My song is love unknown

These are interesting times.

If I get breathless so that I need oxygen, I have no friend with a car who could take me to hospital, so would need an ambulance. It is harder to believe I have a chance of getting one if I need it, after seeing the fresh meat shelves of Aldi almost empty. I am not that far over fifty, and my normal lifestyle is pretty much social isolation anyway, and I wonder whether the death rate percentages I read apply to a fully functioning hospital system when there is O2 and intensive care for everyone who needs it.

And others have more to worry about. If you are going for chemotherapy, you are immunocompromised, and you get it in a hospital where there are lots of sick people, including some with covid 19.

I was thinking of writing a post on if I disappear for a bit. I am extremely unlikely to disappear because I have died, though it is possible. Most people have mild symptoms from 19. I could of course have an accident. The longest time I have been off the air was a gap of ten days in March 2013, when I simply stopped having anything to write about. When I came back, four regular commenters commented, one saying Good to have you back Clare I was worried. Please, please don’t worry. With less social contact I have less to write about, and if I am even slightly more depressed I can’t see the point always: I could do yet another post summarising an article with my own take on it, but I feel more and more repetitive.

I get a lot of my self-regard from blogging. When people read me and comment positively that makes me feel good. And I keep checking the stats for a tiny dopamine hit, which is addictive. So I try to get more views for such hits, and that seems unhealthy to me: it seems more unhealthy when I feel more depressed.

My writing was going to appear in print- yes, print, not on line, how old fashioned. Now I wonder if it will be printed, if the printer will do the job or be shut down. (I am pessimistic when I am depressed.) My words being printed would not prove to the world, or even to me, that I had value; and it was one of those acknowledgments that I like. Something to look forward to that makes me feel good. In the uncertainty, when I am stripped of those, and other things to look forward to- I will meet her for lunch, I will meet him for coffee- I feel more pointless, even worthless. How can I do anything of value?

I do not know myself. Paul wrote I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Many people buy veg they will throw away uneaten, books that sit on their shelves unread. I thought of cycling about seven miles this morning, in the sunshine, and wondered what in me might not want to- some negative, depressive, heavy grey toad squatting on my life, preventing almost all activity, perhaps. Or worry: to cycle I have to make some small decisions. I need more motivation than the joy of the thing itself to get me out of bed: I need to talk myself into it and consider what might be the objections from that part of me which objects, which I refuse to see as merely a toad.

A hymn came to mind.

My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I,
That for my sake
My Lord should take
Frail flesh, and die?

I do not believe in God. The loving eternal creator, numbering each of my hairs and seeing me as a daughter, who created the World, makes no sense to me. Yet emotionally the words make sense, and I cling to them.

Well, I did go cycling. The sunshine is beautiful, and as I passed the church its Church Open sign was in the slot, so I went in and looked up that hymn. It is beautiful, written in 1664. It has little to trouble an atheist. There is a frank assertion of the doctrine- He came from His blest throne/ Salvation to bestow– but that is only two lines. There is also an elegant expression of the unfairness and randomness of life, and the lack of relation between suffering, luck and deservingness- A murderer they save/ the Prince of life they slay.

The Christianity I have rejected is not as poisonous as that of my blogging buddy Sirius Bizinus. I can be in that church and experience it as having the energy of Love. On that quiet country road, Love kept it open. I read the hymn aloud to the empty church, weeping. Christianity has some truth in it, for this atheist materialist: there is something in me which some call God, which has value and which I may unite with and express, something of inestimable value, which values me when I allow myself to hear it, that I might be lovely.

So I went to my Quaker meeting by Zoom, sitting by the south-facing window, with a Bible and QFP to my left. I also took my Scottish Book of Common Prayer, as I thought that hymn would be in it. It isn’t- the book has “Hymns Ancient and Modern Standard Edition” from 1916. I still held it in my hands as I sat in Meeting, one of my few objects associated with my parents. I could see it negatively- without the hymn I wanted- or positively, as a symbol of their imperfect love.

