From the receiving end, condolences can be a right pain. Often it is not that people are trying to cheer me up, but trying to get me to appear cheerful, because appearances are important. If only we could express feelings as we felt them, we would not bottle them up. Someone crying on the bus is doing everyone a favour, by modelling authenticity. Would that everyone could be so brave.

They might be trying to console themselves. It’s not so bad really, they say. You will get through it. Well, your vicarious pain at my suffering is not my concern. It will hurt me far more than it hurts you, because I am the one involved, however wonderfully empathetic you are. I will attempt the way you propose that I get through it, but I am aware of possibly insurmountable difficulties with that course which you are not.

Some might be enforcing the “right” way to feel and respond. Cliché feelings. My feelings are far more complex than that. No, don’t tell me what I am feeling. That must be very painful for you. Well, no, actually right now the adrenaline’s kicking in, and it feels good.

Some tell you that they faced a similar situation but they overcame it. A nose or a chin is such a tempting target. I am terrified, and my inner critic is having a field day. I have failed, failed utterly, in part because I have always tried to fit in and keep to the rules rather than following my heart’s desire, and now I am being punished for it. The World sees me as worthless, just as I do.

I am not sensible. I wonder if the Quaker concept of the Inner Light, or Richard Rohr’s God within, applies to me. There’s that bit inside each person which is their Guide, which will show them the true path if only they act in accord with it. Well, Licia Kuenning was certain of her Inner Guide, and look how that ended. My most powerful inner voices are the sensible bit, which tells me what I should do, and unfortunately has no power to motivate me whatsoever however hard it chides, and the inner teenager. Don’ wannoo, she says. Actually, there are things she wants, which are not sensible at all, and I wonder at them.

What I desire makes no sense to me, except that I desire it. It only makes me happy for odd moments. Oh well, I make that choice. I make it. It is my choice. I choose that.

And I was staring at the thing which I must do, thinking, Oh God, that’s dreadful- and the idea popped into my head how to rewrite it. So I did. It’s not dreadful in quite the same way, now. It may be the best I can do, at least in this mood.

Trans identity

Some people are trans. How much of that is innate, and how much cultural? I say effeminate men might find transition attractive. Others say that people with the sexual orientation of autogynephilia transition- in that case I am bisexual between an autogynephilic orientation and a gynephile orientation, as I am attracted to women other than myself. The real world is more complex than theories can portray.

Others say the phenomenon is Trans, where female souls/brains/psyches in male bodies are only happy once transitioned, and children as young as three can experience bodily dysphoria, loathing their penises. This is the “trans ideology” so hated by the TERFs. If I am really a woman, of course I should be allowed in women’s space. I say I am sort-of culturally a woman, an anomaly, so should be tolerated in women’s space, because the majority of women so tolerate me, and because I am harmless and we are mostly harmless.

Or I could say that I am Different, so for the comfort of the Normal people I have to be shoved into a box, and when I could not tolerate the Man box the Transwoman box was the other one available. The goal of Diversity is that no-one should be shoved into a box.

Possibly what you want to do governs what you think about it. I wanted to transition, so I thought I was transsexual. And what your identity is affects what you do. I thought true transsexuals had sex reassignment surgery, so I had sex reassignment surgery. So there are different names for it, validating it- gender confirmation surgery is the latest I heard. Neovagina, says the surgeon, making it sound good. “Fxxk hole”, says the radical feminist, communicating her contempt.

This post about identity is written by someone who opposes transition. People approach medical services saying they are trans, and seeking medical reassignment. Their identity is that of a trans person. They believe they are a trans person, and that that means hormones and surgery. Lisa Marchiano wishes to treat gender dysphoria as a symptom, and explore with her patient what that symptom means. Gender dysphoria causes distress. The identity model says the person is trans, and the way to alleviate the distress is medical transition. Marchiano is against transition: it is a “drastic, permanent medical intervention”, leading to “permanent, life-long sterility 100% of the time”. One never reads in such articles that transition makes some people happier and higher-functioning, but it does. I would be happier if the writers admitted the value of transition for the patient in some cases.

She values self-identity. We tell ourselves stories about ourselves. I identify as Quaker, Scots, English, cultured. These things matter to me. The therapist accepting them empowers me. The therapist only challenges them if they lead to maladaptive behaviour. Yet how can I know myself? I identified the Real Me as female, but now identify it as feminine. I am a pansy. My self-identification often is changed by the words I use. I seek more accurate words. She says gender dysphoria does not mean necessarily that I am trans, but that the therapist needs to explore the meaning of the symptom and be open to what emerges. That she questions self-identity as trans does not mean she treats the symptom as unimportant or illusory.

