither of us is a Catholic any more.

Finally she decides that it’s time to go out and buy some food (and tobacco, our reserves are low). We return at almost 7 PM. I had no coffee, no sleep, and I’ve got a mild headache. Tomorrow we have to wake up early, to drive her to do some medical exams; in the afternoon, more driving, this time to take her to the therapist. And there are things to do in the evening as well. So Wednesday is a “dead day” for me — one of those days that I will neither be able to work, nor to rest.

So, doing some math in my head, I had been waiting for twelve hours for her to allow me to dress, and now it’s too late for that. Sure, I could get ready in 2 1/2 hours or so. I’ve done it before. But then I’ll have to go to bed much, much earlier than usually. What’s the point of just dressing for an hour or two? None whatsoever.

She decided next to take a nap until 8 o’clock, and, lacking anything better to do, being tired and sleepy as well, I sort of followed her lead, even though I couldn’t sleep. She, by contrast, slept like a contented lamb, without the slightest worry; while I was mentally going through the outfits I might take with me on the hypothetical “crossdressing vacations”.

Day’s over. Dinner. Doing minor chores. Attending an online discussion (not related to crossdressing, but philosophy). Meditation practice. Sleep.

The wig is not dry yet, but almost.

Now today was not exactly one “typical day”, but it’s a good approximation. Not all days are as bad as this; in many cases, I have actually a slight clue what lies ahead of me, even if that mostly means “no crossdressing”.

When asked to list my biggest faults, I usually put pride at the top, and laziness next. Pride is a very insidious thing: every time you think you’re slightly better than anyone else, you’re being proud of yourself. You might think that you’re allowed to be proud of something you’ve done well, but that is not necessarily the feeling of being superior to others: it’s just pure rejoicing in something well accomplished. But there is a thin line to divide both. If you think, “oh, this was well done, I did a great job, I’m glad I’ve accomplished it”, then it’s probably just rejoicing in doing something well. If you add, “and I’m soooo good at that compared to others“, you’re being proud.

Pride is not always terrible, but it sort of continuously reinforces the idea that you’re better than others, and by thinking that way over and over again, over the years you actually start belittling others, overlooking their ideas, looking down on them. And that will just lead to making them angry at you or frustrated (which might not affect you directly, but will certainly make them feel miserable). So I have to work hard at recognizing my own pride and eradicate it. It’s hard. When I look at myself on the mirror after applying the makeup, I feel pride. When I get flattered on a webcam session, I feel pride as well. But then I face reality: I’m not really that good. Others look so much better. Sometimes, realizing that your pride just blinds you to reality, gives you the determination to work harder and actually become better. It’s not too bad to be critical: it means you’re willing to learn to improve yourself.

Traditionally, the antidote to pride is to adopt humility, but there are two dangers down that road as well. The first is completely losing the belief in your own abilities; that’s depressive and to be avoided. Just because you’re not better than others, it doesn’t mean you’re worse than them. Humility can also work like “pride in reverse”: some people can gloat for being the lowest of the lowest, that way they attract their attention and get some support — pats on the back saying “no, no, that’s all right, you’re not that bad really” “oh yes, I am, I’m the most worthless human being on the planet!”. Well, that’s actually pride too, just working in the reverse — pride of being the worst.

And, finally, we have false modesty, when you assume a stance of humility as a disguise, a mask to hide your pride, and elicit compliments and flattery from others. That’s just hypocrisy. It’s even worse than honest pride, because false modesty has the intention of deceit behind it; “honest pride”, at least, shows your true colours.

Pride is so complex and so hard to spot that it’s a very difficult fault to avoid. It really requires a lot of training.

Laziness, by contrast, is simple to spot. It’s not just “doing nothing” — il dolce far niente, as the Italians say (a rough translation would be, “the sweetness of doing nothing”). It can also be procrastination, postponing the work to do. It can be just doing a lot of things, none of them relevant (which is what I mostly do all the time!). And it can be something even more harder to spot: getting discouraged, believing you’re unable to do something, because it’s either too hard, takes too much time, or requires something you don’t have. I certainly have that as a major fault as well.

To this list I’ve recently added a much more complex emotion, which is the strong belief that I have absolutely no control over my time. This is something rather strange for me, and because of that, my reactions are very strong against it. Let me try to explain.