Sitting alone in my house, I can suffer deep miseries and find strange consolations.

Covid 19

How my life is affected by the coronavirus, so far.

It has moved quickly. On Sunday 15th I made a plan to go into London on Sunday 22nd. I would go to the Quaker meeting, have lunch with a friend, then go round the National Gallery, to the 16th century section. That Veronese was so beautiful! On Monday I thought of asking if the friend still wanted the risk of lunch out, and on Thursday we agreed to cancel it, as the pubs and restaurants closed, the Quaker meetings closed, the National Gallery closed. A lot of people have been trying online meetings for worship with Zoom.

There are 22 cases in my county though how they know, what testing is being done, I don’t know. On Tuesday evening I saw an ambulance go down my street, the sole entrance for the small estate, its lights flashing but its siren off. I have not felt fear seeing an ambulance before. After an age, it returned to the main road, again lights flashing but siren off, progressing slowly, more slowly even than a car would, there, as if it was trying not to frighten anybody. This had the opposite effect on me. Blue lights mean Emergency Now. I don’t know if they found a Covid sufferer on my estate or not.

A friend is self-isolating because his son has the symptoms. On Monday a friend came round to pick up some stuff. He is seventy, and will be self-isolating for the foreseeable future, as a heightened risk. I am worried for him.

On Wednesday 11 March, with jokes about panic-buying loo roll, I noticed there was no spaghetti in the main supermarket. Next day I bought almost the last spaghetti in Aldi. I got more than I would normally. By Tuesday 17th Aldi were restricting customers to four of any item, and there were no oatcakes. I have enough loo roll. I am frugal with loo roll, and had bought it as I would normally.

Yesterday I thought I could probably do with UHT milk and there was none of that; and I did not see any onions, the first fresh food I have noticed not available. In the supermarket people were making Blitz Spirit jokes- one said “You’ll have had a good childhood if you can remember rice”. A man chatting outside spoke of how long the queues were. I got a fresh pizza and read just after they were shutting their pizza counter.

I would feel a lot safer with a Labour government. We would not be careening towards an Anarcho-Capitalist Brexit. In Priti Patel, we have an incompetent but enthusiastically authoritarian Home Secretary. She was sacked for her personally arranged meetings in Israel, and here she is back. The Coronavirus special powers Bill authorises compulsory detention, and is being nodded through. With Labour the financial stimulus for the economy might prop up the income of the poorest. This is sensible- they would spend the money immediately, locally. With Tories I worry the stimulus will go to preserving capital values. I got an email from the letting agent- if you can’t pay the rent, please contact us, we will sort something out.

I did not mind the BBC suspending filming EastEnders, but was sad In Our Time was not recorded. They are now broadcasting repeats.

Being depressed, self-isolation is not much different from my normal lifestyle, but I look forward to the social contact I have. So I have not been blogging, and a friend emailed to ask if I was alright. Yes; just a little more depressed. I did not see anything to blog about. Not coughing and with a fever. Over fifty, the risk level is slightly raised, and I considered getting a thermometer a couple of weeks ago but still have not- and this is how the depression works, I imagine something I could do, that would be good to do, I do not do it. That friend said social isolation is how a lot of trans people live, and several I know do live like that. I am not the only one.

Another Veronese, which I saw last month. The Allegory of Love is in an octagonal room, hung at eye level though clearly designed to be viewed from below. I had liked galleries to hang paintings in one row, but these are paintings which would benefit from a higher row. I sat on a stool to look up at them, then on the floor, which improved them. I hope to see them again soon.

Gender Expression Deprivation Anxiety Disorder

Transition is hard. Not transitioning can be harder.

These people are sad, depressed and deeply resentful… the more the individual struggles to rid themselves of gender dysphoria by increasing social and physical investments in their assigned sex, the greater the generalized anxiety and the harder it becomes to restart life sexually reassigned. I found Anne Vitale PhD on A Life Merely Glimpsed, whose writer identifies as a man who dreams of being a woman. There I also find Third Way Trans has stopped blogging, and made his blog private. Dr Vitale has reached her conclusions after decades of providing psychotherapy to gender variant patients. Now 71, she still maintains a website as a psychologist offering appointments by video call.

