Rabbit

The cuddly toy rabbit is a tool for my use. A child gains comfort from cuddling such things, and even for an adult it can be reassuring: a friend gave a cuddly toy to all her trans friends going into hospital for GRS. Here, in counselling, it is a way of communicating non-verbally, with Sally and with my conscious mind. If I threw it across the room that would be a definite communication which would do no harm. I look down at it, avoiding her eye. I can sit it forward on my knee, between us, as a Protector. I shrink into a small space and cuddle it.

Before I cycled to Swanston I knelt in my ritual space. I am going to a safe space. I can speak from myself there. With Sally I declared my intention, to speak from myself. That is where all the motivation, energy and desire reside. That Real Self has rarely had a voice in my conscious mind. It was the part of me speaking when in 2001 I laid on the floor in a foetal position weeping “I am not a man”. It was the part of me that in 2015 could barely say anything more than “I Am”; when saying “I Am” felt wonderfully liberating.

With the rabbit to reassure me I speak from myself. I think of going into mindful presence- of being shocked into it, before it became habitual- and my thought was, I want to speak and act from this space. Well, now, I am. There is a high risk I will lose all my income, and what I am doing about that threat is to speak from my Real Self.

This self is surrounded by judgment, which can be extremely cruel- “fxxkwitted uselessness,” for example, about a simple mistake which would not have mattered much even if I had made it- and which, like depression, one might see as weather- it may be rainy or sunny and we still do our thing. Or, like thoughts during meditation might be seen as passing clouds, to notice, let go, not dwell on. Consciously, my rational strategy was to manage it- placate it as little as possible, wheedle, make sensible suggestions, with the intent of getting it doing sensible things, and that has not worked, so my final despairing throw of the dice is to try to speak from it. And, I (believe- have an inkling-

KNOW

that that is where the energy is.

I have taken notes of the session. I want to speak from the Real Self, and say more than “NO”- now I am rocking, and cuddling the rabbit tightly.

Is the Self childish? There is some evidence for this- consider the cuddly toy rabbit- yet I don’t think so. It shows some signs of being able to defer gratification and choose worthwhile things.

It was the logical next step to explore this part of me, all other things having failed.

The Judgment is keen to protect me, but in fact doesn’t.

I told that story, I have told it several times before. I wanted to make a man of myself, so I joined the Territorial Army. On little more than hearing my accent, the man suggested I go for officer training, so I put down Jane Austen and picked up Clausewitz.

-I don’t know who Clausewitz is.

He wrote “On War”. His famous quote is that war is the continuation of politics by other means, and he said military plans do not survive the first contact with the enemy. Anyway, they thought me “Insufficiently military”, which at the time really pissed me off and now I think a wonderful compliment

(I am using the exact same words as always to tell the story)

so told me I should do a year as a private soldier- a “Driver” is the word, in the Royal Corps of Transport. So I put down Clausewitz and picked up The Good Soldier Švejk. I explain to her who Švejk was.

-I don’t know what “insufficiently military” could mean.
-Probably that I wouldn’t shoot someone if told to do so. I could explain it from a conservative standpoint- I have read Jonathan Haidt- and indeed George Orwell who had fought for the Republic despised pacifists.

I am empathetic. I know the arguments against anything I could say. In part this is the Judgment crushing me, and in part it is Empathy, a gift not a curse.

This is my Real Self. I am Empathetic. I am Soft. I am Caring. These are good qualities. I am Sensitive, and this does not merely mean “easily hurt”.

When it is time to go, the Judgment pipes up. It does not trust the Real Self to be in control as I cycle home. I must gather round me my layers of protection

The man’s protection rots her soul

to leave this room. The trouble is, the Judgment, which wants to protect me, cannot, and is no more safe cycling than the Real Self. I go to the supermarket, then cycle home. A heavy rainstorm soaks me, water spraying up from the road, but it is alright.

Here is a definition of Wellbeing: “Social connectedness — who you depend on and who depends on you, and having a feeling of belonging; safety — when we can express core parts of our identity without harm or shame; mastery — the sense that we have influence over our future and have the skills to navigate life; meaningful access to relevant resources — the ability to meet our core needs in ways that aren’t dangerous or shaming; and stability — having things we can count on to be the same day to day, and knowing that a small bump won’t set off a crisis.” My goal with this counselling is Safety.

