What I do

I heal, love, perceive, connect.

Imagining meeting people new to me, in two contexts in the coming week, I think of the “What do you do?” question, which I dislike- “What work did you do?” is worse. “I am a recluse,” I have said, and imagine other possibilities.

I fantasised, thinking of this post, a hostile questioner. Why should you imagine you are “hypersensitive”? What do you know of the feelings of others?  Most are not hostile. The challenge is from within myself, so I project it onto others.

My challenge is too harsh. Question with the desire of knowing, not of battering down.
-Never just accept!
-well, look for the truth in the assertion. What part is valuable? In tearing the wrapping from the present, do not damage the gift itself.

I have not learned to be comfortable with my feelings. I am not alone in this, and others feel inadequate, imagining everyone else has. I suppressed until I could not, then I fought and feared feelings, my fear making them more unmanageable. Now I seek to let them be, know them, use their energies: transmute my ball and chain into my chariot. Still I fear: I cannot show my feelings, or I will be Condemned.

I heal. And I Love, seeing beauty, wanting to nurture it, not knowing how. I want to do this creative thing, and when I get the chance it delights me. I could search out people needing my Care: I have been aware of such Carers before, and of people who enthusiastically offer them the chance to Care. A fbfnd did this, now hates herself for it and calls it dumping her vulnerability on others by trying too hard to be protective/ over-helpful and other subtle configurations. Possibly she judges herself too harshly. She certainly did me good, and probably that other woman I saw her with, and if she made mis-steps or gained herself when blinded or thirsty it is still generous and lovely of her.

I am not the parasite I might imagine.

I perceive. “You have fantastic emotional intelligence” said Anthony and I treasure that comment. I don’t see people immediately, and castigate myself for it, but I grow to see them. Allowing myself the time for this would make me more comfortable.

I connect. In the gender clinic on Thursday- as I write, that’s tomorrow, I have written ahead because I have been (past, as you read this) in London having fun- I will start conversations, and learn about someone, and enthuse, value and sympathise. God is in these connections.

This is what I want, to release my remaining bonds, to give these gifts where I may because they nurture me. I heal. It is the work I do.

 ♥♥♥

Walking in the park, I was imagining ways that phone call could go, trying out phrases to find what I wanted to express, and how to express it. It really matters to me. I want to hide the bits which might irk or upset her, to be that person who will captivate her: and it could all go completely wrong! This afternoon!

(exaggerating the thought into clear absurdity liberates me of it; and yet-

Thoughts turned to a particular case, in the DAT last century. It was all there, but it was my particular brilliance in putting the case together that got middle rate care- something like £40 a week, then. That thought shocked and moved me and I felt pride and anguish: repeating Me! Me! I did that! It was ME! Pride that I did it, and anguish that I had not valued myself for it. Really, I am the most beautiful, complex, wonderful thing I am aware of.

Is there any way I could get back into law?

Thoughts turned to the Green Party. I did no work at all for the Green Party in the election. I did not push a single leaflet through a single door, I did not support Marion in her work, I would not be a paper candidate in a ward. There is a disconnect. I see something good, imagine I would like to do it, and do not.

Misery. I do not know what I want to do!

Then- I wanted that. Not just to clerk a business meeting but to clerk it in that way with that result.

All these wonderful jobs! Don’t want any of them.

How will I support myself? What will I do? I don’t know. I pray a way might open, some time this year… next year…

EAF Prynne, Jesus is taken down from the cross

Vulnerability and-

Many times I have seen Brené Brown’s first TED video circulated, on Facebook and email lists, and I am endebted to the ever-wonderful Judy “Twoblogs” Wall for her second. I also recommend Dr. Brown’s blog. Vulnerability is a good thing. Vulnerability is the bravery which speaks to people, which elicits the Yes, the Yay, the true connection. What other words apply?

Strangeness. I get the feeling of being more alive, more real, and this is a strange, heightened experience. A good one, I want more of it, I want to play in it, get to know it, get to trust it, and that needs time. (Not necessarily effort. Let go the effort. Let the experience bed in in its own way, I tell myself.) And “strange” may be a better word than “good”, because I still name some emotions unpleasant, or difficult, and I can find those there too. This does not make it “wrong” or “difficult”.