Dr Vitale says gynephile gender dysphoric AMAB people have an awful life, when they don’t transition. The androphiles have little difficulty expressing their femininity, dress androgynously and then transition successfully young. The gynephiles try to make men of ourselves. She was writing in 2003, and reporting childhood experiences in some cases from many years earlier. I hope no six year old boy would now be shamed for playing hopscotch with the girls- Arlene was brought to the front of the class, who were encouraged to laugh at her. The teacher had tied a broad pink ribbon to her. Now, some children transition.

Dr Vitale at first appears to blame intra-uterine hormones for gender identity- insufficient or inappropriate androgenization of the brain– but later says in some cases a “gender identity misunderstanding” can be “corrected” in some children. The explanation someone has for phenomena can affect their observations, as can any preconception. But I recognise the stories told. The children generally seek to fit in and follow the rules. They may be solitary, spending a lot of time reading or in solo sporting activity. They pray to God for transformation. In adolescence they cross-dress and masturbate.

In early adulthood many AMAB people present desperate to be told they are not transsexual, they fear transition so much. They can be particularly sexist- thinking negatively about women helps them fight the desire to be one. They think marrying, and then having children, will make their desires lessen.

Between 28 and 33 people generally reappraise their dreams and aspirations, and then gender dysphoric people may change sex or fight harder to stick to their assigned sex. In middle age those who have not transitioned may find the gender dysphoria gets worse as transition seems impossible, leading to depression, generalised anxiety disorder, panic attacks, despair and thoughts of suicide. One would close his office door, curl into the foetal position and weep- I only did that at home.

While Dr Vitale was aware of someone having GRS aged 71, other older people had low self-esteem and loathed their deteriorating bodies, though when aging reduced their testosterone levels that was a relief. Had they known their dysphoria was going to last, and be so dreadful, they say they would have transitioned when younger. They are depressed and resentful.

Written in 2003, this article anticipates the DSM V principle that the desire is not the mental health problem, rather the distress it causes is. Treatment should mitigate the distress. Dr Vitale observes hormones and surgery in most cases eliminate the anxiety. She says gender identity disorder is a continuum: some people will be satisfied with cross-dressing and do not need to transition.

This is an old article reporting twentieth century experience. Yet there are still older people who have not transitioned, who live closeted, who experience the distress and depression described. Younger people fighting against acknowledging their gender dysphoria, and terrified of transition, should consider how they would feel with similar desires in old age. Those who advocate against transition should be made to demonstrate some other treatment or course of action will produce better results.

Aware of mirrors in art in the Arnolfini portrait and Las Meninas by Velasquez, I magnified this mirror- but Simeon Solomon does not appear.

Self-respect VII

The dentist advised against filling my wisdom tooth: normally they would just whip it out. It was too far back for root canal work and they would not bother with an implant. I don’t want mutilated, so two days later I was lying back, relaxing so as to be as comfortable as possible, while a man drilled away inside my mouth producing the smell of burning. “Try to breathe through your nose as much as possible,” he said, and I mentally kicked myself. Breathing through my nose made me more comfortable. “You’re doing very well, Miss Flourish,” he said. The relaxation technique I learned for electrolysis was working.

When I was learning to drive I noticed that nothing made me make mistakes so much as praise. If the instructor said I had done something well, I would almost immediately make a stupid mistake. That made no sense to me. I suppose it could reinforce my arrogance so that I was careless, or it could have increased my nervousness. Later I decided I was either restoring my view that I was useless, or self-punishing. I thought of that in the dentist’s chair, and saw that I did not immediately tense up or start to gag. I am not doing it any more.

In order to keep your hand in an ice bucket for longer (psychological researchers get people to do the oddest things) it helps to swear continually. Swearing stiffens the sinews. I found I was doing it to get out of bed, but not at myself any more, not cursing myself as useless, but trying to toughen up and gather the energy.

