Catching the intensity

Around 1.45 am, I cycle over the railway bridge. It’s one lane, at the top of a hill, so the car behind can’t pass me, but just over the bridge I am going down a little and it still isn’t passing me. Rather, it pulls up alongside, which is frightening. Then I notice it is a police car. The female passenger says nothing but the male driver says, “If you’re going to be cycling at this time you might consider investing in a crash helmet and a reflective jacket, because the drivers at this time are not always driving well”.

I looked at him and thought, I really do not want this to escalate, so said, “Thank you”. He has nothing to say to that, and drives on. I had LED lights, not technically legal but bright enough, the law has not been adapted from the time of Edison bulbs. Next day I thought, he was irked that I had slowed him up for ten seconds going over the bridge, and so he frightened a lone woman late at night. That just might have been enough to abash him if I’d said it.

When I was being weaned-

this will all come together in the end, I promise you-

my mother made something for me and I sang to her. She thought it delighted me, and was delighted by my reaction. Then she chopped some cooked chicken really small and forced it through a sieve, which must have been very hard work. “And you spat it at me,” she told me. I don’t know whether she told me that story more than once, but she told it to me when I was a child and it made an impression.

She was working very hard to look after me, and my sister who is two years older, and (in the way of babies) doing what one does unaffectedly and unashamedly and responding in the moment I spat it at her. I don’t know why, because I don’t remember the incident, only the story, but something had irked me or I didn’t like it or I wasn’t hungry. What I take from the story is that I flummoxed her when her hard work did not pay off. She was stressed.

However stressed you are, you have your Backlog to deal with. In the Quaker meeting I was thinking of my mother’s distress, and my distress at being burdened with that, and her fear and certainty that we must not be Seen which I took on from her. I felt that distress fully, and held it, bore it, perhaps healed it. Perhaps in part.

You are bold and brave and honest and open

On Friday I went to the Trump demonstration in London, and on Thursday I did not want to go out. I had to go to the Tesco Express a mile away, and also the GP. I have this online system to order repeat prescriptions and appointments, but it had broken down, so I had gone in to the surgery to sort it, that had not worked, and I had to go again. When I eventually went, the receptionist pressed me to accept the solution which had not worked the first time. Had I accepted it, I would have gone away- a win for her- so I had to insist. Right now it appears the something different I insisted on has not worked either. Anyway.

I did not want to go out.

The emotional part of me is completely in control. If the emotional bit does not want to go out I don’t go out, and that manifests as depression and lassitude if I am not properly conscious of it. I used to suppress it and bully it but can’t any more, and I’m not taking cajoling, wheedling, persuading or the false kind of sympathy which says I’ll sympathise if you’ll do exactly what I want you to do- not taking them from myself, from my rational bit. God that’s weird. And real.

It said I didn’t want to go out, and I listened, and I respected it. It’s kind of like marriage guidance. I can’t divorce myself, and I can’t fight myself any more, I have fought myself to a standstill.

I need to hear this traumatised part of me. I said that to the Samaritans, I said it to Tina, and now I am saying it to you and immediately I said it to Tina I went off on a tangent because I could not go deeper. I can hear the emotional part, even speak from it, but not for long. I have to be Rational. I am going off on a tangent now.

A friend phoned me on Saturday night. She is feeling betrayed, and she was so angry with me she had to phone me. Did I have anything to do with That web page? No, I hadn’t. Next day she ministered, a long affecting story, but what I took from it was that she was feeling alienated from Quakers, betrayed, because of our departure from the Truth, and the Truth is important to her. I find her wonderful, brilliant, charismatic, powerful and beautiful.

I want my Love, intellect and creativity to heal your hurt-
the difficulty of it perplexes me
The unknowing of the result frustrates me
I will continue, doing all I can do.
Forgive me my Hunger and intensity!

Trust me to see it emotionally. She tells the truth, to stop vulnerable children and adolescents from being hurt. She wants the truth heard.

