Two poems

Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet is strange. It consists of hundreds of sections, stuffed in an envelope, edited by others. We do not know what order they should be in, or whether any particular section should be included. They are beautiful. I summarised twenty sections in 26 lines, and included a reference to the death of Newton. Continue reading

Stating my needs

I was blessed today by a beautiful role-model. She stated her needs as she saw them, fully and completely. I wasn’t taking notes, so I am not completely sure how she expressed them. It was hard to hear. She said she needed “single-sex spaces” because of male violence against women. I don’t know if she used the term “trans women”, but I don’t think so. I am pretty sure she spoke about “male-bodied people” meaning trans women. I know she meant trans exclusion. She claimed that the Equality Act allowed “single-sex spaces” which is misleading: the Equality Act allows women’s spaces, which include trans women (anyone who has decided to transition male to female). Trans women can be excluded too, but that is a separate step requiring separate justification. Continue reading

Hope, beauty, and God Within

I need a source of hope, and wondered if I might find it in beauty.

I have slept in the same bed every night since January 2020. I have not gone on a bus since about March 2020. I see people almost every day on Zoom, and often can be heard on it, saying what I believe, showing who I am, and being affirmed for that. Perhaps this is why I value the blog so much, as I am heard there. I want to be seen. I want to be heard.

If I know I am valued, it has to be by myself. I noticed when I transitioned that I got a lot of love and acceptance from colleagues and the Quaker meeting, and yet when someone was rude in the street it affected me for days. I realised that the rejection of some random stranger meant more to me because it was echoed in myself. I had to create my own self-acceptance before that of others meant anything to me. This may be ABdP Johnson’s superpower: an invincible sense of his own worth, which survives all the condemnation of others, and all the damage he does.

My hope was that I could come wholly into the present moment through perception, with feelings through my fingertips as I touched whatever I could, in the beauty of the park, its trees and birds. I would simply be me in my perception, relating directly to the world. Relating to beauty and feeling delight I would gain a sense of self. This is who I am, the being that loves this.

On Friday 4th I met J, who told me some of the bad management and bullying of the office she is leaving. Even Paul, the most equable and self-effacing of men, had made a complaint. This brought to mind my troubles in various offices over ten years, which though they ended ten years ago feel as alive, as I type, as they did then. Further psychotherapy is a possibility.

On Monday 30th, in worship, it seemed to me that I had to let go of any desire for an outcome from the Yearly Meeting on gender. What was required of me was Love, including for “gender-critical” Quakers; and faith, trust in the process of worshipful discernment. This seemed like spiritual preparation, and letting go seemed like being better attuned to reality. Perhaps they were.

On Tuesday evening in worship I felt rage and terror, my old emotions. The thought came to me,

I have a right to exist.

I felt that “the iron enters into my soul”. That is from the 1662 prayer book rendering of Psalm 105:18, and is not the usual translation. I find it evocative, as a double meaning- iron cutting the soul, or infusing and strengthening it.

While the anti-trans campaigners have a rigid refusal of sympathy to trans women- women’s needs, reality and bodies should not be subordinated to “men’s feelings”, they say- my feelings matter.

If it is a matter of my feelings, it is the difference between expressing who I am freely and being forced into a mask, a pretence, an act, a falsehood, and the desolation I would feel at that falsehood.

I have blogged a lot. My fascination with blog statistics comes from my hunger to be seen and heard. And I grow sick of it, indeed of all social media. Of twenty posts in May, Google lists only seven of them: if you search for a direct quote from the others, Google will draw a blank. It is not a way to be seen. And, the anti-trans campaigning is fierce. If I check a trans facebook group, I am likely to see rigid, hateful articles by transphobes shared, to show how commonplace and orthodox anti-trans arguments are in Britain, and defiant, angry, or miserable comments after. It makes me ill. If that transphobe wins her case at the Employment Appeal Tribunal, I would have critiqued the judgment, but feel no appetite to. Though, if she wins, it will advance the Equality Act, protecting beliefs even if they are disgusting and irrational. The question of how acting on belief might be protected would remain open.