If I lie in bed and do not get up, I am not always the best person to ask why. It could be because I am lazy and useless, and the old self-punishing self would use that to prove it. But that’s also a reassuring belief: I could get up if I really wanted to. I am not depressed, which means sick, which means the neuro-transmitters are not there to get up. It’s just I don’t want to.

It is very tempting to think I am capable of more than I do. I would be OK, somehow, if I were capable, it’s just that I haven’t seen it yet. So when asked what I can’t do for the purpose of benefit assessment that creates a difficulty. If I cling to the false belief that I can do more than I do, I lose benefits. If I state what I actually do, feeling a loss of energy and motivation in the afternoon, not getting up in the morning, I might get the benefit. Telling the truth about my capacity is painful because I don’t want to admit that truth, it’s too frightening.

But then, what do I do? There were things I might have done today (Friday) and what I actually did was a blog post on JK Rowling‘s comments on Maya Forstater. My post on the latter got a lot more views than my posts usually get, I had for once touched the zeitgeist. If my response to seeing how many views I get resembles addictive behaviour, should I just give it up? This is the thing I actually like!

Esteem and self-esteem

Had I killed myself in 2003, it would have been because I saw myself as bad, deserving punishment, in part; if I were to kill myself now it would be because I saw no other way out of a desperate situation.

Some may be shocked by this opening. I have been suicidal, and am now passionate about suicide and its victims. No one deserves it, and people have suicidal thoughts and impulses, and sometimes act on them. It needs spoken about to be understood. Taboos make the suicidal person more isolated.

It means my friend’s answer to suicidal thoughts- “it’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem”- suddenly makes sense. Before, I saw the problem as me, and so not temporary or changeable.

I am not suicidal. But, having seen that I have value having been convinced of my worthlessness, that thought about suicide illustrates best how great a change this is.

When I was 19 at a time of stress I realised I had two views of myself- as the centre of the Universe, of supreme importance and capability, and at the same time as completely worthless and of no account. Neither view was in touch with reality, and I realised that immediately, yet I was convinced of both and could not shake them.

In June 2008 I wrote over and over again in my diary, I am a human being. I am a human being. I am fearfully and wonderfully made and one of seven billion. Could I come to a position between those extremes?

I grew increasingly conscious that what I saw as worthless was more authentically me, and the route to health went through seeing that worthless creature and finding something to value in her.

And now I think I have.

I have managed to find myself acceptable.

I can value myself as a human being. I have gifts, and they have value. I have creativity and energy, and what they produce is worthwhile. As I walk through the world I do more good than harm.

This change affects how I see motivation. Shall I get up to go to the office? At 8am, I have no doubt that I will indeed get up at 8.30. But then 8.30 comes and I do not get up, and I curse myself as a worthless piece of sxxt, and wonder if something on my phone will give me a big enough dopamine hit to get me moving. It never does.

Then at 9.30, or so, I admit to myself I am not going to get up and go to the office, and think about how else I might spend my day.

Then I went into the office and realised how scared I was of it. I am there and something in me judges me and finds me worthless, the monster from which I can only fail to flee.

Part of my bind was the unconscious conviction that I should not be scared of anything so if I was I was a worthless, etc, because no one with any backbone could possibly be scared of that.

But no. I have value, and because of my experiences I have motivation problems, a conative disorder, or depression.

I had just about stopped beating myself up for not getting up. Cursing myself had been less and less effective. I am still kind of stuck seeking motivation from my phone, but perhaps taking time to centre down would be more effective.

Do I want to get up and go there, now?
Do I need to stay away?

I don’t know. I am reeling. And still. I value myself. It’s an improvement.

In praise of self-loathing

Put a tiger in your tank! You run really fast from a tiger.

First day canvassing for the election had good and bad moments. The best was persuading someone to think more about voting for us, possibly even to change her vote.

More disturbing was another woman’s shouting. She had an unbreakable syllogism:

We knew what we voted for
You have not given it
You are undemocratic.

