Wisdom at Greenbelt

An author, Linda Hurcombe, said to me in the volunteers’ tent,

Abigail you are an incredible person.

I breathed the words in. I am learning the depth of my gifts, and my difficulties. I kind of know that, but I asked her to write it down so I could absorb the affirmation, and she added,

I love you.

In that tent there were urns for tea, biscuits, phone charging and good conversation. Outside, loos and water taps, the shade of trees and a slight breeze.

Ilia Delio contrasted Transhumanism, a rationalist attempt to control the world, with Posthumanism, a way of seeking wholeness in an age of fragments. Matter and consciousness are two aspects of the same stuff. Love is the core energy of the Universe, which is undivided wholeness. We hope for the end of the liberal concept of the autonomous subject for a new subjectivity, integrated into the World and embedded in technology which extends us.

And then I went to sleep, because it was all too much for me.

The Revd. Rachel Mann transitioned aged 22, passed, and came out in her forties. Daringly she hinted Christ was like a trans woman: when Mary kisses the baby Jesus they “share this moment of their strangeness together”, their outsider status.

As usual I joined a group for the Communion, and after they invited me to share their picnic lunch. It was fun and moving. We sang,

Reality is sharp
It cuts at us like a knife
Everyone we know
Is in the fight of their life
We believe in a better way

Leunig said drawing intuitively was not ascending into cleverness but descending into something primal. Celebrate the elusive, fleeting and intangible. He does not like being slandered. He was called wrong like an antivaxxer or something. I think, I am in my own self-slander and criticism so that others’ seems unremarkable, but keeps mine topped up and simmering.

The need to possess objects and have experiences is crazy. Leunig has a poem, The Joy of Missing Out. He used to draw political cartoons, and one day included a duck. Why? Because it needed a duck. They have a rounded beak for dabbling. They seem friendly. Later he was told it was a psychoanalytic symbol of transcendence.

He seeks mature innocence, not naivete but wisdom. He can be the voice of voiceless people, and unexpressed grief. To end a world of Them and Us we need cooperation and forgiveness.

Nadia Bolz-Weber asked why does the church reach chastity when Love is so good for us? The Church preaches Purity culture, that sex is dangerous, you must suppress all sexual thoughts, as if God wants you disconnected. Sex is an energy infusing life, and the Church stops us finding our power. There is a hostile obsession with the sex of others.

Like swords into ploughshares, she melted down purity rings women gave her into a sculpture of a vagina. Hearing her, I feel rage and hope.

She wanted the first words her daughter heard from her about sex not to be fear of STDs or pregnancy but positivity. Learn how your body reacts, and what delights you.

She was freed from anger when she stopped thinking dualistically. With a Fundamentalist upbringing she still judged women preachers, even though she was one. A voice inside would say how dare you do that. So she made friends with the voice. Grace creates acceptance.

I find myself gasping with the strength of my feeling, my resistance to it. I need to accept the feeling and enter my power.

She wants church rules of Do rather than Do Not. She includes trans people automatically: she says to “brothers sisters and siblings, queer straight cis trans, bodies are holy.”

We move in the Church not from vice to virtue but from imagined virtue to Christ. I would say, from the virtues I craved to the virtues God created in me.

Later, she talked of the Song of Songs, of magnificent bodies, not of vanity but aplomb.

A man who spent time with “extremists” said how hard it is to be Tommy Robinson, with all the hate targeted at him, and how hard he works, making placards until 3am. We won’t convert his followers by shouting at them.

In the URC tent I took a card, hand-made with lace, reading True friendship comes when silence between two people is comfortable.

Greenbelt affirmations

Taking the microphone and looking out over the thousand-member audience, I said, “I am wise. Listen to me.”

I am feeling powerfully affirmed right now. I have spoken before in conversation from my integrity, all of me united in a belief or intention. I check it is right and true then say it. As I do this more I become clearer.

Then there was the Queer Spirit festival, 16-18 August. At the Authentic Communicating workshop I talked of this, of the way of speaking from my whole self, and the facilitator addressed me, “Tell us the truth, O wise one”. It is hard to imagine such words without sarcasm, but he said them with utter sincerity. There I saw beautiful playfulness, and a profound shift in a man, shedding his introjects. I asked to be lifted and supported on nine pairs of hands, and was borne aloft. I could trust. Then we group hugged.

