Compromise

I burned out because I could not compromise. I kept on fighting the things I could not change. This is neither to be admired or condemned, but noticed.

I came out of the tribunal, burst into tears, and shortly after stopped doing tribunal cases. Tuesday 19th evening, I was weeping over the same incident with the same level of distress. I wrote in 2013 that my actions showed integrity, creativity and bravery, and I still assert that, but the problem was taking failure so badly.

Given the difficulty I had with earlier cases, it was something that had very little chance of success, possibly none. I could not persuade the people I needed to persuade. They were too invested in the integrity of the system to accept the evidence I could produce from someone in my position.

I am lying in bed the next day, typing, and considering the level of that distress. I still feel it. (Another failure comes to mind, which still distresses me.) I am not crying, now, but gazing with wonder at the depth of my misery. It is the pain of not being all-powerful. I should have been able to overcome all these difficulties. It is linked to the fear of death.

Divorced from reality? Contemptible? My inner critic is quite capable of berating me, scourging me, both for failing to get Dr Pyle sacked and for stupidly imagining that I could.

The other failure I am thinking of now is from about 2008/9, a killer argument in an employment tribunal case which I did not spot until I had settled it for the contemptuous sum of ÂŁ200 from the employer. I should have spotted it earlier. It was obvious, I berate myself. I imagine spotting it the day before the assigned hearing and begging the tribunal to accept the documentary evidence late. Obvious in retrospect. Now I am berating myself for not seeing it before, still being upset now, and the intricacy of my fantasy of what I should have done.

This is to be noticed. The distress is there. “Have mercy on yourself,” said Menis. Ideally, perhaps, I would have dealt with it by now but I did not because-

that deserves further thought, perhaps, but now I think-

I was-

I was unable to admit to myself that I could not accomplish these things, see the obvious argument in time, put the evidence over convincingly. It was all linked to the fear of death. That I still feel the distress now, more than ten years later, shows it still is in some way. And yet I am still alive.

All that I could ever fear
has come to pass, and I’m still here.

Now I am thinking of that job interview in Bedford. I got all the questions on DLA and IB right, in the written test. Towards the end, the interviewer exclaimed, that’s the first time you’ve smiled. People tell me I have a beautiful smile, and I hate it. After, everything I said I smiled. I did not get the job, burst into tears, and could not bear to apply for benefits jobs again.

Now, sometimes, I am frightened to go to Aldi. Have mercy on yourself. I imagine trying something, fearfully, as if I reached tentatively out with broken fingers to see if I could grasp something, dreading the pain. “You’re covered in scars,” she said, more than twenty years ago.

Love, mercy and understanding heal me- my own love, healing me from my own introjected judgment.

My friend wondered if I judged her for smoking, then decided she was projecting on me. My eyes followed her cigarette, and she noticed across Zoom. There is endless judgment. The packets are full of judgment- “Smoking Kills!” “Smoking makes your kidneys fail!” “Smoking prevents you enjoying sex!” There is judgment, everywhere, of everything, perhaps the pitiless selfish gene demanding its continued existence and using our suffering to drive us on. When we disagreed about covid, I saw how my trust in my ability to select and absorb information about it, and to change my view as the information changed, is bound up in my sense of self, which again is a matter of terror of death, exacerbated in the case of Covid which really does kill people.

I have hazy ideas of what I might do. I could notice and praise every thing I did: any small act towards cleaning the house, perhaps. That is the idea of Behavioural Activation. Notice and delight in your doing stuff, and so build up your ability to do stuff. I am Loving Awareness. There is Love, and acceptance for the terrified, scarred, hurting being that I am.

Yesterday (Tuesday) I was berating myself for having so little to show for all my gifts and talents, and that does no good, for all the gifts are in the hurt self. Only love can work now.

24 May: I noticed  I had difficulty motivating myself to do something, because my way of doing it had to be precisely right. There were clearly wrong ways, but a variety of OK ways- one with one problem, one with the opposite problem, but satisfactory. The difficulty of choosing between ways, which on analysis I found satisfactory, stopped me starting the action.

Becoming the whole self

Trying to make a man of myself was a betrayal. How can I heal that trauma now?