So I may not blog so much. Advices and Queries tells me that if I “cherish that of God within” me, “the healing power of God’s love” will “grow in [me] and guide” me. This is my working theory on what “that of God in me” might mean, and what might get in the way of me hearing it.

What stops me hearing it is my judgment of what it ought to say, based on introjects and learned morality. That of God in me is that which I locked away and silenced, which began to emerge in February 1999, my feminine self that feels rage and terror at assertions that I should present male. It is that in me which is burned out by work, so that I could no more go into my old office and attempt a PIP or UC appeal than I could call myself John again.

The closest thing to ego in me is denial that I am burned out at all, and a belief that I could go back to work if I had to, sustained by as rigid a denial as that which I needed to present male. It is that which drives me on to work harder than I can at exercise, and creates misery at my judgment on my own inadequacy.

I could not see God in me, for how can I see what I think of as wholly inadequate and call it God? I am delighted today to come across the concept of Theopaschism, belief in a God who suffers, indeed a God who suffers for me. I must dive to the depths of the suffering in order to fully experience the delight.

So, this month. Less blogging, probably. Time spent consciously seeking out delight in beauty. Acknowledging the misery, weakness, anguish, rage and terror. I am still seeking out health, power, strength, effectiveness, as always, but seeking them through what I have seen as weakness, for in my weakness is my strength.

Recovering from internalised transphobia

Perhaps only the unexamined life is worth living. You are brought up by loving parents, you grow up, find a job and a partner, have children, contribute to your community, help bring up your grandchildren and perhaps meet your great-grandchildren before you die. Each life has heartache, puzzlement, difficulty and loss, but that would be a life well lived. I envy it because I have no children.

I wanted to do a meaning of life post. I wanted to articulate the value of my life, because it has value. My start was with the life I do not have. Communities can be oppressive, and can change so completely during a lifetime that someone in a strong supportive community at marriage could be unmoored by old age- I have both an intense desire to be Normal and resentment that I am not, and a desire to attack that Normal as illusory even for those who most approximate it. Starting writing helps me understand who I am, and find what is behind my conscious thought.

A woman who had been bleeding for twelve years touched Jesus and her bleeding healed. Jesus turned, saw her, and said “Take heart, daughter: your faith has made you well”. Matthew does not mention it, but Luke and Mark say Jesus felt power go out of him. Someone explained this: a woman seen as unclean, so outcast, who had no business touching anyone, acts as if she is not outcast, and is healed of her outcast status.

No, that wasn’t how he explained it. That’s me explaining it in a way that omits what is the most important thing about it for me now: when he explained it, I felt a weight was lifted from me: I am that woman. I have outcast status. Come into my full humanity or power and I have it no longer.

In that moment I felt a weight lift from me. A day later I am trying to recapture the feeling. I want to make it permanent. Loving acceptance helps: then I was with people, now I am alone. I was on Zoom, but that counts.

This is a blog. I am allowed for my thoughts to be inchoate, to start typing, find my thoughts wandering, publish it anyway. To struggle towards what would be the first sentence of an article. To reassure myself that it is true, and I mean it, and bring myself to write it, and note the process:

The meaning of my life is recovering from internalised transphobia.

Or, possibly,

The meaning of my life is recovering from my ingrained sense of worthlessness, a lot of which is internalised transphobia.

If I can do this, see how I am doing this, and communicate it to others in such a way as they might see their own value, then my life has value. If I can do this, only a little, even so I do not fully step into my power, even though I tell nobody, no one sees, and no one else benefits,

my life has beauty and meaning and value simply because I exist. Everything that is, is holy, as William Blake says.

I am not sure I have that first sentence yet.

And, how does the story help anyone struggling with self-rejection? I don’t want to make a dogmatic statement about that, but a suggestion. There is a power of Love which loves and values you. Possibly if you are completely alone you can access that love within yourself and heal yourself. Possibly some other person will love you, and communicate that so it gets through to you. I am thinking of an observation a woman made, that changed my perception of myself for the better, and my friend was talking about that particular story and not particularly addressing me and I took what he said and applied it to me-

I am just getting more confused.
Take from this what you will.
Recovery from self-loathing is difficult.
Recovery from self-loathing is worthwhile.