That night I left the big top at eleven, and dozily left my handbag in a toilet. I went to that workshop with no money, no house keys, no way of getting home, wondering if I could ask anyone to drive me there. We decided I could ask the festival to loan me enough for a taxi and the buses. At eight, no one had handed in my handbag but after the workshop someone had contacted the organiser, and I went to pick it up from the Faerie area. If there was anyone who would steal it at the festival, they were unlikely to be the one to find it.

I knew no one at Queer Spirit but started conversation easily, asking and receiving hugs. I noticed how forebearing we were with each other, anxious to please as if used to hurt and slights- as you might expect in an LGBT festival. I see it in myself and in queer friends.

Leaving Queer Spirit I resented the cost of the taxi to Nupton, the buses having been cut, but a man joined me and talked of Faerie, halving my fare. It is an alternative gay culture for men tired of shallowly pumping iron and using the right grooming products. He is spiritual but not religious, having had a harmful religious upbringing, and liked my line “I am rationally atheist and emotionally theist: I have a strong personal relationship with the God I do not believe in”.

Then there was the Quaker meeting. It was a Leading to hold it at Greenbelt, but my leading was not affirmed by my Meeting, who had told the Festival there was no one to organise the worship. It felt haphazard, and I felt unprepared. Yet after we had 110 in worship and I introduced it, emphasising the welcome enquirers should expect, I felt vindicated. My leading had been recognised by events.

Nadia Bolz-Weber talked of bodies, how people are ashamed of bodies and how we are fed false ideals which we cannot match. She told us to turn to a neighbour and say something we liked about our bodies. My neighbour had beautiful eyes, and said so. We were in a place, after three days of Festival, where we could say such things.

If women did not spend the energy fruitlessly chasing the beauty myth we could solve global heating.

I spoke into the microphone. I said how after transition I finally loved my body, its beauty and effectiveness, and of how people are also shamed about Gender, and how humanity needs to affirm soft men and powerful women, strong and gentle humans. I asked the speakers to affirm our gender in all its variety and contradictoriness. I got applauded. I am affirmed again.

Another woman said whenever she had an unpleasant experience her mother would ask, “What did you do to cause that?” Such shaming could make a child hide away completely, like a rabbit fearing all attention was predatory. She is in middle age recovering.

Another said as a trans man he wanted chest surgery, yet he also wanted to bear a child and breast feed- but not yet, maybe in six years’ time. How could he live with his body as it is, and all it means to others, in that tension?

I am feeling powerful. My working out my need heals others. Having valued my softness as strength when I saw it as weakness for so long, I can help others free themselves.

This pillar was marked “The wisest thing I ever heard was-”

I am man. I am woman.

I affirmed myself.

I am a man
I am soft and gentle
I am a woman
I am powerful

It is important to me to be able to bring out all aspects of my personality. I toyed with calling myself non-binary. Labels can explain me to myself, or to others; permit or restrict my actions. Perhaps I do not need to explain myself. I am just me, accept or reject me as you choose.

I found it difficult. At the weekend, I was more in performing and introspective modes. I performed my poetry: Transferable Skills gives a wide choice of performance, and I crescendoed and then made my most shocking claim in a conversational tone. It is a caring, generous audience but I feel their more positive reactions and got a laugh. And performing can be a mask: I drop into bombast or humour. An act has to come out of myself, has to be something I am capable of feeling, but need not be what I feel in that moment. My desire was to move between those ways of being, in the moment, to glissando up and down and around; so that from one state, I could move to any other, without imagining it impeded by how I was before. I described it as moving effortlessly between my “man” and “woman”.

It is not effortless. I have felt this before- weeping or angry shouting leading to a state where I am calm and able to feel my feelings, able to be where I am. Weeping has made me authentic. I pass through pain to freedom. Or, I resist, then cease to resist: I fear authenticity, cry out against it, then relax into it.

Our exercise is discussing sex, and I do not want to be there. I want to be heard and held elsewhere, express misery, make statements of intent. I can seek a safety net before letting go: I can explain, calmly, what I want and arrange it and then express distress and hurt. The request begins rationally and becomes desperate. I grab my clothes and run from the room- and people are concerned for me but not hostile, they wish me well. I am not disrupting. There. A public moment of distress and self-protection.