Quakers will be considering trans rights in August, and I am optimistic and pessimistic at once. Possibly we will have a revelation, as we did with equal marriage in 2009. And Quakers can be conflict-avoidant and arrogant, imagining we know best and we can reconcile conflicts. So some well-meaning Quakers might try to find a reasonable middle line between trans people and the anti-trans campaigners. And some Quakers are anti-trans campaigners, imagining themselves good and righteous and wanting all trans women out of women’s spaces, and all treatment for trans children to cease.

I must convince them trans is real.
I fear nothing I can say will be enough.

I thought, if I can show trans people cannot be other, are not making a lifestyle choice but expressing our essence, then they might accept trans rights are at least of equal importance to others’ rights. If we could be other, I would be. I fought to make a man of myself. I paid privately for aversion therapy. I asked a priest to lay hands on me to heal me.

And I am weeping helplessly, wordlessly, convulsed in my pain and grief, screaming and moaning. I fought like that to make a man of myself because the fear of death was in me.

There is a me that just wants to survive
That, with hands round my throat holding me underwater
will do anything.
There is one goal.
What I preserve of myself there is mere life.
Everything else is stripped away.

For the avoidance of doubt, this is a metaphor. Being drowned is the only metaphor that captures the fear for me. It is the small child, dependent on parents, distraught when love is taken away. And, to forgive the betrayal of ceasing to express me, becoming the male-acting automaton, I need to fully acknowledge the threat I experienced. I was forced, and it was not my fault.

That was when I was broken, as a horse is broken.
After, I would do anything to avoid being underwater.
I worked it out, so I did not need telt.
I forgave my mother’s, and the world’s, betrayals:
there is nothing to forgive.
The betrayal I cannot forgive is my own.

I want to be Perfect-me,
that being that does everything I ought to do,
want to do,
would like to do
have to do to survive
effortlessly.
Without perfect me
all I have left is failure and betrayal.

There is no perfect-me. My betrayal of myself was under pressure I could not have borne.

I take a postmodern view of Wisdom-sayings. If it has some meaning or value for me, I accept that, and I don’t care if that is its “true” or “original” meaning. If it’s a proper wisdom-saying, I doubt it could have one true meaning. If it has no meaning for me, I can let it go. Sometimes, when I loathe a wisdom saying, it can be particularly fruitful. I can’t get my head round Jamie’s idea of the “walking permission slips”, being ourselves and allowing others to become themselves too.

I know I am myself
interpreting a statute
comforting a friend in tears
cycling uphill and downhill
confident and assured, or doubting and fearful.
Always there is the sense of threat.

And there’s something there, of being fully aware of the feelings, of being in the doubt and fear without regressing to the traumatised child, who felt fear and shut down. Fear must not be a switch, to turn me off, or to beat me. It must be integrated into my adult self. So there’s another bit to my verse which is true but difficult. I don’t want to say it and it is just cheap consolation.

Oh the beauty and wonder of it
It is too much for me to bear
and it is all glorious.

The glory comes if I can feel the feelings fully, and still function. The glory is in being fully myself, feeling all my feelings. It is not easy.

Then, to a Zoom group. How is S? I saw his email. He is detained in a mental hospital, and desperate to get out. I am pretty sure he needs the anti-psychotics, and he hates them because they mute his spiritual experiences. Right at this moment I sympathise. Feeling the full range of feelings seems insane: people will be shocked and disgusted. I feel disinhibited, tempted to behave inappropriately. I want to stop twitching.

A Black woman went to Kenya when she was twenty, in a gap year, and saw a picture of Jesus Mary and Joseph. She could see it was them, the haloes proved it- and they were Black. It was the first time she had seen such a thing, just in a souvenir shop, hunting at the last moment for tatty souvenirs. It touched her deeply, and she expresses that. And I am feeling all the sense of liberation I imagine could be in that moment. I am remaking myself, closer to the image and likeness of God.

All glorious? I want to insist on that. Everything that is. All of humanity. And one says the larger the church, the more evil can hide in it. Yeah, s’pose. Possibly the glory is me, the full feeling self. And I am not alone.

This is not for everyone. My colleague was born again, and felt liberated from a life of drunken sexual promiscuity. The rules felt protective. She wanted something formal, secure and comforting. And I want something more: the Glory of God, the full glory of my whole self. To be the whole human, and give permission for others to be whole too: answering that of God in every one.