At some spot in time, around 1994/5, I pretty much decided I would be mistress of my own time. That would mean 12 hours of work every day, 7 days a week — sometimes 14 or 16, but the average would be 12 — to really get things done. Lunch and dinner would not be priorities, they would be things that would eventually be attended to once work was going according to plan (which is always hard to accomplish in my line of work — computers behave unpredictably in the realm of system and network administration!). The rest of the day would be for sleeping, and chores like taking a bath and commuting, although I religiously read something at least half an hour per day. TV was out — too much time wasted. During the weekend I would sometimes accomodate the family lunch on Sundays, and on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, I’d usually go out to a café, carefully locating the ones with power plugs to connect my laptop (these were the days where batteries lasted an hour at most), and work outside the office or the home. It was an easy life, and I felt full in control.

Obviously, often things would go wrong. When computers or networks fail, that requires a very high focus and the ability to work long hours until the problem is fixed. Nothing can distract you while you get things back online. I think that my own record was working some 36 hours without interruption. But these occasions are rare. Like the military, work at what later used to be called Rapid Emergency Response Team in the IT industry was several days of inactivity followed by several intense “bursts” of activity which required all the alertness I could muster. Then, the emergency having successfully dealt with, I could relax — mostly preparing things so that the next “emergency” was better dealt with. This requires training, and, those days, I had nobody to coach me, so I had to learn it on my own. I can boast (there, my pride again!) of being rather good at that. These days, I maintain a server that can work for 2 or 3 years without a single interruption, serving thousands of users without a glitch; but back in the mid-1990s, this was hardly the case.

Even when switching jobs, some more demanding than others, this sense of controlling my own time remained for a long while — almost two decades. As I got better and better at doing my job, I had more time free for leisure. When you’re used to 16-hour days, being able to work just 12 hours and achieving the same result meant 4 hours free. I didn’t simply “waste” them watching TV 🙂 Instead, I did some creative writing; I allocated that time for personal projects; I flirted and got involved with girls; and, yes, sometimes I could afford a few days off for crossdressing. Most of what I’ve read about crossdressing came from those “extra hours” where I could simply read about it, because there were no emergencies to deal with.

As we get older, of course, it gets harder to continue this rhythm, 365 days a year, so I would usually collapse from sheer exhaustion every other year or so. This would mean some 15 days doing something completely different — like taking a short vacation. Which I did on my own — doing vacations with other people meant adjusting to their own timetables, and that was exactly what I was going to avoid by doing vacations! — and this often meant some crossdressing as well. And staying around on chatrooms, which, at that time, were just starting to use webcams, which were not yet popular.

Starting this century, I began telecommuting more and more. I already did that in the late 1990s, but somehow I enjoyed being “away from home”, because I — correctly, as I’m finding out — believed that “home” has too many distractions. In fact, from 2000 to 2004, I had a rather decent schedule for my week. Work was around 12 hours per day, starting with breakfast at a fancy place (back then, I could afford all those luxuries). I’d arrive at the workplace around 10 AM (advantages of being one’s own boss!) and work regularly until at least 8 PM, but usually 10 PM. Then I’d drive off to my fiancée’s place, and stayed with her until 2 AM or so. Back home for a good night’s sleep of about 6 hours, and work again. Saturday mornings, while my fiancée was always asleep, I’d do all the house chores — tidying up and so forth — and spend the rest of the day with her, after she woke up. Sunday mornings I’d spend with my parents, and in the afternoon I’d spend with her again. This was a very regular routine. You might have noticed there was little time left for crossdressing, and you’re right — I didn’t crossdress during those five years, except by wearing some lingerie, some breast forms, and a wig while doing the house chores. But that was all, except for occasional weeks of vacation. Since my fiancée almost never had the same days free than I had, there was little chance for us to spend together (so I could do my crossdressing in peace). We still managed to go out together for a whole weekend; and she often stayed at my place during the weekends as well. In fact, by that time, all my non-working time was spent with her. And soon the working time would also be spent that way.