And then I am with difficulties and desires, accepting my own feelings as others have accepted my feelings.

Or, I have expressed feelings publicly and not died- the world did not end. I feared the world would end because of childhood experiences where I had a tantrum, perhaps, and was not loved. Now I have my tantrum and am accepted. Aha! Tantrums are OK!

It is lovely to express feeling forcefully, and a useful skill to feel it intensely and permit it without showing outward signs.

I imagined it as being “man” or “woman”, but H asked which I was, when I burst into tears and ran from the room. I said I was just me. She asked again. I said, I was just me. It is not just man, or woman; not just the rational being or the feeling animal; or both. Or, I took down barriers within myself which prevent me from moving easily from expressing myself one way or another, using parts of me or other parts. The barriers are unnecessary now, they come from earlier calculations of how to be safe which no longer apply.

After that I could affirm myself. I am a man, I am soft and gentle, I am a woman, I am powerful. More:

I am myself, and that is alright.
I am intellect and feeling
desire and empathy
giver and receiver

I am invulnerable, because I am willing to be vulnerable. No part of myself is unsafe for me to be. I can move between them. I am far too beautiful to hold myself back!

Being affirmed

Henry Meynell Rheam, the Lady of ShalottWhen she wanted to spend time with me, I felt wonderful; that is my power, soft power, power from being lovely rather than from dangling promises and stoking need. The only power I wanted.

Then someone cancelled our meeting planned for Wednesday evening, on Wednesday morning. On Thursday I phoned the GIC: the psychotherapist had not turned up two weeks ago: had they rearranged? They had an appointment booked for me on Friday which they had neglected to tell me about. However, on Friday morning they phoned to cancel as she had called in sick.

That was a blow. I thought, I anticipated affirmation from these encounters. I need affirmation. So I observed this on facebook, and Waterhouse, the Lady of Shalott looking at Lancelotgot back I affirm you … you are one of the bravest and most amazing people that I have ever come across .. and fun too ! x Though another stated that it was for me to affirm myself. Well, yes. I had thought of doing mirror exercises and have not.

I felt lacking in energy, and did not do much yesterday (Friday, when I started writing this). Maybe I should think on that Behavioural Activation thing. It was really good when a friend popped over. The living room, with bits of paper just dropped and not tidied since 5 September, was a mess but that was alright.

Enough Lady of Shalott. Waterhouse, left, is better than Rheam, above. Hughes, below, has something in the face. I rather like the myth, and if you know better paintings please share.

Arthur Hughes, the Lady of Shalott

Half-hearted affirmations

I am Abigail, which isn’t a bad thing-
I am Abigail, and that is sort-of all right.
I am Abigail, which is better than the alternative
I am Abigail, and just sometimes I do something worthwhile-
not a big thing, and only just worthwhile, but still.
I am Abigail. Sometimes, I have decorative value

I am Abigail. I am not getting up, but I am still twitching.
I am Abigail. Not everyone despises me.
I am Abigail. I didn’t kill myself.
I am Abigail. I am OK, for the moment-

I am Abigail. I met someone’s eyes, yesterday.
I am Abigail. I made her laugh.
I am Abigail. We understood something together.
I am Abigail. She said something affirming of me,
and I might just be able to hear it-

It is raining, but I am dry.
It is cold, but I have a blanket.
It is confusing, but there may be peace in me
if only I could accept the confusion-

The darkness is not yet the light.
The stillness is not yet the dancing.
But I am not denying reality quite as much as I used to,
on the whole, some of the time,
and though I cling to it very hard
God, circumstances and wise friends
might yet prise my burden from me

John Lavery, the Green Sofa, detail, featured

Affirmation IV

I am as I am because I am traumatised.

I could trot out my stories again, to try to persuade you- that is, persuade myself- that it really was that bad, that anyone in these circumstances would be this hurt. But that does not matter. If any person of more than minimal resilience could bear my burdens, hardly noticing them, they have still overwhelmed me. However strong I was, I have been overwhelmed.

Now, having self-respect for the first time, I no longer deny my trauma. “Get up, get up, Get On With It!” cried the inner critic, and I reply that I would if I could. I had a lovely time this morning: I cycled in the sunshine to Swanston for tea with Richard, who complained that the OED has accepted the “wrong” use of the word “refute” to mean “deny”. I can cope with complex human interaction.