If our friendship might die under this strain, I want to give her a gift. I believe the truth is other than as she sees it, and wondered if we had anything we might agree on, and she said we are so far apart we do not even have the same concepts and cannot discuss it. She will keep on fighting for Right as she sees it, I hope she has a small number of Quakers who will back her, and who knows where the Spirit will lead? I wanted her to be Heard, and I don’t know how to accomplish that. And, she may well do what she needs for herself.

I am bigger than our dispute.

In the Quaker meeting, I am dealing with stuff now, and with my backlog of pain- from fifty years ago!

Another wonderful person. She is about twenty years younger than I, so she has wisdom and understanding and a different upbringing and ways of seeing that I want to get in touch with. I need to learn the lessons of the young people.

Tina said, there’s part of you that is very young, and you know it. With K there’s something about me being older but also about being younger in some ways. And I thought, no, it’s about being the less free, conscious, authentic one, but possibly she’s right.

Tina said, you’re still striving to parent yourself, going back to very young childhood, a part of yourself feeling profoundly distressed and disconnected and wanting your parents to be unconditional so you give yourself that now, you are unconditional to your emotional side. “I wasn’t heard, so I will hear me.”

Tina said,

That childishness that has got you into trouble a lot
but it also gives you a tremendous amount in terms of awe and wonder and appreciating beauty
you don’t want to stifle it and you don’t want it to lose its- sense of awe and wonder
It’s quite magnificent

And I changed the subject again. I have to be more adult with the Quakers.

-That’s your frustration with them. They’re supposed to be unconditional.

No, they’re not. They’re human beings. Clare and John Whitehead from Delph, whom I knew when I first joined, parented me quite a lot, inviting me over for dinner regularly then taking me to hear string quartets. I found out at Yearly Meeting that they had died, when I read the Testimonies to the grace of God in their lives. But now, my Quaker meeting do not have the energy to parent me and really should not have to. Not if I can parent myself.

I’ve been parenting myself. I have been sitting in Quaker meeting allowing the full weight of my feeling, allowing myself to be conscious of it, and catching the intensity. I have incredible intensity. I am not comfortable with it, but I am getting to know it better.

My mother messed me up very badly. Her lesson was Never, ever, show the intensity, because she was frightened and hurt and the most important thing was not to be seen. Part of me took that on, and part of me didn’t and has been breaking out and rebelling and causing trouble ever since, and the two will integrate eventually.

I read an elder or overseer, not from my area meeting, complain that s/he had to do so much work with the difficult or needy Friends that s/he did not have the time to get to know the others. In my last meeting someone had to do too much work with this needy Friend, and I am feeling regretful of that, for it broke our friendship. As a needy or difficult Friend it is incumbent on me to do all I can for myself.

I hope I can make a contribution sometimes.

cracks in the concrete

All those silent Quaker meetings! What am I doing there? They can seem long and painful. I am groping in the dark. Thoughts run through my mind, of what I need in the supermarket.

Saturday was difficult. I thought my friend’s union was handling his redundancy procedure, but when we met for lunch I found they weren’t, and he was meeting with management on Tuesday. I worked with him to make a statement of his case, to try to get the union involved, and looked up the law on an argument I had never put in a claim, when I did tribunals eight years ago. It is more restrictive than I had hoped, but I found another thing I could say. It felt far too crude to me. I was saying “This is harassment” rather than arguing why. He gave a long involved account of an issue at work which I struggled to understand. Would it really save the employer time and effort, as he claimed? What would they say to such a claim? I felt my efforts and abilities were so meagre compared to the difficulty of the task.

There are personal relationship issues within the meeting which I cannot discuss here, and they weighed on my mind. It seems to me that in the succession of silent meetings we stew in our own woes and self-castigation, not hearing each other- though of course I may be projecting. I sit with people unable to hash things out. I see misunderstanding growing to hurt.

