Live your best life!

How can I live my best life?

In The Amber Spyglass, the harpies in the land of the dead know all the wrong every shade has done, and use it to torture them. Salmakia agrees with them that they will guide the shades out of Hades to dissolution, but

We have the right to refuse to guide them if they lie, or if they hold anything back, or if they have nothing to tell us. If they live in the world, they should see and touch and hear and love and learn things. We shall make an exception for infants who have not had time to learn anything, but otherwise, if they come down here bringing nothing, we shall not guide them out.

The Harpies make me think of the inner critic or persecutor. Mine makes everything I do seem base, or at least inadequate. Life is difficult: sometimes I make sense to myself if I think of myself as a man, sometimes if I think of myself as a woman, often I do not make sense at all.

I made an observation that makes Quakers laugh, and got over a hundred reactions on facebook. Have you ever seen a man stand to minister, and an expression passes fleetingly over his wife’s face, an “Oh no not again” expression? Most Liked response was, “I have seen that expression on the faces of a whole meeting”. So, there. I have done something good this week, I have made people laugh, or smile in recognition.

After Pendle Hill worship, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, we go into small groups for worship sharing or discussion. In one meeting I had ministered: if you are considering people without your privilege, don’t be considering what you can do for us, necessarily. It keeps you in your privileged position. Consider what we can do for you: how we can use our gifts in the service of the community. That promotes equality. This is counter-intuitive- how can you promote equality by accepting gifts? It honours someone. In the small group after someone said, “The goodness shone out of you”. Well, I was glowing after that. The comment delighted me.

In another Pendle Hill small group we discussed our lives, and I said I had no job, but my work was to resolve my inner conflicts, see past my blind spots and unravel my confusion. For example in the office I had been acting as if I was anxious and confused, and thought, perhaps I am anxious and confused. I had not thought of myself as an anxious person, though clearly I am. It struck me like a revelation. I would like to write about such experiences. And a woman said, oh, she works out her feelings from her behaviour.

I felt a bit irked, and on Wednesday 13th I was not up in time to go to the Pendle Hill worship. I thought, oh, its time to get up and did not. And I did not go. I did not connect this to that remark until after. I had only been aware of feeling hurt in a way I thought proportionate to the remark, ie, not much, but just did not get up.

It would be better to be aware of these things. How I was, was affected by this woman, who did not intend the effect she produced.

If I cannot imagine a harpy being interested in my stories, finding them worth telling, it is my own judgment I face. I go from where I am.

I have the feeling that perfectionism is designed to keep me safe. If I am perfect, if I have a perfect understanding and respond perfectly, then I am safe. But I am in doubt. Perfection is impossible, safety is impossible. It is part of the curse of intelligence, the idea that I can work this all out and be safe.

Following the Spirit

My wise Friend, who has a wonderfully rich intellectual and spiritual life, asked,

How strong or weak is your faith?
Are there times when letting yourself be “led by the Spirit” seems unrealistic, naive, or wrong?
When, if ever, have you been surprised by what faith can do?

Jonah knew he had a call from God, with precise instructions, and he ran away from it. I, being materialist and not conceiving Spirit as separate from myself, don’t see how I could know. Spirit in the human is a useful metaphor, rather than a discrete part. In May 2000 I could not face transition, because it frightened me too much. Only in November did I decide I had to do it. Internalised transphobia makes it hard for me to think of this as a leading of the spirit.

Sometimes, I have a sense of what I must do, and do it. Thinking back, I delight in these moments, when I believe I was acting according to my best nature. Examples:

I was working for an advice agency, helping claimants challenge refusal of welfare benefits. Dr Patel was an “Examining medical practitioner”, doing reports for Disability Living Allowance. The second part of the EMP form was his assessment of the claimant’s condition, but in the first he was supposed to take a statement from the claimant, saying what the claimant said they could do. The less they could do for themselves, the more money they would get. Dr Patel filled in the statement as if the claimant had said they had no particular difficulty with anything that would get them DLA. “I didn’t say that,” said my client.

Then in the tribunal waiting room I heard someone else talking about the same problem. Dr Patel had done their examination, and again had written the statement as if they had said they had no problem. “Sign here,” he had said, and of course they did, because he was a doctor and they could not read his handwriting. I had great difficulty with it, spending ages transcribing his reports. I began to check whether the EMP report was Patel’s and if so what the “claimant statement” was like.