More counselling

Bloodi’yell, this counselling lark is weird. I go into this tiny room with a woman with purple hair, she asks how anxious and depressed I have been in various ways on a scale of one to three, and then I tell her stuff and start crying. I hate the crying. I would much rather pass as a normal person. Meet a woman, no introduction, no idea who she is, tell my woes and start crying.

I want to get my inner rationalist talking to my Real Self. The Real Self is the part with the energy, but all it can say is “No”, at the moment. Actually I want to get it heard. I am intelligent and articulate, and much of the time that part of me has no conscious voice. I want my inner parts talking to each other, and on facebook someone suggested Internal Family Systems– but Sally confirms that we don’t have time for that; but when I say these two need marriage guidance counselling she seems to think that is a worthwhile use of the time.

I thought, I have to be aware of myself if I am going to counselling tomorrow and so knelt on my meditation stool, about 10.30pm last night. Nothing. Just bleak and dead. Vague sense of anger and misery beneath. So I played Metamorphosis. Slept not that badly, cycled in a bit of wind, the day cold and clear.

She apologised for the smallness of the interview room. It’s got room for two chairs and a tiny table, and if I stretch out my legs I’d block the door. Conversationally, I say I’d alter that door to open outwards, if I were you. Someone violent or threatening could easily block it. I realise this could be taken as a threat. I am thinking of violence.

Do I want her to find a bigger room? No. Not worth the trouble. I push myself back into the corner, huddling as small as possible.

I am upset. That email saying our friendship had run its course. She’s right, of course, and the finality is still upsetting, and the tragic circumstances leading to it.

I am not dealing with the threat to all of my income. I used to do benefits tribunals, I say, and I noticed people would pour out their woes to me and feel better afterwards, and I’d be able to get an idea of what they could say to indicate they were entitled and how I could get evidence to back that up. And I would not take their distress into myself, I felt I earthed it. I would listen and sympathise and care, and then when they went I would let go of it, be glad I was helping them, and move on to something else. But some seemed to tell me their woes and just get more and more angry and distressed, as if they were a bottomless pit. They would feel no better having dumped their misery on me, and it was harder to let go. I worry I am like that, here, now. I don’t know how I could deal with that.

I am highly intelligent, creative and articulate. I say my verse.

On the Marble Cliffs
my walls are six feet thick
and twenty yards high.
Day and night
the pitch steams over the fire
and the guards make sharp steel darts
One for everyone in the World.

I do not say the rest of it. “It’s a powerful image,” she says. I start bawling again. I am so lonely! I say. Ordinary rules of shame and humiliation do not apply here.

-How long have you been counselling?
-Since 2002, so seventeen years, she says.
-Do you get paid for this?
-Yes, she says.
-Are you doing any training at the moment?
-No, I’ve done several courses over the years but am resting from that for now.

-Same time next week?
-Yes, another swim in the icy lake of my misery.

I go to the supermarket which has no skimmed milk out, then cycle to Marsby where I get milk in Tesco. I am standing in front of the refrigerated cabinets, and as I have grown hot with the exercise take off my jacket, fold it up and stuff it in the panniers. I become aware of a woman with a pushchair who wants to get into the refrigerated cabinet, and I am blocking her way. I think, I would move if she asked me. Eventually she kneels down, opens the next door and reaches along for what she wanted.

Then I am ahead of her in the queue to pay. I can’t get the milk in the panniers without taking out the jacket, putting the milk in and stuffing the jacket in after. I do this before paying. I held her up again. I notice that this is mean and nasty. Horrible. I could have accommodated her so easily, it would have cost me nothing. I did not look her in the eye, just took my time with the jacket.

That was the moment it clicked into place. This part of myself is what I think of as my negative side. I don’t go here much. I don’t think I like it. I don’t know how it would be in a confrontation. I fear it a bit. I have felt a strong need to choose the positive.

And yet, there is so much energy there! I feel the energy, I need this energy. This is another part of myself that I need, conscious, and pulling in the same direction.

I stopped talking, once, saying I have run out of things I want to explain to you, ask me a question. I can’t remember if she did. I talked of coercive control and she indicated understanding. Having a human being listen to my stream of consciousness might be therapeutic enough, even if she contributes nothing more but her presence.

