New year’s irresolution

I have my life just about perfect, just about how I would want it. How can I make it better in 2017?

Ways which I have imagined would improve it may not. An example: yesterday I went to Mind, the mental health charity. There we were doing a positive psychology craft task, with little difficulty and maximum gentle affirmation, and one of we service users said how sad she was at the change in meaning of the word “gay”. It used to mean joyous or colourful. It has been twisted.

I am quite clear that such a remark should be challenged. It is homophobic. An exact analogy is a racist remark, like, “I hate to walk down that street. It’s as if I am in a foreign country, I’m the only white person there and they’re all speaking foreign.” I understand the distress; yet that is saying to people- you should not be here. To the gay person- You should pretend to be straight. You should act normal. You should not be you.

I deflected. “Yes,” I said. “‘Gay’ now means mediocre or third rate, which is a horrible meaning.” I am pretty sure she meant she disliked ‘gay’ meaning ‘homosexual’. And- they did not challenge her, even though I was there, obviously queer, and the manager is gay, and he was there. The third sector should promote diversity and challenge homophobia, because I should not have to pretend to be someone else so that other people can be comfortable.

Perhaps they did not want to drive away a service user. Stats means Funding, which really matters. So, either she is more important to them than I am, or they think I can cope with homophobia better than she can cope with challenge. The manager was sitting beside me and his underlings fawned on him a bit and none of them said anything. He’s Gay! What were they thinking?

What bothers me in this incident is not that the woman’s homophobia frightens or hurts me, but that

That’s not supposed to happen!

I know the rules! I know how these mental health workers are supposed to respond in these situations, and they just didn’t! Everything’s going along just fine, and then out of the blue- something unexpected happens. And therefore unwelcome.

I might say, how can I improve my life? A little more variety, more human contact, is what I am supposed to want. So says the culture; most people would agree; it makes sense to me; yet when I go somewhere which should be supportive and non-threatening, where I know what to expect, something I did not expect happens!

 ♥♥♥

My life is just as I want it. I have control. A little more money would be nice. I would have the heating on more. But I am not cold, I wrap up in a sleeping bag. Pride, shame and amour propre might have a role here. I am a pig satisfied, and the alternative is not Socrates dissatisfied, but someone houseproud and concerned with appearances dissatisfied. I want to understand, and I continue using my analytical mind to consider whether homophobia should be challenged or what makes my life good.

I am houseproud only vestigially. Sometimes I act, because it seems possible I could make things better. I take pleasure, yesterday, in having bought a sink plunger and unblocked my bathroom basin, clogged with soap and used toothpaste, with it. The basin now drains quickly. It might stay clean longer after I clean it, so I may muster the motivation to clean it. I have been thinking about this for ages, resenting how it was blocked, and messing about with boiling water. Will a plunger not just shift a blockage further down the pipes, causing worse problems later?

I like analysis. I have spent a happy hour pacing the floor, agonising over all this, before starting to write. I am happy now, writing. I knew sink plungers unblock sinks, yet analysed and cogitated for weeks.

So I might say,

Taking action is the solution!

But what if something went wrong, or what I expected did not happen?

Or,

Letting go of control is the solution!

But why, if that can make me so unhappy?

 ♥♥♥

I have seen worse, in home visits, or in student flats- one had half full coffee cups, which after a week developed a mouldy scum- but those are the kind of home visits we use for stories. There were fish and chip wrappers left on the floor!

Ew!

My house is not that bad, but-

I have control! I feel some boredom and frustration, but little anger or fear. I have limited human contact, little motivation. If I tidy my house it will only get untidy again.

I am dissatisfied because I am thinking about it, and in that sense I am closer to Socrates than the pig- and Socrates had Diotima and slaves to do the housework.

Never mind how or why that homophobic incident upsets me, it does. It is an example of so much human interaction, from the rare to the quotidian, from my oral hearing before the Social Security Commissioner to those who-shall-give-way dances as we walk along the street. So- retreat! Avoid those interactions, and you avoid distress!

I will not go out because the culture tells me, or I imagine, that I ought to want to. You see! I did what I was supposed to want to do, and it was Awful! I met a homophobe! And yet, I am frustrated and bored. Something better may be possible.