We had strong evidence of what the claimants said they could not do, because they had completed the DLA claim form, but tribunals still did not believe them. Unsurprisingly, the tribunal took the doctor’s word over the benefit claimant’s. Eventually I found seventeen such claimants each with the same complaint. I argued to the tribunal that the “similar fact” rule of evidence applied, and they produced a six page legal argument that it did not. I argued to Patel’s employer that everyone saying the same thing made Patel’s denials incredible, and they argued that I had told my clients what to say. After months of work, with the help of the local MP I got him dismissed from his role as EMP.

As I type this, I am feeling my resentment at my integrity being impugned, my anger at Patel’s arrogance, dishonesty, and contempt for the people he examined, my determination and my pride at finally succeeding. It was above my pay grade. I could just have said to the claimants, well, sorry, the tribunals treat EMP reports as strong evidence, I can’t help you any further. I went in to the office in evenings and weekends to pursue this case.

It was me being me. While not universal human characteristics, anger at injustice and empathy with people one is working with are fairly common. I think it “Good”. In one sense of the word it is “spirited”. I had the energy and devoted myself to the task. The next EMP I thought was lying on the forms, I just gave up, it was too much for me.

Then there is me having breakfast at Woodbrooke. I take a moment to consider what I want. No, I do not want a fry-up, just fruit and cereal. Someone said this is “good” of me. It is “self-indulgent” to eat the fatty foods. I felt it was using my autonomic understanding, physical perception of need, to decide separately from cultural understandings what I should eat. The whole human, acting with integrity, does what the whole human needs to do. Yes it is a trivial example, but it is what I understand being “led by the spirit” to be: the sensory inputs are analysed, and the human being pursues its course, without any internal conflict.

That phrase, “the human being pursuing its course”, might apply to Donald Trump winning the 2016 election.

I am retreated from the world, seeking my healing. I wish I were other than I am, stronger than I am, that I could accomplish more, and I have moments of healing and understanding that warm and bless me. This is where my me-ness is directed now. My inner critic calls it laziness, possibly other humans might agree, and I can only know this is my leading because this is where I am following, now. I may be wrong.

There is the idea of Light within, which can guide a human being, “That of God in every one” which we might follow or suppress, obey or disobey. How could I possibly know? Sometimes instant gratification is wrong, as deferred gratification is a wiser as well as nobler aim. You feel sexual attraction but do not act upon it because you have an obligation to your partner.

Sometimes Quakers make decisions which seem to our rational understanding to be right, and there is no life or energy in them. The Outreach Committee has to do something so it sets up a stall in a place no-one visits. In that job I thought much of the action I could take was hopeless. It was like staring at a solid wall. I would find the cracks in that wall, and devote all my energy to bursting through there.

Insofar as I do not follow leadings of Spirit, it is because I do not see them. Some conventional morality I have picked up, which does not fit the case, makes me imagine a “light” which came from God or was good would not do that. But I would never see that is what I was doing, I would imagine I was doing the right thing, and indeed would be as far as I was able. Loving community may correct that.

(Instant) Gratification

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

I believe this. It is not just hollow consolation. I know, sometimes, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ are full of passionate intensity”. Alastair Campbell gives one view of the Brexit conspiracy against the British people. I liked this discussion of the quote: Mychal Denzel Smith argues we have to do the work to bend it, and we have to define “justice”.

We were discussing the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5. They are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”. I disagree with Paul’s contradiction between “the flesh” and “the spirit”. Possibly this comes from my culture. Paul may have been a dualist, believing we are material bodies and immaterial mind/spirit/soul, though he believed in the resurrection of the body. I am not, though I don’t know how much of my certainty comes from my personal experience of being human and how much comes from the cultural understandings I have imbibed. Opposing flesh and spirit leads to asceticism, where you only eat food you don’t like and see the world as ugly, grey and sinful rather than fruitful and beautiful.

I could parrot the words “sarx” and “pneuma”, even find their Greek spelling, but not say Paul “really” meant something I can live with. But the distinction I can live with came from Mary Linda’s group: ego and spirit. The Good in me produces love, joy, peace, etc. The Ego in me produces jealousy, anger, envy etc. And a lot of that seems to come from a desire for instant gratification.

Instant gratification is not all bad. Working in advice centres, I realised that I could, simply by listening sympathetically while people told their woes, make them feel better, and this made me feel really good. It was simply me, acting in accordance with my nature, achieving something I found valuable. But then at the Northern Concord TV/TS club a trans man began talking of his difficulties, and three of us leaned forward, in unison, with our sympathetic listening faces on, and I realised how much I got from such encounters.