These stories: serious threat of loss of funding and job; bullying and failure; failure; failure and loss of funding and job; failure. Ah, that’s interesting. Thinking of this post, I was planning to talk about various unpleasantnesses, but I am quite happy in certain social situations and even with Quakers. However I am quite literally work-shy, though that term is a pejorative, rarely or never thought to be a mental condition. The thought of going into an office, paid or voluntary, or starting the kind of project I used to undertake puts me into avoidance behaviour. I called this post “Affirmation” and thought of writing about how I was going to self-care by seeking out social situations. This realisation changes things.

I am Abigail.
I have been badly hurt.
I will care for,
nurture
and value myself
as best I see how.
 ♥♥♥

And then, something wonderful, and passing strange.

I am- upset. Sad, and likely to weep, without knowing why. And-

part of me-

asks, What is it? Something existential about my whole life, or some small matter just today?

That- part- is not unsympathetic, but still misses the mark. It is like a man seeing his wife crying, and asking “What’s wrong?” However kindly meant, his intention to find the cause of the problem and fix it is not right, in the moment.

I think of Robert Holden’s mirror exercise. “I am willing to make today the best/happiest day of my life.” Perhaps “let be” might be better than “make”. I want to let go of judgment as to what “best” might look like. What

part of me-

is doing the making?
In the shower, again. I permit the feeling of upsetness. Then,

Another part of me!
A wonderful part of me!
Beauty and Delight

in the upsetness
starts saying

I

I

I- I- I- I- I- 

I- AM! I- AM!

feeling the upsetness
permitting the upsetness

I am!

I- beauty and delight- repeat

I am

feeling the upsetness, then joy, and finally singing it, to a simple I , , , V , , , IV , , , V , , , … chord progression, bass line and descant, dancing to it….

I Am
is the only affirmation I need

Boldini, profile of a young woman

Affirmation III

I had the words for the lesson, but it took Amanda’s example to make it real for me.

I am particularly internally focused: so in any situation I am monitoring my own reactions. Others may be externally focused, noticing what is going on around them. I perceived Amanda as particularly externally focused, and that made concrete for me where my internal focus may have come from.

I have an English accent because of my mother’s English accent. Most children pick up their accent from their peers: my sister spoke Argyll at school and RP at home. I spoke RP everywhere. That is, from earliest childhood I had to pick up my mother’s feelings, to find how I might be safe. She dominated me.

The internal focus comes from my internal parent, a way of predicting my mother. I carried her within me after leaving home.

External focus- well, other people are real, after all, not projections of myself- would help me to cope with people and situations new to me.

It is not a matter of nagging myself into external focus, but of surrendering the need for internal focus. I do not need my mother’s care any more.

So I craft my affirmation to reinforce in myself the things I know, to take them into my heart.

I am beautiful and valuable
not for anything I might achieve
but simply for myself.
I am worthy of Life. 
I am loved, loving and lovable.

I have the “not” in there. It feels, right now, that it will reinforce the lesson. I may go back to this.

I have my affirmations as a mantra, and also as a theme for variations, as the variations allow my unconscious to create something new for me.

I might learn from others. “I am brave and beautiful. I sparkle.” Lovely. She is, she does. “Sparkle” later, perhaps. It pleases me, and what I need now is self-acceptance, because then I may love myself, and receive love.

swan SeptemberA further thought:

Achievement- buying my right to exist- is painful, tedious, and impossible, for the price is always beyond my grasp.

Surrender it. Let it go.

If I acted because I want to, for the sheer delight of it, I might find myself fulfilled in my action. Instead of painful and frustrating, action would be nourishing.

Later- what about this?

I am beautiful and valuable.
I am complete in myself.

Affirmation II

More affirmations.

 I am loved,
loving,
and lovable.

My friend told me that one in 2002. It is True: friends love me, value me, and hold me in high regard. Sometimes it just feels that I feel vulnerable- as if that Love, rather than warming and nurturing me, pours down a bottomless pit, and my hunger for love cannot be assuaged.

Perhaps now I consider my femininity a good thing I can accept that I am lovable, and believe that I am loved.

Back to Metta again.