Sunday 16th: before worship, I read various stuff on conversion therapy, including a transphobic lie. I am wound up. Then in worship Dugan quotes QFP 2.12. Suddenly

I am the light. I am the Fullness.

I am the light, noticing, accepting, loving. Rather than descending into that part of me which is wound up, and stewing in it during meeting, or attempting to suppress it, I am the Light, aware of it, noticing, accepting, loving it. Noticing, accepting, loving, all of me- body, thoughts and feelings- and being in the Love. It makes me think of George Fox’s instruction to dwell in the power of life and wisdom. Ministry moves on to the conflict in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. It is hard to hear this in love. Now, there is my reaction and the other person as well, to hold in awareness and to love. Finally there’s the sound of a music keyboard through someone’s zoom account. That’s against the rules. What is he thinking? Still there can be the other person, my reaction, and me in the Light, noticing, accepting, loving all. That would be a dwelling-place of tremendous power. It is something to practice. It is a religious experience this morning, an hour of fabulous wonder, and I want to take it out into all of my life, so it becomes my normal state. I ministered, explaining some of this.

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.

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.

Authenticity III

Is “living authentically” possible? What would it mean?

Quakers have the example of John Woolman. He refused to make money from slavery, made enough money to support himself, his wife and daughter living simply, and devoted the rest of his energies to his spiritual concerns, especially abolitionist campaigning. He changed from being a merchant to a tailor to have more free time for Quaker witness.

Some people say things they do not believe, and I am one of them. I am thinking particularly of shit-eating in the vain hope of maintaining a relationship at my brief stint of volunteering. In a job, or a relationship, I might say what I do not believe out of fear, believing myself constrained. It might be better to take steps to leave such a job or relationship, but the person might feel unable to. Then authenticity in the sense of being free to follow your principles, and choosing to do so, would be in part a matter of luck or privilege rather than morality. Trans females sometimes, like me, and the child XY, have a period of desperately trying to fit masculine stereotypes.

It might not be possible to be inauthentic. The whole human being, conscious and unconscious, all the cells of the body intimately interconnected and interdependent, does what it does. If it did something else it would be someone else. So the liar and bully Donald Trump’s actions show who he is. He is “authentic” as Woolman was, and the concept adds nothing.

To be unchangeably the same in different situations- at work, with children, relaxing- might be a sign of inflexibility rather than any virtue of “authenticity”. To approach every situation with patience, attention, curiosity, respect- loving and alive to possibility- well, I aspire to that. “Pray without ceasing” as Paul said. One might simply be too tired.

I have great gifts of intelligence and heart, and I feel they could do more in the world. That they do not is a source of shame and misery to me.

Do I do all that I might? If I imagine myself achieving things I do not now achieve, what prevents me? These are the possibilities:

  • a physical illness, though blood tests show none
  • depression I cannot just snap out of
  • Blindness to things others might see
  • I do all I can.

Sue, a wise person whom I trust, wrote, “Thanks as ever for your shining presence Abigail and for your profoundest of wisdoms, you so often touch me deeply and I am inspired by you.” I quote that because it delights me.

Here is a wonderful and wide-ranging interview with the psychotherapist Emmy van Deurzen. There’s lots of good stuff in it, but one thing grabbing my attention was her talking of people trapped in the darkness, the morass of life, paralysed with terror. In therapy, “that can take a very long time,” she said. Yeah, s’pose.

In a Quaker group on Thursday we discussed authenticity. I got upset and, weeping, described times when I have worked hard to achieve against a great deal of push-back, and then the push-back got too much and I gave up. Someone left. The organiser said “sometimes what [I] bring feels beyond the emotional scope of [her] ability to keep the space safe and welcoming for everyone”. Well, I get that. When someone expressed emotional pain that I could apparently make better by a bit of sympathetic listening, I felt good. When that emotional pain appeared to get worse, I blamed them.

On Friday, Sue led an hour of voice exercises involving projecting at high or low pitch, and then told us to remember times as children when we were wholly and unself-consciously ourselves. Losing yourself in play. Your best holiday ever. If school was good, what were your favourite parts? If it wasn’t, what was the best release from it? Times excited about something.

Then, pick out the characteristics in you that go with these memories.