It seems to me I learn better to see things from another’s point of view. He’s wrong, but this is why he sees it this way. We explain he is wrong. Oops, is he abashed and hurt? What he says next shows he is not, but resentful and protesting he is right. Mmm. Maybe that is his way of dealing with it, maybe he will work it out later, or maybe he is incapable of empathy in this case. People are different. Empathy is difficult, unless you can make an analogy to your own experience.

No, I can’t resolve the issue- but I can possibly move it forward.

In Meeting, one ministers on gratitude, for family and worthwhile work among other things. I just feel my pain, shaking, twisting my body, clenching my teeth trying not to gasp. The pain’s intensity is surprising: my surprise and resistance make it manifest in movement. After, I stood and spoke, of the injustice I see in my friend’s “redundancy” dismissal, and my powerlessness: what I can do seems so little! Then I stand, uncertain- are there any more words?

and I feel a sense of love, blessing and acceptance from above.

I hope this was ministry for other people. It may have been just for me- and I need to know that pain! How else can I heal it?

After, I discuss the redundancy with an employer. “It’s very difficult to prove redundancy”, he says, and I observe that I always acted from the claimant’s point of view- it is very difficult to prove it is Unfair or discriminatory. They do need to save money, and why not on salaries- and why not on his? Then he makes useful suggestions- there are organisations which do pro bono work- as if I would not have thought of that. He explains why my friend’s face might not fit, and his manager find him threatening, which is interesting, but mainly it is useful when I am speaking. I lost that job because I got emotionally involved, I say, then start to squeak and gasp out the words. NOT because I felt with the claimant, who was having such a difficult time, but because

I should be able to accomplish more!

The rage against my powerlessness! I see it more clearly. I hold it in awareness, with less distraction. I am not suppressing it so much.

Doing benefit tribunals, the image came to me of facing a brick wall. Sometimes there was nothing I could do; but sometimes I would see a crack in it, and launch at the crack. Here is the same image in a song, which I found here:

This world is for the lovers and the fighters
The bold hearts and the dream-igniters
The bold hearts and the decolonizers
The bold hearts and dream igniters

You better believe there’s cracks in the cement,
Transphobia just came and went…

Speaking the Truth

I was in touch with my compassion.
I was in touch with my femininity.
I was in touch with my whole self.
I had never felt that way before.
It blew my mind.

That was February 1999, but this is now, speaking on the phone to Lucy:

I was in touch with my femininity, I said. I was in touch with my-

and the word in my head is “compassion” and I cannot say it. I was in touch with my-

it runs through my mind again. I pluck up the courage-

I was in touch with my compassion.

I am Abigail, and I am truthful. Andy Braunston observed in the 90s that I was very hard on myself, and I remain so. I could not say “compassion” because it is claiming a good quality and that is difficult.

And I had a vision of me as a small child asserting something to my implacable mother and being judged for it. My truth and value being rejected so that even now fifty years later I reject it myself, I cannot bring myself to utter it.

Yet I did utter it. It is getting easier. Especially, it is easier with her, I know she will affirm me.

I am Abigail. I am loving and truthful. I have the experience of gathering myself and saying something I know to be Truthful, with my integrity, with my whole being.

“I know you do,” she says. “I’ve seen you do it.”

Expressing myself female gave me permission to be myself with other people rather than attempt the male act. It freed me. I might now regret hormones and surgery, but I do not regret that.

 ♥♥♥

That conversation affected the whole week. I thought before, “The monster will get me”, and of granite statues judging me, and see more what that is. I was frightened of saying “my compassion”. I felt I would be judged for it. I had known that is not an adult assessment of what another individual is like, but a terrified child assessment of the whole world. When I make a claim like that, to compassion or some other good quality, I am a small child with my mother knowing she will deny it, even though I am 52 and she is dead.

I found myself able to talk of my compassion. I named it at Quaker Quest and in the Meeting for Worship the word “compassion” was woven through the ministry. I was in the same state of authenticity, speaking at Quest, and I named it- “I am there now”- though far less frightened, and less mind-blown. It is not familiar, exactly, but more known and trusted. I had thought a lot about what I would say and the stories I would tell, but in the end the words were given to me: “The truth will set you free”.

