Treating me like a woman

It is nice to be looked after.

I do not like that road, for cycling. Cars go fast, but it is narrow, and they pass a bicycle without leaving enough room. I thought I could jump the kerb and go on the footpath. Then I did not, and shot head first onto a patch of grass. Most of my weight went on my left hip, which developed a swelling as if my skin were tights, and I had put a cloth pad inside my tights. It is still painful 36 hours later.

I was mortified. “Only a fool falls off a bicycle without assistance”, I thought. I read that, and believe it, and want to make excuses like I was frightened of the cars and made a split second decision badly. The other Marsby road is closed, completely ripped off the Earth’s surface in parts for house building, so I went on the road where the cyclist died.

I consider I could have pedalled off then, but sat on the grass for a bit to regain equanimity. A man stopped his car, wound down the window, and asked if I were alright. I am completely ashamed of falling off and I say I am. Yes, I am sure.

Then a lorry-driver stopped. She got out and came over to me. She looked concerned, asked if I was OK. I could not meet her eye but tried to reassure her. Yes I am OK. Thank you so much for stopping. A woman driving a car stopped and also came over to me. She is caring. I am ashamed.

The lorry driver said, “She’s fallen off her bicycle. The lorry driver didn’t cause that, for a change”. I hasten to reassure the other driver that it was not the lorry driver’s fault. Yes I am OK, still unable to meet eyes but OK. “I have to check for concussion”. I don’t think I’m concussed, I did not bang my head just my hip. I am still ashamed for falling off, and not really liking the attention, but I see that it is caring and sweet. One might like it. They are women caring for a woman who is hurt. I should not just pretend it is nothing, as a man would.

The lorry driver checks the bike. She thinks the front gear is jammed, but when I pedal off it is fine. I thank her profusely, smile at the other woman, they drive off, I pedal off.

One is rarely in need before strangers, especially in my withdrawn and isolated state. I would certainly not seek such a situation out; but it was lovely.

Death threat

I make a strong impression on people, but rarely make them want to kill me.

I hate how drivers are desperate to pass bicycles. Here, there is almost no flat land, and the roundabout is at the bottom of a dip. I want to build momentum going down, to help me go up the other side, and so take the roundabout at a fair clip. It is reasonably safe, I am not taking huge risks: I can see all around, and can brake hard if needed.

However this driver is a selfish, thoughtless man: he passed me as I was accelerating, and slowed down for the roundabout. I had to slow down behind him. When he stopped at the roundabout, I whizzed past him on the left, shouting something about him not passing me then slowing down.

Going up hill, I noticed that he had come to a stop, behind a car turning right. He had pulled over to the left, but I could pass him again and shouted that passing me had done him no good.

When he passed me again, he was really angry. He stopped, I stopped. He was shouting incoherently, I shouted at him that he should drive more carefully. When I shout, my voice sounds particularly masculine. Or I’ll kill you, you fxxking pxxf, he shouted, and started to get out of the car. I pedalled on, too slowly for my liking as I was going up hill. He was stopped well out from the side of the road, and I heard another driver honk their horn at him, which must have further irked the poor man. He came past me again, shouting You need killing. “Pxxf”? I’m gynephile! His gaydar is not very good…

I was scared when I got to the Quaker meeting. I wanted to put my bicycle in the garden so that there was no chance he see it, even though the chance he would pass and notice it was pretty small. Quakers were mostly sympathetic. One said he was a very sick man, and I should not “let him live rent free in my head”. Given her professional career, she should know better, though she is quite well off and not queer herself. I hesitate to talk about her privilege, but either she can understand that I feel frightened of passers-by as a default state, or she can’t. This was really horrible, and it was in my mind for much of the meeting. My anger emerged in thoughts of him starting a fight and me finishing it. The thought that came to me at the end of Meeting was that, for all his malice, and his greater power being in a car, because of the way society is he had managed to do me no harm at all.

Cycling while trans

After a wonderful day, I got to the station at 12.15. It is lovely to cycle in a light summer dress, but not at night in the rain, so I put on my waterproof jacket. That’s quite hot, and I don’t want my wig rained on, so I put it in my handbag. What could go wrong?