Rosa Parks sitting down at the front of the bus can expect nothing like that. She knows she will face vituperation, contempt, and violence. If she resists at all that will be the excuse justifying unlimited violence against her. The Montgomery bus boycott lasted more than a year, and while it was a great step forward arguably the arc of history has not reached justice yet. All that walking, not using buses, was a sacrifice.

It is possible that seeking instant gratification, and planning for the future, inhabit different circuits within my neural structure. I can bring them into dialogue, and there often seems to be some sort of presiding intelligence which sees when instant gratification is possible, and not too costly, and when I should hold back or start laying foundations for gratification later. That needs me to believe in the possibility of gratification later, and people who have little experience of it can’t be expected to work towards it.

Ooh! σάρξ and πνεῦμα. There you go. A little fairly quick gratification for me.

I remember little of Habakkuk, but what I got from it when I read it was that God really does have some vast eternal plan, it just is taking longer than we might have hoped.

Pictures for a bit come from Yan Liben. It’s a new year, and I am looking back to the 7th century: he was a Tang dynasty artist and politician. We read these pictures right to left, rather than left to right.

Ky Schevers

Ky Schevers compares trans men detransitioning into “gender critical” circles to the “ex-gay” movement. Having spent time with them, and transitioned to male again, he says they are harmful both to trans people and detransitioners. He has written some perceptive Medium posts about his experiences. Any human being might recognise the tension between seeking acceptance from others, and being proudly who you are, which for trans people is particularly fraught.

At times I have needed to say different things about myself, and wanted different affirmation from others. Before I committed to transition, I wanted to, yet was too frightened, and I read up on “autogynephilia”, and told myself my desires were unreal. Then I decided I would transition, and joined Transsexual UK, a Yahoo group. There my desire to transition was affirmed, though it was nastily transmedicalist- not just the clear desire for hormones and surgery, but the implication that those who did not want surgery were perverts or transvestites and we should distance ourselves from them. And all the time I have wanted affirmed just for me, for who I am.

Since the March lockdown I have been powerfully affirmed here, Saturdays at 11am GMT. It is a space for everyone, not just trans, where we can show ourselves.

Ky transitioned female to male, then detransitioned, and joined gender critical groups. They would affirm him if he asserted that he was a woman, that being butch was fine but saying that it was in any way “masculine” was wrong, because that was a way some women were and all women were allowed to be if they wanted to. He used his strong gifts for thinking, analysis and writing on a wordpress blog which is now deleted. His crashchaoscats tumblr is now “Hemp Life Mag- CBD reviews, news and guides”, with no obvious indication it has ever been a detransition blog.

As a F-M-F detransitioner, part of his belief system was that he had undertaken a terrible act of self-harm caused by “transgender ideology”, and it was important to him to shield others for similar harm. His “Open letter to Julia Serano” remains, shared by another on facebook, and I copied it to a word document which I retain. He wrote to Julia, a powerful transadvocate,

I see these young women, lesbian and otherwise, finally find other women they can relate to, who also feel out of place in this society, who don’t fit the patriarchal myths and I watch them grow proud of being female, being a woman. It has been beautiful to watch and amazing to be a part of so many women’s healing.

You can choose to listen to us and change how you talk about us or you can keep repeating the same misinformation. In case you do choose to listen, I’ve included some links to other detransitioned women’s blogs and videos. In any case, we will keep speaking our truths because even if you’re not listening, a lot of women are and they need to hear what we have to say.

There it is. Beautifully articulate, powerfully expressed, definite, and he would say now completely wrong. Or at least if right for anyone not right for him. I wrote about him at the time.

There has to be a better way. As he says, people who transition and detransition have a lot in common with people who are transitioning or want to, or who have transitioned. It would be so much better if they could be in community together for mutual support. And yet they are pitched against each other, forced to argue that the other groups are deluded and perhaps that they personally have been in the past.

I want a Gender Variant community, of people who recognise that gender stereotypes do not fit them, and support any way of coping with that- living against the stereotypes, living with a particular presentation such as “butch”, having surgery- because we recognise what we have in common. I don’t know it is possible. Too many people are invested in their own way and want to save others from different, wrong, paths. There is a strong taboo in the wider community against body alteration- some people even condemn tattoos, piercings, or rhinoplasties, leave alone what we have done. He says,

People also need spaces where they can freely explore how their sense of gender may have been shaped by trauma and/or living in a homophobic transphobic patriarchy without being pressured to adopt a particular identity or interpretation of their experiences.

