Duke

Andrew’s chance remark made me think how lucky I am to have been born when I was. We were walking towards Boughton House by the back way through the old stable block, which is the route used by the public when allowed admission, and he said, “Imagine how terrifying it would be for an 18th century villager to approach this building.”

The unfinished wing, seen through the stable blockI grew up in the seventies, when most such houses belonged to the National Trust, and I could approach them in the secure knowledge that they were ours: they belonged to my society, and I had a right to be there. Similarly with the grand public buildings of London.

The side of the house, shorter than the front, with the unfinished wing on the leftThe unfinished wing was built to maintain some notion of symmetry, in the imagination of someone familiar with the building, or the eye of any passing Montgolfier, but the internal floors and ceilings were never added. The building contains some impressive art, yet is not even the Joke of noCleugh’s largest private house.

As the bus clanked back through British Leyland (yes, that is its name, at least in Swanstonshire) we went down a street at the end of which three great wind turbines loomed, and I wondered if that were still the case. The people live in their shadow, but do they belong to members of our society, with whom we share a common bond? It is less clear, in the twen-teens.

Possibly, though, the fragmentation which allows such great accumulation of wealth in few hands once again to be lauded rather than corrected also allows me to be me. One of my main themes

parchmentThis might be less possible, if our solidarity were closer.

Trust and confidence

Woman is head of an organisation. Her predecessor was a bully, and when she went there she found a pile of complaint letters, ignored, in his office. He made inappropriate appointments and she has had to manage or dismiss those individuals. After four years, approaching retirement, she has turned the place around. She lives alone, and needs a friend to hear her speak about it, to give her a sense of perspective about some of the issues. So she comes to visit, and Dave just says, Don’t worry about that, it’s alright. Have a glass of wine.

I had a moment of vertiginous terror thinking of it.

The trustees of the homeless charity want someone for maternity leave to take responsibility for the whole place. Liz looks at the list of responsibilities and quails: you would have to give your whole life to it. They cannot get a person who can do that for £16,000 for a notional 35 hour week. Though, I say, there are decisions where there are more than one right choice, and the important thing is to make a decision, rather than to make the perfect choice each time. And other workers will be grateful that someone is making the decisions.

The tasks Liz does as a volunteer are “mindless”. Not responsible. Yet they have to be done, and in the incidental interactions, in her very presence, she gives the spaces she frequents something far more valuable than merely carrying tins from one place to another.

She feels that if you can find your path and walk along it-
but finding the path can be so difficult-

I do not recall what she actually said, so do not want to be specific. It felt like putting off happiness, and so if I write an approximation it may be more unreal than her understanding. I would take her distance from truth, multiply it by my misunderstanding, and libel her. I cannot be certain that she is wrong.

Though, also, I want her to be my Wise Friend and not wrong.

I started by writing of someone in the world of work, making Decisions, which just have to be good enough for the moment; then I wrote of Liz’s “path”, and find in me a delicate desperation to find the exact way of expressing the truth, finding perfection-

my seeking perfection might paralyse me in ordinary tasks

it might drive me to actual perfection, so terrified am I of anything less

it might be the right quality in the right circumstances

it might just be a way of avoiding responsibility.

 ♥♥♥

My confidence level is low. I thought this morning of how I am still hard on myself, and thought, I can notice when I am bullying myself, and evaluate how accurate the bullying thoughts are. This is a sort-of cognitive behavioural therapy thing. Or I can notice when I want perfect certainty now, and tell myself I cannot have it and do not need it. These are not new ideas and are worth practising. I might find myself in a panic and notice why.

At the coffee shop, we met a woman looking after two Staffordshire bull terriers, or “Staffies”, pulling on their harnesses. One is two, the other not full grown, but strong. She started talking, as we admired their beauty, and told me that collies do not need exercise, so much, as company: you cannot just leave them at home while working and call in at lunchtime. They are social animals, thinking dogs, needing stimulation.

Jean-Léon Gérôme,Pygmalion and Galatea

Trust issues

The idea of a film about my transition experience, with me as “creative director”, might seem ridiculous had it not been suggested by a TV producer. We discussed a programme he had made, which I remembered from some years ago. We met for a preliminary discussion and I produced one scene and some possible outlines.

It is not completely ridiculous. The personal growth stuff, in four born-again experiences, a story of self-acceptance, could interest more than just trans folk. It is a universal story: human beings suppress parts of ourselves for the sake of others and society.

