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-
disapproval-
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
anticipate-

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

To engage with all that I am

Goodness is a bad thing. Goodness is weak.

Why would you want to be “good”? To curry favour, perhaps, to be safe by fitting the rules. For goodness is an external standard, goodness according to someone else. It does not fit reality, your situation or what is the ethical or truthful in that situation. Goodness is slavery.

When I was a solicitor, we acted for a debt collection agency with Scots and English clients. 90% of the debts were recovered without court action, and 90% of the court actions were undefended. I, a second year trainee then a newly qualified solicitor, dealt with the defended actions.

I have some sympathy with the clients. They felt they had fulfilled an order and were entitled to be paid, and I wrote to them saying I needed several senior staff in Inverness or Perth on a particular day to prove it, or I asked them about a defence they thought spurious. I put the defence to them, and some complained to the debt collection agency. The English office wrote to me and said I should not write to their clients direct, but to them, and they would write to their client. They rewrote my questions in their own words, sometimes misunderstanding the point of the question. Getting the letter dictated and typed took days. Then they did the same with the client’s response. I would wait weeks and get a response that was little more use than “They tell us the debtors owe them the money”.

There are risks in this. You might be able to settle the day before a hearing, but you might not. The creditor might not accept half the debt in full and final settlement. The debtor might sense weakness and not make an offer- one defender’s solicitor refused to negotiate, saying I had attempted to bully him. I am a careful soul, I like to dot all the ts and cross all the is, and found this stressful. The partner could have backed me up, but he was a chancer. Later he was sent to prison.

I joked to him Responsibility without power- the plight of the cuckold through the ages. But I did not analyse it clearly enough: we should have warned the agency, our client, of the risks of their policy. I don’t know whether we did. Instead, I tried to make it work, pursuing a claim without enough information. In the end I got sacked over some other error, but I am sure the stress of this contributed to that error. And now I notice the hindsight: I was not good enough to make that work. I should have done something else. Or Alistair should have. It is my bad qualities, such as lack of resilience, and even my agreeableness, not wanting to confront, was weakness in that situation.

At this point a sign comes up on the screen that there is an internet connection problem and Skype will try to restore the connection- but I can still see her movements, and we can hear each other, so that appears untrue. We carry on talking, hoping we will continue to be able to. Eventually the sign goes away.

Is agreeableness a bad thing? I should have more self-respect, more care for my own rights and well-being. Whether the problem is my neither making that system work, nor changing it, the problem is my failure and my inability to see, my bad qualities. Hindsight is a curse unless mixed with forgiveness.

I have told of that man before. He was a pitiable creature, but I felt disgust first. Before I saw him Andy told me he was a paedophile, and when I met him he put on the table a key ring with two or three keys and about five fobs, each with a picture of a child in it. I could not take my eyes off the keyring. I had to ask him to put it away, it revolted me so much. He said it was his grandchildren. What had he been in prison for? “USI”, he said, as if that were an abbreviation everyone would understand- underage sexual intercourse.

Later he phoned me and complained about various things, but I could not find what had gone on. Security guards had ejected him from the hospital, and he wanted to complain, but I could not find out what had happened. After twenty minutes, I asked him what he thought I could do for him, and he said,

“I want you to make it so I don’t have to fear any more.”

My heart went out to him. I wanted that too. Others would see him as a paedophile, and the important thing to prevent him from being a threat to vulnerable children. I saw him as a vulnerable human, lonely and frightened. For the avoidance of doubt, I would want to protect children from him- but not by destroying him.

Soft-heartedness is a bad thing? It is Love. Love is not a bad thing. Love is me, and I am Love. I would not be other than I am. But caring can make life difficult.

Soft-heartedness can be a bad thing, but when people lost their benefits they wanted someone to sympathise, and did not want to answer my questions until I showed I did. And they wanted to tell me the problem the way they saw it. I had strict time limits imposed by the Legal Services Commission, but my attempts at robotic time-limiting, insisting on my own questions, did not actually save time. Sympathy oiled the wheels.

I might slough off “goodness” for integrity. I was inadequate to the challenges.

-Being a person of great intellect and deep emotion is a bugger, she says.

As usual at this time in the session, my intellect seems to be bringing it all together, just one piece missing or one piece too many, and I change it slightly then desperately and my incipient Great Understanding all falls to pieces again. How could I either bring together that Intellect and Feeling, or separate them?

-I see you as a person of honour, integrity, intellect, deep feelings and distress, she says. What steps can you take, so that you can engage with all that you are?