The Beautiful Self

I go for the first session with a new counsellor. Of all the fascinating things in the world, what is better to contemplate than my navel? Yet I was anticipating humiliation, and as I walked from the bus was in defensive anger. In the summer a service had spent a long time scrabbling for an excuse not to see me, over three separate assessments quizzing me in detail about suicidal ideation, and still getting it wrong. In the waiting room, where I was half an hour early I found a 4′ high teddy bear, and this poem:

Um. Greater need than mine, perhaps, and completely negative. The poet’s mother is disabled by her own hurt. Still the offer of a cup of tea was welcome, and I accepted. Hospitality brings us closer. There was also a thank you card, pinned up in the waiting room, so I noted it- “You have taught me that not everyday is easy to get through but no matter what happens something good will always come out of it” which sounds like a desperate attempt to be positive in terrible circumstances. The gratitude is hopeful, but other services use this office so it could be for them.

I was back where I started. Summer 2011, I went to Midsummer camp and burned in the bonfire to rid myself of it the word “negativity”. A week or two later I awoke at war in the HAI workshop, with two separate trains of thought running through my head- “She [Uli] is awesome and that’s wonderful and this is so exciting and that’s beautiful” and at the same time “This is rubbish and that’s ridiculous and I can’t be bothered with it”. I had to choose, and with F’s help, I did. And more recently I wrote I am in Heaven and Hell: the breadth of my experience is such that both are appropriate metaphors, for different parts. I find the world glorious and unbearable.

That card again:

You have taught me to
not only stand up for myself but
to love myself and be confident in the person I am…
You’re the reason I can finally say I’m happy to be me

Wow. Possibly her first ever relationship where she was respected and valued for who she is. People do value me for who I am, but as I find it difficult to value myself I rarely see that.

I thought of calling this post Counselling CCL. Over twenty years I have had counselling weekly for long periods, probably averaging at least thirteen times a year. And I move forward. I see things. I am going round not in a circle but in a very tight spiral. My GP said “You are very intelligent” and I realised that I heard that as a judgment- why aren’t you doing anything with it? So now I can say, “I am very intelligent”. It is not a boast, and not a confession, but an assessment. This is one of the resources I have.

This public service which I am not paying for is time limited, to seven sessions, so I go in with a sense of urgency and get to my playful self. That is a way of seeing it; I must write how I see that Self, which will be poetry. I could call her “Positive” or all sorts of things. That is where my energy is.

OK. Positive, playful, creative. Crushed and denied for so long, and resilient, and always here. In a sulk, perhaps; not taking the advice of the inner rationalist- “Don wannoo”. Where the depth of my feeling, love, brilliance is. With some understanding of deferred gratification and the need to make provision for the future, I notice I am not taking the action I judge I should. I have strong forces within me, and I need to get them pulling in the same direction.

A counsellor said “You are a mass of scars” and I feel that is still a fair summation.

I hurt.

I have two speeds, “Captain the engines cannae take it” and dead stop, but where I am motivated I have huge drive.

This woman just seemed nice. I liked her. And, I am better trusting, I will get further if I trust, I can rely on the confidentiality and the basic decency of a person who would make a go of this kind of work over fourteen years.

I became present.

My self esteem is on the floor- or below it.

-What do you want?

These things seem inextricably linked for me. I want to work on- ah, that’s what to call her:

my low self esteem
getting my inner parts talking, and pulling together
bringing out my Beautiful Self.

And I may yet surrender enough to cuddle that teddy bear. I know it would feel good, if I could burst the barrier of judgment and shame.

Lobster

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

I hear that lobsters’ shells do not grow. Rather the lobster hides under a rock, sheds its old small shell, and grows another. It never thinks to itself, “Oh, I need a new shell, and that looks an excellent rock”. Its need, sensation, desire, feeling and action are all one. Possibly it knows its territory and has tucked away in some dedicated dendrites the location of a suitable stone, possibly it has time to find one. Possibly its need for a new shell conflicts with other needs, but it makes no decision. You can’t imagine a lobster under a rock, and its mates come past and say, “Fancy a pint?” And the lobster says, “I’m changing my shell”. And its mates say, “Pull the other one! You said that last month, but that shell has lots of mileage left. You’re embarrassed by what the bar staff did. They’ve forgiven you!” And the lobster says, “I’m changing my shell”.

There are no silent seas, even if mermaids don’t sing. The currents rush past, the whales cry, and the sonar is deafening, and the engines of the great ships loaded with oil or containers are deafening. The silent sea is a dream of a more comfortable place, which does not exist. So we find comfort in this one. I may see myself through others’ eyes. “I am taken aback by how insightful you are,” said one. I went to look it up, I had remembered it as “wise”. It is worth remembering, even if one has more insight on others’ problems than ones own, like the “Ten ways to keep your relationship vibrant” article by the thrice-divorced man.