Others have said things which I have seen the value in, but not seen the value in for me. Years ago a hypnotherapist told me to say “I am loved, loving and lovable”. I have only really accepted that intellectually. Periodically I get the phrase out and consider it.

I want to heal myself.
I want to heal everybody.

I saw two wise men, filmed, talking of wisdom, and I thought, I want to be the third there, talking equally with them. I wanted it more than anything.

Abigail Shrier

It’s always good to read stories of successful transition. S was a tomboy, prodigiously athletic and daring. He wanted to be a boy when he was about four. He cut his hair with scissors. His mother wondered if he was lesbian. He tried dating a boy, aged about 14, but did not feel it. He had an athletic scholarship to an Ivy League university, had a crew cut and wore a suit and tie. He came out to his parents, and they opposed him, so strongly that he stopped talking about transition. He had to work in an unpaid internship, for a year, and then had some trouble finding work. His father suggested he should try “appearing less unusual”. But he got a job in legal services.

J had two lesbian mothers. He was talented at ballet, and found a troupe which allowed him to train as a man. He has had chest masculinisation, and says this is the best day of his life.

Both J and S have had to cut off contact with their parents. The stories are told as horror, of vanishing into an “oubliette” on line, of delusion and mutilation, by transphobe author Abigail Shrier in “Irreversible Damage”.

Shrier does not believe in trans. She claims only 0.01% of the population has gender dysphoria. This is wrong by an order of magnitude: about 50,000 people in Britain are on waiting lists for gender clinics or have transitioned, 0.1%. In 2000, it was about 0.01%, because other people were too frightened or in denial. These are adults, making our own choices.

Interviewing parents who opposed transition to such an extent that their children have cut off all contact, she hears that trans internet eggs youth on into transition, coaching them in what to say, and manipulating them with conditional positive regard, denouncing them as “frauds” if they act according to assigned gender stereotypes. Well, yes, we do discuss coming out to parents, including what to do if we meet uncompromising denial, but a young trans person in the groups writes,

It’s generally understood that everyone is going on their own path. I can think of several people who were/are questioning and may really be seeking more self expression or more agency in their lives. They brought a lot to the groups.

Oddly enough, we are not predators, seeking to ensnare and deceive cis teens into mastectomy. What could we possibly gain?

As Shrier’s sympathies are entirely with the denialist parents, she makes them look much worse than an objective witness might. The last mention of one couple is them ranting about how they paid for their son’s private school and university, rent, health insurance and phone charges, as if that entitles them to have him return their calls. Perhaps they saw money as a substitute for loving curiosity about their son’s needs.

Shrier is an opinion columnist for the Wall Street Journal, and much of her book “Irreversible Damage” is a standard conservative moan about how teens aren’t like they were in her day. Instead they “slip down a customised internet oubliette, alone”. She was born in 1978, and pities those born after 1990 for having different experiences: they must be in danger. She wants to limit sex education: I hear her sharp intake of breath as she writes of children who know what demisexual or nonbinary is. “They may even have learned these at school, from a teacher.”

The same horror, which she expects in her readers, is in this line: “As a ‘trans boy,’ G had friends- lots of them.” The scare quotes are of course hers.

Abigail’s stories are full of conservative moralizing. S’s brother was in a car crash, prescribed opioids, and when he was taken off them suddenly, he turned to heroin.

There is praise from the standard anti-trans campaigners: Helen Joyce of The Economist, Ken Zucker, Ray Blanchard and Michael Bailey. There is also Ayaan Hirsi Ali, beloved of conservatives for criticising Islam, branching out.

Shrier says she anonymises accounts by changing names and minor details so that the trans people can’t accuse their parents of treachery.