Confidence, acceptance, belief? Trust?

Fear and bravery

I am allowed not to make sense, but do not always realise that.

Recent experiences have been pleasant. I was out leafleting for Labour last night. We met in the car park, and chatted for a bit, then I got my road group and cycled there. A man in his garage took my leaflet, and said he had voted Labour already. A woman in her front garden encouraged her toddler to take my leaflet from me. I had put the lock on my bike but not locked it to anything, and worried that someone would pinch it or hide it. That would require particular malice and nastiness, and there are few people walking round that corner, even on such a lovely midsummer evening. I cycled home and met two other leafleters- we chatted pleasantly for a few minutes. The whole experience was Nice. I remain afraid of the world.

I was too hot in the sunshine when I got to Swanston, and walked to the tea-shop with my wig off. So, sometimes I show fear, and sometimes a lack of circumspection.

It seems to me that if I show any vulnerability Enemies will pounce.

I leave my house, walk to the bus stop, and have to go back to check I have locked my front door, because I cannot remember and therefore imagine I have been an idiot, not locking it. I am capable of such idiocy: when I went to Portugal I left my electric blanket on, and though that was more likely to fuse it than to start a fire, I feared my flat would be burned out.

It is liberating giving this fear a voice, even though it is not sensible. Telling it to shut up and not to be so stupid has not worked, is not loving and shows no self-respect. So, give it a voice. I have been seeing my fear as a problem, but it is a part of me, needing loved and integrated. Love “drives out” fear, and soothes the fearful. I have wanted to show my fear it is wrong, but that shows no self-respect either.

I had thought work would be safe if I stuck to the rules, except it wasn’t. I feel my fear is my parents’ fear too.

I have very little knowledge of my maternal grandmother’s maternal grandfather, Mr Butt- only his surname, and only 90% certainty of its spelling. He drove a hackney carriage. At one time he owned three and had an arrangement for others to drive two on his behalf; but he lost the other two, through drinking. And, he would wander home drunk taking stuff from shops; the shopkeepers would let him, knowing he would be back to pay for it when sober. Stuff he did not need and could not afford, perhaps. I have the feeling my relatives felt as I feel about this, half disapproving, half admiring.

There are all these bits of myself I cannot admit because I can’t accept them. You haven’t said much today.

-I’ve been contemplating you contemplating your humanity. You can’t integrate without acceptance. Your need to find order in this.

Possibly I need to find order too much. I objected to a Labour volunteer calling the candidate a “young girl”. Women object to this. I wondered if it might make her seem more approachable, more “One of us” so more likely to get votes; or diminish respect for her, less likely to get votes. Probably the effect either way is too marginal to bother with. I do want order though. It seems safer if I can understand.

-You can’t show bravery without fear. Foolhardiness, perhaps.

I treasure this comment from over a year ago: I think you are extremely brave.

-I noticed you equate forgetfulness with idiocy.

Well, it was silly to leave the electric blanket on. “Idiocy” might be a bit strong. I need to be sensible and clever. I am clever, just not sensible.

-Perhaps that is a mercy not a curse, she says.

Know yourself

Would you ever hit someone?

No, you say, with complete certainty of your rectitude. Never. Or, at least not unless hitting someone was the only thing to do, the righteous, even heroic- defence of another when no other defence was possible. It does not matter that you don’t really know yourself, and you have no basis for the statement other than it is how people in a civilised country ought to be. You believe in yourself. You have faith, and your faith is reckoned to you as righteousness.

I don’t. Did I lock the door behind me? Of course I did, it is the thing I always do, but I have no specific conscious memory of it so I have to go back to check. What if I forgot? It does not help that I left my electric blanket on while in Portugal. I thought I had, and wondered if the flat would be burned out when I got back. It was not. I have self-doubt. I do not claim any good qualities. I only know I would not hit someone because I have been in these situations and not hit someone, not out of strength or self-restraint but out of confusion: the rules aren’t working, and I don’t know what to do. Or so I would tell you. I have no trust in myself, or of others’ good will towards me.

So I feel threatened and paralysed.

I want time to create self-respect and understanding. “I would not hit someone,” I say, with sufficient certainty of not committing a criminal act, because I have worked it out.

I have stubbornness and stickability. I got that doctor sacked. But this is a finite resource, perhaps- I tried with the other one, then gave up.

Could I really just go out and trust? I am a good person. Right now I want my quiet life because I cannot imagine a better, and I have a great deal of understanding and creativity.

As I have exercised that understanding and creativity, imagining a better involves stepping outside of me.