And I value my care and attention. I was insightful because I cared about them, admired them, wished them well, gave them my attention. I value my joy. It is communicable. I see the beauty of the tidal river’s strong flow upstream, and of Orion overhead as I cycle at night, and the joy is in me, and I can use it to make the world better. There is so much to feed my joy. Eye-contact with the cashier as I took my groceries away and I had a boost cycling up that steep hill from the postman’s cheery encouraging: “You’re nearly there, Miss Flourish!”

Sometimes desire, feeling and action are all one, and all the feelings are right. Sometimes words mediate judgment, and I find the right way that way. Words help me balance future with now, but ants do that without words, says Aesop.

Valued only a little by another, I can value myself. Sometimes I do not realise how others value me, and sometimes

treasure, appreciate and admire

Oh! I would make excuses- even going about as blindly as I have you see stuff in twenty extra years- and yet-

If there might be a “we”, that “we” would appreciate beauty together, for it moves your heart as it does mine, and you see it and have the words for it. Dance. Enjoy words. If there were a we, we would warm each other. “Know that you are loved,” one would say, and the other would

glow.

There is a We. It is a blessing and a source of joy.

Hello.

Your silence will not protect you

When I did not see myself, I felt alone; but now I see myself, I see myself everywhere.

When they bully you, they cut out a part of you. They so mock and deride it that you think it shameful, and try to hide it. You deny it is you. But everyone sees through your pitiful attempts, and knows how to reduce you to a quivering wreck: they point out that part of you that shames you. We are told by healers to be “vulnerable”, but we are no less vulnerable hiding the part that shames us. Hiding it, we have the work of hiding it, and we carry it for all to see.

I face my terror. I will not hide my shameful part any more. It is frightening not to, but trying to hide myself does not work. When I stop trying, my failure ceases to matter. When I fight myself it is a burden, but when I accept myself I find strength in what I denied, hated, sought to expunge.

When I am seen and accepted, I am enabled to see myself, in my power and beauty. We are told by healers to be “vulnerable”, but they mean, come into our power.

I read Audre Lorde, and feel accepted. When she writes of herself, I see parts of me within her, and am enabled to see their beauty. As a child, she wrote poems which expressed what she felt. Poetry was her language, to communicate to others. She had difficulty comprehending how other people thought- it seemed to be in a logical progression, but for her non-verbal communication was more important. Her feelings were chaos and confusion, anchored in poetry.

The words were deceit, misleading her because they misled the speaker. Still the human communicated, beside or alongside the words. “I used to practise trying to think,” she says. She could not learn without a teacher she liked, to feel the truth of what was taught rather than pick up facts.

The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us-the poet-whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free.

Without her mother, she felt alone and worthless because only her mother could see her and accept her. I do not generalise from what she says to people of colour here, now, as she was in America, growing up in the ‘forties, writing in the ‘eighties, but it echoes what I feel, now: “White people [others] feel, Black people [her critics and mine] do.” White people have the luxury of feeling, in her world, but Black people had to just get on with the drudgery of mere survival.

I feel stung by the allegation that I do not Do. I ought first to Do, to earn, to produce, to support myself, before I can take time out to feel, but my feelings cry out to be heard and give me no quarter, they will not be silent until I hear them and honour them.

I feel more stung. Black women could not hear or see or love or accept or nurture or honour one another because they saw themselves in the other, she says. I am suspicious of trans women: Audre writes of the struggle, the need for Black women to confront and wade through the racist constructs underlying our deprivation of each other. When I see a trans woman, I see all the things I ought not to be, and I turn away in shame. I see her through a haze of transphobia; I see myself mirrored in her, and all that has been stolen from me, called shameful, all that I attempt futilely to hide, I see in her and therefore in me, and feel that imposed shame.

I am myself. I can be no other.

We are ourselves. We are beautiful, and when we see our beauty, when the mists of transphobia and bullying disperse, we come into our power.

Audre’s mother loved her, and showed her that, accepting her, nurturing her to be herself, then teaching her how to be herself in white america which never wanted her to even be alive. My mother loved me, but seeing herself as worthless could not accept me; she sought to force me into a mould so I might survive (even if only as an automaton) not knowing the mould would kill me. And yet I survived.