Shrier pays tribute to “genuine” trans adults, who, she says, are honest and courageous. She accepts their description of a body that feels all wrong, just not when younger people not yet transitioned or only recently transitioned give it. For the conservative, eventually the truth is undeniable, but she fights it every step of the way.

She distinguishes true trans from “trans activism”. Apparently you can’t be true trans if you speak up for trans rights. That makes no sense at all, for anyone willing to think about what she is saying.

Anything to prove trans is wrong will do. At one point she crows that only 12% of AFAB trans want phalloplasty, but later says the operation leaves some people with incontinence and permanent pain.

The Times, of course, gave a breathlessly admiring review: Shrier’s book is explosive, punchy, analytical and written with zest, and “controversial” even though it repeats the Times’ strict orthodoxy. Oddly enough the reviewer corrects Shrier’s statistic to 0.1% of the population being trans, but otherwise repeats her distortions.

Real and conventional feelings

How does it feel, to be real?

I am scrolling facebook, feeling the things one feels scrolling facebook. At a joke I feel happy. At something moving, I feel moved. At something political, I feel the feeling appropriate for my tribe- anger or hope, derision or inspiration. Other tribes feel the same feelings at different stimuli. These are simple feelings I share with many people. It is easy to know the right feeling, and to feel good at feeling it. So facebook is a warm comfort-blanket, insulating me from reality. I could be plugged into the Matrix.

There is something I promised to do. Scrolling, I am only dimly aware of it. I will do that later, and that makes me feel mostly OK about not doing it though later never comes. The conventional feelings get in the way.

I close my computer. How do I feel about what I promised to do? I do not want to do it. I feel fear. I sit with that and discern underneath that is a feeling of hopelessness: I find myself creating arguments why doing it is counter-productive, and though I promised I would be forgiven for not doing it. And also self-loathing, at perceived uselessness, which is exacerbated by scrolling facebook. I am writing this today because I did what I promised, just in time. Yesterday I did not, because I got into arguing with a transphobe on facebook.

Doing it, I have fantastic things going through my mind and realise they are symbols or indicators of anger. The anger, now, is at something particular, and energy for the task I am completing. It is so good when that happens. I take care to complete the task: this requires love. Doing it at another time, I gave myself encouraging pep-talks. Do you still feel the fear? Yes. It’s not enough to stop you doing it, though. There is the feeling being and something else giving the pep-talks.

This is human. When I find myself bullying myself, that is probably a bad thing, but an inner dialogue, from two different points of view, can be advantageous: just as a group of people will make a better decision than individuals, so an individual may make a better decision having worked through different ways of thinking about a problem.

The only motivation is desire. If the desire is merely to survive, it wears us out. I need desire in my life that is more inspiring.

A Tory party leaflet, before the local elections. Vote Conservative because of the vaccine, it says! Ha! We have vaccine success because of public enterprise, with only a tiny input from business required by Tory ideology, because that particular public enterprise has not been Toried yet. Bribe-taking, body-piling, trans-hating, racist, lying Tories!

Looking for the art-work for this post, I had an experience I have not had since the last time I went to the National Gallery, over a year ago. With this Vermeer on my screen, I was overwhelmed with delight at the beauty of the pure colours, and their relationship to each other- that blue of the table-cloth, and the yellow of the sleeve, as an abstract composition before I spend time on the skin, and then the facial expression. It is ravishing. I get that experience with real art in galleries, and rarely with copies on screens. If you don’t get that with this picture, I hope you have it, somewhere in your life.

Fear and love

What would it mean if I looked upon myself with the eyes of Love? I say what I feel: horror, worthlessness, misery, fear, unknowing (which is painful)- and I hear that, and still hold myself in sympathy and respect?

-I’ve done some good things
-I know.
-I’ve faced some hard things
-I know. That’s all past. You are here, now.

I feel bewilderment. My intelligence should be capable of sorting this out, and I can’t.

The fear is usually unspoken, unacknowledged, unconscious. It’s always there, but I don’t feel it in the sense of fear that spikes my blood with adrenaline and makes me need to run, or able to run, or know what to run from.