With H on Friday night, we discussed trans issues and were distanced, but the first glass of wine brought us together and I told her why I could not have spoken of my compassion, and now I could. I was crying again, I am so hurt by this. Awake early on Saturday morning, I phoned The Samaritans and told the man. I took a long time to pluck up the courage, once he had answered. The thought that it would sound ridiculous to him terrified me. After, I said “You heard how big a deal this is for me, didn’t you?” He assented.

This is a big deal for me.
I was in touch with my compassion. It is at the heart of me.
I will remember this, and claim my truth again.

Blind spots

Why would I not know who I was, what I felt or what I wanted? Because it was too threatening to know.

In my thirties I decided I needed to rebel against my parents, and started teenage. It is a stage of development people have to go through. I wanted to know who I was, and realised that there were blind spots, where I could not see myself properly. One problem with a blind spot is that you don’t know it’s there: you imagine you have a complete picture. I cared. Truth was important to me. I needed to know myself, because otherwise I was at war with myself.

You act according to your own character whether you understand it or not. I had been reading Carl Rogers, so knew of the organismic self and the self-concept: who you really are, and who you imagine you are. The imaginary self was who I thought I ought to be, quite different from the real self. I wrote,

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.

I was not there yet, but I was no longer so invested in the imaginary self, the self-concept. I knew it was untrue, and I wanted to unearth the real me. I worked out the lies I told myself, and the first was I lie to myself because I want to see myself as a good person. That might help me see behind the lie. But I carried on lying to myself, because I did not realise I was doing it.

I lie to myself because I am afraid. I fear my own anger and fear, so suppress them until they will be suppressed no more.

I lie to myself because I make no sense, and want to believe that I do.

I know what I want when I see what I do: this is “Shadow motivation”. The shadow, the part of yourself which is not wicked or bad but which you cannot admit to yourself and see as a monster, works to achieve its unconscious desires.

I have to talk about truth, for around six minutes. This is an attempt to work out what I might say.

Hedgehog

I saw the hedgehog, and was instantly delighted and affected with concern. Is it alright on our tarmac yard? I thought they were nocturnal- they are, primarily- is it confused? Should it be considering hibernating, and can I feed it? And, I want to get my camera.

Cheese is the best thing I have for it, according to this site. I could boil an egg, but that would take too long. I don’t want just to photograph it, as if it were mine to do with as I please. As I can give some recompense, that pleases me. I set to forced flash off, as I do not want to hurt its eyes, but there is a little weak sunshine.

This fellow-feeling, and wish to do it good, seems common. People like hedgehogs. You can even buy specialist hedgehog food. It went off to hide under the rain-cover of my neighbour’s motorbike.

Next day, it was still there. It was still squeaking, but not as loudly. I was worried for it. By the evening, it was lying on its side and I feared it was dead, but it twitched. On tarmac under a motorbike is clearly not a good place for a hedgehog.

O God, I hate being human sometimes. The thought of it dying there distressed me a great deal. What can I do for it? I boiled an egg and mashed it up, and put out some water. I phoned the local animal shelter. Yes, they take hedgehogs. I have just carried it there in an old washing up bowl. It curled up when I picked it up, but lay fairly unresponsively in the bowl, opening up and looking about a little but making no attempt to escape, which worried me. If it were alright, it would object to being carried. It is not tame, or bred to relate to humans, and would not know I meant it well. Having handed it over, I am concerned for it, but feel I have done something worthwhile.

I loved carrying it. I loved the beauty of its spines, and each time I caught sight of its snout my heart melted anew.

Recovery from burnout

Only achievers burn out.

I got that lying doctor sacked. Then I am on the balance of probabilities sure that the second one was lying, was certain of it at the time, and think any disinterested party would agree. The Benefits office and their medical services were not disinterested, wanting to assert that they did nothing wrong ever.