I feel seen. I read Audre, and she explains myself to me, and she validates and values and thereby nourishes and enriches me. I feel and therefore I can be free.

It ceases to be vulnerability when I accept those parts of myself that I sought to hide, and becomes dignity.

Now, I see myself everywhere. I see myself in the deep rich authentic feeling of my beautiful friend, in stories and portraits and cultural artifacts valuing cherishing and honouring people just like me, even in God who made me in God’s image, in all people who are part of me as I am part of them.

I am not alone.
I feel seen.

Drive

I realised that the most important thing for me is suppressing my emotional reaction, at least my conscious feeling, rather than dealing with the issues making me frightened, frustrated and angry. Irresistably I am drawn to thinking of the low-status chimpanzee, who cannot show he is angry as it would attract the alpha-male’s attention. The feeling will continue until the situation causing it changes, and that could take weeks- when it could be much worse.

Counselling session. I am frightened of telling Tina this, the most sympathetic listener I can imagine, and I don’t want to say it. I want to make a joke and avoid saying it. Rather than acting, I reach for facebook and my blog stats pages, hoping to get a kick, though the returns are variable. I can feel unconsciously, but instinctively I see conscious feeling as the most important problem. Rationally I know there are things I must do, and I put them off. Holding feelings out of consciousness takes energy leaving me feeling lassitude.

There is the addictive rush of responses on facebook and the blog stats page, but the returns are variable. I reach for the computer in the morning hoping to get a hit big enough to get me out of bed, and often it is not there. At best it is borrowing a boost that has to be paid back later. But, suppressing genuine feeling, I can spend hours with half an eye on the TV and half on the computer, not writing or doing anything, and feeling rotten about my worthless inactivity.

On a facebook group, a man said he was leaving, because I had driven him out, and that I was “manipulative”- a high compliment, I have wanted to be able to manipulate people all my life. He calculated he would get enough “Oh Alex, please don’t go” comments to shame me into leaving and continue posting his drivel, or “inspiration of the Spirit” as he put it. Had I not gone on facebook that morning I would not have seen his post, as it was deleted. He had raised a serious matter in a solipsistic and frivolous way, and I had called him on it. Storm in teacup. This is not good for me, and it is most of the social interaction I get.

The woman had not needed a wheelchair a year ago. It’s a lot to process as people crave independence. She can roll up to the Quaker meeting and be welcomed, but she wanted to get out of her chair into one of the ordinary seats so that she would not be obviously the woman in the wheelchair, the disabled person, just for a short time. Three times, Quakers meaning well took away the seat she was wanting to get into, thinking that she wanted to wheel her chair into that space. I saw the effort she put in to getting out of her chair. She WOULD NOT GIVE UP.

Ah. That story comes to mind, as an illustration of determination and frustration. It illustrates what I am feeling, unconsciously. It helps me understand how I am now.

The medical term for neuro-diverse folks passing as neurotypical is “masking”. Women, particularly, mask symptoms, at the cost of crippling anxiety. One came to the notice of the doctors because of her anxiety, her high intelligence predicting neurotypical behaviour when she could not read it “normally”.

Quakers are my main face-to-face social outlet. I have written a report for Quakers on my last weekend away. Still procrastinating, I did it probably the last moment I could, on Monday evening. Had I been politic, I would make it a serious report about the serious business of the weekend, and instead I made it entertaining, with jokes, and my own concerns: as H would say, I was “pissing about”. What I wrote has my passion, emotion, my Drive to achieve, my desire to do what is good (as I see it) for the World rather than for me.

There is a huge depth of motivation in me. When I want to do something and persuade myself that it’s possible, out comes my drive. My drive is powerful, and it is frustrating that I can fritter an afternoon with half an eye on the television and half on my blog stats page or facebook.

-This drive, strength, creativity, can it not hold and help the part of you that is distressed? Are they too separate?

I think it does, and I am bringing my separate parts together.
slowly, too slowly-
I think I am pulling myself together, reconciling myself within, writing and suppressing less, conscious of more-
I see how important it is to me not

not to feel a feeling and yet

I am more- feeling the feeling.
Seeing how hard the barriers are and taking the barriers down.

Heaven, Hell and Reality

I wrote that I am in Heaven and Hell. The beauty of the world overwhelms me. The threats I face terrify me.

CS Lewis wrote in The Great Divorce, The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why…the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven, and the Lost, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.’