-Yes. It’s fear of the whole situation, not one thing like a bear.
-I feel tired.
-That’s the response to chronic fear.

I am seeking. I feel questioning, determined. Love and respect for myself, accepting the fear and sense of worthlessness, helps me see that. I am not all bad.

I have inestimable value. Saying that does not seem arrogant, just a statement of the truth.

Reason is the slave of the passions. If I think my life is mere existence now, it can be otherwise if I want it to be otherwise, but I have to want that. I am unclear what I want, beyond hiding away and not being seen, in order to be safe.

I know that I experience delight. Being in the Now, so that I am perceiving what is around me rather than thinking about past or future gives me delight. Then seeing flowers and birds gives me delight. Seeing beauty, including in an art gallery, delights me. Sometimes reading delights me: new understanding, seeing things in a new way, an idea beautifully expressed.

Creation delights me. I wrote a poem. I love it, and sending it to an editor made me feel high. I enjoy writing for The Friend. I am less sure about blogging because that is linked to receiving attention online, which seems more addictive and less nourishing. You cannot be addicted to human contact, it is a human need. However when you don’t get enough human contact you can be addicted to the ersatz contact of facebook likes and WordPress views. But, heck, I still like writing.

I like talking to an audience. I like making something new. I like joking around, and laughter. I like listening to someone and helping them think things through, even advising. If I make them feel better, I love that.

Denial of reality is a huge part of my life. I suppose it is like bracketing feelings. I won’t face that now, I will consider other things. Possibly denial takes energy. In CS Lewis’s depiction of Hell, people built huge houses, as large and complex as they liked, just by imagining them, but they did not keep out the rain. Am I beating myself up again? No, I think just acknowledging. This is something I do.

Whom do I love beyond myself? Family? I have no sexual attraction at the moment. Covid has reduced my human contact.

People tell me I appear “serene”. I don’t feel serene. I feel numb, which means there are feelings under the surface too terrifying to acknowledge. I feel dissatisfied, but that is a common feeling among humans. It is why we change. Dissatisfaction without change is another image of Hell. Or, thinking of what I could do, ought todo, but don’t want to do, there is no fire or life in it.

My life is governed by fear, sometimes felt, sometimes just a dead weight. I live with emotional pain. This produces depression. Rejecting and denying them makes them stronger.

Fear, pain, depression:
treat them with love, acceptance, respect

Not as a problem, but as part of the human process.

Trump whines

Listen to Trump whining. Donald Trump is a whiny little child. He has a broken child’s way of dealing with unpleasant emotions: when he cannot act on his resentment immediately, he suppresses it, though anyone can see it. One tic he has indicating this is his phrase “That’s okay”. He anticipates people will see his repulsiveness, gets upset, and whines “That’s okay” in order to quiet himself. He will have his revenge later. From Bob Woodward’s book Rage:

For Trump, “Okay” draws a line under things. Would he apologise for attempting to bribe the president of Ukraine with US government money?

“Oh, I don’t know, but I think over a period—I would apologize. Here’s the thing: I’m never wrong. Okay. No, if I’m wrong—if I’m wrong—I believe in apologizing. This was a totally appropriate conversation. It was perfect. And again, if I did something wrong, I would apologize. Okay?”

Okay. Move on. So he moves on, himself:

“Now, I am a big fan of the hydroxychloroquine. It may not work, by the way, and it may work. If it does work, I will get no credit for it, and if it doesn’t work, they’ll blame the hell out of me. Okay? But that’s okay.”

Some studies appear to show that drug is useful in covid, some do not. But as it is a generic drug, Trump makes very little profit from it.

“They’ll blame me,” he whines. He is angry and upset, but quickly holds his resentment in. That’s okay. Move on.

Trump resents Woodward, and makes this plain even as he tries to hide it. “I’ll take my chances. It would be an honor to get a good book from you, but that probably won’t happen, but that’s okay, too. Thanks, Bob.”

He told her that I was doing a book on him. “It’ll probably be atrocious, but that’s okay.”