Ian tried arguing. He too voted to Leave. The Tories were in government, and they messed up their own Brexit- they could have been out by March had they tried to exit in the National interest, rather than their own- but her talking point, or shouting point, was impregnable. All her anger in Life, it seemed, was channelled through this one issue against us.

In the cafe for lunch, we were just leaving when a man started shouting at us. “I fought for my country! How can you wear that thing” (a red rosette) “that anti-British traitor!” I looked at him. He looked late fifties, so he might have been in Northern Ireland, or possibly the Falklands. I tried saying my father also fought for this country, but he was not interested in listening.

There was I at my most beautiful- not cowed or triggered, but wanting to understand and engage, to find some common ground. When Beth came over, he just started shouting “Get out! Get out!” She told him, reasonably, she was leaving and he could not tell her not to use a cafe.

I came to this position, by the next morning. If you disagree with a more articulate debater, it is a reasonable tactic to keep repeating your point until they shut up, which is more self respecting than putting your hands over your ears and shouting NONONONO until they go away. We don’t have the right to change another’s mind.

And that evening, tired after canvassing, I sat up until midnight maundering in my chair, fiddling with my phone.

I took two hours with two separate Samaritan men working it out. They gave me the time but irritated me. What use is self-loathing, one asked, as if recognising it would be enough for me to slough it off. People saw it in me and pointed it out last century. One reason for it was my “disgusting” (a word I used) cross-dressing.

It is my main motivation, or at least was. It may motivate many perfectionists, and if you can be close to perfect being perfectionist is painful but effective. Gosh you get things done. It was wound up too tight in me, I think, or worked with other characteristics to hurt me too much so I broke, but until I broke it got me working.

The other reason I don’t give up until I am dangling on the end of a rope is that I am not consciously aware of my discomfort. Now all my feelings came to the surface- confusion, hurt, the desperate need to kick out a climate-denying MP and a nationalist government, one of whose aims is to whip up hatred, including of trans women. I am confused, and can’t bear confusion.

My previous way of responding, not knowing my feelings, was to shut down. I would lose all motivation and stop, “depressed”. No, really, Depressed. The self-deprecation, refusal to believe that any problem should give any difficulty to someone who is not worthless, weak, useless, or even that it is a real problem is strong in me. I suppose it is reassuring. If I am not really depressed, I can get up any moment and surmount all difficulties.

Excavating feelings however painful is my way to health and freedom.

So I slept badly, and wondered about not canvassing on Monday. I was in chaos, perceiving different feelings, trying to put together a rational understanding and not grasping it, frightened.

Highly intelligent, I am dependant on my rational understanding. It keeps me safe, and without it I am terrified, which is a problem when the world cannot be understood.

And I talked it through. I have a tiger in my tank. I went canvassing, which in a more Labour area was more encouraging.

Encouragement and discouragement

What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning? What makes you want to roll over and block out the world? When the necessity of getting up to perform a duty at a particular time is likely first to make you want to lie longer, and then curl up in shame at failure which purges your motivation completely, you are “depressed”. What can make you continue? For me-

Social media gives variable rewards, which are more addictive because less fulfilling. I find myself more keen to check the Guardian opinion section because I may write a comment, which may get up votes. There are four opinion contents pages, and this one indicates when comments are opened by digits. If “0” shows, there is the heady possibility of getting one of the six comments seen by most people, and therefore getting most up votes. I sometimes comment to “join the discussion”, and sometimes for the up votes.

At best, up votes give me a dopamine high, as nourishing as sugar, which might get me out of bed. At worst, hunting up votes gets me repeatedly returning to a page to see I have no more votes than last time. Or my blog stats page, to find no more views, especially after a day when I have had lots of votes or views.

Facebook is the worst. Clicking there might show a notification, but it might be a Like (Hooray!) or a disagreeable comment, which sucks me into a pointless argument. Or some bore has invited me to Like their page. Scrolling might show something interesting at first, but as I go on less and less interests me.

The fact that returns are diminishing increases my compulsion to keep on scrolling. Surely there must be a dopamine hit eventually!