Lewis related Heaven and Hell to the afterlife, but also to acts and experiences in life. I treat them as metaphor. Hell is the pain I cannot bear, Heaven the delight that seems incredible or impossible. Not my acts, but the world that surrounds me, other people doing their thing which I might not influence. For Lewis, my own acts, in Love or meanness create my place.

What is the name of the golden mean between selfishness and self-abnegation?

What would it mean to take responsibility for my brokenness? Not denying it. My complete loss of confidence just stops me acting. I should do this, I say to myself, it is a simple thing, and I find myself not doing it.

I do not see others for what I can get out of them. Instead, I see them generally as implacable, unsatisfiable. So I do not act, not out of fear of failure but fear of destruction.

I might find simple things to start on, I will take just this one step, but find myself not doing it. Or, having done it, I think, well, that was nothing, no-one would have had any problem with that. I have difficulty assessing how difficult any particular act will be for me, because I have imbibed others’ judgments of what should be easy or difficult and my own different judgments have been suppressed.

Marlowe’s Mephistopheles said, Why this is hell, nor am I out of it. But then he goes on,
Think’st thou that I who saw the face of God,
And tasted the eternal joys of Heaven,
Am not tormented with ten thousand hells,
In being depriv’d of everlasting bliss?

After Heaven, everything else is Hell. Of course he is a deceiver and predator, seeking to destroy Faust, possibly incapable of truth even to himself. One wonders what his experience of Heavenly bliss was, if he left it, or thought there could be something more.

What is Heaven, for me, here, now? Standing in front of art and relating to it, especially with my dear friend as our feelings and words together reach critical mass and explode. And feeling my pain, knowing my pain, for it is me and I will not deny any part of myself.

Audre Lorde, in her conversation with Adrienne Rich: One thread in my life is the battle to preserve my perceptions- pleasant or unpleasant, painful or whatever…
AR: And however much they were denied.
AL: And however painful some of them were. When I think of the way I courted punishment [throughout my life], just swam into it: ‘if this is the only way you’re going to deal with me, you’re going to have to deal with me this way.’

Heaven is acknowledging the feeling self I denied. Heaven is being a whole human. Not just delight, but also pain fully felt and owned. Or Heaven is freedom and Hell oppression.

Having habitually denied my feeling self, and got on with it, whatever the it of the time was, I don’t know how to be my doing self and feeling self both at once. It’s like having to carry two large bags of groceries without handles. I can embrace one and carry it, but if I try to embrace both things fall out the top and the bags slip through my arms.

And, I am in Reality. Heaven and hell are not future states, or even metaphors for possibilities now, but an expression of the range of my experience, of delight and terror. This world now is bigger than both, containing things more Heavenly and more Hellish than I can imagine.

So I will release my feeling self. I will permit myself to feel, and to experience the feeling, whatever the feeling is. I practise this in the Quaker meeting and in the Silence in my own ritual space at home. I am carrying her, or needing to learn to walk again, in a new way- but it is getting easier.

Spiritual exercises

To love others, you must love yourself.

I have a lack of confidence, and a deep desire to heal it. I deserve more confidence than I have. Over the last month I have produced a detailed concept of part of myself I now call the Pain-bearer, that part of me that holds the feelings which are too strong for me to bear consciously, and which then stew inside me. Feelings can be fuel, the energy to deal with my problems, or a burden making those problems more intractable.

Perceiving or imagining the Pain-bearer, the ideas came from my unconscious. First I saw a part of me curled in a ball, cowering, broken, head down, hugging herself. I imagined myself sympathising, getting her to uncurl, or perhaps uniting with her. The feeling part of myself is in control. The rational part can offer suggestions but not give orders.

Later I saw her as the Pain-bearer. She is not curled up, but standing, bearing all the burden of my unacknowledged pain without being broken by it.

This morning, I cleaned my living room and especially the rug where I kneel in meditation, my Ritual space, in preparation. I was not clear what would happen, but I was clear that it was important.

Two nights ago my dear friend suggested I join a Zoom webinar spiritual exercise for the Hunters’ Moon. After a visualisation Tina H. asked us to write down the feelings we were bearing, and needed to release. We would then recite the mantra,

I see you, I hear you, I feel you, I thank you
But now it is time to let you go.