It happened around 2002 or so. My last “regular” company failed (long story — there had been a misrepresentation of the commitment required by the major partner, who was just informed, after almost two years of operation, how much he was supposed to invest — I had done all the investment on my own until then — and he dropped out after he found out that one of the partners had never shown him the many business plans we had provided. It was nasty. A pity.), so I became a “business butterfly” instead. I was partner in three companies (just one of them related to my field of work, which soon made me realize that I had no clue how the rest of the world worked) and also did some work on a non-profit organisation. So my week was split among travelling between all four of them. My wife worked on one of the companies, another female friend of mine was the CEO of another one, and the third one was a regular IT company where I had switched roles with a former employee and friend: now he was my boss. I actually enjoyed the arrangement: he had all the responsibilities now, I just had to worry about getting things done (I still work with them). The non-profit was great fun to deal with and made me understand how hard it is to keep volunteers motivated; unfortunately, non-profits rely mostly on funding (over here in Europe, it mostly means getting funds from Government at some level; we worked with local Government mostly), and when the funding evaporates, few can survive on their own. At least this one was unable to do anything. But while it lasted, it was great.

So now my schedule was hopelessly complexified. In the mornings I used to start with one of the companies which was nearest to my home — I would spend a few hours with my friend there, while logging in remotely to see how the others were faring. Then I might pop for a while at the non-profit, which geographically was the next in distance. In the afternoon I would go to the IT company in Lisbon. Then I would wait for my wife, who worked across the river, pick her up and return home with her — sometimes her home, but more and more frequently my own place. By that time we were quite steady and sure that we would continue to live together, one way or another.

The schedule was not so strict as before. Often I would spend a lot of time across the river with my wife, at least once or twice per week. Sometimes, the non-profit would organise some big event, and I would spend the afternoons there. Other days, emergencies might force me to remain in Lisbon, fixing servers and networks. Between all that I would have meetings with partners, clients, marketeers, and so forth, as well as some conferences to attend. It was a time of juggling schedules, but it wasn’t really “stressing” in the usual sense of the word. Why? Because I held the keys to the time. I, and nobody else, would make my own schedule. People just had to wait for me. Even my wife had to wait. There was no question of things being different.

And because of that, I increased this tendency of believing that I controlled my own time, more and more, so that it became something very deep and profound in my being. So far as I was in charge of my time, I was happy. Sure, many people — my wife included! — complained that I was never able to keep up schedules. Tough on them! Emergencies — either computer emergencies, or emergency meetings with partners, or a conference that got delayed — happened. I had to adapt. Others had no other choice but to do the same. The only thing I regretted during that period was that my crossdressing time was severely restricted: I was hoping that I would be able to spend at least a day per week at my own place, in leisure — almost all my work could, after all, be done remotely — and crossdress in peace. But every time I had some “free” slots to remain at home, my wife would demand that I spent it with her.

I think this was a sign of what the future would bring me.

Well, I already described what happened afterwards: with the collapse of the economy after 9/11, and the Internet bubble burst, there was a financial crisis, banks were ruined, and on top of everything, I was swindled by petty criminals, had to deal with extortion at gunpoint, and all the sort of nightmares. It happens. The result was the need to move out — to where the petty criminals couldn’t follow — and start from scratch, living with my wife on a room with 8 square metres, and earning far below the poverty line. But in my mind that wasn’t the worst. The worst was the inability to crossdress; it would only be many, many months later, when returning home, that I would reveal myself.

Life in exile, except for crossdressing, was not terribly hard. My wife got a job relatively soon; in fact, she earned so well that we agreed to exchange places. I did all my work remotely, the HQ of the IT company I still worked for being 1000 km away, half an ocean between us. So I stayed at home, did all the chores, and had plenty of free time to do pretty much what I wished, while she was at work; during the evenings we enjoyed our time together. Usually I would shop for food while picking her up from work (I had to get rid of my two cars and sell them; so I walked a lot these days); we might have something quick at a café, walk a bit, then pick up the bus, return home, have dinner, enjoy some fun in front of our computers (we had discovered Second Life by then; I’m still a regular user, and she very occasionally does some work for real customers there), and retire early to bed. She did work hard at her place, but it wasn’t terribly hard, and rather well-paid. While I lived in paradise 🙂

Some days, when there was really little to do at work, I would just walk around the place we were. Just sightseeing like a tourist. On one of those days, I bought a cheap bra — the only bit of female clothing I ever wore during those days in exile. The urges slowly became overbearing, but I had no way to “hide” clothes anywhere (the bra was usually hidden in my computer case…). I began worrying about how to deal with the crossdressing. Either we would live in exile forever, and I would have to tell her something… or we would return home, where I still had my old clothes and accessories, but I would also have to tell her something. While there was no decision made — either to stay or to return — I was still postponing the decision. There was a good reason for that. As said, I couldn’t survive solely on my income. She could on hers, but I couldn’t on mine. We had to stay together. And while that happened, I couldn’t afford to break apart the relationship by revealing her about my crossdressing. It was selfish of me, but I simply wasn’t prepared to remain alone, without a regular stream of income, just because the urges to crossdress were rising and rising.

But then all good things had to come to an end. She lost her job, but it was not her fault; in fact, she excelled so much at her work, that they accepted her recommendation. You see, she was doing some architecture consulting for a hotel. The hotel wanted to know if they could maintain everything as it is — it’s a century old — or if they had to demolish everything and rebuild from scratch, to comply with European standards. Her recommendations were to demolish. They took that option — rendering her job obsolete. Demolishing meant a long wait of a few years and a new team.

After another month or so it became clear that neither of us had any chance of getting better jobs (or, in her case, another well-paid job). I did receive something from some independent consulting which remained us to postpone the decision for this extra month, but, at the end, we really had no option but to return.

And here my first brush with the lack of control of my time began.

At the beginning, it wasn’t too hard. I would work away from home in Lisbon most of the day, so we switched roles: she would stay at home and do the house chores, except for the tougher ones — washing and ironing — which we could afford to outsource to a friendly company, picking things up and delivering them at our place. I did the bathroom cleaning and general vacuuming once per week — still on Saturday mornings like my old routine! — but the rest was up to her. When commuting back home, I’d ask her first what she needed me to buy, and so I would return for dinner with everything. During the day she remained mostly alone or pestered her sister or mother to go out a bit with them. And, not many months after we picked up this routine, I finally revealed myself to her. Things started to work out fine for us, and a few years later we even managed to start a new company together, using some shared space at the IT company where I was already working, so we would spend our time there, do our shopping after work hours, return home, log in to Second Life and have some fun, and I’d do some crossdressing during the weekend. This worked well for a few years, but things quickly started to become more complicated.

By that time, all our work was remotely done. It was a bit silly to commute all the way to Lisbon, when there was very little we couldn’t do at home. First, she started to stay at home on her own — after all, our tiny start-up just had two people full-time (she and another partner), and all others were outsourced from all over the world, and all meetings were done through the Internet anyway. So it was a bit stupid to do the commuting. We even had better Internet connectivity at home — just two people sharing the connection — than at the office, where around 15 people had to share the connection there. But after a while I also thought we could save some money if I didn’t go to the office every day. After all, I had worked for them for 7 months at a remote location; they really didn’t need me there, except for occasional meetings. So I would only commute for those meetings.

But after a while this started to raise a few difficulties, since, being at home, it meant that my wife dictated the schedules.

During the first years it wasn’t so bad: after all, she had a lot of work on her own, and I really mean a lot — she would routinely do 16-hour-days and have little patience left for anything else. More to the point: she had no time to pester me at all. Which was excellent. Almost all our conversations at home were work-related anyway. We had little else to do. My crossdressing days also became less tied to a fixed schedule; I could, after all, crossdress and do all my work. It didn’t bother her in the least. These years I tended to crossdress early in the morning, and remain dressed until the evening. She respected those days and just pestered me to go out on others; but the point is, because she had to work so much, she had to organize her own schedule much better.

Alas, two things happened next. First, her health started to deterioriate catastrophically; and secondly, the company was not working so well any longer. For many years, we still managed to survive with the income from it — but she started to work less and less, due to her many chronic conditions. She had some surgery, but that just improved one of the conditions, not the others. Things quickly came to the point that she had to dump our last regular customer and pretty much leave us without a steady stream of income, except the little I got from the IT company I still worked for.

Worse than that was that she abandoned all pretenses of having a schedule. She would sleep when she wanted; work a few hours (while we still had that customer) at leisure; spend most of the time playing computer games; and starting to “demand” that, at all sorts of odd hours, we ought to go out and shop for food. Now I firmly believe that she did that to relieve her from boredom. Also, it eased her temper and the increasing sense of being useless — which only got worse when she finally had to abandon all attempts to work.

Something definitely changed by then. Her temper, of course, is legendary; she always has been like that. But I’m fine with that; on the list of my own virtues, patience is at the top, but it’s not perfect: it’s only recently that I have realized that I’m patient about pretty much everything except the lack of control over my time. Also, I’m used to people with bad tempers and foul moods; in fact, I think that pretty much all people I have closely worked with had terrible moods, and we stuck together, wherever I worked for, because I was always the patient one. I’m used at having everybody putting the blame on me and venting their frustrations by yelling at me. I’ve heard stories from former employees that there used to be a huge silence in one of the companies I had founded with one person with the foulest possible mood (he suffered from ADD and didn’t take medication at that time) while he shouted for hours and hours at me, kicked things, and hammered fists at the desks. I usually just sat there benevolently, offering input now and then, but just waiting for the storm to pass. Then it would be over and I would come out of the office with a smile; people would know that things weren’t as bad as it sounded. I’d simply pretend nothing had happened; and, in truth, the discussions were often irrational and pointless — that particular company actually worked out very well.

But over time I met several people with that kind of temper and worked closely with them. My female friend who was the CEO of a tiny company selling hand-painted tiles also had one of the foulest tempers I ever had — she could beat my wife any time! Much later on, both these cases were correctly diagnosed and corrected with medicine and some therapy. I’m still friends with both. As I’m still friends with pretty much everybody who has a reputation of having a bad temper: I’m really, really used to that.

Of course, things are different when you’re living with someone like that. My own patience is also not perfect, as said, even though I’ve handled things better. Astrologists tell me that Geminis tend to be all smiles most of the time, until they blow their fuses, and then they become pure devils. But it takes a lot to offset the scale. The problem is, when a Gemini explodes, it usually goes beyond all tolerable limits: usually there is no way back. By contrast, people like my wife tend to have very short fuses, are angry all the time, but the anger subsides fast, and the next day she will not even remember why she was so furious with me.

Geminis are also sneaky and insidious. Instead of telling others exactly what they think about them, they prefer to use sarcasm and irony, and slowly working up their insults, wrapping them in complex wording. So when they finally blow up it comes as a huge surprise! I’m well aware of that shortcoming, and recognize it; thanks to my training, I’m now often aware of the precise moment where I’m close to the limit. It’s really very, very rare that I allow myself to go beyond that threshold, because I know how nasty I can get. The few times I did it, things ended with my wife in tears — often leaving the home and going for a walk, furious at how low I can get when angry. Specially because Geminis can become angry in two ways: it’s not just by yelling, but also with cold anger — saying the most hurtful things in a steady voice, without needing to yell. This hurts way more, and Geminis know that very well. It’s their own weapon of massive destruction — it puts a knife directly into the heart and twists it around. It’s not nice to see.

Patience, by contrast, is not something that comes that naturally to Geminis, unless they use an apparent calm to hurt others more deeply. So I had to work on patience a lot. And, in general, I can really tolerate a lot, as said. I can go to levels that anybody normal would find absolutely insane — “nobody should be allowed to accept that!”. Well, my point is that patience is a wonderful skill to have. If you refuse to get angry, people cannot affect you. This is why my wife can do pretty much what she wants to me, and she will not get anything more than a look of disappointment which I cannot avoid. She often tries to pick fights about my lack of reaction — “don’t you think that by remaining silent you’re winning the argument!” But the truth is that when even that fails to elicit a reaction, there is no place for her anger to go. It has to subside. And that’s what usually happens: she is unable to remain angry with me for a long time. A few hours, sure. On her worst days, she might remain angry the whole day, and constantly nagging me in the hope of shortening my own fuse. But when that fails to happen, she can only give up, and when she does it, the anger evaporates.

Now, the ultimate level of patience is when you realize that the other person is just engaging in conflict because they believe this will make them feel great — “achieving victory” — but it’s just a delusion, and this fills you with pity for them. By refusing to engage it means accepting defeat — but without a fight. I don’t care if I “win” an argument with my wife — not any more. Because, ultimately, when two people get angry at each other, both lose. The secret of success of any relationship is to know how to gracefully lose an argument, and, by doing so, “win” another day of peace. As the saying goes, I can keep doing that all day. And day after day after day.

But of course I’m not perfect. I’m still a Gemini at root — and that means that things pile up and up all the time. When more direct attacks failed to unsettle me, my wife’s strategy is now to aim at one of the roots of my faults, which I didn’t even previously recognized at such: she attacks my sense of control over time. And this is really very, very hard to bear. Because time is something precious to me, by depriving me of my own time, she’s biting at my artery — and, worst than that, she’s not the only one. Others are doing it as well, all the time, without even noticing. This is the other side of the coin of patience: it means that people can easily abuse your availability.

For the past two years or so, I have noticed this more and more. First I just saw things happening occasionally: say, some plan I had to crossdress, or even go out with friends, and at the last moment, “something” would pop up and thwart my plans — I would get frustrated. I remember crying like a little kid when that happened once or twice. The sense of frustration for being unable to stick to my own schedules was overwhelming. There was this sense of powerlessness in the presence of others; but by refusing to admit that, and “forcing” my point of view — “I also have a right to my own time!” — would just mean letting my anger rise, and break my shield of patience. And when that happens, I lose all arguments. Anger makes you stupid; it robs you of clear insight. On the other hand, patiently enduring everything, makes you notice how things are much better — and sometimes you realize things that you didn’t really notice before.

I really wasn’t in control of my time. I just had that comfortable illusion. It’s when the illusion got shattered that I started to feel very frustrated — even depressed (there are tons of ways how depression affects you; it’s not all about crying a lot and don’t even wanting to leave the bed. It’s usually very hard for someone undergoing a depression to understand that it’s that what they’re feeling). But the problem is not really “my wife” nor “all the others who conspire to rob me of my precious time”. I just think that is. In reality, what makes me frustrated is this illusion, in which I fully believe, that I ought to be mistress of my own time. It’s the delusional belief that I can set up a schedule, and by doing so, “fix” the future so that it benefits me.

In fact, no plans work out as intended. I, among so many people, should know that. Computers and networks will break down, no matter how you do your best to prevent that from happening. The best server of the world will, one day, have its hard disk drives failing. They don’t last eternally, and it’s impossible to predict exactly when that will happen. When a hard disk manufacturer stamps on a disk, “mean time between failure: 3 years” it doesn’t mean that, on day 1095, the disk will stop working. No, what it means is that, on average, disks work well without problems for 3 years. But some will break down on the first day the computer is powered on. Some will only break down after 5 or 6 years. An average is just a statistical function; it doesn’t “guarantee” anything.

I trained to deal with that in my line of work. When a network fails, I don’t throw a tantrum because of that: I know that networks fail, equipment fails, everything fails, and we cannot predict exactly when that happens. The best we can do is to avoid the worst, apply contingency plans, use redundancy. But it cannot be avoided; just dealt with.

My own life is like that. It’s not just computers and networks.

People too. It’s impossible to predict when my wife is in a bad mood, or for how long it will last. It’s impossible to know when, for no particular reason, she starts becoming snappy and vent her anger at me. It’s pointless to “complain” about that; it just happens. It’s part of the way things work.

This is, for me, very difficult to accept. So difficult, in fact, that I don’t know yet how to cope with it. It also reflects on my work: I have this strange way of working, where I require a handful of hours every day to do something productive. Others can work for 15 minutes, get interrupted for a couple of hours, and continue from where they started; I cannot. I take 15 minutes just to figure out where I was; and if all that remains of my time to deal with an issue are 15 minutes, during which I can become a “victim” of my wife’s whims, well, then, laziness steps in: I just postpone the issue, until I have a few hours to work on it. But by doing so I’m deluding myself again. I’m sort of saying, “oh, today my time was unpredictable, so I better do this tomorrow, when I’ll have more time to deal with it”. How do I know that? For all I know, in fact, tomorrow might even be worse!

These days, I look at my schedule on Sunday, and try to guesstimate how bad it will be. For example, for this week, I saw that Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday would be “impossible” days — nothing is going to be done. Tuesday looked to be promising — and I could even crossdress, it would work out fine. But I hadn’t taken into account that it was my schedule, not my wife’s, so obviously things didn’t run the way I wanted.

But even if my wife weren’t around… there could still be other things that would thwart my plans. It just happened to me my wife, but there could have been others. So I cannot spread the blame around and be happy with that — it solves nothing. It just reinforces this idea of mine about controlling time, and, the more I reinforce that idea, the more I will hurt when I finally realize that time was not there to be controlled at all.

Oh well. This is getting too long, even for me. The whole point is that I have to work harder on my “great expectations” (with an apology to Dickens!). I have to look back on my life and see how time was never under my control. I have to break free of the chains that constrain me to believe that “others are robbing my time and preventing me to do what I wish”. Instead, I have to look at the source of all that, and see that my frustration only comes from having set up those expectations, and seeing them to pass away without a trace, except my memory that I had, in fact, planned to cotnrol time.

It’s very hard to do.