I went into the tribunal and accused the examining doctor of lying. The doctor on the tribunal laid into me. How dare I impugn the integrity of a professional man? So I went back to the waiting room, burst into tears, and soon after I stopped doing benefits tribunals. I took a demotion and went round people’s houses filling in attendance allowance claims.

I found that I would not give up until I am dangling on the end of a rope, and at the time I was proud of it. Rightly proud, that ability to push myself that hard is strong. Yet there is a flaw in it. It might be better to recognise that the work was tiring, and stop before I fell. I had done a reasonable amount of work. And having got the first doctor sacked, with set-back after set-back over months, I might have been better to realise that it was above my paygrade, not my job, and possibly too difficult.

I had to burn out before I gave up. I had to be reduced to tears and unable to go on before I would stop.

Then there was that dinghy sailing course on Cumbrae in my teens. There was a swell, we had to paddle the boat to the jetty, and I was paddling really hard. I feel the man paddling on the other side of the boat sensed I was frightened, and am still peeved, because I was not frightened of the boat capsizing but of not paddling as fast as he was. Possibly he was merely surprised at how hard I was paddling.

So how can I recover from this?

You are recovering, she says. You recover by exercising your intellect. You have ambitions. You don’t feel strong enough to fight or confront, you don’t feel resilient, but will become so. Have faith! You have this capacity for energy and enthusiasm, though not all the time. It shows in your face. Burnout only happens to achievers.

I did not know when to stop. Burnout was the only way I could protect myself. Just as when I went home from work to kill myself and then realised I did not want to die, just to get out of there immediately. If only I could take avoiding action before I got to that stage. I am worth preserving.

I was weeping on the phone with the Samaritans. I can be the Rational Man, suppressing feeling but Angry, and then if I accept the weeping and give myself to it I can be the Dancer.

-A petal or a razor blade, she says.
-There might be something in the middle.

-Why is fighting masculine? Is that indoctrination, that boys are strong, girls weak?

Something in the middle- a flower, not just a petal which falls to the ground.
-How about a whole garden?
A bush, I say, putting forth flowers, seeds and thorns.

I am away for the weekend soon, with HAI, then for a week with Quakers. All lovely, open people.

-I am glad part of you takes time to have fun.

There might be something in the middle. Either I am worthless or the centre of the universe. Either I work as hard as fighting for survival or I hide away and do nothing. I am fighting for survival, because there is the parental judgment, now internalised, if I do not work hard enough I am No Good, and that is a threat to my existence. And you can’t fight for survival all the time, especially if it is not real. I gave up because I could not work that hard all the time any more. These responses are unconscious, I just do it without consciously choosing, and I wonder how much good analysing them does.

Art, Life, Beauty, Wonder

Oliver Wendell Holmes: “I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”

At the Tate, I become bigger.

There’s Forward, by Erik Bulatov. It is imposing, and slightly ridiculous; it is made vulnerable by the Ρ lying on its side. In it, there is a group of young women, laughing and photographing each other; a pair of young women, talking and taking photographs, more quietly, and me. The pair were happy to take my photo. This temporary art work outside the gallery relaxes us, makes us open and receptive. In the same way the exhibitions move me and open me up. I see beauty, and a representative sample of an artist’s life’s work, and it changes the way I think. It knocks me out of my groove.

A counselling session. I am proud of my formulation: I am Love, Will, Curiosity, Playfulness, Need and Courage. This may replace my former view, “I am Worthless”- I recognised that former view was wrong twenty years ago, but could not shift it; finding an alternative view to replace it may be the way to break its hold on me.

What do I do? How have I spent these six years of unemployment?

I interact.

I talk to people, including strangers. I write, here and for print. I entertain, challenge and provoke: others see things differently because of me. Some of my NYT comments have hundreds of recommendations, and hundreds more readers.

I heal.

My self-analysis makes me better able to flourish in the world.

I serve.

Over the last six years this has been most clear with Quakers. In Quaker roles I have tried to achieve the good of my Friends, as I best saw it.