Ky now feels he was exploited by people with their own axes to grind- conservative Evangelicals who claim gender variance is a sin encouraged by feminism, parents of trans people who are disgusted by their children’s desires and encourage each other to oppose them, or conversion therapists who want to make money from them. “Ideologically motivated detransition is conversion therapy,” he says. We want to be accepted in community, because we are social beings, and so we seek out their conditional acceptance. But,

People invested in transphobic ideologies have no interest in helping detransitioned people heal because they want to frame transitioning as being as damaging as possible.

I needed to sort out who I was as opposed to what I had become in order to belong to the community.

Now, he says, it is “surreal” to accept himself as a trans man and lose that community. “I still care about a lot of detransitioned women but I no longer feel like I can be close to them.” How could he, when he sees them as perpetrating the same harms? Could he just be with them, without trying to fix each other? Could we each accept that my path is right for me now, and just because it is different to your path does not mean either is wrong? Could we support each other in such different choices? We need an identity, and feel such confusion when that identity changes- I thought I was a “man”, and now see I am a trans woman. An answer might be to cling less tightly to a rigid conception of that identity, but that troubles straight people and raises our internalised self-phobia.

He feels terribly guilty.

I betrayed the trans community by adopting and promoting transphobic views and creating material that was then picked up and used by other anti-trans groups. I betrayed the detrans community by coming out as trans, leaving the community and talking openly about how detransitioning hurt me. I further betray them by naming the harm done by the detrans community [including Keira Bell.]… The thing I’m really trying to figure out is how do I take responsibility for my past actions and do what I can to fix the damage? … I don’t want to harm others, even unintentionally… Those transphobic ideas harmed me but they also motivated me to speak and act in ways that harmed other trans people as well.

He has been writing. It is his skill. It is powerful stuff, and anyone interested should read him and engage with him, trans people, allies, and those he says are exploiters.

He is vulnerable. Not for the first time,

I am dismantling who I once was and still figuring out who I want to be now.
I’m working to heal from the damage of trying to erase an important part of myself.
I was in pain and I wanted it to stop.

The exploiters should have pity on us, but they too have their needs and identities to protect. I will have pity on him. Ky, you were seeking community and seeking to understand yourself in a blizzard of conflicting interpretations, anger, contempt and fear. You did your best to help others and find community. I will not blame you for anything you did, however mistaken you now feel it was.

These are Ky’s three Medium posts:
Detransition as conversion therapy: a survivor speaks out.
What is ideologically motivated detransition?
Moving between worlds deciding what to do next.

Be kind

A message for the last day of 2020: be kind to the anti-trans campaigners. Be kind to everyone, all year round.

This has been a hard year. Right now in England, with a new variant of Covid apparently 56% more transmissible than the original, the disease is spreading even where non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants are closed, and the schools will be closed for at least a week after the holidays end. We are a long way from herd immunity. The hospitalisation rate is as bad as any time in April, and while the death rate is generally less as there is hard-won expertise in treating Covid, the hospitals are full. The economy is shrinking, people are isolated, hurting, and fearful.

The death rate, 981 in the UK recorded on Wednesday, is likely higher because of delays in reporting over Christmas, but still frightening. In Milton Keynes, 1.5% of the population, over three thousand people, tested positive in a week.

Consider the anti-trans campaigner. She may have been in an abusive relationship. She will know women who have. She suffers unwanted pressure to have sex, and it is likely she has been assaulted, perhaps raped. In feminist spaces she meets other cis women and feels commonality and solidarity. And then, something happens and she feels alienated by trans women.

It is unfair that someone might be offended by one trans woman, and hostile to us all ever after. When someone compares trans women in women’s space to “poop in soup,” she is clearly using us as a symbol of all the causes of all she has suffered at the hands of men. Her anger is disproportionate, and may be hurtful to vulnerable trans women. If you are likely to be hurt by such things, avoid the places they are said, and be sure to drain every drop of nourishment from all the acceptance you receive. There are horrid things on line, but there is so much human love and acceptance.

Reacting in the same way will do little good. It hardly even relieves your feelings. Be kind.

I feel intense sadness that anti-trans campaigners, who are often far from gender stereotypes, should be pitted against trans people. Joining in the anger on line only inflames it, in the world and in myself, and can only add to my hurt. Remember that hard-right individuals and publications seek to pit us against each other to disrupt solidarity, and should be resisted.

I wrote this after my first visit to Ovarit to read their comments about me, pondering a second, when I read Ky Schevers’ thoughtful posts on retransitioning, after detransitioning into the gender critical community. People are confused and hurting. We should not be fighting. If a trans person tweets the Ultimate Putdown to some gender critical tweet, remember the person on the other end could be someone like Ky. Enough people are bullying us, and we should not bully each other. We need to make our “We” bigger.

I had that second look. They really did not like me looking at what they were saying about me. There is so much hurt around.

Covid solitude, and touch

My zoom social life is booming. I am in four international zoom groups that meet at least weekly, and drop in to others or attend occasional groups. Since March I have had so terribly few in person conversations, and not touched another human or been touched, but I see faces and hear voices more than I did last year. There are fewer Australians now it is Summer, but I meet Americans, Canadians, Irish people and others, and have deep conversation with my kind of people- wise, caring, articulate, sensitive, obvs; writers, performers, therapists.

With twenty-five tiny pictures on my laptop screen, I look round who is here and what I know of them. Some I might even call friends, and when people share deeply, personally, they move me; then I treasure these things in my heart, and see the person behind the tiny image. I look into people’s rooms. It is beautiful.

Many have cats- “fur-babies”- and I found myself staring at these images, the cat on the lap, thinking of cats who have deigned to sit on mine, seeing the finger scratching round the furry neck and imagining that touch- my hand, my neck.

Then I saw my friend with his granddaughter, a toddler, on his lap, and suddenly saw through his eyes- the back of her head, and its beautiful clean hair, the soft baby-shampoo smell, the wriggly unselfconscious joy of her. It was only a moment yet it was overwhelming, and the intensity of the feeling lived with me the rest of the day: joy so great it felt dangerous or frightening, joy that might overwhelm me.

Part of being frightened of going out is fearing the intensity of my own emotion, feeling unable to contain it and fearing what might happen if it leaked out. I go to the supermarket. Today the sky was cloudless, and I felt the sun on my skin as I cycled along, fast enough to get hot. I am not a mind, I am a human, embodied, and there is sensation from all over my body which brings delight. Right now there is the feel of the floor through my socks. Later, there will be the smell of citrus as I peel a clementine, the feel of it in my hands, the sight of skin, pith and segments, the sharp or sweet taste. A single fruit can be worth all my attention. There are things to delight my animal nature. But they do not include slight pressure from a hand on my arm when I meet another’s eyes, however deeply and personally we share, leave alone my bare skin against-

I read suggestions. If you spend time in the shower and give it attention, warm water flowing over head, back, belly, down the arms and trickling from the hands- it almost makes your nerves come alive, not as much as another human would but almost. Then there’s the hideous facebook algorithm, which shows certain of my posts to certain people. I had three comments and a like on a post an hour old, and shoddy little dopamine hits, which are no replacement for oxytocin. It is still compulsive.

I find myself thinking through the day of my next meal. I’m not overeating, as my trauma distraction response has never been food, but I think of the smells and sensations. It felt my choice was unbearable, overwhelming sensation and feeling or deliberately shutting it off and living in the grey dark, as I do much of the time. As I think of what to write next, I am squeezing my own hand.

I miss art. I went looking for 18th century Nativity paintings, it being Advent, and found this. Art on a screen is less than on canvas.

Resilience

Keeping going is what humans do. “KBO”, said Churchill, Keep Buggering On. Now, with Covid, people keep going, put up with the ordinary things which were bugging them last year, as well as the restrictions now, the lesser social life, and worry about covid. It’s lovely to zoom socially, then I hear someone’s relative is in hospital with it. Brexit is coming: I am stocking up my larder anticipating the snarl-up in the ports in January. Will we have fresh food in the supermarkets?

So we keep our heads down, and KBO. I kept going until I stopped, and I wonder if I am still in keeping going mode, part of me trying to grimly press on even though it doesn’t reach the controls any more. I remain desperate for self-improvement. That is the point of all these churning speculations here. How could I keep going better? How can I improve myself?

This long period of not working could be relaxation and replenishment, and I still feel stressed and tired. Is it that I am not truly relaxing? I am stopped, sitting watching TV, but resenting it. I think I am getting close to an idea but not fully there yet. In some way I am not relaxing, but instead trying to press on with something which is not supporting myself but is meeting some needs.

The need is to be better, or at least see myself as striving to be better. That is the way to cope with the shame of never being enough. So I KBO, cycling or reading for self-improvement, and beat myself up because it is never enough- so I am still stressed.

When we put our heads down and get on with it, we benefit by achieving what we want to achieve. Human beings die, mostly within a century of their birth, and spend ourselves, whatever we do. So a lone parent struggling to support their children, keep them well fed, get them educated, may have little time to relax but the spending is worthwhile.

One thought I had was that to KBO you have to numb yourself to the pain of it. KBO is simply what you have to do, even if it shortens your life. Some unconscious part of your brain wants to resist, and some other part has to stop you hearing it. But the part stopping you hearing or feeling does not only numb the pain but other things too. To have a full emotional life you have to feel the pain.

This internal conflict does me no good. So I wondered, could I do anything I do because I know I want to do it? It is not, I ought to do this, but this is behovely. That however means accepting all the sadness I feel at my current predicament and the way I have got here. What I did, the self-improvement by reading thinking writing or cycling might be much the same, but the internal conflict, and so the effort of it, would be less.

Being in touch with my full emotional range might increase my power. Menis Yousry said to me, “Speak from your heart and you will touch others’ hearts”.

It also seems that it might increase resilience. I am so fragile, I have such difficulty in KBO, because I have so much to suppress.

Then I read this Atlantic article about a man whose mother kicked him out of the house when he came out, and what has happened since. It made me weep, not because I am a prodigy of empathy feeling his pain, but because of my own.

I ministered at Pendle Hill. In childhood I learned the most important thing was to deny my femininity, because it must on no account be seen. Now I am learning to value myself, “every part hearty and clean” as Walt Whitman says, and that work is worthwhile. I feel a lot of shame, including at not working for money now, not being resilient enough, and now I assert that work is worth all my time, right now.

Of course I saved the chat. People loved what I said, and said so. And Ken Jacobsen shared his prayer:

oh men,
setting out again with your rifles
this hunting season,
what is it you are trying to kill,
is it some hurt, some fear you are trying to kill?

oh men,
what if the fear does not go away?
how will you heal your hearts now?

I love these paintings by Jean-Claude Bonnefond: the pictures are still yet full of tension, potential, life and change. What will happen next?

Mental states

How could one not be “present in the moment”? I have no time machine. Humans cannot simply “be”- we are always doing something, even if only breathing and taking in sense-perceptions. When we sleep our brains are making connections. It seems there is a “spiritual state” I would call “present in the moment”, which makes me think there are other states, somehow less than that. Moulded or traumatised, I live in such sub-optimal states; or, well-adjusted, I flit between states, choosing the one appropriate to my surroundings or task.

My ideal, now, is to “flow like water”, as the Tao Te Ching has it. In that state I am doing something without consciously controlling it.

I read that spirituality is not about “states”, but of course it is. An analogy: having learned the piano I can play scales in 24 keys, but there was a time I could only play a few, and had to learn the others.

Presence is not simply immediate experience without language. I know what a “table” is, can recognise or use it, because of the word. I cannot divorce experience from language, but there does seem to be a time when I am classifying and assessing verbally, and a time when I am relating. Relating seems better to me.

Colouring in these pictures was called “a quiet mindful moment in the spirit of self-care”, where I would call it a sensual activity undertaken simply for its own sake. Such activities are a way of not doing what one has to do. They may be recreational, in which case, choose the recreation which most delights you, or addictive, in that you use them to avoid pressing duties. Cleaning your house can be self-care, showing that you deserve it.

There is rumination. Like a cow, I return to old thoughts, and chew them over again. I tend to feel there is always some progression when I return to old thoughts, but then cows ruminate to digest grass. Things recede into the past.

There is paying attention. I look at an art work or listen to music and it occupies my conscious mind. There is worship, when I pay attention to the situation I am in. Sometimes, then, the ministry which is only for me comes to mind, a new realisation, which is unconscious processes making connections.

Or I just keep clicking through the same websites for dopamine, and the less dopamine I get the more desperately I click. I don’t know why I would rather read articles than books. I want to know.

Sometimes a physical need overwhelms me, and sometimes I am conscious of it, I pause to do something else, and the need gives me an extra kick to get my obedience. Different parts of the brain seek different activity, and strive for dominance.