I expect to take about forty minutes at night. It is lovely with the roads so quiet, even against the wind, even after such a storm that there is a lot of standing water on the road. I am almost home when there is a barrier across the road, with a police car behind it, and a diversion sign. Oh dear. That’s a long way round, I think. I asked the police officer, politely, if I could get through as it was such a long way. No: the storm has brought down power cables, which are lying right across the road. They have called for someone to come and remove them, but don’t know when they will come. I could wait if I want, but it could be half an hour. I go down the side road.

When I get to the dual carriageway I see there is no ramp down leading westward. I had forgotten. As it is quiet, I go down the footpath beside the exit ramp. However when I get to the bottom I see there is a barrier across this road too, again with a man in a van to prevent anyone sneaking through.

-Do you mind if I cycle through? It’s a long way round, I am not sure of the way through Zhuzhkov and the road through Marsby is blocked.
-Yeah, go on, mate, he says, just mind out when the lorries are reversing, yeah?
-I’m female, I say, but he makes no response to that.

At one point I am cycling over hot tarmac, enjoying its rich aroma. At another I pull into the side to let a lorry reverse past. Again it is lovely in the quiet, with almost no traffic going the other way. The wind is against me but not too much. There is little drizzle. I slog up the hill from the roundabout and get home in about twice the time I thought it would take.

The more people there are about, the more likely it is that someone will read me and object to me, but most people don’t mind. This bloke, seeing my male pattern baldness and hearing my voice, nevertheless behaved reasonably. I have been thinking about pride. What did I do- how would I conceptualise it? I begged to be allowed through– no, I asked, with my tone of voice indicating the only reasonable course would be allowing me through. Or, pride in appearance- practicality is more important. The dress was comfortable, in the day-time. I met with setbacks and dealt with them.

Heat

Sweat beads between my breasts, trickles down my cheek, glistens on my shoulders.

I cycled to Meeting in the sun, in air brought from Spain by weather currents. It seems to me that I should calm my breathing, so I make that effort. If I can slow my diaphragm and heart, they will make less heat. Still, when I get there, my face is scarlet. It is as if a birthmark quite covered it, and I went to run my head under the cold tap. H runs marathons, I will ask her. Half marathons, at the moment, she corrects me. “I felt I was going into a panic.” You make a rhythm, of heart, breathing, stride all together. I like the island climate, a comparatively small range between our hottest and coolest. Today is 29°, which is unusual, and it is rare for several nights together to be below freezing.

Facebook. “I don’t like the heat,” she says. What? Why were you in Tunisia? “He does.”

So I wondered, do I like the heat? I don’t know. Yes could become a pissing contest- nothing lovelier than noon in Riyadh in July. I take precautions to keep my flat cool, drawing the curtains on sunward windows, closing the windows against warmer air outside. I could be happy on holiday, going round tourist attractions or jumping into a pool, enjoying time away from routine with friends. Or, it is pointless to complain about the weather, and I will not indulge in that. But the sensuous experience of being outside in the heat, simply for itself?

You could like the light. The sun at its highest, the brightness on the water of the Lakes. That it is also beautiful washed through mist, land across the valley getting steadily less distinct, does not mean the colour and the contrast of full sun is not glorious too. I could take my camera, but do not want to be thinking of framing images; I want to perform the experiment on myself. Do I like the heat?

I walk down and round the lakes. The mud is dry and cracked. The corn is still green, its long stamens turning into seeds. I don’t want to walk so quickly or so far as usual. I pause several times by the river, and try to connect with the experience, shorn of words or ideas about it. Do I like the heat? It is bearable; there is just enough slight breeze now and then, wafting my light summer dress, though the wig is a pain; but bearable is not pleasureable.

Going into shade of trees suddenly, I know that I like the shade.

I suppose I like experience. I understand life with words. I plan, analyse, conceptualise with words, and it is good to lay down the burden of words- I! a Writer!- for unmediated experience. I am here, by the river, sensing with eyes, ears, skin, open and not judging, and I like that.

It is good to be open to experience. I am in the heat, and it is not a horror I must shun, but an environment I can flourish in. I do not run from it, and that is empowering. It might create problems which I would deal with, different problems from colder months. I don’t particularly like to sweat. It is good to appear to be civilised, above that sort of thing, and it is a status symbol to not need to be troubled by it; but then I am an animal, and sweat is natural. I need not appear out of sorts.

I don’t see many people in the park. There are a few cyclists, and some families by the adventure playground, picnicking in the shade of trees. I will ask this woman, walking towards me by the hedge.