Twenty years ago I had a client who could not spell “bags”. He wrote “bages”. With a soft g, I think of him as the bages man. He could not do something so would not try, and I despised him. He frustrated me. And now I think,

It will not work⇒I will not try.

Or, things are percolating inside me, and great things will come. Or, my stubbornness motivation and drive are draining away. How could I know, without evidence from what I actually do?

If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve nothing to fear.

I would like to be admired.

“Where is the failure?” she asks. That flummoxes me. It throws me back to the centre of the problem, the equation with two many variables. There is none. Or, it is mine, from birth, society’s, from the creation of the World.

If the failure is mine, I do not know it.
I do my best…

Self respect V

Mr Trump is only not a traitor because he is incapable of emotionally comprehending the concepts either of a moral obligation on himself or of loyalty. I pray that his sacking of Mr Comey is the desperate act it appears to be, and that enough honour is left that his fall is inevitable: that he has won himself more weeks, not more months, in the White House.

And yet I love the way he fights for his own selfish interests, his single minded, rat in a corner determination to do any damage necessary, that he might be free. There are times when a human being is alone and must do all it takes to survive.

Mmm. Which human being do I mean?

-Why don’t you want to work?
-Because I can’t see any good in it except money for bare survival. I don’t want responsibility, because I can only imagine that turning out badly. Walking back and forth in a warehouse bleeping barcodes as required by an automated system sounds ghastly. I would be required to walk faster than I reasonably could for eight hours, sacked after a few weeks for not walking fast enough, then sanctioned for being “voluntarily unemployed”.

And I don’t want to be told what to do.
-Why not?
-Because I will be told stupid things.

I have not dug down into this particularly, but in Newport I was in anguish because I thought what I was told to do was stupid, merely missing the point; there was something of that in Swanston, the complete lack of planning of the job I was given to do such that it became impossible to do it to any useful standard. I don’t trust or like people. Possibly I could work in a coffee shop. I could pull into my shell and not be noticed. Cleaning a table could be OK.

-You’re very bright.
-It’s a curse!

Or, it has not given me all I might want it to. And I see my friend not getting her way even though she is right, because others do not see that they are wrong- and her surprise; and she has approached the matter in an unpersuasive way, because she has seen the truth they have not.

I lack energy. I typically sleep in the afternoon, wake two or three times a night, can rely on myself to undertake a task in the morning, but not necessarily both the morning and afternoon, and the intellectual effort of writing a blog post tires me. I wonder if that makes me in any way “ill”- I lack a diagnosis for it. Many people like that have supportive families.

I have the gift of focusing tensions on me. Expelling me from Wellingborough local Quaker meeting was not a solution to a non-existent problem, but it did enable people to lash out at something, diverting their attention from their real problems. How marmite am I, that I can even rile Quakers?

On Saturday morning, I left home at 5.45 to cycle to Swanston, to get the train to London and arrive at the Tate at 8. Members can enter then, to see the David Hockney exhibition, and I was rewarded by sitting with five huge couple portraits, over 3m x 2m, including the wonderful Pool with two figures.

-Did that energise or exhaust you?

I loved the Pool. I loved the sunlight on the surround, and the cool forested mountains beyond. I thought of getting a poster-print of it for £25, but after the original it was not enough. And, after about five hours in the galleries, I was tired. So, both. I got to that room with those pictures, with just five other people in it rather than the scores who were there later, and thought, I can tell people of this experience. “I left home at 5.45 to cycle…” I was and I will be ran in my mind until I rebuked them, and settled into I am here. I am proud that I could concentrate on Fred and Marcia Weisman and wonder at her expression, the high neck and the way she seems to snatch her robe around her, yet it is slit…

I want to spend time with beautiful things.

And I am starving for a deep emotional link to People!

A memory of my father

I am so embarrassed about this memory that I do not want to tell you it. Therefore, it will be worthwhile telling you. Empowering or something.

I don’t know myself innately, I work things out from clues. I know I would not hit anyone, because I have been in particular situations. I am not sure I could say why- perhaps “Cowardice” (bad) or “Restraint” (good). Perhaps confusion: the rules aren’t working, and I don’t know what’s going on.

-Exactly so, she says, and I wonder whether she helps me find insight or influences, even manipulates, me into seeing things a certain way. Are our words random, or some kind of joint inspiration?

So much of me is unconscious. That memory of my father, I was sitting on his knee, crying- it is always there, and it pops into consciousness every once in a while, every now and then. I started telling her of it as an illustration of how the unconscious is always there, and the conscious seems random, not a particular “I” I could know; but she asks of the memory. It embarrasses me. The child I was was so ridiculously stupid!