“All I ask for is fairness,” Trump said. “And, you know, I’m sure I won’t get it, but that’s okay. I’m used to that. But I do ask for fairness because nobody’s done what I’ve done. Nobody.”

There’s the grandiosity, which he resents anyone piercing. At some level, he thinks he has achieved nothing, or he would not lie so much.

“I have opposition like nobody has. And that’s okay. I’ve had that all my life. I’ve always had it. And this has been—my whole life has been like this. In the meantime, right now, I’m looking at the White House. Okay? I’m staring right at the walls of the White House.” It seemed to be his way of reminding me that he was the president.

“You don’t understand me. But that’s okay. You’ll understand me after the election. But you don’t understand me now. I don’t think you get it. And that’s okay.”

Trump’s rage could have free rein at his rallies, and he loved it.

Trump:
Just take a look, take third world countries. Their elections are more honest than what we’ve been going through in this country. It’s a disgrace. It’s a disgrace. Even when you look at last night, they’re all running around like chickens with their heads cut off with boxes. Nobody knows what the hell is going on. There’s never been anything like this. We will not let them silence your voices. We’re not going to let it happen. Not going to let it happen.

Crowd:
Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump!

Donald Trump:
Thank you….

After the election, anyone who was in touch with reality understood how dangerous Trump is.

Somatic feelings

You know that feeling when you’re about to be sacked, and your neck and upper back get tense. If you haven’t felt it, you’ve read about it. That’s the place where, if you were stabbed in the back, the knife would go in. I’ve felt it for decades. I felt it when the LSC was auditing, especially when they brought out their shiny new blacklist: if you lost your job because your employer lost funding, you couldn’t get a job elsewhere. I’ve felt it when the funding year ended, 31 March, and on 7 April they still hadn’t made a decision on the new funding year. And I feel it now. I’ve always hated that feeling.

And, when counsellors, shamans, personal growth workshop leaders and the like say, where is the feeling in your body? Do you feel a change in your heart, do you feel your heart contract or expand? That has always been meaningless to me. I feel feelings but I don’t feel feelings in a place in the body.

Then I thought, but I do. I feel that.

I still don’t like it. It is a pain, tension, an unpleasant feeling. I wish it would go away.

Perhaps it would go away if I listened to it. I paid it full attention, said to it Yes, I hear you, it would be satisfied and go away.

There have been two moments when it has got stronger recently. I will go to the Hoffman zoom, and thought of my Hoffman name, “Worthless”. It was what I learned I was, in early childhood. I only have value for what I can achieve, and must never claim any difficulty in achieving it. It is never enough. And when I thought, “Worthless”, the tension in my upper back exacerbated.

Ah. I am under threat. That is part of it.

So I still thought it would go away. It tells me of threat. I know of threat. “Well done, good and faithful servant”- now, go away, I have got the message.

Like a toddler, my feelings need attention, and shout louder if they feel they are not getting it.

The feeling is still there.

Wasting time reading old blogs, I read, Yin receives, notices what is, including what is inside me, what I feel. And the tension exacerbates again.

Saying “Go away” to it is saying “I don’t want to think about you right now”. Well, I am under threat. It is unspecific, miasmic. If something bad happens suddenly, I might think, ah, my feelings foretold that, but, well, something bad could happen.

I don’t think I can defend against external threats, just deal with them if they materialise.

If the feeling needs to get stronger when I am in avoidance activity rather than open to the world and to experience, it needs to be strong nearly all the time.

I don’t think it’s enough to think- part of me thinks- these are inadequate ways of expressing it, and I think and do not believe that this is a test, if I feel that tension properly I will feel other feelings “somewhere in my body” too, and be more open to my own experience. It’s not a test, it is a learning.

I still want the feeling to go away. I don’t think it can teach me something. Except when I thought, “Worthless”, it did. That is part of the threat. In worship, I practice affirmations. “I am enough. I am loving. I am gentle.”

Being a good person does not magically make you safe. Bad things happen to good people. The tension might be visible, like a “kick me” sign on my back. And, the feeling communicates to my consciousness something I need in my awareness.