Two more thoughts on pleasure and desire. I ate a plum just now. I gave it my attention, and it was beautiful; yet I do not want to be eating all the time. And, I had a vaginoplasty because it was what I wanted, more than anything else in the world. Now I regret it, thinking a penis might have its uses. Desire is not a reliable guide to satisfaction.

My life is as I have made it, and it is good, right now. It pleases me. And my mind is at work: could it please me better?

breslau-la-toilette

Scissors and glue

I spent a pleasant hour or so this afternoon with scissors and glue- craft activities based on positive psychology. I am tempted to be dismissive, but I enjoyed it, and will share with you what I made. I went to the local Mind for a taster session on their Building Self Confidence course, and may take it. I forgot to take my lunch: possibly I was nervous about going. There was Christmas cake to fill me up, and another service user gave me a satsuma. She seemed a kind, gentle soul. I thought her eyes were lovely. She talks herself down, and was gently challenged.

Everyone’s normal, until you get to know them.

They quoted Oscar Wilde- Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. Well, yes; and you cannot be anyone else anyway. Anthony Burgess told of a boy at his school who affected a French accent to appear sophisticated, but spoke French with an English accent. I have huge privilege, being educated and having a fund of stories like that; it came to mind at just the right time.

We discussed the inner critic. “You would never be as cruel to others as you are to yourself,” I said. I am trying to show you I know this stuff. Nothing they said seemed new and useful to me. Yet I want to get out of the house, into a non-threatening environment with other people, and this might do. I have thought of voluntary work, but not enough actually to volunteer. And something did seem worthwhile, a thought I had, prompted by being there:

I have been thinking of a facebook interaction. I commented on a Remainer group, and a troll responded “Lolwut”, and another the eu was trying to take our freedoms away. Thankfully within a few years the corrupt dictatorship will collapse. Not people who were seeking to understand my point of view, people who were trolling, possibly to spread gloom and despondency on my side, so I responded, [names] not very bright, are you? Find out about the issues before showing your ignorance here. Now I am second-guessing. Was mine a constructive pacifist response?

It is very controlling, wanting your every response to be right.

I don’t like their ending visualisation. Imagine yourself happy and successful, as you would want to be. I hear that if you imagine having something you are less hungry for it, less likely to go out to get it; or, I do not want to imagine something I do not trust I can create. But- why not enjoy fantasy? Am I too puritan? Second-guessing again.

There are some good paintings here, but our exercise is less technically stretching: cut words out of magazines, which apply to me, and glue them to a silhouette. So, here it is. Some of the words were offered by others. “Does anyone want Bohemian?” Yes, I wanted Bohemian.

I enjoyed it. This is a place I might go. I need to go somewhere.

scissors-and-glue

Tantrum

Oh, wow. It just stopped! Was that a Tantrum?

Half an hour ago, I felt- enraged, terrified, completely confused and doubting everything, desolate and despairing. Now I feel- sort of alright, really. I need milk and meat, and it is a lovely sunny day to go down the town to get them.

There was a misunderstanding in an exchange of emails. I have spent much of the morning drafting a long, careful email dissecting what was said, demonstrating the origin of the dispute, her misunderstanding which was down to her misinterpretation of my words, and the reasonableness of my responses. Then I stated I want my reasonableness in these specific instances recognised. Then I went through it again stripping out some of the sarcasm; and finally I changed the addressee and wrote,

To put it another way:

I am feeling misunderstood and attacked. I don’t think that perception is wholly unjustified. I am feeling hurt and confused and angry. I am frightened of future interactions. I have other stuff in my life and I do not want to be dealing with this.

Then the other stuff in my life overwhelmed me. I needed a whole new way of interacting with other people. I just want to hide away and not see them even though I find my solitude unbearable. I thought of phoning the Samaritans- but how would I convince them I am not suicidal?

Let us establish ground rules. I am not suicidal, not a threat to myself or others. I can give you precise details to demonstrate this if you like.

Controlling, or what?

H phoned last night. She had not asked me how I felt about the job interview at her small party, so she was asking now. It was not an ideal time for that- it was just after nine, I did not want to be thinking of it just before bed then lie awake miserable- but I did not want to tell her this. And communicating by phone is not ideal- could we skype? No. We could not, and she explained why. Oh, okay then. Let’s see. I am miserable about the job, but also perturbed by an interaction at your party. She explained the problem is him, not me, which reassured me a bit. And I was very concerned about having been approached by a mutual friend to resolve a dispute and bad feeling between me and the other party in that exchange of emails. This felt to me like an attack, an escalation, an attempt to make me the Bad Person when I’ve done nothing wrong! Then I felt unable to explain what the dispute in the emails was, and irritated by it- an irrelevant triviality which had somehow got backs up and become terribly important. Explaining that I had been right only made it more difficult.

When talking to someone who disagrees, that difficulty in explaining is so frustrating! You’re NOT LISTENING! LISTEN TO ME! I want to scream that, and I don’t. Or, like William Brown, I’m just statin’ a fact! Even with someone who wants to understand my position-

You see I really do need better ways of interacting with others. The precise dissection of facts to arrive at a clear understanding which must then of course be mutual is always tempting, but not really possible even with an email exchange, leave alone a face to face interaction. It is so tempting! That is the curse of intelligence, that you imagine intelligence is the answer.

So, yes. It was a tantrum. That was how people feel in a tantrum. Then it just stopped.

Renoir, woman with a fan

Joy and Sorrow

I love M’s enthusiasm. He really enjoyed something, and thinks we should do it again. Well, we shall, next year (“we” is a larger group than just the two of us) and he wanted to find out about it immediately.

F brought us a cake. Possibly not GBBO winner, but perfectly acceptable iced sponge. She started apologising for it, including the fact that she had sliced it unevenly. I appreciated the generosity: F is sweet, and easy to be with. I wondered at the apologies. I would be sad to think she is in a permanent state of nerves, worried that her good deeds were not good enough, hurt that we had not eaten all her cake; though not all of us wanted cake. I want to reassure her, to appreciate her, to be clear in my own mind that she is thereby reassured and no longer worried. I want to fix her.

F met [impressive person]. “What did you think of her, then?” I asked.

“She’s quite intense” she said. Next day F was apologising again, unsure whether she should have said that woman is “intense”. “Well, she is intense,” I said. I wonder how much F had been worrying about that remark, how much worry is a part of her life…

[Impressive person] had poked M with a stick, and M was bothered. He wanted to know what the Rules were, so he could understand the rights and wrongs of the situation IP had described to him. As a lawyer, I want to use the rules for my benefit: I don’t want a lawyer who tells me what I can’t do. I hire a lawyer to tell me how I can do what I want, as JP Morgan said. And I have strong, conflicting feelings about that situation: I feel we should all get along; and at the same time that the wrong result was reached. Arguably I should be neutral. I wonder how possible it would be, though, to persuade M of a particular interpretation of rules, point him at my adversary, and retire, to giggle and gloat.

I was sitting in the Quaker meeting thinking on these things. I wish she would be less… I wish he would be more… I wish he would not do things like… I really would like to gather them as a hen gathers her brood under her wings; and they would not be gathered or fixed. Well of course not. Neither would I, in the same situation. And any of them, even F with her worry, would be lessened if I could mould her as I wish. Life may mould her.

Perhaps this is part of Khalil Gibran’s experience, it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. My recollection of that quote was poor, and googling it I found this.

The Earth is filled with the glory of God, as the waters cover the sea, I thought. Note the change of tense from the hymn, which quotes Isaiah. I was hard at my exercise, accepting the paradox: horrible and beautiful; pain and delight; surrender and control; joy and sorrow.

Cezanne, Medea

Control II

Sunlight through trees dapples the road. I go down into the dip as fast as I can then stride up the slope on the other side (it’s rolling, rather than hilly, countryside) in top gear. Cycling Highs! I did nine miles, which is an hour’s pleasant, mild exercise rather than a serious effort.

I wanted to cycle as the weather was perfect for it. I have put my seat higher: this will mean cycling more efficiently as I use my calves, but at first it might mean soreness at unaccustomed muscle use. Actually I found I was still pedalling on the instep rather than the ball of the foot, and wiggling my bottom from side to side over the seat. Would that strain the back?