Um. I wrote down, Anger Frustration Resentment Fear Rage Terror HURT
Loss of confidence

but did not feel these were the real issue. I was just writing what I had perceived my feelings to be in the past. Even more, I felt that I could not yet let my feelings go; that I had escaped feelings by pushing them onto the Pain-bearer, so if I were to “let go” or even release feelings I would be loading her further. First, I had to integrate the Pain-bearer into myself, to be one, and then when I let feelings go they would be taken from her burden and we/I would be rid of them. I tried to explain this to Tina, but then left the webinar to avoid disrupting it for others. The moon was beautiful, in a clear sky.

This morning, I knelt. I had not thought of writing out my feelings as Tina H. suggested, but did. They came to me in the form of stories. The advice for meditation is to see your wandering thoughts as passing clouds, and let them pass rather than fixating them, but I found my thoughts relevant. They were stories from which the feeling became apparent. For example, as the pre-bought train fares are much more expensive for the next two months, because of Christmas shopping, I imagined myself working out how to come home from London on buses. This revealed confusion and feeling out of control. Some of these feelings were my mother’s too. I wrote:

Terror of not being accepted: Withdraw.
Rejected- Worthless.
Confusion- desperate scrabbling for Plans.
Sadness- now alone from own doing.

I realised that forcing pain onto the Painbearer is clinging on to it. One may bracket feelings, storing them away to be dealt with later, but I do it all the time, and never release. It makes me think of Richard Handley [the link is appalling].

I know what I must do. I wrote,

Cleanse her
Feed her
Warm her
Love her
She is Me.
I am Alive.

Love


Possibly, later, I might consciously release, but right now I am feeling content. I spent a quiet day reading, after tidying my books to make my room look better. And- I made a pigeon!

My Quaker belief

In his last book, Stephen Hawking addresses the question, “Is there a God?” I would say no- or rather, that’s not a useful question.

My belief and my understanding come from my history: what I have read or been told, what people important to me have believed, what experiences I have had- and that I call some of them “spiritual experiences” is a product of my understanding. After some particularly wonderful spiritual experiences I reformulate what I believe, for myself as well as for you.

I was baptised a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and taken to worship weekly throughout childhood. I left home and continued worshipping weekly. When at University I went to St Andrews Cathedral, Aberdeen, and served at the altar, and was also in the Christian Union so exposed to Evangelicalism. I read the whole Bible with commentaries, repeatedly, over a period of about ten years. I said the creed weekly without any sense of being untruthful, though I doubted the virgin birth.

In 2001 I told my Anglican vicar I could no longer bear to worship God disguised as a man, and he was so negative about that I decided to leave his church. I had been introduced to Quakers by two friends, so knew I would be welcomed as a woman in a Quaker meeting; and had found value in the silence of Quaker worship. I continued worshipping just about weekly, with Quakers rather than with Anglicans.

I was aware that there were “non-theist” Quakers, and I rather disapproved. With my then partner, who took the point very seriously, I would have asked “Why should anyone who does not believe in God join a Religious society?” Then a Friend said, “It’s not why we join: it’s why we remain” and I understood, with my heart. From verbally challenging her membership (not directly about her but saying things which implicitly included her) I went to passionately desiring her to remain.

In 2009, I realised that I did not believe in God. It was a long, painful process. It was a change to my identity as Christian, a challenge to my relationship, possibly a breach with my Meeting, (though it included non-theists) which was the place I experienced acceptance as a trans woman rather than toleration. In February 2010 I accepted that I do not believe in God, finally. A day or so later I was touristing along the south coast, and went into a church: and was brought to my knees by a sense of holiness.

Being good at producing clever phrases, I said “I am rationally atheist and emotionally theist. I have a strong personal relationship with the God I do not believe in”. More than thirteen billion years ago there was a big bang, and the universe will not end but in trillions of years particles at absolute zero will drift apart, too far apart to influence each other, in cold blackness forever. We have evolved, over billions of years, over about 55m years as primates. So now my beliefs about God relate to my beliefs about myself as a human. I am an organism that, just as it takes in food, takes in sense-perceptions and ideas and moulds them into an understanding of the world; and I am a social being, incapable of survival without my social group, moulded by them. So I thought, God is Reality: when I worship, I relate to something greater than myself, which is human society, the biosphere, the entire world. And, being a social animal, I conceive of that as a matter of relationship. I am a tricksy soul. I love paradox.

After some rather wonderful spiritual experiences this month, I adjust what I think, returning to Little Gidding:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Shall be to return to where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Because I am a primate, I have a primate understanding of all-that-is, all that I could know or perceive. It is pre-lingual. I access it in the spiritual state called “mindfulness” or “awareness” where my words fall away and I know immediately rather than mediated through words.