She breaks down gender dysphoria into separate symptoms, including alienation from ones body. I hated the slimness of my arms, because it seemed weak and unmanly. Now I love my arms and hands, which I find beautiful. Finding a way to accept me as me, rather than accept aspects of my body because they fit “woman” and I identify as “trans woman”- accepting what is, and finding the good in it- would have been better than transitioning, if only I could have pulled it off. Teenage girls are alienated from their bodies by porn culture, and she says they decide transition is the answer due to a social contagion: it is the answer they find, and they latch onto it, then seek out evidence to confirm it, which they find in many sites providing mutual reassurance. (As do the radical feminists who decide we are monstrous then seek evidence and reassurance to confirm that.) I was homophobic and femmephobic- a man should not be feminine, I thought. It was not internalised transphobia, but femmephobia. How much better to relieve my self-loathing than to force me into the trans-woman box which I thought fitted my feminine self!

She says there are often other mental health conditions. One doctor said I had narcissistic personality traits, another denied it, and those traits might cause or be caused by the dysphoria, but finding a way of alleviating them might make the dysphoria less serious.

I see no evidence that she accepts transition as an appropriate course for anyone. She attacks “transgender ideology” as incoherent. She says there is no basis for a “gender identity” (her scare-quotes) that supersedes “objective biological sex”. This makes her assessment of research on outcomes suspect, though I doubt you would find an objective meta-analysis, untainted by any desire to affirm or deny transition as a treatment. Her reference to “a late-transitioning MtT autogynephile” links to Anne Lawrence. That is hostile. Here she writes that trans people exist, and should be protected; but she would rather manage gender dysphoria without transition. I feel her position has hardened further since. But I agree that we should explore the anima and animus, male and female, within ourselves.

I love her desire to explore deeply the sources of distress and seek varied possible solutions. That is not the NHS model, which favours quick fixes, even bodges. We would see the person in front of us in all of their miraculous complexity, and not just as a “gender identity,” she says. If only!


Ego states

I know what I must do. I know why. All this knowledge is eminently reasonable. It makes sense. And I don’t do it. It seems there are two ego states in me (and probably others)- the one which knows, and instructs what to do, and the one which refuses.

Ann, from the rational self, would cajole or command the feeling self. “Action,” she would say, then she would get up and go to do what she had to do.

There was that 15 year old who had to have his medication delivered overnight, by an electric motor driving a screw so that a syringe was precisely and evenly emptied into his arm through a tube. If he did not get it, he would become sick. His father had to get up twice in the night (repeated supervision, middle rate care DLA) to check that the tube was in, because if the son noticed the tube had dislodged he would not replace it. Why will you not? asked the tribunal, and the son responded with teenagerish inarticulate stubbornness. “I don’t know why he won’t”, I said, “but I do believe that he won’t”. The tribunal granted the benefit.

I do know why he wouldn’t, though. His father was completely controlling, and this was the only chance at rebellion he had.

This “feeling self” is of course rational.  I am not seeing it clearly, but trying to find conceptions which fit, and which possibly only fit it performing one kind of act; and possibly there is not one “feeling self”. And it does not precisely fit one of Eric Berne’s ego states, parent, child and adult, though I got the term “ego state” from him.

So I should get a cheaper flat. My position would be less precarious, and there are cheaper flats available. I know this, have known it for years, but I don’t do it. “This is why you should,” explains the rational self, and the feeling self is inarticulate and stubborn. It might be worth speaking from the place of the feeling self: why do you not want to? I am so sorry I have not listened to you before.

I love this place. I love its quiet and beauty. It is a huge part of my life.

There are depressive feelings too. I did not want to go to yearly meeting gathering (which was wonderful). I anticipated being cold and wet camping, not knowing what was going on. I could also anticipate joy, but that required thought. I don’t think I would like a cheaper flat. Finding it and moving there would be difficult.

I imagine bad stuff happening. That is a depressive, negative response. It stops me trying things.