Reaching for my phone in the morning at best gives a sugar high which is short-lived, and distracts me to seek its repetition for the rest of the day, and at worst sinks me into a fruitless search for such a high. It’s not quite

Gnashed her teeth for baulked desire, and wept
as if her heart would break

but I cannot drive Goblin Market from my mind.

The idea of getting up a little earlier to have time for meditation always crosses my mind, seeming to be an attractive possibility, and never tempts me so much that I actually do it.

I am in the toils of seeking immediate gratification. Duty advances my goals, but so slowly! And are they my goals anyway, or introjected?

Possibly I could wean myself off the dopamine, I think, especially after a particularly large hit of it, and find myself always returning. The Guardian informs me, and gives me new ways of seeing, though often it just stoked my rage and frustration with the same old stuff. Facebook gives me the illusion of social contact, and insofar as it is attractive parasites off that need.

Find delight in acting appropriately, says Marcus Aurelius, Meditations X.33. I feel seeking solid joys and lasting treasure should inspire me, and I still pick up my phone in the mornings.

Sometimes I turn from the phone, my head feeling stuffed with dough, and wish for clear perception. Sometimes my mantra

I am here. This is. I am.

seems to hold out hope for that. I had hoped when starting this post it would be more positive, more about solutions than problems, but, oh well. Aurelius just nags:

At dawn of day, when you dislike being called, have this thought ready: ‘I am called to man’s labour; why then do I make a difficulty if I am going out to do what I was born to do and what I was brought into the world for? Is it for this that I am fashioned, to lie in bedclothes and keep myself warm?’ Is that the best one can do?

The Limits of Mindfulness

It rained all Saturday, and Sunday morning, and around eleven I walked into the garden, under my umbrella, into that clear light of high sun diffused by cloud which is excellent for photography, in search of an apple. The tips of the branches of the fir tree were a grey-blue, and I paid it attention because I had not seen one like that before. Either it was diseased, or it was a different subspecies, but I saw it as beautiful simply because I saw it in that Mindful way. I have practised mindfulness for years, so that I can fall into it, and it still gives the things I see, and even the light I see them in, an intensity I find beautiful. I walked to the apple tree, communing with my surroundings, and lightly pressed apples until one fell into my hand.

That fir distracted me from my task, and from the group. Or, I had time; or, it helped me descend into the state of presence, which would help me be in that group. I looked at it, and took pleasure mixed with doubt- is it sick?- without knowing why. I just did.

I should not have agreed to that Occupational Health report. She phoned me for half an hour, patronised me, told me things I knew, suggested my room was untidy because I have bad habits not because I am depressed (there’s a lot to unpack in that, and in my reaction to it) and wrote a report saying there was nothing wrong with me. Please look at doing Mindfulness exercises. This website offers 6 exercises to try daily. Mindfulness can help reduce daily stresses and balance the mind and body which may be helpful as you move forward into work.

Lucie asked me what I thought of that. I wasn’t meeting her eyes at all, that session; I said nothing, and closed mine. It is not that I don’t want to participate, but that I can’t see anything of value to say.

“You look like you were doing it then,” she said. Yes. She is perceptive. I don’t do mindfulness exercises because if I kneel in my ritual space my anguish may explode over me, and I fear that. And I want to advance my own interests, and I feel I am less capable of that in Mindful Presence than when I am in the endless internal debate, conflicted, concerned with appearances- only how things appear to myself, not how they appear to others.

Shortly after, she said “Shall we arrange another appointment?”, bringing this one to an end. I had been resisting begging to just go. It was twenty minutes short of the hour.

I don’t have the luxury of liking myself. I might have been in that Mindful Present state- or that aspect which I think of as my Real Me, my Emotional Bit, possibly my Inner Light though that would make the Light strange indeed, not virtuous according to my conception of virtue-

when I was begging the other day. I was begging. I abased myself. Please don’t let that happen. Please delay that. I was speaking in the high voice I sometimes use with Tina; I was articulate, putting forth arguments (this is why it’s good from your point of view arguments). He went away to check. He could not decide to grant my wish. He could not even ask the one who should decide, to grant it. But it’s delayed, often, anyway, by weeks or months. “You can ask when it happens,” he said, encouragingly. “Don’t worry twice- deal with it when you have to.” I liked him. That did not stop me thinking after he had been trying to catch me out, and had succeeded.