I am safe and protected
I am peaceful and happy
I am healthy and strong
I have ease of wellbeing.

I shall pray for others later. Now, I need to warm myself. And I can.

Ingrained belief

I can never get what I want.

This is not true. I write it because it has been a belief ingrained in me, and even now I detect traces of it. It goes along with “There is only one way of getting what I want” and even “I do not deserve what I want”- I hope I have digested and passed out that last one, but it ate me for some time.

“You are so covered in scars!” said a counsellor once- but that was many years ago.

I still detect traces of it in my distress and disappointment.

One value of Affirmation is inculcating behovely beliefs. I needed “I am worthy of life” in November, I do not need it now. Delete. Substitute “I am a powerful woman”. Someone with integrity and discernment told me that, after all. Take it into my heart.

I am a powerful woman.

I went for my usual walk- across the fields, along the river, round the lakes- in wellies, as much of it is squishy mud now. I have blisters on the soles of my feet. I wondered if I was enjoying it, put the question to my emotional being, and decided I was. The sunshine was glorious. I love the green, and the birds; this is a primordial response in me, australopithecine or earlier. Even the hard work had benefits. Doing this walk for the first time in my new hair, I notice that just the slightest breath of wind comes from behind and the curtains close over my face. I look ridiculous! And- my heart is open. I am a powerful woman. I play with these thoughts as I pass people enjoying the sunshine. Once, I notice my cringe. I do not like my old cringe.

When someone asks God
"What does 'feminine' mean?"
God points at me.

I like that line. Conceivably, I am a bit high; I can see that just a bit higher for just a bit longer might frighten someone and their relatives, so that the Doctors come and make it go away with drugs. Then it becomes the shadow, the thing to avoid, and the slightest sign of it terrifies the Sufferer and the Carers, and is yet more proof of Sickness. Now, though, I am simply being creative. Delete “I am soft, gentle, peaceful” and replace with “I am Feminine“. Soft, gentle, peaceful is part of it; that word is mine, for me to colour in.

Boldini, Cléo de Mérode

Affirmation

Essence process day 3

I am Abigail.
I am worthy of Life,
Radiantly open to myself, my world, and to 
all people,
giving and receiving Love.
I am soft, gentle, peaceful.
I am an artist with words, 
communicating my authentic self 
with compassion and acceptance
dancing in Abundance
touching people's hearts with my truth 
and courage.

Turner, Buttermere Lake, with park of Cromackwater, a showerWhere does this come from?

On Friday, a man’s share fits me perfectly, and so Menis’ response fits me too. He says “The anger that you feel at the moment is your way to heal”. Then he dictates for the man, with me silently repeating:

I will stay angry
until I understand
that you have given life to me
and that I deserve it.

I have issues around accepting help from others, and so claiming benefits is my way of relying on others. I do not need to share this, with this group. It is cold, uncomfortable care, but it is sufficient, and now I rely on it.

M dictates again,

I allow others to take care of me.
I am at peace with myself and the world.

Then we get on to Affirmations. This is a statement of what I want, couched in the present tense, for the Universe. I want to say what is true now. If I say I am truthful, etc., I reinforce my best self. I have words, and I hone them over the afternoon. I have to go in to see Menis three times, because I still resist. I want to leave it at “touching people’s hearts” on the specious grounds that I touch people’s hearts with all of me, not just my courage. I was wrong. I need a reference to my courage. Courage is entirely separate from this faux-masculinity I have sought in vain.

He changes I am resilient, courageous, truthful, safe, peaceful to I am soft, gentle, peaceful. My voice changed when I said “resilient”- that masculinity I have sought to use to protect myself, the filthy rags I have pulled around myself. These powerful, truthful words are the most difficult to recall when I speak it. Indeed now (Wednesday 3rd) I can be put off at them.

Worthy of Life is a reference to the Gospel of Thomas saying 114. My straightforward interpretation was male-like, taking no shit. I find this site too Gnostic for my taste, which says all souls are from the father therefore male. Whatever. Menis deleted “I have always been my best”, a defensive assertion he sees as coming from my protection, and dictated “I communicate my authentic self with compassion and acceptance for myself and others. I touch people’s hearts with my”- self-acceptance? I had to turn this to my own words. I would not, now.

Dancing in abundance: this is an abundant world, though how I approach it matters.