I find myself in two places. I can name good characteristics which are in me: I wrote, “Adventurous. Loving. Strong willed, great-hearted. Warm. Playful. Passionate.” Sue loved “great-hearted”: “it is so deliciously you in how it resonates who you are”. And, I am in a painful memory.

My voice therapist suggested I do these voice exercises throughout the day, a few seconds at a time, just as Sue just has. So on the stairs in the office, I was my free female self, and then went back to my desk and had to be the professional man again. It was unbearable, and so I stopped the exercises.

So there is this deeply painful memory, and I wonder what is going on.
Am I triggered?
Am I indulging my negativity?
Have I choices in this?
Should I “honour the progress I have made”?

I go with the last, and say, evenly, that this bad memory has been brought up for me. Being born middle-aged, I have few memories when I was not self-conscious. And, I believe in those positive qualities I named. I say I am feeling triggered, and I have ways of taking care of myself.

Part of that was thinking of my second great born-again moment. I saw the psychiatrist about transitioning, in June 2001. I had various intellectual arguments why I was Really Transsexual, and he dismissed all of them. My safe space, intellectual argument, was stripped away from me, and it was one of the most intensely painful experiences I have ever had. I was awake weeping in the night, unable to go to work in the morning, and I went round to a friend to weep and be comforted. What I had left was how I felt and what I wanted, and my childhood training was to deny and distrust that.

Warm. Playful. Passionate. All bad qualities which I must never give any hint of possessing. My damage is an inextricable part of me, and people will disentangle nature and nurture just as soon as we work out how to unbake a cake and remove the eggs from it. But I am healing.

I am writing this on Saturday. It has taken hours, and involved some abandoned weeping. It is part of my healing process.

Recovering from that training is taking all my gifts and all my energy. Arguably I am trapped in the dark morass, paralysed with terror, and it is hard to bear how slowly I am recovering. Am I “authentic”? I don’t find the concept useful. I am me, and that is good.

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.”

Manifesting joy

My essence is joy, and my calling is to manifest joy in the world, and communicate it.

That was my revelation at a Zoom group, where we share deeply. I am on four such groups, and it is the great blessing of 2020 for me. On Tuesday 22d, the question was, “What is your testimony?” “Let your life speak,” say British Quakers. What value or purpose has my life? My work, at the moment, is self-discovery, and I talked of phoning seven Samaritans. I took twenty minutes, saying things I could not have said last year, and my voice did not shake. When God is with us, I say things which surprise me, and I ended saying something like, “God’s leading for me is to bring more joy into the world &… I’m working on it”. It touched a Friend’s heart, and she wanted to know exactly what I had said.

On Wednesday, I felt and communicated darkness. There was the long drawn out teasing around whether there would be an EU-UK trade agreement. There were chaotic queues of lorries in Kent, with the ports barred because of the new, more infectious Covid variant, and the supermarkets were airfreighting fresh veg. There was Liz Truss’s scheme to inflame prejudice against trans people. Possibly I was most affected by the darkness of the day, with constant rain. At Pendle Hill worship I asked prayers for England under these threats, and expressed my misery.

I shared there, and was consoled that it is not personal, but it feels personal. Truss incites attacks on trans people, and the Tory damage from Brexit and their incompetent response to covid may affect me personally. A woman who worships there sent me a Christmas present of cash, saying “We wanted you to know that you are loved”. That warmed me.

Manifesting joy does not mean suppressing uncomfortable feelings. I think it means accepting the hard feelings, processing and digesting them, and the news at the start of this week was hard to stomach. I am doing my best against the causes of my fear, and still have reason to fear. Dealing with the uncomfortable feelings is something about unflinching truthfulness, facing the darkness and death, always acknowledging the light and life. The full range of blessing and horror in the world, and the breadth of my reactions to it, are hard to hold all at once. I am working on it. I will die, and always there will be light and love, and when all is gone it will be beautiful because it will have been. Dante went through Hell to get to Heaven.

“Underneath it all, you are a joyful, playful child.” That compliment speaks to me, raises deep echoes in me. There is joy and playfulness at the heart of my nature, and I want it to shine through, because it will bless others. It is my vocation. The work, now, is unpicking my history and internal conflicts. More and more the truth of my joy will shine, and the darkness will not overcome it. I said communicating joy was my vocation, on Jamie’s Lovely Gathering, and someone said “You definitely did that!”