So there I was. Acting in my interests as I best see them. Failing. And that might have come out of my integrity.

Memory bothers me. I had talked to A before, just not remembered it. How to get people to stick in my mind? It was only six months ago.

Trust, safety, clarity, kindness

Here are today’s thoughts, not at all random, which I am trying to fit together in order to understand the world, my place in it, and myself.

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “Which is to be master- that’s all.”

I was struggling to understand the difference between interest-relative invariantism and contextualism, both concepts in epistemology. IRI is a theory about how knowledge works, contextualism is etymological, about how we use words like “know”. Both say how important something is to me affects what evidence I might need to “know” it. Possibly I know nothing, I merely have reasonable beliefs. It is important that I can change my belief on becoming aware of contradictory evidence, rather than doubling down, but that uncertainty about things which I could reasonably believe should not prevent me from acting. This had me weeping repeatedly and copiously.

I was cycling up a hill, where cars park down one side of the road and there is not room for vehicles to pass each other beside the cars- so they must wait in gaps in the parked cars to let others pass. A lorry was waiting for me. As I struggled past, the driver shouted, “Go on, love, give it some!”

I am told that my greatest strengths are Forgiveness, Bravery, Fairness, Kindness and Creativity. I do not bear grudges, such that I find it hard to imagine that others do: it takes a leap of empathy to see that another might hold a grudge in a particular situation.

A benefits client was walking in a railway station when a man he did not know jumped up on his back and slashed him across the forehead with a knife. His self-confidence entirely evaporated, and he did not want to go out. He got disability benefits, but when they were reconsidered three years later they were withdrawn: arguably he should have got over it. I can’t remember what was the result of our appeal, but think we won. Similarly, a man who lost his forearm in an accident got a high level of disability benefits, but after three years they were cut- probably the decision maker thought he should have got used to doing things one-handed by then. I doubt we won but can’t remember.

Caroline asked, how did you feel about that lorry driver? I think his shout is probably not simple encouragement, but misogynistic. Perhaps he thought I was younger than I am. Certainly he thought I was female, and if he realised I am a trans woman he might have been abusive in a different way.

Why might it be a good thing that there are tensions between people in a Quaker meeting? I feel often we deny them as too frightening. One said, if we can hold the tension it can keep us listening to the Spirit and each other. If we can bear Unknowing, we can learn and grow. It brings us to useful change- which I find painful, hence the crying. Or I am crying at the pain of not being aware of myself.

Possibly it would be best if I were effectively lobotomised by strong antidepressants, and worked shelf-stacking in a local shop, say thirty hours a week, walking home afterwards to watch television. I might then be useful.

When my Friend ministered in Meeting that she felt abandoned by Britain Yearly Meeting because Truth is intensely important to her and BYM was denying the truth, I felt intense sympathy even though I understand the Truth she thinks BYM is denying is that trans women like me are men who should be excluded from women’s spaces. I don’t think that’s true. Possibly it would be in my interest for her to simply lose interest in worshipping with us, feeling betrayed, because then she would leave and the tension I feel worshipping with her would reduce. I see that. And it would not please me: and I see that as a strength in me, a virtue or good thing, rather than weakness or worthlessness. I want her to feel able to remain, and I do not want to abnegate myself to achieve that. I want a result which honours me as well as her. That’s new, that self-respect. It pleases me.