It should not be embarrassing. The child knew no better, and might not be expected to, at that age. I remember a fragment of conversation. I wanted to listen to a record, and he asked what.

-Can you remember what it was?
-I am not sure, but I think it was that actress in Mary Poppins [Julie Andrews] singing
a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down
in the most delightful way

and he said, but we don’t have that record.

And I took from this that I was stupid, and should have known this (which is why the memory embarrasses me. Wanting something impossible! Ridiculous and divorced from reality!)

and that he was kind.

Now, I think, well- impossible? There are shops, and there are libraries, quite close by. There is also the vague idea that Julie Andrews represented the left-liberal camp which was wrong, as we were Conservatives: that is adult language for it, that such entertainment would be Improper in some way, not our thing.

Is the memory important? I still feel confused. What can I do that is Good?

 ♥♥♥

I was a big fan of CS Lewis, and have read a lot of his work, since I sat on my father’s knee to hear The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. My nephew sat on my knee to hear it. The foundation of my theodicy is his The Problem of Pain, and I read his space trilogy several times. I have been reading The Abolition of Man again, and find it appallingly bad. Either he has no conception of phenomenology, and attacks what he does not understand, or he has, and produces the crudest possible straw man, which he could not possibly see as in good faith unless he was convinced he could do no wrong.

He says any man, unless corrupted, would agree with him about morals, because the Natural Law is inscribed in every healthy boy. (He would not have valued inclusive language.) Education should enable the boy to recognise it in himself.

I read the book to see what in it I might agree with, but I reject it entire. I do not care if I am wrong, I believe THIS. All I could take from his morality is the value of the individual human- the value of Me.

I drift off into thinking of how I might be useful in the General Election.

 ♥♥♥

I am frightened by
the bigness and inexplicability of the World

and of myself

but that’s OK

Judgment

I sense she regularly judges me, as too stupid (it’s relative), blinkered or ill-read to understand her explanation, or be worth engaging with to educate or persuade. Of course she judges me. We meet, and we react to each other out of our knowledge of each other, which must involve judgment. It remains worthwhile for both of us. Why would you fear judgment? Relationship is impossible without it. It is nuanced, almost never merely that someone is “bad”.

How could I know others? Well they are human, therefore like me- to an extent. Possibly my judgment of others is unusually forebearing, making allowances, gentle, but not off the scale. And as Samuel Johnson said, If any man would consider how little he dwells upon the condition of others, he would learn how little the attention of others is attracted by himself. Certainly the virulent, emphatic, black and white condemnatory judgment I have for myself is shared by few or none. I am not a murderer.

I started my counselling session pleased by my weekend away and social encounters, yet dissatisfied. There must be more to life than this. I work hard, on getting those photos, that one in particular, right, and especially on my writing. And thinking- when I am not writing, I am thinking things through. Ideas percolate within me.

I am hard on myself. Making this statement- I worked hard on that– I don’t know if I am learning to be less hard on myself generally, or in specific instances. Possibly both. “There must be more to life than this!” Well, I don’t see what, and don’t know if that is because my blind spots obscure it, or there is nothing there.

-Is there anything you would like to do again, or have a go at? she asks.
-No. Should there be?

-Why are you bored?
-From lack of stimulus, and loneliness.
-Where might you find it?
-in Love. But I fear the outside world, everything outside my living room.
-Why?
-Because of experience.
-Any particular experiences?
-All of it, from childhood and adulthood.

This great amorphous mass of greyness frightens me in itself. Everything? Are there any shards of light in the gloom? As she points out, sometimes I overcome my fear because I want to do something. I engage with the outside world, and sometimes the experience is positive for me. It might be worth analysing and categorising my experience a little more.

-Have you seen the Jungle book vultures?

I have just been to look. Oops.

-Would you join a club?

I thought of joining a writers’ group. There is one in Swanston, and I have the email address of the man who runs it, but have not done anything about that.

-Of course not, because a writing group would open you to rejection and criticism. Reciting your poetry was a lesser risk. Do you critique others?

Yes, but in a spirit of offering possibilities, rather than dogmatism. I am gentle. My experience of the judgment of others does not fit my fear of it- I fear the Granite Statues, unbending, remorseless, utterly condemning. Others are not like that in my experience yet I still fear it.

She tells me that those who are afraid of the World are usually afraid of themselves. Once you accept yourself you can engage better. But, what are other people actually like? How could I ever know?