Do you like the heat?
-Hmmuhh? she says, surprised by the question.
-Do you like the heat?
-Yes, I suppose. Better than being cold. (I had her exact words in my mind, all the way home, but forgot them before writing them.)
-Thank you.
-Have a nice day! cries into the distance.

Being the Good person

I am cycling on the road slightly downhill with the wind behind me, and someone is cycling out of the park on my left, into my path. Surely he will stay on the pavement? I look, worriedly, at the back of his head and hope he will look round. I cannot evade him because of the oncoming car. I can’t stop, so I scream; he looks round and brakes.

I pedal on, and from far behind me I hear his aggrieved exclamation: The fxxk! Scream like that? And now, I am so envious of him: that reflexive self-righteousness, he resents me and my wronging him. He is the good person here. Whereas I am analysing the situation and after much thought, have decided that my conduct passes muster, though I wonder if I should have reacted sooner.

There are advantages to the worried assessment- “Am I good enough? Did I wrong him?” which seems a more feminine response. The cars I notice waiting behind me for a safe, courteous time to overtake are driven by women, the cars which breenge past far too fast and close are driven by men. The advantage is that you probably won’t be in the wrong, and won’t have a collision. It means I need approval from others, though. There are advantages to the reflexive self-righteousness: you never need to think about second-guessing yourself, and nothing bad usually happens because other people manage to clear up your messes or take evasive action before you smash into them.

I used to see S every week or so, but have not for ages; but she has been to Woodbrooke and wanted to tell me about it. At one point I state something passionately, then half-apologise for it: “That was vehement,” I say, feeling her out. Oh, she says, that’s just the normal way of speaking, for her and her family. It is not for me. My passion is usually behind a diffident manner, which can be painful for me: I am restrained by my own fears. “Like an elephant with a-” I am miming a shackle round my ankle, but do not need to, because she got the allusion immediately.

“We need to be with others to know ourselves, because we see ourselves reflected in them,” she says. Yes. Of course. I am learning, now, from my interactions. I judge myself. I always ask, “How am I wrong?” I know this from interaction, but I am a recluse because for so long I judged myself reflexively and unconsciously, so I was always wrong, all the time, and when I was hurt too much by interactions and could take it no longer I needed to hide away. Right now, I am having the interactions I can bear.

From facebook: To state that zazen has a definite and particular form, and to cling to that position leads to one kind of trouble, while stating that zazen has no particular form sends one off in another confused direction. There is no logical resolution to this problem. And it is this illogical paradox with which a true practitioner of Zen must ‘sit’ both literally and spiritually. Yes. I reacted to that: it is seeking safety in rules- like I do. I am more or less happy cycling because I think I know the rules of the road, and what I am entitled to- it’s a formalised interaction. If I said, “Non-theists are not Quakers” it is an attempt to find safety in rules. In this future situation, I will act in this way, and I will be right. S said, “That’s why Quakers talk all the time”- because human situations are so complex, so making rules is difficult. She said this not because she had seen that in facebook, but a propos of something else. Perhaps I am in a computer simulation, where the same lesson comes to me repeatedly, or perhaps I am just open to it now.

Also on facebook, someone wrote,  Anyone who was abused in their formative years is likely to feel they are ‘a lesser being’ than all others and may live in fear of rejection and abuse; so they will continually seek and need the approval of others. And on-going approval will also help dispel their fears of engendering further abuse. I felt myself completely worthless, so I do need approval: developing my own grudging acceptance, just-about approval for myself is difficult. Here is David Brooks on another aspect of needing the approval of others.

That b— hill

I overtook a car!

So when I cycle to the wee shop, or to the nearby town, I go down a steep hill with a chicane and a give-way sign at the bottom. I accelerate rapidly, playing bravery games and not braking, and whizz past the chicane whether there’s a car coming the other way or not. Fortunately, it is a quiet road.

Drivers are courteous, generally, giving the 1.5m space they are supposed to by law, when overtaking, and pausing if they cannot overtake safely rather than just breenging past. However, not on this hill: they pass even though I am accelerating and they will immediately have to slow down for the give way. One stopped at the junction a little further on and I shouted at him.