Possibly my former sense of safety, which enabled me to take action in the world, arose from male privilege. I believe I should be capable of effective action because that is the state of white educated males. Women have to be more circumspect, including trans women: something can go wrong at any time, like being slashed across the face with a knife by a random stranger. So epistemological scepticism, claiming we can’t know we are people in a Real World, rather than a brain in a vat, a character in a computer simulation, a spirit tortured by a malevolent sprite, whatever- has the value of showing the world is unpredictable, sometimes we do not know what will happen, and it can be really as bad as a stroke or heart attack or random attack. It can keep philosophers on their toes, and also me, in my Real Life, like a parable forcing awareness of possibilities and uncertainty. But I feel such scepticism is too strong, making too much possible information simply incredible: it washes out degrees of incredibility, which are useful to see.

Things can really be that bad.

I must do what I can.

A suicide

“She found a place in the woods, and chose to end her life in a gentle way with an overdose. It was a conscious death.” So, someone found her body, perhaps someone jogging or walking the dog.

I found out she was dead by facebook, which was a shock: various people I knew were paying tribute to her good qualities. I had met J, but did not know her well; I have a vague memory of one conversation in which she seemed to not understand transgender or what it might mean for me. In interlocking social groups, some people I respect and care about were her friends, doing the tributes. Bored on the train, I returned to facebook and learned she had killed herself, and felt such anger at her- how dare she! What a vile thing to do!

I am not currently suicidal, at least not at the planning stage as I was in December, so I decided to use her death to inoculate myself. That anger and disgust- I consciously chose to remember it, so I could recall it when at the planning stage, or even the execution stage, and possibly save my own life.

Angry, I am thinking what a stupid self-indulgent thing to do and self-indulgent is one of my strongest words of condemnation: selfishly putting my own enjoyment before others’ good. Ah. There’s a touch of envy in there. Envy surprises me. Perhaps I am more attracted to death than I would wish.

Emotions can roil, changing quickly, and apparently contradict. Sadness, contempt and pity I understand. Desire: I want something positive out of this, and creating something to talk myself out of self-slaughter might be it.

Sadness. She was a year or two older than me. I don’t know if she was still with that man. I see the sadness of her friends.

Anger with the fucking wisdom-bollocks. There she was, “spiritual but not religious,” consciously choosing death. Such “spirituality” can mean believing onesself capable of handling raw painful emotion, or, even worse, beyond it. She just stops existing: she exists in the memory of friends, and has influenced others’ lives, but she stops growing. She finishes.

It’s not something you would want unless you are sick. Or it’s something I might want for rubbish reasons, like to avoid seeing an unpleasant truth about myself: as a friend said, “It’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. Life has been going on reasonably comfortably, there’s some change which will take adjustment, and you kill yourself rather than adjusting.

Jesus said build your house on rock not sand, and that came to have new meaning for me this week: I had loved the verse

hard upon the solid rock
suburban semis stand
Come and see my shining palace
built upon the sand

because I had been told the “rock” was some tawdry ridiculous Christian dogma. Believe as we believe, follow our rules, and your house is on the rock. No- Jesus meant face reality, accept and do not deny reality, and then your house is on the rock. Jesus is right, and the dogmatists wrong. This small epiphany delights me.

“Suffering from clinical depression” said her friend. “Clinical” sounds defensive. No, really, she was really ill, not just feeling a bit down! We use “depression” to mean so many things. I can accept she was ill. “Suicide while the balance of her mind was disturbed”- these are old words, once meaning the difference between burial in the churchyard and burial at a crossroads, being acceptable in the community (because ill) and being irredeemably wicked, sent to the seventh circle of Hell. And also sick, where we imagine ourselves to be sane: she is different, across a line, we would not have that problem, surely.

The medical model, people doing things because of illness, is reassuring, both forgiving the suicide and making those who remain feel safe. Jesus said, face reality.

Suicide is not something you can choose without being sick- either depressed, unable to face reality or your own feelings about it, or possibly facing Alzheimer’s or some hideously painful, drawn-out end. I don’t feel paraplegia justifies it, and tend to feel I would clutch at life, wanting to endure my last twitching, rather than end it early for cancer or MS. I want to survive.

And I get suicidal sometimes. Being suicidal is the sign one is incapable of such a judgment- I cannot commit it without the balance of my mind being disturbed. I hope I will tell myself that, next time.