And the opportunities for interacting and serving have been so minimal! I remind myself to be positive, to value what is. I have sought opportunities as my self-worth has permitted.

I need to achieve!
I hunger for Action!

I could easily afford to go in to London twice a month to the Tate, then perhaps to see a friend or go 5-rhythms dancing, getting train tickets two or three days earlier and cycling to the station to limit costs. So why don’t I? I find what I want when I see what I do. I love it when I do. Possibly I have some worry about doing something simply for the delight of it, or possibly I don’t like the faff of the travel, four hours or more travelling which is not particularly pleasant. Recently I have not had good train conversations- on Tuesday I asked a woman if she liked to talk on trains, and she said she had only little English, then went to the seat she had pre-booked. Why have I not done it? I don’t know, but those could be reasons.

I have not explored my world, and yet I have- with a bit more thought, I could put that less paradoxically. I still see the world as a threat. Or, I have not learned all the positive lessons from my explorations. I am careful and frightened, and I seek to look after myself. I am generous with a ruthless streak- humans cannot bear very much reality, and we are rarely so confronted with reality that our ruthlessness becomes apparent, but I think I have ruthlessness when in a corner.

That could be Love tempered with Will and Need, she says.

It seems you feed Curiosity, probably Will and Need, but possibly not the others equally, she says. Possibly you could see which of the six you do not look after as much, and make space to serve them too. Have you considered writing for children, for your toddler self?

I am tantalised by art, life, beauty, wonder. I have some experience of them, but not enough for my taste.

Deep in our bones lies an intuition that we arrive here carrying a bundle of gifts to offer to the community. Over time, these gifts are meant to be seen, developed, and called into the village at times of need. To feel valued for the gifts with which we are born affirms our worth and dignity. In a sense, it is a form of spiritual employment – simply being who we are confirms our place in the village. That is one of the fundamental understandings about gifts: we can only offer them by being ourselves fully. Gifts are a consequence of authenticity; when we are being true to our natures, the gift can emerge.

– Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow

Who am I?

Who am I?

I am Love.

The question “Who am I?” is a toddler’s question, and I approach it as a toddler. I did not learn this lesson well enough as a toddler- how blessed, to be able to go back to it!

I am Love. I am a human being, one of a social species, unable to live alone, needing a tribe, needing to bond. I am Love, which may have the advantage of promoting bonding but which I experience as delight in others and will for their good. I am Love, for God is Love, Love is God’s essence.

I am Will.

This is the toddler’s hardest lesson, which needs the best-adjusted, most loving parents to accomplish without some trauma. I want things which I do not have, even some, perhaps, which I cannot have. The parent can use this to teach deferred gratification, co-operation, sustained effort, hope and trust if the parent knows these things, but any difficulty the parent has with these will pass to the child. The sins of the fathers are visited on the children.

I am Playfulness.

I am joy, laughter, and delight. I have an affinity for every beautiful thing. We can bond and learn to know and trust each other in play. We can imagine new paths and possibilities. We can relax, completely.

I am Curiosity.

I am interested in life, and anything new or different. What is it? How could it be used for my purposes? Who are people, and what makes them tick? I want to know my world, to bless me and all whom I love.

I am Need.

I cannot live by myself, without the help of others. I cannot accomplish my desires. I have skills and gifts I may offer, but I cannot be independent. This too is a difficult lesson for a toddler. The parents can use it to dominate, to crush the child’s will. Yet it is part of being human- I would not want to be a polar bear, self-sufficient in the arctic ice.

I am in Meeting when I produce this list. I don’t know how it came to me, but I sat down about 10.10am reading a pamphlet on Love, noticed who is here, and found this around 10.40. This is who I am. I am certain of it. I wanted to know myself, and this is the foundation of knowing. There was one more lesson before the end:

I am Not worthless.