One thinks of a vocation as the basis of a career, and I do not see how that could be, now. So where this “vocation” might lead me is unclear. Yet I am certain of it, and I will work on it. I think of the infectious giggles of the Dalai Lama or Desmond Tutu, and see joy can be spiritual. With Quakers on Sunday 27th I repeated to myself, “My calling is to manifest and communicate joy,” and it felt like acceptance and recognition, solidifying as I worshipped.

Honesty

I introduced myself in a 12 step programme way. My name is Clare, and I am-

The purpose is to strip back the ego. It may affect what others think of me, but for me, what I think of me is far more important. Of course, that’s just weird and wrong to me, like everything else about me is, but this is the sense of it. Keeping my expressed emotion on an even keel is important to me because that stops others noticing me. I don’t want to be seen. This is an inherited trait.

I don’t want people to think of me at all. If they do, that’s a fail. So, suppressing my feeling is success. So, what I think and feel about myself is far more important to me than what others do.

And, I am angry about this. Anger is my underlying, everlasting emotion. And, taking oestrogen and especially progesterone made my emotions more volatile. It all makes keeping emotions level difficult, and I am paralysed with the effort.

At the Pendle Hill worship sharing on nonviolence on Wednesday 2d, I said my difficulty is my sense of my own worthlessness. Ruth, a spiritual director, had not realised that self-rejection, violence to self, is a root of violence directed at others. Self-love is the foundation of nonviolence. She proposed this mantra:

I love myself unconditionally
I forgive myself unconditionally
I feel myself loving myself unconditionally
I feel myself forgiving myself unconditionally

My self-improvement side thought I should practise listening. Attempting that, I wrote,

The more I see of each of us, the richer my experience is.
The more of each that can be present, the more powerful we are.

Then there was the Friday group where A invited me, then said everyone should introduce themselves. He is A, who has a life which seems in that moment to me to be so much better than my own. So I went all twelve-step. I have chosen this life. My voice barely shook as I said it. That was the end of the introductions.

This is for my good. The working theory is that it suppresses the ego and puts me more in direct contact with reality.

Ministry at Pendle Hill seemed important. I wrote,

Is it possible to be a self- undefined and unaffected by others? No.
Could there be a boundary I could make, around those parts which will maim me to be redefined?

People said,

Trouble means that you are alive
To live with hope is to live on the divine bank account
Living with winter and summer, sickness and health- the meaning is in accepting it all

I could barely hear a woman, and heard her as saying, in a baleful way,

… You think that you folks in the north with all of your wealth are somehow protected from human pain?

But others had difficulty hearing, and someone explained that as people in poor countries thinking we in the North are protected.

Then there was this Atlantic article, on measuring α by adding a single photon, with a laser, to caesium or rubidium atoms to put them in a state of quantum superposition, and measuring their velocity. This involves calculating gravity at the precise point where the experiment takes place, to eleven or more significant figures, and may confirm or refute the Standard Model of elementary particles. I find this amazing and beautiful, but the comment of Saïda Guellati-Khélifa, leader of the team in Paris doing the work, struck me most: “You have to be rigorous, passionate, and honest with yourself”.

On Sunday 6th I cycled to Aldi. As the shadow moved, putting the grass in sunlight, the frost on it began to turn, but was pure white in the shade. I have been thinking of that Anna Akhmatova poem. Why then do we not despair? Because I have not been paying enough attention? I read the Observer editorial on Keira Bell, a harsh anti-trans polemic, which hurt and frightened me.

With these stimuli, I looked at my Friends’ zoom-faces. The intense concentration on some, cogitating, putting the pieces together. The beautiful loving smile of another. I feel my pain, give thanks for the beauty of my Friends, and of the world- and feel intense joy. I would like the joy to leak out and infect others. I would like to minister on this, but it seems for me alone at the moment.

That joy and darkness- to contain it all at once! I want my dishonesty to make me feel better about myself and fool others, but it doesn’t, not really. Through me the gale of life blows high, so- let it fill my sails!

---

On Tuesday 8th, I had a fight with my inner persecutor, which denies anything good about me. Imagine me, if you will, curled into the foetal position, weeping, shaking, and fighting to gasp out a few words.

The words were, “I am passionate about injustice, and I fight it to the end when I see how I can”.