To get two weeks later an answer phone message from a mutual acquaintance saying the idea was off was a blow. I have thought of checking out what other contacts I had- a friend knows an independent producer in Swanston, for example- but I have been unable to summon up the enthusiasm to do anything further on the project.

Why did I not want to write this post?

Oh, it is understandable. I too was on a wild emotional rollercoaster after the Essence process. He has other things to think about.

And- that woman. Is she just messing with me? At best, my old co-dependent ways will not work, and I will have to get new ones find saner ways of being. Though I dwell on this too much, because I have little else to do. Today I cycled into Swanston for tea with Richard. It was lovely. Tomorrow, I shall have coffee with Liz.

No, I really did not want to write this post. I consider other blows, such as my father giving away all his capital, a six figure sum, to con-men, or my work history, and still find this hard to bear. The point of this blog is hope- self-acceptance, greater understanding, greater ability to face the world, and I despair. I feel a fool. I wonder if I was merely foolish to believe in that film project when we were actually discussing it- of course it could go nowhere. I feel my foolishness is exposed and mocked, though I see that is a wrong way of perceiving it: other priorities, a change of mind. My trust in the world is low. My confidence, or trust in myself, is low. It paralyses me.

I think, I should accept that mobile phone contract. It will give a better service for less money. And I do not, because something will go wrong.

????????

Meaning of Life

Something evanescent may still be beautiful. Life has meaning, though we die. The Earth itself will end.

Life has different meaning for each of us, least, perhaps, for the psychopath, who seeks it in stuff, and power, and safety, all lost with death. For me, the meaning is in understanding and acceptance of who I am and how the World and life are, so that death might seem like completion, finishing rather than stopping. Though I hope always to be ready for the next moment, until death come.

Staretz Zosima says, Humanity has been created for happiness
and the one who is wholly happy has a perfect right to say,
I have performed God’s will on Earth.

What do you feel, now? What do you want? What makes you happy? You, not some conventional thing you should want. Some find joy in helping others or in creating, some in friends and family. It need not be unusual or surprising, but it must evoke your heart’s Yes.

My religion helps me find meaning. God is Love, and Love one another is the great commandment. I believe in God- this is a pre-Enlightenment statement. It is not saying, I accept as true the factual proposition that God exists, but that I have trust, faith and confidence in God.

Long ago, that gave meaning to life, because I thought of God as a benevolent policeman in the sky, giving moral rules. That belief in rules gave me the structure and order in my world which I felt I needed. Fortunately, God healed me, and the healing has taken the form of self-acceptance, and that is the subject of this blog. Whatever God is doing about suffering generally, what God is doing about my suffering has taken 48 years and is an ongoing process. I have trust in myself as a moral being, in my conscience created in God’s image rather than in someone’s formulation of moral rules.

Christianity was the perfect ideology for Constantine’s empire, reinforcing the hierarchy and giving eternal damnation as the punishment for disobedience. Christianity can be better than that.

two swans

Gratification

On Friday, during the partial eclipse I was tempted to look at the Sun.
I had heard the warnings.
I looked at it, and my eyes smarted.
I was still tempted to look at it.
What’s this deferring gratification thing? Weighing a glimpse of the sun as a crescent against the chance of permanent damage to eyes, I am still tempted!!

I then spent much of the day with the Three Guardians puzzle. Before I came up with the right questions, I spent hours with wrong questions and what various answers to them would mean. I am very pleased with having the right answer, and having thought of a fourth guardian which answered randomly, like a coin-toss, could answer that more complex problem with between five and eleven questions. Probably I should have done my washing, and in the beautiful sunshine a walk round the lakes might have been more relaxing, but working on that puzzle was the immediately gratifying thing.

A hug felt sexier than an ordinary friendly hug, and was followed up with an email addressed “Dearest Abigail”. She would be in touch, she said. Over a week later, I am on tenterhooks and wondering if she is messing with me, which feels cruel: that “dearest” touched my heart. I create theories of why she might deliberately hurt me, which feel possible but unlikely; but likelier the longer time goes on. Why would she would want to mess with me? Becoz I is trans, or because I had irritated her in some way I cannot imagine, or randomly without reason. The thought that she might not be in touch because of shyness or vulnerability in her came to me only later.

In The Last Battle, the dwarves go into the barn which is actually the gate of Heaven. The children see Heaven with its beautiful scenery getting more beautiful as you go further up and further in, but the dwarves see only a derelict barn with stinking old straw. So the children pick flowers for the dwarves, and the dwarves react angrily: Why are you shoving straw in our faces?