I was sure I wanted to cycle, but I was writing my post from yesterday, wrestling with gender essentialism, analysing. Where is integrity and freedom? What do I want, and why? Who am I? I want to know. Knowing is control. Not knowing can be just too frightening. From what I actually do, it appears I want to write, instead, and not submit that for publication elsewhere than my blog.

I am sick, objectively disordered, wanting to stay in my living room rather than going out. Here I am in control. Yet the sickness is the pain which I am healing: the desire to remain indoors is beautiful and healthy, because it is my way to healing.

I question everything. I don’t do what feels comfortable, I do what feels frightening but less frightening than the other thing. Or do what I have been used to doing, suppressing my pain fear and anger until I cannot. From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit moves-

There were three people ahead of me in the queue in the Marsby post office, and when I entered the woman in front of me stepped two yards to the side, as far as she could get from the others. Another conferred briefly with her, then they left. It looks like an exercise to me: go to the post office, a testing, stressful but hopefully manageable task one could complete if conditions were propitious. She is in control sufficiently to abort the mission. I drifted outside and looked after them, wondering if I could reassure her I was no threat, or in some way show her my great-hearted Love as an antidote to her pain, but had no idea how to communicate, and it was not my problem anyway. Not theirs, either, perhaps.

I sat outside in the sun, in a recliner with a cheap, lumpy cushion, my head resting on the metal bar. It would be more lucrative to argue successfully before the Court of Appeal, but this is what I want, now, looking up at those birds. This is where my love and beauty, the love of God and the beauty of the World have brought me, now. I let go of what shall I do next. What shall I do, now? Meditating, cycling, writing here, analysing, sunbathing- appears to be what I want, from what I actually do. Perhaps it is alright. I went for another cushion for my head.

Part of 1000 voices speak for compassion.

Swallow

Should drugs be legalised II

Chatterton 1856 by Henry Wallis 1830-1916

File:Wallis The Stonebreaker.jpgDunno. Really.

Jake Coe died a few days ago, reportedly of an overdose. He was not Chatterton, a blazing star across the sky, but a gifted man who had developed his talents after becoming addicted in youth. “Going off the rails” I wrote, and deleted, because it is more complex than that. We need to escape reality. Human kind cannot bear it.

We need to escape reality, because reality is difficult and painful. S was off the booze for twelve days, but is back on it, I hear. Her parents told the corner shop not to sell booze to her, so she would have to walk a mile- not having a car- to the next shop to buy it. The pub on the corner closed.

We need to escape reality, and when working I would eat with a friend on Friday night and have half a bottle of wine, occasionally a whole bottle. There are better ways of relaxing and recovering. Meditation, perhaps. Truth-speaking from a meditative state is valuable. What do you most want to communicate?

Henry Wallis Shakespeare 1We need to lose control, because the human being acting spontaneously is a wonderful thing. I wrote one of my best poems when drunk, but Dylan Thomas wrote immortal poetry drunk. We go from creeping along, testing every footstep for safety, to Being. Gloriously. Alive, to Flying

unless that is an illusion, a siren dream

LSD can create a sensation similar to a Spiritual Experience. I get them in my Quaker meeting occasionally- there’s the one like Being at One with the Universe, and the one like All my Senses Coming Alive, and others- they are lovely, and they may even have a lasting effect on me. Licia Kuenning, former girlfriend of Timothy Leary, started talking to God- Jesus, she told me by email, had written that email through her- about something preposterous and wonderful and beautiful, and divorced from reality. I can hardly imagine her joy when she became convinced of her personal revelation. I think she has talents which might have been better used.

Henry Wallis Shakespeare (2)We need to escape reality, so the problem is the need rather than the method. Make reality unbearable- school tests for four year olds, hours of homework and constant competition, the knowledge that success is impossible- and you create the need. To survive in this competitive world you need to be in control. We need to lose control, and that can be so utterly threatening that we can only do it with chemical assistance.

My friend’s son became paranoid on weed. His parents, friends, toulemonde were out to get him. He made the connection after two experiences of this, and gave up. There are risks in the ways we escape reality. Of course heroin is legal, but only prescribed by doctors in restricted situations, as “morphine”. There was no harm in my mother being addicted, as she would die of cancer within months.

We need to escape reality. We need to lose control. When these human things are transfigured, there will be no Drug Problem.

Jake Coe’s video, again. Link for those who receive this by email.

Pride

 

What do I have to be proud of? This is important: unemployed, not quite friendless, and much of the time hiding in my living room because that is the only thing I have control over, I need to trust myself, and for that I need pride in something. I had thought of doing posts on what can the British be proud of- the Empire, the War, Cool Britannia? Even my posts about other things are really posts about me. What may I be proud of?

Oddly enough, my web of illusion. As I seek, now, to free myself of it, I realise that I have created it myself, and that I created it to protect myself. It did its job. I am OK, comfortable, I have the time to find better ways of being in the World.

My growth and maturity and healing. For example, moving just recently from that emotional block against trusting my intuition. It was an emotional block, and it was very strong. And now I can accept intuitive promptings, without needing to construct an argument. “It is my intuitive prompting” is sufficient. That is a huge move for me. I am not just vegetating, I am healing and growing, as I have always been. That huge move last year from negative to positive– I am still working it through, and part of that is seeing challenges as opportunities-

no, I am not there-
Seeing the blessing, where I would just have seen difficulties. So all that foutering with the hormones (actually, I am sure the Scots word is linked to the French verb foutre) helps me to see and accept my emotions.

And transition took courage. Some people do not manage it. It took years of preparation, of learning: I can buckle down to something and worry at it- also illustrated by my skills on the piano. I am loving and caring. I am creative.

My inner critic is picking away at everything positive I say here. And I am still saying it. I had not come across Henri Rousseau before looking for an illustration for this post. I love his work.

Possibly-

My GP took me off the hormones as a back-covering exercise. Hormones increase risk of cancer and thrombosis. Giving hormones is a positive act for which one might be liable. Not prescribing hormones is not. I have been as if premenstrual for about six months, and it gets wearing. A month after cold turkey I did not know what was going on with me, but I attributed it to the hormones and went back on a lower dose. On 19 February I decided to up my dose to the one I had taken in the summer, and having given myself a month for levels to stabilise I am still weepy and emotional. I am on triple the normal dose for HRT, so it is not clear that further changes in dose will reduce my lability.

I do not know if this is a good experience, I lack the requisite comparator, but I am determined to find value in it, and I may have done. Friday 16th I was weeping over that. I phoned K, a mainstay of my support network, next morning, she asked if I were ruminating, which is hard to deny, and when I said I did not want to go back on the anti-ds said that people were often “resistant to medication”. Oh, right.

Then Sunday was Mothering Sunday. M was in Meeting. What will he minister about today, I wondered, as I saw him come in. He ministered on it being Mothering Sunday, and how Margaret Fell was a prime organiser of Quakers and of how we had been committed to women’s equality from the beginning. I am sorry, I make it sound far more prosing than it was, partly because I was irritated by it. There are significant differences in the Queries for the separate men’s and women’s meetings in the Book of Discipline 1861: we valued equality, but did not achieve it. Also it seemed, in my emotional state, to be too much for categorising, explaining and understanding reality.

I know enough not to minister out of irritation. I did want to minister. I spoke, on the Hockney exhibition, on how evanescent light and shade can change a scene utterly, on how we must perceive in the moment. Which I now feel is more complementary to M’s view than contradictory. Categorising is the foundation of understanding, from which perceiving can leap higher.

After, I sat, spine erect, still, calm and peaceful, feeling-

Present.

But it was yesterday (21st, as I write), feeling nearly in tears in the office- again- being moved before I knew why. And I thought, it really is alright. I wept on Friday evening, and the feeling passed- that it does not is the main problem with rumination, which is to useful thought as an ear-worm is to musical appreciation. And now I may feel like that, and it is alright, I have had such fear of feelings, and now I may just feel them, without fear. And they pass. Learning that is worth a great deal of discomfort. I have feared discomfort, too, very much, and discomfort is not to be feared.

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It was difficult illustrating this post without breaking copyright. Googling for “woman crying painting” gives me lots of 20th century paintings, in copyright, of the abandoned weeping I sought. Rachel, my first illustration, looks up to Heaven over her dead child, and whether it is dissociation or self-control holding her back hers is not the letting it all hang out abandonment I can get to for lesser woes. I did not really want a nude, and I find Jules Lefebvre faintly ridiculous- consider La Verité– but she has that congruence and authenticity- or loss of control- which we prize, which was so much less valued in 19th Century Europe.

No- that is not it-

I need the congruence, authenticity, perception of what I feel: that changes my control from a cage, a restriction, into something empowering.

Just as I finish, I get the new post from Allison Grayhurst. And Daniel Kingsley’s experience may be related.

Let’s be friends

After you said that, I cried for three days. You felt the need to check, the following morning, that I had managed to drive home safely. The next month there was the false hope, and the following month the complete humiliation, and I am still crying. How can I “get over” this, either feel all the feelings and so work through them, emerging into some sort of equanimity, or patch myself up and plod grimly on?

I resent greatly that, just as the rest of my baby-making programming has so spectacularly failed, this bonding mechanism, evolved to be so strong, has latched on to the most inappropriate target. Am I now angry with you? I have been- You started it, you approached me! And then I thought, no, it was that activity organised by those people, and I raged at them for a bit…
………………..in my living room…
………………………………………………….this is all in my own head.

And I will go back to that group, and those activities, because I just shut down that in me, all that sex and relationships stuff is for other people, too complicated for me, too threatening to my illusions and my precarious sense of safety. I will go back to that group because this is part of human life which I want to experience, I want to force open in myself, despite my ignorance and fear and sense of inadequacy. It feels like I am fifteen- and that is a good thing, because last June it felt like I was thirteen, as far as this goes.

I will go back to this precisely because this experience has been so painful. To be so tantalised- once going out with you, never kissing!

This is not a love letter. It could hardly be less likely to make you think you had made the wrong decision. Will reminding myself of the impossibility of that help me get over you- or, like comparing your work, travel and social life to mine, just make me feel worse?

Proust’s work has been very useful to me, his anatomising of the illusions and idiocies of Love, the unconscious motivations, the false idea of self, the ridiculous acts. Yes. I never knew you, though I have caught glimpses- worthy of my affections- far out of my league, in fact. I was so frightened of you. We met, and I felt assailed by your questions, poked and prodded and examined and dissected- so that when later, you were playful, I was in all my armour, attempting to impose control on you. Like that was ever going to happen. So short a time together, so deeply unsatisfactory.

File:London Eye - TQ04 26.jpg

Now, I see your good will, and need to be clear in my own mind how it is necessarily limited now that you have “moved on”, how it goes so far and then becomes callousness towards me. That really does not fit my fantasy of you. The illusions hiding that are the ones I really need to strip away. Then there was that incident where, it seemed to me, that man behaved like your servant, and I wondered how that could happen- did your personality just envelop and overwhelm his? As S. said, we are moths to your flame.

There are other fish in the sea, though I have no clue where I might find one. Can I attach the desire to an undefined person, rather than a particular unavailable one? That might be productive. I have no particular need to go to the city. I crave its excitement and liveliness, and thought I would experience that with you- Actually, I may find more real pleasure in the quiet pubs of my own town.

I so Resent that this impossibility, this fleeting glance, should have so much importance for me for so long, tied up as it is with my feelings about my current situation and all my history, how I have got Here. I feel as usual, inadequate and ridiculous. I will work through this. I will.

This experience has been really good for me, I have learned so much. I am delighted to have glimpsed you, you are an example to me. And then I imagine you touching my arm, and my whole body responds, and finding it unreal I am weeping helplessly.

Picture credit.

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Added. I am in denial, really. Yes, possibly, your decision was based on a series of regrettable miscommunications, but it was made. I remind myself of Bradley Headstone trying to get over this, beating myself up- that is a serious cautionary tale about obsession. I need to remind myself of those parts of reality which do not fit my fantasy.