The persecutor does not like me saying anything good about myself, and demands evidence. I have evidence. I come away having won the ability to say that for myself. I was sort-of aware of it before, but not really able to say it, bewitched by the persecutor’s doubts. This is a win. I came out delighted, in an emotionally labile state, again wanting my joy to burst out of me and infect everyone and fearful they might object to my vehemence or even [gasp!] not understand. It did, a bit, in M’s zoom group. Some caught it, and liked it.

Here are some more good words and true: “I love at least some of my enemies.”

I was also wrestling with what it would mean to find the light within. It is, to be a whole and integrated human being, and the bits missing will be different in each case. I am aware of the inner driver, that part of me that wants me to work hard at self-improvement, and the inner protector, that protects me from the worst of the driver’s goads. I am not really aware of what I want, other than wanting desperately to be safe, and feeling so unsafe that this manifests in wanting not to be seen, not to be noticed by other people (in the most attention-seeking way. I’m confused too.)

Knowing “What one wants” is clearly not the problem for, say, Donald Trump. The part of ourselves we do not know will be different in each case. For many people, it will be multiple suppressed parts of their personality. The Light, union with Christ in God, God in us, is the part we do not know.

Let your God love all of you

Let your God love you means Let your God love all of you. I am ready.

I wrote, Anxiety is congealed fear. Sorrow is congealed sadness. Resentment is congealed anger. Underneath them is failure, repeated and complete, and self-blame. These are hard things to love. How can I love the daggers that I turn on myself? By understanding them. By slow, patient work. By allowing myself to be conscious of the hurt.

There are tempting views. This is not failure, but success: the life-journey which has brought me to the point of self-acceptance or self-love, which involves stripping away the denial of my nature that was my real problem. Or that Love makes me better able to achieve the goals my ego set: God’s love is that ego’s power, bringing it to the ego’s concept of success.

The failure is failure. I failed because I sought introjected goals, ego goals, not the goals of my true self, which I fled in terror, which set up a war within me. I must see the failure. I let God love me, and the love warms me, allows me to accept myself. Then I must love the world, because that is the only way to see the world clearly. Too often I hate the World, and resist it- ineffectually, as it just rolls over me.

Let your God love you, and here am I talking of what I will do to deserve it or make it real, or achieve-

There is only Love. Only Love has meaning. God’s love, my love- love for the whole world, all of it, and judging it as bad is meaningless. Judge not. God’s love for me, all of me, including the bits I judge.

Only love is real.

Love and healing are processes. We move on, not back.

Fear, sadness, and anger congeal because I denied them. I made myself small, by hiding parts of myself- this is the concept of the shadow. They were too frightening to be acknowledged. God’s love helps me process the anger.

As I write during worship, one speaks in Ministry. “Know, Friends, know that a million people are praying for you today.” She means it literally- on a prayer schedule, she prayed for “those who worship over the internet”. Mine is a lonely struggle, and there are others I can speak with, who help me.

And one whom I respect shared her songs:

The Elements of Love

The water of love will ease us through our grieving
The rock of love will hold us fast as we let fear go
The fire of love will purify our anger
And we will breathe the air of love
As we sing new songs of joy and we lead new lives of peace.
We will sing new songs of joy. We will lead new lives of peace.

If I only could open up my hands, feel these heavy stones and let them go.
If I only would open up my heart the the rose within would start to grow.
Now I find that I can open up my mouth and a fountain of song begins to flow.
Oh please help me to open all my self and let the breath of your love within me blow.
Now I find I can open up my hands, I feel the touch of your hands and now I know,
that I truly can open all my life and will go any way you bid me go.

I am on the path.

James Baldwin wrote in 1963, “Now if I were a teacher in this school, or any Negro school, and I was dealing with Negro children, I would try to teach them- I would try to make them know- that those streets, those houses, those dangers, those agonies by which they are surrounded, are criminal.” It is clear in his case, though many then would deny it; and some now would concede it in 1963 but deny it now. I have the feeling that my being crushed, and my mother’s before me, and hers before her, is also criminal, though fear I could never persuade anyone of that. So I resent. These are hard things to swallow, to love the resentment and the crushing. So I do the work with God’s help, offering up parts of myself I can hardly bear to look upon, to be Loved.