And I was pain. I was the pain of the lesson I learned as a baby, of my Worthlessness, the pain of carrying that lesson all my life, at first so deep in my essence that it affected everything in my life though I was not conscious of it it was just the truth part of the air I breathed or the reality I walked in. And then when I became conscious of it and found, intellectually, that it was not true, it was still there like a spider with its claws in my back, so that I could not shift it.

Now I have laid that burden down. I am Love, Will, Playfulness, Curiosity, Need. I am Not worthless. At best I have laid the burden down, at worst I have broken its back so that it may have some effect on me in the future but less and less. I am Not worthless. I am beautiful and true.

At home, I come up with a further characteristic.

I am Courage.

I will face down threats and go where I need to go. It is only human, after all.

To engage with all that I am

Goodness is a bad thing. Goodness is weak.

Why would you want to be “good”? To curry favour, perhaps, to be safe by fitting the rules. For goodness is an external standard, goodness according to someone else. It does not fit reality, your situation or what is the ethical or truthful in that situation. Goodness is slavery.

When I was a solicitor, we acted for a debt collection agency with Scots and English clients. 90% of the debts were recovered without court action, and 90% of the court actions were undefended. I, a second year trainee then a newly qualified solicitor, dealt with the defended actions.

I have some sympathy with the clients. They felt they had fulfilled an order and were entitled to be paid, and I wrote to them saying I needed several senior staff in Inverness or Perth on a particular day to prove it, or I asked them about a defence they thought spurious. I put the defence to them, and some complained to the debt collection agency. The English office wrote to me and said I should not write to their clients direct, but to them, and they would write to their client. They rewrote my questions in their own words, sometimes misunderstanding the point of the question. Getting the letter dictated and typed took days. Then they did the same with the client’s response. I would wait weeks and get a response that was little more use than “They tell us the debtors owe them the money”.

There are risks in this. You might be able to settle the day before a hearing, but you might not. The creditor might not accept half the debt in full and final settlement. The debtor might sense weakness and not make an offer- one defender’s solicitor refused to negotiate, saying I had attempted to bully him. I am a careful soul, I like to dot all the ts and cross all the is, and found this stressful. The partner could have backed me up, but he was a chancer. Later he was sent to prison.

I joked to him Responsibility without power- the plight of the cuckold through the ages. But I did not analyse it clearly enough: we should have warned the agency, our client, of the risks of their policy. I don’t know whether we did. Instead, I tried to make it work, pursuing a claim without enough information. In the end I got sacked over some other error, but I am sure the stress of this contributed to that error. And now I notice the hindsight: I was not good enough to make that work. I should have done something else. Or Alistair should have. It is my bad qualities, such as lack of resilience, and even my agreeableness, not wanting to confront, was weakness in that situation.

At this point a sign comes up on the screen that there is an internet connection problem and Skype will try to restore the connection- but I can still see her movements, and we can hear each other, so that appears untrue. We carry on talking, hoping we will continue to be able to. Eventually the sign goes away.

Is agreeableness a bad thing? I should have more self-respect, more care for my own rights and well-being. Whether the problem is my neither making that system work, nor changing it, the problem is my failure and my inability to see, my bad qualities. Hindsight is a curse unless mixed with forgiveness.

I have told of that man before. He was a pitiable creature, but I felt disgust first. Before I saw him Andy told me he was a paedophile, and when I met him he put on the table a key ring with two or three keys and about five fobs, each with a picture of a child in it. I could not take my eyes off the keyring. I had to ask him to put it away, it revolted me so much. He said it was his grandchildren. What had he been in prison for? “USI”, he said, as if that were an abbreviation everyone would understand- underage sexual intercourse.

Later he phoned me and complained about various things, but I could not find what had gone on. Security guards had ejected him from the hospital, and he wanted to complain, but I could not find out what had happened. After twenty minutes, I asked him what he thought I could do for him, and he said,

“I want you to make it so I don’t have to fear any more.”

My heart went out to him. I wanted that too. Others would see him as a paedophile, and the important thing to prevent him from being a threat to vulnerable children. I saw him as a vulnerable human, lonely and frightened. For the avoidance of doubt, I would want to protect children from him- but not by destroying him.

Soft-heartedness is a bad thing? It is Love. Love is not a bad thing. Love is me, and I am Love. I would not be other than I am. But caring can make life difficult.

Soft-heartedness can be a bad thing, but when people lost their benefits they wanted someone to sympathise, and did not want to answer my questions until I showed I did. And they wanted to tell me the problem the way they saw it. I had strict time limits imposed by the Legal Services Commission, but my attempts at robotic time-limiting, insisting on my own questions, did not actually save time. Sympathy oiled the wheels.

I might slough off “goodness” for integrity. I was inadequate to the challenges.

-Being a person of great intellect and deep emotion is a bugger, she says.

As usual at this time in the session, my intellect seems to be bringing it all together, just one piece missing or one piece too many, and I change it slightly then desperately and my incipient Great Understanding all falls to pieces again. How could I either bring together that Intellect and Feeling, or separate them?

-I see you as a person of honour, integrity, intellect, deep feelings and distress, she says. What steps can you take, so that you can engage with all that you are?

Confidence, acceptance, belief? Trust?

Toddler II

I was delighted to find this gender analyser, which says my blog is written by a feminine person- this post was 84% female. It was 94% negative, but I was stating the problem. You need to see the problem before you can solve it. Though even after the election, writing about fun, I am only 50% positive. That text was aged 31% over 65, 21% 51-65. I am not insulted by this: wisdom comes with age. It was leavened with 12% aged 18-25.

Do I care? Do I look like I care? I thought I was re-doing teenage, but a lot of what I do is toddler lessons. I find what joy, anger, fear, complex mixes of emotions not immediately nameable are like. They bubble up within. If I do not hear and acknowledge them- yes, something is Feeling, somewhere else in the brain is Acknowledging or Accepting- they manifest in delighted wriggling or a clenching of the back muscles, or other movements; highly affecting memories which I may have processed but which are symbols for feeling Now; or deadening, when I suppress them and therefore suffer loss of energy, inability to perceive Now clearly, and nameless disquiet.

You need the wisdom of age to write about these things.

I fear the deadening the most. It is my old tactic, what I learned when I failed at Toddlerhood, setting me up to fail at life. It locks me into prescribed responses and steadily increasing pressure until nothing is bearable any more. Or, it worked for a time, it kept me alive, scrabbling to survive, suicidal and self-hating but sometimes effectual. The first time I could prove a doctor was crooked I got him sacked. The second time I might have proved it I ran away screaming.

Historically, we have taught children at all costs to avoid the visible, physical manifestations. They are even a mental health symptom: in strong emotion, rocking can help some people process it, but rocking, or screaming at the floor, is deprecated. When you tolerate it in yourself you are clearly mentally ill. Suppression achieves that, motionlessness rather than stillness, at worst robotic learned responses to all situations. How am I supposed to respond? We knew “Children should be seen and not heard” was wrongful, because repressive, when I was a child, yet my family practiced a less severe form of it.

I find myself trusting myself, but only in part. I had vegetarian lunches with Quakers and in the evening craved a bacon butty. So, I thought, though factory farming is monstrously cruel, especially of pigs, I cannot be vegetarian because I crave meat. Then I find that if I use a lot of olive oil I do not need meat. I want fat. I want less sugar. Is my desire for chocolate an addictive (bad) or nutritional (good, but unlikely) craving? Or could wanting a mild stimulant be good? I am exploring my world, but slowly and too carefully, having lost trust. That is another thing you can teach a toddler, and it is more difficult to learn for yourself, later: I am trustworthy. I have experiences which might tend to indicate that, but others which do the opposite. Or, I have to trust because not trusting makes things worse. Could I-

My toddler lesson is that feeling the emotion fully, using its strength to respond, is the best, most mature adult skill; but wriggling, cringing or rocking can be an aid towards that. It embarrasses me; it is a hard lesson.

S.O.S.