And, so that I can communicate with other people, but also so that I can get the kind of grasp of an idea that makes me feel more comfortable, I put these things into words. I am a writer. Words are important to me.

My verbal and non-verbal (which, by a series of accidents, I call “spiritual”) understandings dance around one another, leading each other on. Eliot’s “Where we started” is the non-verbal understanding, always influencing our conscious belief. And, merely because by accident I have read Carl Rogers- “On Becoming a Person” and other books, and books about him and his ideas- I call that verbal understanding of myself my “self-concept” and underlying it my “organismic self” responds to its surroundings like an organism does.

That dancing may be as in “The darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing”.

Occasionally I am inspired to write poetry, by YHWH, Erato, or my unconscious mind, and around 2005 I wrote,

It hurt so much and it’s stopped.
Who I am is who I ought to be.

I kept rejecting who I am. It is my way. And last week that changed from poetry to prose for me. I would say it as a thing I believe, around thirteen years after it was given to me.

With that immediate, direct perception, not mediated by words, an understanding which feels ghostly when I am with my words and True when I am present as a perceiving animal everything seems more real and more alive. When I see clearly without trying to impose words and explanation, everything is more real. It is imbued with- magic? Or, perhaps, God. It’s not “There is a God” but “There is God”. God may be the One that is greater than all things or merely a metaphor.

I shall not cease from exploration, and my words will change; and I shall know fully as I am fully known.

Pride, shame, honour, desire

Everyone must understand trans pride- queer pride- for themselves.

Shame relates to who you are, guilt to what you do. I feel guilt about particular actions, shame about what they reveal about me. And queer people are systematically shamed, made to believe who we are is shameful. You look inside yourself and find effeminacy when you should be masculine, when you can only be valued if you are properly masculine, and you feel shame. And I thought, my shame is overwhelming, like an over-exposed photograph, all white. If I am ashamed of everything, I cannot see what to change. I am simply shameful, entirely.

Shame is a tool. It has been used against me, and I can still use it to my own advantage, by claiming it as mine, by seeing what is another’s choice of what I should be ashamed of, and substituting pride.

I am who I am. Who I am is a good thing to be.

I keep going round in circles. I wrote, more than ten years ago,

It hurt so much, and it’s stopped.
Who I am is who I ought to be.
I can be me.
I can be free.

But that was in a poem, and I find things through poetry before I find them through prose.

Shame then becomes a tool, for my use and not for others to impose upon me. If I value myself and have a sense of my own worth, my own dignity, shame becomes a feeling I feel occasionally, for something indicating a departure from what I value, some course correction needed. So, where I was shamed for not being sufficiently masculine, now I feel shame where I attempt to put on a masculine persona, rather than being myself unmasked.

I tried to make a man of myself, in the past. I am not ashamed of that. It was the best I could do at the time.

Pride is called a deadly sin. We know it has value, an appropriate self-regard protecting us from shameful acts, and the word “Pride”, claiming what is a sin, shocks those who ought to be shocked, rubs in their faces that they cannot shame us with false shame any more. But generally I prefer honour. Pride is a sin in that it holds me above others, devalues them. So, honour, as a noun and a verb: I have honour, and I honour others. I will accord myself, and others, their proper value, according to my own honour. “I-it” relationships devalue me as well as the other.

Honour and shame become tools for achieving what I desire, actualising my humanity. I came to this conscious realisation through meditation, but it has been sitting inside me for a long time. I knelt in my ritual space, and it came to me. Shame and desire are my tools not my oppressors’: I must want things for myself, not just to fit to the rules of others. I need to find better treats than checking blog stats on my laptop. What I have wanted is just to withdraw. Unrequited desire continues to hurt. So far, this is all about seeing myself, being myself: being this in relationship with other humans is much more complex.

I may be the most screwed-up person you will meet, outside a prison or mental hospital. I am the human curled in a ball, traumatised, and the human reaching out a sympathetic hand- and I am also the whip, the human seeking to drive myself onwards for things I did not desire and were not proper to me as I truly am. The internalised parent, perhaps. I am the hurt, the carer, the drive; the traumatised being, the angel, the whip; these three parts dance around each other, coalesce and divide, at some times are two, others three. All are in me. I will value and integrate them. I will bring myself to birth.