This woman I noticed holding back just before the hill, as it’s a bit of a blind summit and she was nervous in case she could not see anyone on the hill. But when I started to speed up going down hill, she judged it safe to pass me, then slammed on her brakes so I had to slow down. I thought, I’m no huvin this, and passed her. There was a car coming the other way, and they both had to co-operate to let me back in, but they did, so I am more or less pleased with myself.

Another time recently I noticed my handlebars slipped just as I set off for the shop, a mile away, and thought I would fix them when I got home. Pulling on the handlebars cycling up hill loosened them a lot- yes, I know my cadence is too slow- and before I got home they were completely loose and I found myself steering to the right side of the road. I stopped, thought about it for a bit, and worked out how to hold the handlebars so I could ride home slowly, faster than pushing the bike. I realised the problem just before getting off, that I did not know how to slow down. Bummer. I managed it, though. Good job the road’s quiet.

Feeling good

It was definitely my right of way on the roundabout. That car should have given way to me. It was approaching quickly, but it would slow down- however perhaps the driver did not see me at first, and I looked to my left seeing it bearing down on me. Had he not slowed down, he might have clipped my back wheel- as it was I escaped unscathed. I considered sharing my feelings with the pedestrian just beyond the roundabout- relief, anger, fear, bewilderment- but he did not look the empathetic type, so I did not.

Then I got home, glistening all over with sweat in the heat, and felt Wonderful. It could have been the weather, exercise, narrow escape from injury or anticipating lunch with Liz.

I have been feeling down. It could be the bitterness and falsehood of the Referendum campaign- neither leave nor remain feel like powerful choices. I was thinking of my job interview on Thursday:

-Do you want the job?
-No, you B*****ds, f*** you, give it to someone else, see if I care

-caring too much-

when I switched on my phone, and picked up the voicemail message from yesterday. The interview panel wanted to know where I was. I had checked how to get to Birmingham this morning, looked at Helen’s email to find where it was. I looked at the email again: it clearly says the interview is Tuesday (yesterday) not Thursday. I don’t know how I made that mistake. I feel utterly miserable. I am in a dreadful situation and cannot trust myself with the simplest thing to improve it. I cried.

I call the Samaritans. “I wanted someone to talk to.” “We’re not a chat-line,” Eve said. And I feel anger and resentment and I say something sarky,

and amazingly I feel energised, really good. Wow. What is that? Anger at you energises me- “Correlation is not causation, as they say”. I don’t know that it is that which causes it-

She would not say that. She has not heard it before. Well, some say post hoc ergo propter hoc. It should really be post hoc non ergo propter hoc.

What is causing this buzzing on the landline? To me it sounds loud, she hardly hears it. The landline has been buzzing for weeks. It could be the adsl filter, I unplug the modem-

and the buzzing continues. And I feel dreadful again. I cannot even deal with this!

The heart of my depression is lack of motivation. I cannot improve my situation: anything I attempt I will just do badly and fail. Not judging myself so harshly might do some good; so might behavioural activation. I have cleaned off some of the ingrained grime from my bathroom floor, which I have not properly cleaned for years. And I scrub at the wee black spots on the linoleum, and think, It is an improvement. Value all the improvement. It does not need to be perfect. And I do a bit, then stop, then go back to it. I have swept the hallway too.

And now I have phoned BT about the landline. There is a fault on the line, and they will deal with it. How last century, to have a BT landline! Well, I find it useful, for some things-

Signac, 1890

After YM

Moving through life, making myself memorable…

Why should you not cycle in a dress? Well, it might catch in the chain, so the back wheel jams, and you go over the handlebars as the dress is torn from you. But that is unlikely. Actually the buttoned front stuck on a clamp on the frame, but I freed it easily enough. At another time the torch I was using as a headlight showed its objection to the juddering by going out- but I hit it, and it came back on.

-Yer shawn yer knickers! shouted a woman from a car. This was unlikely, as I was sitting on my dress. Hurrah! I shouted back.

I had many worthwhile conversations at YM, and then after lunch on Monday I was satiated. I have nothing more to say, nothing more to share. I walked towards the baggage store, and saw Jeffrey. I said that to him. “I have nothing to say! but that it is lovely to see you, and hear you.” He and his wife smiled, and we hugged, and I went on. I collected my bag, and went to the door. This is a definite change of way of being, walking out that door- many felt it; the clerks warned that even though we are at Yearly Meeting, we are in the centre of London, and please challenge anyone without a name badge. There is that sense of being out of the normal world. Yet, it is complete for me. It has been wonderful. I walked away.