I came across “thetruthisstrangerthanfiction” on Violet’s blog. He is creationist. I find the complex, interlocking explanations of all the evidence of the age of the Earth fascinating and beautiful, and he finds them repellent: the desire to keep a meddling God with His meddling “morality” and call for “repentance” etc., is the real motivating factor at play behind the scientists’ rejection of young earth creationism, rather than the search for Truth which I perceive. Then again, his flowers- a literal interpretation of Genesis- are mouldy straw to me.

I want to persuade him. He is not persuadable, because he is immovably convinced that he has something better (as, mutatis mutandis, am I). I put long comments on his blog, rather than walking by the lakes or doing my washing. I wrote on facebook, to acclaim, I do not need you to be other than you are to validate who I am but one benighted stranger on another continent and a woman who may be hostile seem to indicate otherwise.

What I want may not be what is best for me.

Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Fit for work?

The Limited Capacity for Work test assesses whether a claimant is entitled to “Employment and Support Allowance”, the benefit paid to some people who are most clearly unfit for work. Should the State support those who are unfit for work? Yes- but Great Britain does not. People fall through the cracks designed for that purpose, and some of them die as a result.

This is because the test is so restrictive. You need fifteen points to qualify for benefit. Someone who requires a wheelchair will not get any points at all for that if they can self-propel the wheelchair two hundred metres over flat ground without severe discomfort or repeatedly stopping.

Someone who is profoundly deaf will not because of that score any points, if they can understand a simple message by reading it.

Someone who is registered blind who can use a guide dog on familiar routes, but not unfamiliar routes, only scores nine points for this. That is not enough to get the benefit. Where it says a guide dog “could reasonably be used” this may include where a guide dog is unavailable.

On mental health, someone who not only Cannot cope with minor unplanned change (such as the timing of an appointment on the day it is due to occur), to the extent that overall, day-to-day life is made significantly more difficult but also Engagement in social contact with someone unfamiliar to the claimant is not possible for the majority of the time due to difficulty relating to others or significant distress experienced by the claimant only scores twelve points, insufficient to get the benefit. Clearly people incapable of looking after themselves are found fit for work.

The test is restrictive. However severe your disability, if it does not fit under one of these headings it will score no points.

The concept of a three tier scheme is a good one. There are people with such great difficulties in working that they are not forced to look for work, though they are offered help to look for work. Most of those who score fifteen points on this test are considered fit for some work, and are sanctioned if they do not co-operate with seeking work. However far too many people- profoundly deaf, registered blind, confined to a wheelchair or incapable of living independently because of mental health problems- are put on jobseeker’s allowance, and subject to the full range of sanctions. Their money will be stopped if they do not apply for enough jobs. They have to sign on every two weeks.

Given that people are under pressure to find work even if they score fifteen points on this test, the test should be more generous. However, it is being continually tightened: it was not so restricted when introduced by the Labour government in 2008. The result is that it kills people. How many sanctions kill is unknown. One food bank trust alone gave out 913,138 parcels in one year. Here are some every-day horror stories.

Words II

Thought is the past living in the present, modifying itself and the present… only when the mind is uncluttered can the new come into being, and for this reason we say that thought must be still, operating only when it has to- objectively, efficiently.

-Krishnamurti

I have quoted that before.

I leave yesterday’s post as a worthwhile attempt, and now wanted to get closer. I quoted David:

We are all born in sin, everyone’s inclination is to sin. People are tempted in different ways. Homosexuals happen to be tempted with the sin of homosexuality. All of this is sin and can be redeemed by Christ. So were they born that way? Sure, because we are all born into sin.

He has a neat framework for the World. Part of it is that he is a Biblical Christian, and therefore Good, and that Gay people unless they try very very hard to avoid appearing even a little bit gay are Bad. He has brought together two ideas from the framework of words people have created, to make himself even more certain that gayness is Bad.

His framework is a barrier to understanding. He may still meet a gay person, and in the encounter learn to value the whole of that person, but his framework makes that less likely.

Last year there was some excitement when it appeared that BICEP 2 had observed patterns in the cosmic microwave background confirming the theory of Inflation; but the Planck satellite failed to confirm the observations. BICEP 3 continues the search. The observations themselves are described in precise words exchanged between those equipped to assess the evidence. This is “thought operating only when it has to” as Krishnamurti says.

Perhaps David’s expression, though it distances him from other humans, is also such thought. That framework protects him from challenge, which might be too much for him to bear.

However, as I passionately desire an encounter with a human being whom I already know to be Other, thought may get in the way. Is she like that archetype, or that character in a novel? I could decide that she was, and jump to a conclusion which was very slightly different from the Truth. There is a person, in the moment, so even my memories of her may not show me who she is now. If I try to translate them into words, they drag me even further from true perception. There is only Now.

Yet I try to get my thoughts clear, and create verbal frameworks for understanding, because they reassure me.

David, the death of Socrates

Words

I move away from reliance on words. This is hard, for a writer.

My ideal is to respond to a whole situation as I perceive it in the moment. I think of this as a continual meditative state. I don’t thereby assert that those assessed by Myers-Briggs as judging rather than perceiving are wrong, but that I wish to develop other ways.

This is counter-cultural. School-children write essays about what Shakespeare plays mean: crushing an art work into an understanding of it. There is only the art work. There is only reality. The map or understanding is always less. Understandings are a way of stopping thinking and excluding difficult facts, or troublesome people. I love the cleverness of this comment, a verbal trick to justify hate:

We are all born in sin, everyone’s inclination is to sin. People are tempted in different ways. Homosexuals happen to be tempted with the sin of homosexuality. All of this is sin and can be redeemed by Christ. So were they born that way? Sure, because we are all born into sin.

So clear! So logical! No need for equal marriage, because it panders to sin. God save me from people who have the Answers. Whereas those who find LGBT merely sinful might have felt a need to deny that we are “born that way”, this formulation neatly avoids that. So it seems to me to defend the homophobic position against the complexity of real life.

I was fascinated by this article on Genesis 1-2. Sometimes there are common-sense readings of Bible verses, but the writer observes there seem to be several items in the creation narrative for which the plain sense meaning does not make common sense. Amazingly, rather than seeking a different sense as the popular saying would suggest, people often choose to add to or modify the Scripture, forcing it to make common sense. Here are some examples of such items.

So, if there was a “morning” before the Sun was created, some would say it was because of the light of God’s presence, adding to Scripture, and some would not. Some pursue clarity and understanding, some pursue acceptance of strangeness and understanding. I find the latter way better, because it leaves me open to greater understanding as I mature.

That second writer calls verses which anthropomorphize God “figurative”. God became man in Christ Jesus. Comparing God to a human being is a way for me to grope towards understanding, knowing that my understanding- even the Biblical verse- is not sufficient in itself.

To be fair to Words, I give a scientific example: the separate orders of trilobite need a precise classification. The artist’s words can create a human being entire, such as Hamlet or Shylock.

Peace passes all understanding.

Oh, I can’t end this post so I will just stop.

David, the intervention of the Sabine women

Acceptance XLVI

I cannot accept the world unless I accept myself.

Having retreated from the world, little affects me. That was why I did it. I was befuddled and frustrated by work, so I gave up. Liz volunteers in a place with paid workers. She hears them complain about changes to their working patterns, and wishes they could just accept those changes. They might even embrace and enjoy those particular changes as Liz would- they involve working with children.

A change to my experience of WordPress angered and frightened me. Does that seem an extreme reaction? Well, I feel my anger was proportionate, of short duration. I started fearful thought of how it could presage further, even worse changes, and then started thinking of how I could cope with those changes.

As I felt my anger and fear, in the moment after the first stimulus of them, I judged myself. Anger and fear is a totally disproportionate reaction, I told myself sternly. (No wonder you can’t go out sometimes.) Whereas I can cope with changes to routine, if I gently explain them to myself. Part of my (over) reaction is bad experiences of change in the past.

First, I must accept my own reaction. It too will pass.

 ♥♥♥

My childhood way of Acceptance gets in the way. It was to suppress anger and fear and Get On With It. Mother Unhappy! Danger! Work out what she wants immediately and do it. However I felt about that in the moment would get in the way, then. My anger and fear made her unhappy and stopped me thinking through the right response. So I feared my anger and fear, which made my experience of them more painful.

In childhood that did the job. Now I have suppressed feeling too long and cannot suppress any more; and my feelings are a useful tool for perception. I know the current state is not eternal: these feelings and state of unknowing will pass. (I just have to realise that, in the moment.)

Chronic stress happens when stressors come along too quickly to deal with one before feeling the next. That was my experience most of the time I was working.

I feel there is a lesson here, and I want to be able to articulate it. Part of it is in my first sentence. If I accept how I react emotionally and trust the process, remembering such lessons as “This too shall pass”, I will be happier and better able to deal with the stressor.

Evelyn de Morgan, Cassandra