Authenticity. I link these experiences to my first sense of the Real Me. This is a word Dr Brown uses at least once in her videos, and I prefer it to “vulnerability”- because how vulnerable are we? We are not being Defensive when we are being Authentic, but how many people want to attack us anyway? And if someone does, perhaps it is easier to block an attack in a state of relaxed aware authenticity than of fearful, clenched defensiveness. Or the block may be proportionate to the attack, whereas an attack out of the defensiveness may be too violent.

Bravery. Dr Brown also says this is brave. Trans women habitually deny bravery- I transitioned, we say, as a matter of survival, not because of great courage. I feel like that here. My masks are just too constricting. I cannot live like that any more. And yet, OK. Why should I deny a good quality in myself? Yes, it is difficult. Yes, it is brave. Moving forward in unknowing, where I may feel even illusory fear, is brave.

Openness. This vulnerability makes us open to others and to experience, which looks beautiful and inspiring, and invites connection.

Receptivity. Not monitoring so much in myself in order to hide it, I am more able to see what is around me: opportunity and beauty, and human beings more as they really are.

The word “vulnerability” is scary. It may be a way in to the state I crave. The rewards I may get from it encourage me to seek that state out.

I love this photograph, public domain via Wikipedia, because I do not see foundation or other makeup on it. If there is, it is subtle. That is a vulnerability many women find testing.

Masks

j wrote of a conversation with a woman about experiences of Love, where she realised how alike we all are. It is not a new thought: the line in my mind was

the Colonel’s Lady an’ Judy O’Grady
Are sisters under their skins!

and I stick by that on looking at that whole poem. The auld sodger in whose voice it is slips away when Kipling says that. I am sure there is something Biblical on the thought, even if St Paul often articulates our different gifts. A quick search for “We are all one” yields this. “We are all brothers and sisters” yields Glenn Beck! For a British person, whose glimpses of Fox News are in satire showing how weird these Americans can be, with Beck the principal exhibit, that was a surprise. However, while it is a sentiment anyone may mouth, it is a truth each person has to see for themself, experientially, and ideally in the muck and mire of living, not just in meditation on retreat. Like j’s deepening conversation.

What gets in the way of the realisation is the masks each of us wear, pretending to be normal. The mask creates a feeling of inadequacy, and impairs our vision of other people: we think they are closer to “normal” than we are. I am taking mine off. All the time. The mask of being male was impossible for me, but when I transitioned to female I still kept a great deal of my reserve and silence, which is also too painful for me.

Quentin Crisp, gay when that was dangerous, said

What I want is to be accepted by other people without bevelling down my individuality to please them- because if I do that, all the attention, all the friendship, all the hospitality that I receive is really for somebody else of the same name. I want love on my own terms.

One friend says of my sharing, “it is so wonderfully surprising how open and vulnerable you are. I truly admire you.” I discount that less than I would have at one time. A reserved and private man, quite eminent in his field, who once told me of being very badly hurt by the dysfunctional Cardiff Quaker meeting, called my earlier effusions “cries for help” and counselled me against them.

It is important for me to state precisely why I am so open and vulnerable. I am not showing off my insecure spots to be rescued and validated by others, to have someone say “there there” and kiss me better, to be accepted so that I can accept myself- for that is what I wanted, and when I could not accept or value myself, no amount of validation expressed by others was enough for me.

I am taking off my masks because my aim is to accept and value all the bits which the masks hide, all the bits which I am self-conscious about. So that I can achieve the state in my tag line, “Open heart, independent mind” which I took from a strong-minded friend who I think is closer to that state than I am. Or Neil Peart’s Cinderella Man-

eyes wide open
heart undefended
innocence untarnished

This is the best way I can see right now towards my own flourishing and growth, and ability to survive in the world. I am taking off the masks, or the Shell, because I cannot live that way any more.

————————————————————————————————————–

I am a primate, and primates are social animals. So other people have great power over me. But the nature of that power and its exercise has changed.

All my friend did was touch me lightly on the arm- two fingers by the elbow- and kiss me on the cheek, but such is the state of my heightened sensibility at the moment that I was- the best word I can come up with for it is “Unmanned”. Moved to the core of my being. It was completely lovely. When I was trying to pretend to be a man, repressing all my feelings, that would have had no effect on me at all. I remain lonely, and starving for such connection- and now it is possible, and I will find it.

In the coffee shop, the woman behind the counter said “That is £3.10, ‘s”. I was not sure I had heard aright. What did you say? “That’s £3.10.” Did you say anything after that? She denied it. Then she said, “There’s your change, sir”, and this time admitted it. So, calmly, I took time to explain to her. “That is not the right word. What do you think the right word is?” With the sound of disbelieving questioning, she said, “Madam?”

So I explained to her that I am a woman, and I feel insulted by the implication that I am a man. She apologised.

Now, I am irritated. I do not have time for such petty games, and buying a coffee should be a pleasant experience, as I am sure Darcy Willson-Rymer would agree. But I am no longer subject to this woman’s power. I am not, now, lying curled up in a ball on the floor weeping, as I might have been ten years ago.

Escaping the pit

I had this post planned out from the beginning, and it would not have been truthful. Here is my opening quote:

Don’t say there’s nothing to do in the Doldrums
It’s just- not- true

I would have carried on:

Of course I escape the pit. I escape it with television, staring alone at a screen and indulging in vicarious connection, difficulty, effort, triumph, love. No great harm in that, perhaps, I need a little time just relaxing, but the rush of emotion at something unreal is, well, unreal. The escape is not real either.

My friend A escaped the pit in reality. He did not have a particularly fulfilling or rewarding job, though it was skilled labour, but he was churchwarden at a time when in that town most churches were segregated black or white, and A worked with the vicar bringing other black people into my parish church. This is good and worthwhile work.

I block out the pit with fantasy and magical thinking. That is a large part of the reason why I am here, now, because I imagine impossibilities as possible, and moon over them. I make the pit bearable with fantasies, and so do not take the necessary action to achieve what is actually possible and get out of it. I hear all these “inspirational” quotes about following your heart, doing what makes your heart sing, etc, etc, and imagine that all of Life could be an endless whirl of that delight, like the quick achievement- sorted within an hour!- on the telly.

I had got myself right down. So it was good to get the link and photo from Rose, a reminder of real connection with real people, doing something beautiful together. Of course I do fantasy and magical thinking, but in depression it can seem as if everything positive is that, and the depressive thinking is false: there are good and beautiful things everywhere.

I need to be completely truthful with myself. I need to see the delight, and the difficulty, where they are. A wise friend has told me to pass on to the next thought.

Added: someone liked it too.

Helpful suggestions

How can we deal with the financial crisis at a time of low growth?

What is happening is the withdrawal of democracy. Mario Monti, new prime minister of Italy, is appointed, not elected: he is not a member of Parliament. Lucas Papademos is a former banker and academic, also unelected, whose rise to be father of the people began with Mr Papandreou’s suggestion of a referendum, which could not be allowed. Could it happen in this democracy? Lord Salisbury was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1903. That is recent enough. Yes it could.

The Spectator had some suggestions: cut taxes on the wealthiest, cut welfare benefits, cut the minimum wage, get rid of the right to contest unfair dismissal in an employment tribunal. The Government has only been talking of limiting it. Well, what do you expect of the Spectator? I am far more concerned by people I expected to be bleeding heart liberals. I quoted from the test for “Employment and Support Allowance”, which is the benefit one must apply for if unfit for work. I think that lots of people who are unfit for work will be refused that benefit, because the test is far too restrictive, and in support of this quoted

Because of a specific mental illness or disablement, frequently cannot, due to impaired mental function, reliably initiate or complete at least 2 personal actions (which means planning, organisation, problem solving, prioritising or switching tasks).

I thought that made anyone unfit for work by itself, but it only scores six points, and you need fifteen points to get the benefit. And my friend asked, who decides? His concern is that points will be awarded incorrectly. I said that to get points, you need medical evidence that you cannot control such behaviour, because of a medical condition. He was unmoved.

I met a survivalist at a shotgun club (shooting at targets, not birds) in Aberdeen in the 1980s, and thought him an idiot, but recently I have come across two men with such concerns. First the global economy, then society, will break down, they think.

I remain sceptical of all the 2012 as a Spiritual Watershed hype. It will happen if we human beings make it happen. And so I recommend the Golden Light Project starting on 19 December.

A Verse

Oh I cling to things
and I hoard things
and I fear loss
and I need not
for there is more where that came from

Oh I hide and I watch and I withdraw
I so fear if I touch, and I withdraw
and I fear hurt
and I need not
because I heal

Oh I seek to control
and I seek to understand
and I seek to name things
and I seek to force things
and I fear Unknowing

and I need not

because every thing is all right

I have hidden away
for I feared being seen
but I can relate
because I am all right

Projecting

My heart is full after the Human Awareness Institute weekend, and I wish to share about it. Not about the people, apart from the fact that they are wonderful, because of confidentiality; not about the exercises, because they are entitled to their copyrights, though I can say we built trust and love and affirmation through stroking of faces and hands. I want to share part of the blessing I received.

I became aware of how, though I have discovered that being transsexual really is a blessing, I still resent it. It has been so painful and difficult. Why me? And so I have judged and condemned myself for being transsexual. I have then projected this onto other people, onto tout le monde, imagining their judgment on me for being trans. And this has prevented me seeing how they really react. Some of them, it seems, have some difficulty with my way of being, though I think very few judge me for it, and those poor souls will have enough else to think about so that they will rarely be thinking of me. I intend to be freed from this projection, and to see other people more clearly as they are rather than my imagining of them. I feel more able to love myself, accept myself, and be kind to myself.

It is tempting but untrue to say, the HAI weekend has changed my relationship with x. What it has done is show me that so much more is possible in my relationship with x, more delight and joy and love and authenticity and honesty, and so given me the possibility of changing and improving that relationship myself.

light on the stones

You know that light
where the rain is so light, it is almost mist
and the sky is a uniform Pale
and each leaf is individual, above the gravestones
and the grey stone wall
When love of God and love of people intermingles
and I am not wrong
and we are not Wrong

Everyone would be happier
freed from the anger
screaming and clutching at Fred Goodwin,
MPs flipping and Russell Brand
and the beauty of your intellect
almost convinces me we can know the Truth
even as I am fully known

Dispute- Leading- Yes

At its best, in the Quaker business method we thrash out our disagreement, and someone will be moved to propose a solution. Then the atmosphere changes, and we all unite behind that solution, in a joyous Yes. We do not shout yes- we might murmur, “hope so”, douce quiet Quakers that we are- but there is a sense in the air.

Unfortunately, things get in the way. One person may be overly attached to one particular solution: so we attempt to seek what is Good: “God’s will”, or the highest Good accessible from where we are now. We need to seek that good without attachment. We need to love and consider each person in the room. We need to allow each person to say what they feel moved to say, trusting that the process will lead us to the right decision through each of our presence, despite each of our failings; and we need to be content with unknowing, and defer a decision to another day if necessary.

I am aware of cases where we have got this spectacularly wrong, where a small clique has successfully controlled the decision making to create a decision they feel happy with, rather than the right decision. The root cause of two particular cases of this was one person being valued more highly than another. Equality is essential in a Quaker meeting: the only hierarchy is from respect, earned individually from each person, and a high baseline of respect given to everyone. And yet I know Quakerly decision making is possible, and I am committed to felicitating it.

My community

There is a plaque outside the pub which says people have been drinking in this inn for over 350 years. That is quite a sesh, I think, someone should tell them to go home. Walk up the hill north towards the cenotaph, and you pass some lovely buildings, some half-timbered. In the shopping mall there is Dorothy Perkins and WH Smith, and here there is a shop selling speciality teas and a hardware store. Or you could turn off past the fifteenth century barn and the sculpture of the swans in flight. On the river you may see dozens of swans, I had not seen so many together before coming here. It is beautiful.

You will get quite a different story about the town from a certain website which tells of “chavs”, which means oiks, or lower class people, in British towns. I noticed that website, talking of shell suits and jogging bottoms, which I rarely see. “Chavs” is an offensive term for my neighbours. Not a word I would use. Not really how I see the town at all, my town is beautiful. Not the way I see my neighbours. Look at these trees, gardens, open spaces. My next door neighbour taught me my two words of Bulgarian. Perhaps I should try to remember more: Dobre, meaning well, but also translating the word Uhuh, as in I understand, yes, go on, is a useful word. Like “Acha” in Bangla. My other next door neighbour fixed my dehumidifier, and I helped him with a question about benefits.

It is as if the person who wrote in that horrid, mocking site and I see two different places, different people, different worlds, parallel universes. Not all of us are well off, indeed Ofsted wrote in its report about the Children’s Centre that some parents studying school-age qualifications were doing these as an end in themselves and not as a route into employment, as there is little in the area. This writer sees an oik, and I see my friend M, and we go for coffee. It is important to me to see the beauty in the place I live and the people I meet. Fortunately, that beauty is easy to find.