In the train, a man got out a book on the philosophy of aesthetics, and I read a bit over his shoulder. I got chatting by saying how fascinating that looked. Friends House had been giving out remaindered books for free, so I was reading one: I gave it to him. Who knows, he might read it.

When I met R in the tea-shop, we saw we had made a difference, and feel rightly proud. Previously we had loudly mocked the feedback slips, which had read “Your opinion matter’s to us”. The ones now available read “Your opinions matter to us”.

TItian, the worship of Venus

Emotional ambitions

As I accelerated downhill towards the chicane, a white van passed me. When I caught him up at the junction, as his window was down I had the delight of shouting at the driver: What if someone was coming the other way? What if you had had to stop suddenly, and I had run into your back?

-There wasn’t anyone coming the other way, he said.
-There’s a blind bend! You’re an idiot!

My throat is a bit sore.

The brakes on this bicycle are a lot better, so I would not have run into his back. I might’ve, on the other one. Anger is not the best response when rushing down hill with nothing protecting your head but a lump of polystyrene. And there is a feeling of freedom letting it out shouting.

I read that climbing I should look for a cadence of 72rpm, far faster than I am used to. It uses different muscle fibres. I tried it. I will try it again. I am pleased by learning this.

Normally I would not want to go off on one. One is cool and calm, until wound up by something which seems totally wrong or unfair especially where I do not anticipate it. I can forgive my father- he is just like that- though a rebellion phase of expressing anger may be useful, and perhaps anger after might be effective.

My problem has not been showing my feelings to others, but knowing them myself. I suppressed them. Now, my problem is facing and accepting them. This is why I shut them down with television, rather than opening them with meditation. Or why I procrastinate: I am overwhelmed by the feelings I anticipate, some of which I project on others.

Feelings, situations, even depression are OK- the problem comes in fleeing them. I am like Jonah fleeing God: the storms get higher. Escape the belly of the beast- come out into the sunshine- out of the Cave…

Tintoretto, Jonah leave the whale's belly

Cycling

The Pashley bicycles are beautiful. They have been made in Oxfordshire since the 1920s, and these ones are a rich, mauvy-pink with painted metal chain guards, Hawker-Siddeley (or whatever it is) three speed hub gears, and a wicker basket on the front, fastened with leather straps. The large bell looks traditional, but when I ping it it goes DING DONG and all the people in the street would think their doorbell had gone. Oh Wow.

-What do you think of that?
-It’s so heavy, so old-fashioned.
-But very beautiful.

She tells me her husband has a Pashley Guv’nor, and people get together for rides in Edwardian gear, tweeds, plus-fours, moustaches. As long as it isn’t your only bicycle, she said.

Terry tells me in Friedman-John I could cycle everywhere on red paths, no need to go on the road ever again. As I pushed the bike to the cycle shop, a woman stopped me to say how much she had enjoyed cycling past the lakes on the old railway line to Waterford. Actually, though others don’t like cycling on roads, I don’t mind- that guy pulling out noticed me this morning just in time, and most drivers are courteous. The other guy who, rather than pulling into his side of the road, pulled out past the parked car driving straight at me forcing me to brake hard at the bottom of the dip was unusual, and the guy who would have broken my humerus had I been bent over with it stuck out was far closer than most people.

It would not only be my only bicycle, it would be my only mode of transport, and I don’t have five hundred quid for that. Or for a helmet like that one, which just perplexed me.

Oh, and when I am accelerating down hill I hate it when they pass me then brake for the chicane, but it does not matter nearly as much now I have better brakes; and I was feeling really good sitting up, higher than the drivers, in the sunshine. Ruler of all I survey…

A pity the road surfaces are so badly worn, with pot holes, that you really need a mountain bike. So I have a mountain bike. I will get my cadence faster, so cycle more efficiently. I have been reading about the problem of weighing down the pedal on the up-stroke, putting weight early enough on the down stroke, and how to flex the ankles.

Half the people who were on Disability Living Allowance and have been reassessed for its replacement, Personal Independence Payment, get nothing. This is not because they were not disabled, but because the test is designed to pay the benefit to far fewer people, in far more restricted circumstances. Some very poor people are having their income cut by around £100 a week.

Eckersberg, View of the Church of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura