The first time I saw him he was sitting on a small brown suitcase outside Cliff’s Variety store in the Castro area of San Francisco. He looked forlorn and anxious, glancing nervously at the faces of the passers-by from beneath a curly nylon wig. His ankle length dress was decorated with a cheap floral motif and buttoned up to his neck. Over this he wore a soiled, brown raincoat. Perched on his head was a small felt hat and on his feet a pair of old trainers. Leaning against the tin cup in front of him was a small sign, hand-written on a piece of torn cardboard: ‘Only need another $285.60 for my sex change.’
Over the next few weeks I saw him in several different locations, always dressed in the same clothes, a few coins in the cup and the amount on the sign unchanged. On each occasion, I felt mysteriously effected by the sight of this eccentric character, silently soliciting the help of strangers. I imagined that he had no friends and nowhere to stay and that the suitcase contained all his worldly possessions. He seemed like one of life’s victims, downtrodden and destitute. And yet he had a certain dignity about him. Although I had never met him before, I felt I knew him. How could this be?
It was some weeks since I had last seen him when I visited a friend of mine with whom I regularly traded Voice Dialogue sessions. It was my turn to be facilitated. I had been experiencing anxiety in my stomach and wanted to explore what the cause might be. I wasn’t aware of being worried about anything in particular and hoped the session might provide some insight and perhaps some relief from the symptoms.
After checking with my protecting self to make sure it was OK to look at this issue, my friend asked to speak to the part of me that was causing my stomach to churn. I moved my chair over to one side and felt my body tighten and tingle as if all my nerves were on edge. I crossed my legs and began tapping my foot on the ground. The aching in my stomach increased and I rocked backwards and forwards, my arms cradling my belly. I glanced nervously at my friend as if unsure or fearful of her reaction.
“Hello. Do you have a sense of your purpose in John’s life?” asked my friend.
“I worry,” came the reply.
“What do you worry about?”
“Yes, no matter how big or small, whether past, present or future. I worry.”
“Are you worried now?”
“Of course! I’m worried about this session, and whether he turned the gas off before he came out and locked the door properly, and if he’ll get home safely, and whether there is enough food in the fridge for dinner tonight, and if his seminar participants like him or not, and what would happen if he got sick and couldn’t work, and what the neighbours would think if he let’s the hedge grow too big, and what would happen if he went to pay for something in a shop and there wasn’t enough money in his wallet, and…..”
As I continued talking and deepened the experience of being my Worrier, I was amazed to realise that I had begun to feel exactly like the guy sitting on his tiny suitcase begging for money! My self-image was of a lonely transvestite, marginalised and anxious, yet sure of who I was and of my right to be that way. I had the strongest sense that if I looked in a mirror right then, that is who I would see looking back at me. I would be wearing the same tired clothes and have the same expression on my face.
“Well, it’s a real pleasure to meet you,” continued my friend, “Do you have a name?”
“It’s Esmeralda,” my Worrier replied. There was a sense of pride in her voice.
“That sounds like a pretty big job you have, Esmeralda. How much of John’s energy do you take up?”
“A lot. More than he knows.”
“And do you do this 24/7?”
“Yes. But they don’t like or appreciate me,” Esmeralda whispered.
“Really? Who are they?”
“Those big guys over there that run his life.” She pointed to the opposite side of the room. “You know, the one that likes to be in control all the time, the organised one, the planner and their cronies. They think they are so powerful and so perfect! They hate the way I worry about everything all the time. To them I am a nuisance and they look down on me as weak and effeminate. But let me tell you something, it only needs 1% of what I worry about to prove correct and all the worrying will have been worthwhile. I can’t tell you how many times I have saved their arses by pointing out something they have overlooked!”
“Does John appreciate the hard work you do?” enquired my friend.
“No. He’s so under the sway of that lot that he hardly notices me. So I give him a stomach ache to remind him I’m here.”
“What do you need from John?”
“I want him to notice me and to accept me for who I am instead of ignoring me. I have my pride and I have my dignity and I don’t like being treated like I am some kind of freak! If he listens to my concerns I can be of great help to him.”
My friend thanked Esmeralda and I moved my chair back to the centre and separated from her energy. I took some deep breaths. My stomach ache was gone.
I never saw the guy around town again. Maybe he moved on. Maybe he got enough money to have his sex change. Whatever happened to him, his image and energy resonated with me. Twenty years on, Esmeralda is alive and well. In fact, I can feel her in my stomach right now. She has a long list of worries, but most of all she’s worried about this blog and what you will think of it….