I pause for a moment to check what I feel. One feeling recently seemed to deserve its very own German compound word- anticipation of delight, where the anticipation was so strong it was painful. Freudeangst.

There are things going on in my brain and body of which I am not conscious. I so want it always optimised. I never trust it is. I do so little because I rarely believe it will be safe.

Only love is real

Only love is real.

I can only see the world through the eyes of love.

I can only see myself through the eyes of love.

At my core is only Love.

I float in love, breathe love, radiate love.

Ram Dass summarised his wisdom in four words: “I am loving awareness”.

People like my words:

-I love that smile
-You Goddess!
-I love you. I love seeing you in your wonderful chair of wisdom ❤️💜💛
-in times of difficult decision making , I try to remember to ask myself “What would love do?”

Loving yourself

What would it mean to love yourself?

“Let your God love you,” she said. I don’t believe in God. I believe in a mystic observation, of love, light and guidance within, which human beings can access. It would be better, obviously, to have a theory including what this whateveritis actually is, to pin it down, to describe it in prose rather than that irritating poetry, but the bare observation of how people feel and what they do, and what they say about it, shows the whatsit, this “Light”, this “Spirit”

(note the anger, my loathing of my incomprehension, my frustration, my inability to use positive words unqualified, because “Light within” is a huge thing)

this Light within

No, I don’t believe in it. Such a thing could not be in me. Yet “Let your God love you,” shared in the zoom Quaker meeting as the Americans there enter their election day, hit me over the head. I may still be giddy from it.

Now, I know the poetry becomes prose, literal and merely descriptive. For example, “The disordered society is full of loyal patriots” (Tao Te Ching, 18) is merely true. What else are we to call the loyal patriots but what they call themselves? “Be broken to be whole. Twist to be straight” may eventually prove to be prose too.

I am grasping after prose. There is something I do not know.

This light within that people call God

Tomorrow I will cycle thirteen miles (I hope) and the difficulty of it will be admitting it is difficult, because it should not be difficult, it should not trouble me at all. There I was at war, between the part of me driving myself on and the part telling the driver it was too much, miserable, trying to suppress my feeling of misery below my own consciousness even though it makes me depressed and stops me doing anything. That’s the root of the depression.

Then there’s the “inner light Which Is god”

scare quotes again

which could be the primary feeling which I fear and seek to suppress, because I should not find any difficulty. That protean, mercurial, changeable, reactive thing within me, could it be the Light? And the problem with it is all those unpleasant feelings, the fact that when there is something I cannot allow myself to admit I find difficult it feels the difficulty.

And it seems so completely in the moment in the worst possible way, in that it seeks short term comfort. Be comfortable for a minute because I won’t be, within an hour.

For twenty years I’ve been on this

“Spiritual Journey”

and the point of it, I realised early, was not to feel angry and scared any more, and I realised that was what I wanted from it, and I realised that was full of shit even as I admitted it was what I wanted and I still wanted it. And I still want it. To stop feeling angry and afraid. To stop the world going on at its dizzying pace (here the world is, waiting for the result of the US elections, a lot of people feeling angry and afraid right now, loyal patriots terrified of each other)

I am on a spiritual journey

And then at worship someone shares a poem by Edwina Gateley finishing with the line “Let your God love you”. And I want that in prose. There’s the emotional being, within, feeling angry and hurt or frightened

when it is appropriate to feel angry, hurt, or frightened

and beneath it, perhaps, there is God, an inner light which I have never met, the bit I am supposed to have been seeking for nineteen years in various Quaker meetings, I may have been both wasting my time and disrupting every one else who has this Light, active and accessible.

God loves the emotional being. God, within me, loves the slave-driving part of me that cannot admit anything is difficult, because it is scared, and the resisting bit which is also scared and cannot bear the slave-drivinng bit. But both are complete shit, utterly worthless and bad, because they are scared. Who could love that but God?

“Hell is rejecting the love of God,” says prosaic Christian apology. That must be in CS Lewis somewhere.

How could I possibly? “Let your God love you.” Is there a God in me which loves all of me?

Just be, permit, and be loved, for c’est son metier. And then go out, not knowing who will be President (depending when you’re reading this) or cycling and being at war within, doing what you have to do.

There is a light within which loves me and loves the World and everyone in it. It is an emotional being looking at all of life and eternity. It is the Light of humanity.

Let your God love you.

Yeah.