For that job I need to do some preparatory work. Some part of me- the rational self, possibly- can articulate why I could do it well, and feels some pride in those assertions- so yes it’s rational but only because feelings are rational. Naming these ego-states can get in the way of understanding them. With encouragement, the feeling state can articulate reasons for apprehension or immobility. Some part of me is still not doing that preparatory work, and is not getting on with an application. I have been burned before. I would rather not try, if I might get an interview but no job. That has been just to painful.

I will be rejected. I am always rejected. I have pride, you know (though I might not see it)- even dignity, though it manifests as fear and withdrawal. You will not reject me. I will not give you the opportunity to reject or judge me. That could be a child experience manifesting in the grown organism now, the best pride- or defiance- I could manage at the time.

I don’t get Eric Berne. His “Adult” was the part of the human which learned and judged from its own experiences, but the “Parent” was recordings, memories, of things taught by parents and people in loco parentis. The “Child” was the child’s feelings at its experiences; but both Parent and Child were laid down before the age of about five. Berne thought these were real components of the personality, laid down in the brain: not concepts, but phenomenological realities. I am agnostic on that one. Possibly the ego states I describe are aspects of Berne’s adult, possibly they are aspects of different parts of his states, perhaps I- or even he!- misunderstand.

Showing respect to my inner No might have value. Why not? I will listen to you. You might agree one argument is depressive, but still insist on another. You might be persuaded, but I could make myself a neutral arbiter. All parts of myself must be persuaded, and agree.

I learned of Behavioural Activation years ago, and now see grime on doors as well as work surfaces. BA: I note what I do, and take pride in it. So I do more, feel more pride, in a virtuous spiral. So rather than berating myself for having a dirty house, each brief action of cleaning, each dirty square foot, is a chance to feel good about myself! At the time I learned of it, it seemed a way of getting me to do stuff. If I picture it instead as a way of feeling better about myself, it is more attractive.

Ranting and Rebellion

How could you ever know yourself? “I am not the kind of person who” becomes “So far I have generally not”. I looked at those texts, and saw what they meant. I had not realised when I was texting. Self-conscious, I would not have done it nearly so well. Morality changes as I tell different stories: “I want to be a good person” becomes “I always wanted to find the rules and follow them, so that I would be safe”.

I have not so far ever seen myself as a rebel. Rebellion is as powerless as conformity, I would have said. You are not making free choices. It is mature to seek goals. That remains true, and now I am in rebellion. It is part of teenage, and I have to complete teenage eventually, I owe that to myself.

What do you do? she asked. I challenge authority and convention, I declared. Ha! I am rebelling! I am doing that teenage thing! In that moment I crafted a new story about myself. Well, the story seems to fit, and is good enough for the moment. I don’t like shadow motivation, not really, it is scary when I do things and don’t know why, or maybe work it out later. I do what I do to achieve my desires, even if I am not conscious of it. Often I don’t do something because I am scared of it and because I can’t imagine it working. I don’t want to do a job application as it will probably lead to interview, but no further.

On Tuesday it seemed to me that I had made a connection, that had helped me accept the world, myself and my history, better, that healed some of my resentment and frustration, or at least to see these things are possible and necessary. The Maintenance of Order in society, which enables us to develop beyond hunter-gathering, also restricts me, produces a Masculine Way of being which I could not approach and which broke me. What supports me, feeds and clothes me, is the same thing that poisoned and mutilated me. That poisoning was the best humanity could do at the time, the best I could see.

Lucy said she cannot put her experience into her performance while she is still angry. That makes sense to me. I don’t see the truth, because I rail against it. It should be otherwise. If I make that connection, perhaps I can accept my hurt and move on.

I transitioned to try to fit in and welcomed the poison and mutilation, which were a necessary part of transition. It was the best I could do at the time. So now I challenge authority and convention, I say portentously: or, I am in rebellion, in my delayed teenage.

I am threatened with expulsion from the Quaker meeting for expressing my distress in a theatrical way. If we are to know each other in the things which are eternal, it is not enough to discuss Cole Porter musicals. We must delve more deeply into ourselves, lift the covers off our feelings and expose our insecurities. My friend, though he needs the support of community, while he is bravely resisting the Arms fair and getting arrested for it, does not go to his Quaker meeting because, while they are nice enough people, they do not give him what he needs.

I do what I want to do whether I realise it or not, because of shadow motivation, the desires I cannot admit to myself, and because of my past trauma, all that pain and hurt. It controls me whether I admit it or not. The adult part of me, which has been civilised into conformity with rules and common sense, would do a better job of ensuring my behaviour was civilised if it could see that shadow which moves me.