My experience is greater than my consciousness.

“Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”

Others’ feelings, and my own

It is wonderful to feel the same feeling as a crowd. Actors on stage portray rage or yearning and the theatre resonates. I will always remember Private Lives at Pitlochry, with Elyot and Amanda in delight, lust, resentment, desperation, emotions flickering back and forth like flicking a switch, drawing me along with them, amplified by all the audience. Sports crowds have the same effect, moving you from devastation to excitement in a moment with the fortunes of your team.

Stories let us imagine ourselves in situations. What would I feel? What would I do? If I see on television that stage where it seems a couple can talk for hours, as if they fit together perfectly, their bodies mirror each other, their ideas flow as one, I have some of the joy I have felt in such moments. Or there is a moment of loss, and I feel anguish, or a discovery, and I feel righteous anger, so I find catharsis. Pent up feelings in me are released.

Dorothea’s journey with Casaubon, from love, to confusion, to hurt, to resentment, to having moved on, shows what other people are like, and also what I might be like, how I might be. At one moment I watch her, the next I am her.

There is often a socially acceptable way to feel. It is reinforced in the type of stories we tell ourselves, in political speeches, in ceremonies like that of Remembrance Sunday or applauding the NHS from locked down doorsteps. Growing up when homophobia and racism were part of that Normality, I was damaged, for I was taught to despise myself. What delights me is a minority taste. It is a relief to find my tribe, where I fit: pent-up, unacceptable so unacknowledged feelings may be released.

I have been mulling over this post for days. My starting point was outrage and attention: Trump would do or say something ridiculous, disgusting or vile, and there would be another clickbait article. It’s number one in the Guardian’s “Most Popular” list. I would read it and feel scorn or whatever, my feelings fitting the writer’s perception which was the acceptable liberal-left perception. I would learn little, because I know the kind of things Trump does. In the same way I don’t need to read every opinion article about Brexit. I would be better for news with a two-week briefing, the most important things happening in my world, and the rest of the time to pay my attention to more immediate matters.

Yet there would be the Trump article, most popular, and I would click it. With Trump unable to tweet, freshman Congresswomen try to take his place in the attention economy. The QAnon one has name recognition, and another, in a desperate attempt to be noticed, suggested she would bring her pistol into Congress. If they are reported in the NYT or Guardian I know the attitude taken, and it feels as if it is mine. So I click, and share the feeling.

Slowly I begin to feel the disgust of the awakening addict. Such powerful emotions as contempt, usually destructive but here wholly permissible against the designated target, who arouses adulation in others. I check the sites compulsively. Is there something new? I don’t know how many articles Paul Krugman has written saying high borrowing to spend for the good of the country is a good thing, and how wrong-headed or hypocritical Republicans are about this, but I have read most of them in the past five years. Why am I giving this my time and attention?

Possibly because I have a lot of time and attention. Getting angry with a provocateur in another continent takes me away from myself. I am alone in this box, but my computer connects me to the stories of my community and I share their rage at Robert Jenrick’s posturing about Imperial history, rather than doing anything for my own self-development- exercise, playing the piano. I could read a book, and inform myself, but instead I read samey clickbait.

Or I could spend time in contemplation. Then I would be with myself and my situation rather than in someone else’s contempt at something at the very periphery of what actually affects me. What do I feel, now?

In my personal growth circles, it’s a common idea that feelings can be in a particular part of the body. What your body feels is the gateway to where you actually are. Is it in your gut? Did you feel your heart contract, or expand? Normally this means nothing to me. Before I transitioned I loathed my body, and was cut off from it. Now I love it, and can feel sensations all over it, but that rarely links to emotions.

I heard Susan read her poem, and found myself wriggling in delight. Sometimes I get shivers down my spine. Sometimes something makes me tingle- most recently, rereading The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. And the tension between my shoulder-blades, which I felt when terribly stressed at work, I feel all the time still.

Pause. Consider. What do I feel, now? The hope is to be more alive, to respond more authentically and so more effectively in real-life, current situations, when I find myself carried away.