St Albans

Lovely day on Sunday. Peter drove me to the Quaker meeting, where I stated my affirmation to Kingsley, who loved it. I left early, walked to the station, and took the train for St Albans. I asked the ticket collector where the Thameslink train went from, and the man beside me answered. So I commented on the blurb on his book, and we were away. Sometimes people want to talk as much as I do.

He told me how much he liked books from the 1930s- this one is a reprint from the British Library- because of their innocence, and recommended one to me. Then he told me how he had grown up in Nottingham, gone to Brighton to University and stayed there ever since. However Nottingham was his roots, and Brighton could be a bit up itself. Nottingham is a vibrant city. He wanted to move back. That is so personal! People cry out for connection!

Suzy invited me a week ago, but I missed it somehow. I heard on Saturday evening. She picked me up at the station, and five of us ate together. It was relaxed and loving, and we might have known each other for years rather than met less than four weeks ago.

One of us (note the delicacy and inspecificity here) told us he would confront a demon the next day. In me, it would be my “What would people think?” demon, but in him I think it is one of shame. “Others will judge you” says the demon, “and they’re right!” “Rubbish!” says the man, and all other people with any empathy say, “Well done. Yes, I see your hurt. It is nothing to be ashamed about.” Not hiding, he will have been far more comfortable. He confronted it successfully. Triumphantly, even. I can see this with his demon, so much more clearly than with my own!

Ed- now I am specific and indelicate- continues to fight pointless battles he cannot win. He irked me on the first day of Essence by telling me that criminal defence lawyers “had to have flexible morals” in order to get criminals off- and on Saturday he had “got himself up to look like a penguin” for a singles night, and irritated a solicitor with the same argument. He put it to us on Sunday. He also told a property developer that she was profiteering off the suffering of rent-payers. They have not given him their phone numbers. “But how can I see a lawyer, and not say that?” he asked, bewilderedly. “Any working class person would admit it, but middle class people always weasel round it.”

Something he said on the Essence course- here there is clear confidentiality- made me think he might be ready for useful change. I discussed him on Saturday night with someone who thought he was just too comfortable as he is. Perhaps we should have a bet.

We sang Christmas carols before the Quaker meeting, and I decided: my baritone is my singing voice. My counter-tenor is just too reedy, quiet and wavering between sharp and flat. And nothing about me is more obviously trans. Suzy had two tickets for the Cathedral carol service, could not go, and I did not want to go alone because of this. In the candlelight, the cathedral is beautiful, transcending its gauche, asymmetrical mixture of Romanesque and Gothic. We had to sit there for an hour before the service started, it fills up so quickly.

Tapestry of the Cathedral's history

Romanesque tower

St Albans Cathedral pillar

That picture, I said to the man beside me: is it pre-Reformation, rescued from under whitewash, or modern? He thought pre-Reformation, but did not want to engage further. I loved the service. Oh! That bit’s Stainer!

Ed hated it, he told me after. He had been gritting his teeth, wanting to set light to my service leaflet with his candle. Ooh look, a Bishop! He’s got a funny hat and everything, I said- do you want to shake his hand? Ed did not, I did, perfunctorily. So I saw Ed’s sweet generosity and good humour, which if that lawyer or property developer had seen they would have been falling over themselves. He drove me to the station, and I got a late train home.

Healing my soul

This is a month for my healing. This is the month to face the demons on my back and take their power for myself. This is the month to take my insane arrogance and insane self-abnegation, and forge a synthesis of sane self-regard- I am a human being.

How could I hold such contrary self-images? I became aware of them aged twenty in pain from love at first sight and an unrequited obsession with a woman, and saw that they were both ridiculous and wrong, and wondered how I could hold both, and now I see how I can.

I am worthless and of no account in my own mind because as a child my feelings were not acknowledged or accepted, and my spontaneous reactions were always wrong. So, early, I learned to control my self-expression to give what my parents wanted. Because my feelings and expression were a threat to me, I feared and despised them. I saw them as completely wrong and bad.

And- I am the centre of the universe. I developed this extreme narcissism in my desire to survive, and my enforcement of my control on myself.

Now is the time to heal those two complementary self-images, to- I am a human being. I was going to excerpt Pope, but cannot choose between all these wonderful lines:

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer,
Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much;
Chaos of thought and passion, all confus’d;
Still by himself abus’d or disabus’d;
Created half to rise and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all,
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d;
The glory, jest and riddle of the world.

I am a human being, with all the great value and wonder of that, one among seven billion. Loved by God so that each hair on my head is numbered, evolved over four billion years to fit, here, now, and- one among seven billion. I can see where I am going.

How to do this? I will bring to consciousness all my suppressed rage and terror over that early trauma, and I will feel it, and I will mourn it. In this pain I will cling to my new found appreciation of my own courage, creativity, truthfulness and love. I will work through it, I will mourn it, I will at last let it go.

Why am I telling you this? Two contrasting reasons. I do not care. I am at rock bottom (Please God, this is rock bottom, there is no further down!) and do not care what you think of me, or who knows this; and I am gathering my support network around me to hold me as I do this work. Pray for me, hold me in the light. Encourage me. Kingsley asked me if I felt I had a burden, and I said no, I feel as if I am crushed under a boulder bigger than myself. And I am so grateful to feel the pain, because I might be free of it.

Yesterday’s Wisbit is a motto for this blog:

I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised and misunderstood… For it is not difference which immobilizes us most but silence…