I want to bring my whole self to the Quaker meeting, the theatrical expression of distress and disagreement, all my joy and incomprehension, all my creativity, so that I can get to know myself and that shadow. I brought all of me to the Yearly Meeting Gathering. There I made a powerful and beautiful declaration of Love to someone, which I almost wish I hadn’t, now, actually, though I don’t think it has done lasting harm. And I disrupted a session and took two hours of someone’s time while I expressed my distress, but the session proceeded and I think she is happy enough to have given me that service. It did me good. It freed me for the rest of the week.

YMG was utterly vibrant. Em came to see her friend one evening, and was bowled over by the electric atmosphere of Quakers being ourselves with ourselves.

-Are you going to form Noisy Quakers?
-It’s been done. The Ranters saw God in their inmost motivation, though as antinomians that led to disorder. They could feel moved by God to fornication or adultery. Though perhaps this was a Conservative myth, and no-one was as unrestrained a Ranter as all that; and my Poly friend has learned polyamory. She lives with her husband, and had several flings with women before starting a long term relationship with a woman. So they explored and tested boundaries and emotions in a mature, ethical and responsible way. There is the conventional rule, that we are celibate until marriage then chaste and faithful, and there are ethical ways to be outside that rule.

It’s not rebellion, it is not a breach of the way of our Civilisation, it is living in an alternative way and showing those who might see new possibilities and paths.

And I am in rebellion. Talking after Meeting is like a cocktail party. On the train home from Hull, I started talking to two archaeologists returning from an academic conference. I told them Sam had been arrested for blocking the road to DSEI, and they said how wonderful. We can be the Guardian, Greenbelt, left-liberal side of civilisation, but not anarchist or radical. The tension will get resolved one way or another. Maybe I will wind my horns in. I don’t want to just yet.

So I feel powerless to avoid being expelled from the Quaker meeting. Possibly I will cross the line again, and after mature discernment elders will sadly expel me for the good of the Meeting, because there are other people there besides me and their needs matter. If my inner adult decides I must only say what normal people would say at a cocktail party, to someone they knew only distantly, at the start of the party before their first tentative sips of wine, then my passionate inner self will rebel and take over.

I would like to speak to those who object to me, and reassure them as much as I can. I will not be physically violent. I do not want anyone to relieve my distress.

I want Quakers to hold all of me. Perhaps if I matured better from teenage I would have other communities which could meet different needs, but I have not at the moment. Perhaps I would not need this if I knew myself already, what I feel and desire, and could bear that.

Perhaps Quakers cannot cope with that. Perhaps the butterfly needs to be broken on the wheel.

Femme jealousy

Alicia’s jealousy was pure paranoia. Yes, I am quite sure of that. Of course I have interests in common with Liz, which Alicia does not seem to share, and in our first conversation round the fire toasting marshmallows we shared about them while Alicia was silent. I noted how Liz’s girlfriend was much younger, and very attractive, as a positive for Liz. I found her thought inspiring.

Next morning, I watched Alicia painstakingly groom her highlights.
-Are you laughing at me?
-How could someone as ridiculous as I am laugh at anyone? I asked. Sometimes my humility comes across as sarcasm. She did not know how to respond to that one.
-How long did you stay after we left? asked Liz.
-I had just said “I love you” to a man I had just met. I scarpered immediately!

He had apologised for his poor English, and I said, to reassure him, that I know no Persian. Say “دوستت دارم“, he said. I repeated it as best I could, then asked what it meant.

That night, round the fire again, Alicia talked with an American man about American cities they had both lived in, a subject giving me no entrée. I did not say I have not been West of Reykjavik. My last sight of them was them walking hand in hand down the quiet, peaceful path from the festival site. Liz smiled broadly and greeted me. Alicia didn’t- even though they will go back to New York at the weekend together.

I noted with interest that they live in different boroughs. Continue reading

Norethisterone V

It seems my choices are to take Oestradiol only, and completely lack energy so that if I do my washing in the morning I just want to slump in the afternoon, or to take synthetic progesterone, and have febrile energy manifesting in highs I don’t fully trust- I seem rational, but its my Norethisterone brain doing the judging- and crushing lows.

I phoned the Samaritans, wanting to explore this low, quite how bad everything is. I would go into the darkness, and start by saying “I am not suicidal” to reassure Helen (or me). Thinking of how to express that I realised, “I want to die”. I don’t trust myself to look after myself.

