Family of Me

by Daphne
Updates Mondays and Fridays

Scene 101: Fix-it Mode

Ivy (The Companion): Good morning Mom.

Mom (Me): Good morning Ivy. It’s been a while since you’ve come to me with something to discuss.

Ivy: So many other things were going on — I had a new sister to meet. I had to work through my relationship with her and with Lark, and throughout that I was still reliving some of your more recent memories.

Mom: How’s that been going for you?

Ivy: I saw the night you finally gave up on masculinity for good, and the week you spent in gender limbo before realizing you’re a woman through and through. I saw you struggle through months of all sorts of gender anxiety before starting HRT half a year later. I watched as your body started to soften and change under the effects of feminizing hormones.

Mom: You’re getting pretty close to the present day then. It’s only about another year of memories before the start of this series.

Ivy: I still have things I want to talk to you about. I suppose now’s the time, especially since we all know my elder sister can’t be summoned yet. We still have work to do.

Mom: Indeed we do. So what are we working on today?

Ivy: I want to talk about what we do when our partner comes to us with a problem. For most of our life, whenever someone came to us with a problem, we would try to think of a way to solve it.

Mom: That is what one tends to do with problems.

Ivy: Sometimes, sure. But not every time, as you know.

Mom: Granted. Our partner calls that attitude “Fix-it Mode”… We hardly realized there were any alternatives to it until after transition.

Ivy: True enough. I always assumed that if our partner came to us with an issue it was our job to solve it. I would twist myself in such knots trying to come up with solutions to every little concern our partner had… It was exhausting.

Mom: Of course it was, because a lot of the time she wasn’t looking for a solution. She just wanted to be heard — she needed to vent.

Ivy: Right, and we just didn’t understand that motivation. I felt like people were supposed to keep their emotional vents to themselves. In my mind, you didn’t tell someone about a problem unless you wanted help solving it… And you weren’t supposed to want help solving it unless you couldn’t solve it yourself. So anytime our partner told us about a problem, we assumed it was urgent and racked our brain for solutions. Sometimes we got upset that we couldn’t find them — even gettng upset with her about that sometimes.

Mom: It got to the point where she stopped talking to us about certain problems unless she absolutely needed our help because she was afraid of how we’d react.

Ivy: Goodness, yes. I’m so glad we don’t think that way anymore.

Mom: I am too. That line of thought never served us well, even back then.

Ivy: No, it really didn’t. It’s nice to have the capacity to let Fix-it Mode go and support our partner emotionally.

Mom: It is. It feels very satisfying. I notice you didn’t ask me a question about anything though.

Ivy: I didn’t, no… I do have a question but… I mean, things are so much better than they were before, is it even fair to expect more?

Mom: Of course it is. We’re seeking to live as our best selves here, not just settle for “better than before.” The entire point of gathering in this headspace is to ask those questions and work them mentally and emotionally.

Ivy: Well… I hate to sound like Aura here, but is our relationship with our partner really fair?

Mom: What do you mean?

Ivy: I mean our partner comes to us with problems all the time, either to vent about them or to ask us for help with them, and most of the time we manage our problems on our own. We’re doing emotional labor for our partner and for ourselves.

Mom: Ah, I see what you mean. We don’t have to keep our problems to ourselves, though. We could share problems with our partner too.

Ivy: I mean, I get that in theory, but we don’t really *need* to share our troubles with her.

Mom (insistent): Yes we do. We really, really do.

Ivy (surprised): Wait what?

Mom: Here’s a thing about us that’s really important to understand: We need to get our difficult feelings out of our head. When we hold onto emotions and thoughts that are bothering us, they build up in our minds, accumulating anxiety or guilt and weighing us down. They take up space in our brain, constantly consuming mental resources and making everything a little bit harder to do.

Ivy: Okay sure, but we work through our issues eventually. We can handle it if things are a little bit harder while we solve problems like that.

Mom: Except it’s rarely just one problem. It’s often several at a time, and all of them make everything a little more difficult — occasionally a problem makes everything much more difficult all on its own. Regardless of how our problems stack up, the result is the same: soon it’s hard to focus on anything at all.

Ivy (reluctant): I guess our problems do accumulate like that sometimes… And you’re suggesting that telling our partner would free up some of our mental resources?

Mom: Yes, it would, and it does. There are other ways too — sometimes we write our thoughts down, for example.

Ivy (deadpan): Surprise surprise.

Mom: Regardless, telling our partner tends to relieve the stress that builds up from holding a thought in our mind. Besides, she’s always very understanding and wants us to be transparent about how we’re feeling anyways, so sharing with her is a win-win.

Ivy: I suppose that’s something I can start doing when I really feel like I need to… It’s nice to know that option is there.

Mom (hesitant): It… It’s not really something you have a choice in, honestly. When we don’t open up about our feelings and they really start weighing us down, we become… More difficult to deal with. We snap more easily. We used to take offense at things much more easily — thankfully we don’t do that as much anymore, but we still take on guilt and shame about our problems while they hang over our heads.

Ivy (disheartened): Oh. So even when we’re trying to keep things to ourselves, we can’t.

Mom: Or we keep our specific problem to ourselves, but we come off as vaguely upset and our partner thinks it’s her fault. Or we can’t find the words to express ourselves at all and we shut down.

Ivy: Gosh, that’s… That’s rough.

Mom: Yes, it is. So it really behooves us to be as transparent as possible, as often as possible.

Ivy: I guess so, goodness. I… I’ll work on that, I suppose.

Mom: You and me both, daughter.