The low is deep but I know it will end. That is an improvement. The high on Tuesday was really good. Even low, I feel more energy and purpose. Georgia O’Keeffe wrote, I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do. Well, I have mostly suppressed my terror below consciousness, and it has stopped me doing things, or even knowing what I want to do. Her way is better. I don’t trust my rationality, but having more energy may be worth that cost. Feelings pass.

As a benefits adviser I dealt with a man who cared for his mentally ill sister. She would do things like wander off at 2am without shoes on, and he would try to keep her safe, that is, well-managed. She was getting DLA high care low mobility, the most she could get, but he wrote to the benefits office asking if she could get more. Rather than telling him “No” they sent him a review form, and decided she should get less. He was distressed by this. She was calm, well enough fed, irked by his control as walking off in the night is fairly harmless, really. He was constantly stressed.

We did the tribunal, he was stressed, picking up various bags and papers, shaking, and she whispered to me, “Help him, Mr Maxwell”. So I helped him with his bags, and she was quietly caring for him.

It feels I have a carer, looking after the Inner Child, because I do not trust that spontaneous being. I trust the carer to understand the world, but the carer understands no better, is as insane as it imagines the Child is, and does no better than the Child would. The Carer’s first ambition is to avoid the Child having painful feelings, rather than to keep me safe, and it does not manage that, just anticipating painful feelings and worrying about them, and avoiding action. It falsely imagines that is “keeping me safe”. The Catholic Meditations are on getting rid of the Carer, an emptying of all the contents of the ego-consciousness to become a void in which the light of God or the glory of God, the full radiation of the infinite reality of His Being and Love [or, perhaps, the Child] are manifested. It quotes Matthew 10.39, He who loses his life shall find it.

Before today’s low, I discussed all this with Tina. I could lose my income, yet then was sanguine. All I could do was monitor the situation: no point in worrying. Life is bearable, with the occasional pleasing sensation. It is only not bearable if I imagine that I cannot stand this, there is too much unpleasant emotion. I might think that my current existence, at home most of the time, is not enough. I can get more pleasing sensation by noticing more: if I go into that state of awareness of my surroundings, particularly outside, there is a great deal of beauty and the state itself feels lively and energised.

I don’t know if I want more experience. I judge that I ought to. I find what I want when I see what I do. I do what I do. I feel dissatisfaction. I do not want to put plans into practice, as the Carer anticipates defeat.

I see a need for Advance into Greater Spiritual Maturity, and I am working on that. I am coming to appreciate my own good qualities.

I don’t trust the benefits system. It claims to pay a very low income to people unfit for work, but does not keep that promise. If some people in a wheelchair might not qualify for ESA, its criteria are far too strict. And I think I have identified the Gotcha moment, the moment where I could not have known but she seems, now, to have decided I did not score particular points. I am frightened.

Tina asks, are there any human systems which don’t make promises and fail to live up to them? Well, in 1948 the benefits system was more honest. Now there are deliberate cuts, and intended holes in the safety net. And we never manage perfection, just imagine it- each person differently. What we achieve is good enough.

-What do you hope for?
No idea.
-You might get it then.
That is a good question, and I shall go away and consider it.

I have now been blogging for six years.

The wisdom to know the difference

I have the bloody-mindedness to keep fighting the things I cannot change
The weakness to run from the things I just might change
And the blindness not to see the nature of either.

When to fight, or work, and when to back off. That is important, difficult wisdom. Now, I begin to think that the difficulty is not being able to back off, rather than not being able to stick at it: I stick at things really hard, because I am passionate, but do not value or protect myself, so that when I am forced to stop I have been hurt, so find it difficult to force myself back, or wheedle myself back, or trust to go back freely. I can never trust myself not to hurt myself. I am not safe, because of myself.

In counselling I find it hard to speak, but I can type a note for myself, then read out the note.

I am seeking to escape the restrictions transition places on me. Then I rethought this:
I place on me.

No, restrictions I sort of accept, not challenging, but might challenge.
Might find out how to challenge
Am challenging as best I know
Self-expression as best I know, now, may improve. Transition, the “feminine role”, does restrict me; that I have not overcome all the restrictions yet does not mean I am not trying my best to, and getting better at it.

I think of Her. She is worth my time, my attention and my work. I am not going to stop yet. I would like everything stated clearly between us, but then I might play games with it, or use it in bargaining;

I feel I am guessing what you want and if I guess right and give it I will have it too.
Except it must feel right for you or you will withdraw.
Or if any pathway goes wrong you will not go there again- we tried that and it didn’t work.
Treat you as a puzzle- well, I am thinking, now, after. At the time I respond, and so often apparently wrongly.

That led to the insight. As well as retreating from the world, just staying in my living room, watching telly

I do difficult things.
Difficulty is not a deterrent.
If I see a way forward I take it.

And yet in so many cases

I don’t do things I have found not profitable. “We tried that once and it didn’t work.”

In some of my battles I have been badly hurt and not gone back. Yet in others I have kept fighting despite being hurt.
Have been frustrated and seen no way forward and not gone back, the effort of understanding and seeing becomes too painful.
Some problems I just run from.
WHAT do I run from, but should not? Or stick with, for no useful purpose?
Go back? Others do not find hard and I still find it hard to admit that looking for those jobs is too much for me, it ought not to be, well maybe it would not be if I could take care of myself better
Give up, find something else to do-

So I came to

The bloody-mindedness to keep fighting the things I cannot change
The weakness to run from the things I just might change
And the blindness not to see the nature of either.

That got seven likes on facebook, more for the elegance of expression than the thought perhaps.

-I see you celebrate your passion in lots of ways, says Tina. That reassured me. I do. I had a wonderful time at Yearly Meeting Gathering, and I bestowed my Light on many people.

And- I feel I do not know which problems to stick at, which to accept, because I am using my rational, ought-mind, the common cultural judgment. I know what I need to work on, and if I trust myself I might even know that consciously.

Life as it is

I am going to Yearly Meeting, and rather than delight I anticipate feeling bored, lonely and out of sorts, getting cold and wet, my phone discharging and not recharging. My default state is fear- of what??? Increasingly I am tongue-tied, as when I think of something to say I immediately think of qualifications, even think the opposite is true, and to free that log-jam I type rapidly, without judging. Fear of-

bad things happen-
OK for this month, not sure after
losing benefits
death- not quite welcome it, would solve some problems- would not be worried any more, not sure what to do with life
-fear of process?
-dying alone?
non-specific anxiety

Thinking about Yearly Meeting Gathering, trying to set aside the fear, I anticipate joy- connection- understanding- laughter

We share the idea of Hell as ideas of heaven you don’t understand enjoy or fit in: others sit on the clouds, but I keep falling through; others play their harps but I get wrong notes- a martyr might find his seventy virgins unattractive…

-What stops me from doing things? The feeling that there would be no point. It is better to be bored than frustrated. It seems I am merely and always ineffective. If I play the piano, errors creep in, so that it is not worth all the necessary practice, and eventually I don’t play at all.

fear of failing, not matching my judgment.
I can’t achieve what I want and don’t even know what I want. Everything is a waste of time.

To put that into a coherent paragraph- my life as I have created it is all that I fear. I consider it- sitting at home watching telly, scrolling facebook, not reading, not spending much time with friends, and find it ghastly yet desirable. It could be my way of rebelling against other people’s ideas of what is desirable. I have picked up ideas of what I ought to desire, but do not. I am like a teenager in a strop/ funk/ sulk, for I have no idea of what I might actually desire, that has been driven out by the need to conform to other’s ideas, and then simply to hide away and not be noticeable. I sit in my living room watching telly. That is not enough for me, not nearly enough, a complete waste, but I don’t know what else I might do, or want to do.

I fear that I will make an effort and not achieve what I want, or not be able to construct a coherent plan that I might reasonably hope would achieve what I want. From this base of dissatisfaction I have to find new ideas of what to want, or how to get it, and forming the ideas seems just too hard.

I do not anticipate finding joy.

She asks, there is so much judgment in this- whose judgment is it? Yours?
-Well, I am not facing anyone else’s judgment at the moment, though I have taken it into myself from others.
-self can be hardest taskmaster of all.
-Oh yes.

My life now is bearable and unbearable, horrible and desired. I feel dreadful frustration.

I trust the Yearly Meeting Gathering enough to go.

Recovery from burnout

Only achievers burn out.

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

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

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

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

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

So how can I recover from this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Art, Life, Beauty, Wonder

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

At the Tate, I become bigger.

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

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

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

I interact.

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

I heal.

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

I serve.

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

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

I need to achieve!
I hunger for Action!

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow