Joy and Discipline

The problem with letting your body love what it loves is, how would you know?

I am a human being in society, and society defines what is good or not good to love. I know that exercise is good for me. I want to keep fit, so that when I need physical endurance I can do what I need to do. I know that the body keeps up the capacities it experiences a need for, so that in zero gravity muscle tone diminishes even if people exercise. If my heart’s capacity is regularly exercised it is good for it, and though a man I know died from a heart attack just as he got home from a cycle race, that is anecdotal evidence and the scientific consensus is-

but scientific consensus can be wrong- think of all the work defining Ptolemaic astronomy, specifying the epicycles-

and it is scientific consensus mediated to me through society, and influenced by the same society as I am-

I motivated myself to exercise by counting the climb I made. One run involves a climb of 489 feet according to Google Maps, another is 997 feet. I would climb the height of Mount Everest, 29035 feet, before 31 December and I started a document, no app required, to tot up the distance cycled and height scaled. I am ahead of schedule. If I do a particular shorter run, today, Wednesday 29th, I will have scaled the height of Mont Blanc.

Society tells me what it is good for me to desire, and what is not. I can be certain the desire to express myself female comes from me, because society opposes it so strongly. I don’t believe in any particular cause of it. I have a story of the birth of my love of writing. One grandparent taught me Scots dialect, another Cockney rhyming slang, and I saw the breadth and expressiveness of language. But that is at least unobjectionable, and arguably admirable.

I found counting the feet climbed, seeing progress to a target, increased my motivation to go out cycling, and I still found myself just staying in. It seems to be a desire formed under social pressure. I should keep fit. It is good for me. Being out in the sun alleviates depression. It feels like a more meditative state, being aware of my surroundings and the effort I am making (not too much, don’t tire too quickly) in contradiction to scrolling facebook, an addictive, pointless, bad thing to be doing.

Society sees scrolling facebook as a Bad Thing, but it is for my self-discipline to limit it. We don’t, as a society, act together to control the company. Being fat is a bad thing, but society does not limit the sugar and fat content of addictive foods.

Taught to deny and suppress my feelings and not to notice if I was working beyond capacity, I was stressed beyond endurance within three years of leaving university, but with no way of limiting my stress, so that I was sacked. In my next job the way I found of limiting my stress was going off work depressed, and I have no better way of limiting stress now than withdrawing. What do I love? I love writing. As I do not get paid for it, it does not seem enough.

There remains discipline. I ought to exercise, and if I transition then I ought to conform to female beauty standards. I should fit in. Then I read a comment: a fat nonbinary person, wrestling with their gender, wondered whether they imagined they were nonbinary because as a fat person they had failed to perform womanhood.

The comment was below Abigail Thorne’s latest video, in which she ate cake after being frightened to, because that is “bad”- not conforming to the requirements of female beauty. Cake is a naughty self-indulgence. I like eating cake, but only with others. It feels like a treat which relaxes me into sociability, and that relaxation seems pointless when alone.

There would be some pleasure in the sunshine and the beauty, if I cycled. The self-indulgence, the Bad Thing, would be to just not go. So, should I indulge myself? I want to take care of myself, and that could mean either developing or resting myself. None of these words seems to help find what would be good or right or the thing I prefer.

I went cycling. I have now ascended a height equivalent to Mont Blanc. There was some pleasure in it. Not going would have felt a bit yuck, as if I had shown myself mediocre, again. That judgment forms under social pressure, and may be true, but does not seem so connected to my heart impulse.

What makes me come alive? Writing something, yesterday, did. It may even be published. That was me being my best self, creating something beautiful. It made me totally happy. It was not governed by any rules- don’t eat the cake, do take exercise. It was just Me. I would like more experiences like that. “Do what makes you come alive.”

And on Saturday I felt liberated. That felt awesome.

I decide what I want by predicting how it will make me feel, and that does not work. Sometimes I want something simply because I want it- a big thing, such as transition, which has made me feel miserable, scared, alone, and also made me able to be myself with other people rather than trying to put on an act. Or a small thing, like writing. I feel all sorts of things: I want to manage my feelings to feel more comfortable, but that would be an all-consuming project, if it were possible at all.

Real and conventional feelings

How does it feel, to be real?

I am scrolling facebook, feeling the things one feels scrolling facebook. At a joke I feel happy. At something moving, I feel moved. At something political, I feel the feeling appropriate for my tribe- anger or hope, derision or inspiration. Other tribes feel the same feelings at different stimuli. These are simple feelings I share with many people. It is easy to know the right feeling, and to feel good at feeling it. So facebook is a warm comfort-blanket, insulating me from reality. I could be plugged into the Matrix.

There is something I promised to do. Scrolling, I am only dimly aware of it. I will do that later, and that makes me feel mostly OK about not doing it though later never comes. The conventional feelings get in the way.

I close my computer. How do I feel about what I promised to do? I do not want to do it. I feel fear. I sit with that and discern underneath that is a feeling of hopelessness: I find myself creating arguments why doing it is counter-productive, and though I promised I would be forgiven for not doing it. And also self-loathing, at perceived uselessness, which is exacerbated by scrolling facebook. I am writing this today because I did what I promised, just in time. Yesterday I did not, because I got into arguing with a transphobe on facebook.

Doing it, I have fantastic things going through my mind and realise they are symbols or indicators of anger. The anger, now, is at something particular, and energy for the task I am completing. It is so good when that happens. I take care to complete the task: this requires love. Doing it at another time, I gave myself encouraging pep-talks. Do you still feel the fear? Yes. It’s not enough to stop you doing it, though. There is the feeling being and something else giving the pep-talks.

This is human. When I find myself bullying myself, that is probably a bad thing, but an inner dialogue, from two different points of view, can be advantageous: just as a group of people will make a better decision than individuals, so an individual may make a better decision having worked through different ways of thinking about a problem.

The only motivation is desire. If the desire is merely to survive, it wears us out. I need desire in my life that is more inspiring.

A Tory party leaflet, before the local elections. Vote Conservative because of the vaccine, it says! Ha! We have vaccine success because of public enterprise, with only a tiny input from business required by Tory ideology, because that particular public enterprise has not been Toried yet. Bribe-taking, body-piling, trans-hating, racist, lying Tories!

Looking for the art-work for this post, I had an experience I have not had since the last time I went to the National Gallery, over a year ago. With this Vermeer on my screen, I was overwhelmed with delight at the beauty of the pure colours, and their relationship to each other- that blue of the table-cloth, and the yellow of the sleeve, as an abstract composition before I spend time on the skin, and then the facial expression. It is ravishing. I get that experience with real art in galleries, and rarely with copies on screens. If you don’t get that with this picture, I hope you have it, somewhere in your life.

Fear and love

What would it mean if I looked upon myself with the eyes of Love? I say what I feel: horror, worthlessness, misery, fear, unknowing (which is painful)- and I hear that, and still hold myself in sympathy and respect?

-I’ve done some good things
-I know.
-I’ve faced some hard things
-I know. That’s all past. You are here, now.

I feel bewilderment. My intelligence should be capable of sorting this out, and I can’t.

The fear is usually unspoken, unacknowledged, unconscious. It’s always there, but I don’t feel it in the sense of fear that spikes my blood with adrenaline and makes me need to run, or able to run, or know what to run from.

-Yes. It’s fear of the whole situation, not one thing like a bear.
-I feel tired.
-That’s the response to chronic fear.

I am seeking. I feel questioning, determined. Love and respect for myself, accepting the fear and sense of worthlessness, helps me see that. I am not all bad.

I have inestimable value. Saying that does not seem arrogant, just a statement of the truth.

Reason is the slave of the passions. If I think my life is mere existence now, it can be otherwise if I want it to be otherwise, but I have to want that. I am unclear what I want, beyond hiding away and not being seen, in order to be safe.

I know that I experience delight. Being in the Now, so that I am perceiving what is around me rather than thinking about past or future gives me delight. Then seeing flowers and birds gives me delight. Seeing beauty, including in an art gallery, delights me. Sometimes reading delights me: new understanding, seeing things in a new way, an idea beautifully expressed.

Creation delights me. I wrote a poem. I love it, and sending it to an editor made me feel high. I enjoy writing for The Friend. I am less sure about blogging because that is linked to receiving attention online, which seems more addictive and less nourishing. You cannot be addicted to human contact, it is a human need. However when you don’t get enough human contact you can be addicted to the ersatz contact of facebook likes and WordPress views. But, heck, I still like writing.

I like talking to an audience. I like making something new. I like joking around, and laughter. I like listening to someone and helping them think things through, even advising. If I make them feel better, I love that.

Denial of reality is a huge part of my life. I suppose it is like bracketing feelings. I won’t face that now, I will consider other things. Possibly denial takes energy. In CS Lewis’s depiction of Hell, people built huge houses, as large and complex as they liked, just by imagining them, but they did not keep out the rain. Am I beating myself up again? No, I think just acknowledging. This is something I do.

Whom do I love beyond myself? Family? I have no sexual attraction at the moment. Covid has reduced my human contact.

People tell me I appear “serene”. I don’t feel serene. I feel numb, which means there are feelings under the surface too terrifying to acknowledge. I feel dissatisfied, but that is a common feeling among humans. It is why we change. Dissatisfaction without change is another image of Hell. Or, thinking of what I could do, ought todo, but don’t want to do, there is no fire or life in it.

My life is governed by fear, sometimes felt, sometimes just a dead weight. I live with emotional pain. This produces depression. Rejecting and denying them makes them stronger.

Fear, pain, depression:
treat them with love, acceptance, respect

Not as a problem, but as part of the human process.

Conflicting desires

I want to be seen and heard, valued and understood.

Seen and heard- I am not an orangutan, and even they are solitary because the habitat forces it. And understood- possibly validated.

Hello! Are you in there? I’m gonna find ya, I’m gonna getchagetchagetchagetcha– I want to understand, and it feels like hunting something that does not want to be seen. It feels like a conflict. There is conflict in my head. Is it only with introjects or is it inescapable?

What if I were understood and condemned?
-That is impossible. To know all is to forgive all.
-That is my masochistic desire. Having been condemned, and felt it, I seek its repetition. It feels right.

Understood- by self or others, or by others and thereby, by self?

Understood as an end or a means?

I don’t know anything I want to achieve. Sometimes I find something I want. Today, a principle behind that appeared to emerge- I want to be seen, heard and valued.

I know I like reconciliation. I have managed to produce, recently, harmony and concord in condemning me, though that is not what I had in mind.

I find what I want when I see what I do, and I realised from this that I want to hide away, years ago- first to hide by conformity, by following rules and not being noticed, and when that failed just to hide away, to stay out of sight. So there is a conflict.

I want to be seen and heard.
I want to hide away.

I wonder if wanting to hide comes from bad experiences, or comes from introjects. Then there would be the innate personality with what most nourishes it, and the moment of breaking or falling when it is split from that food, to its harm.

I faced a previous paradox of conflicting understanding- I am the centre of the Universe, of great importance, significance, and worth, and at the same time utterly worthless. Both these views of self are insane. I tried to come to a place between, but have had most success by valuing what I saw as worthless.

I desire, and fear, to be seen and heard. That was the promise of Heaven- Then we shall know fully, even as we are fully known. Now and again I put my head above the parapet.

Language, truth and reality

Winston Smith wrote in his diary, Freedom is the freedom to say that 2+2=4. That means there is a shared reality, where we all know that 2+2=4, and each person has the freedom to state it. Someone riposted no, freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=5. Powerful people state what reality is, for example We have always been at war with Eastasia, and the rest of us have to go along with that.

People on the moderate left tend to believe in reality humans can investigate, where, say, climate catastrophe is being caused by anthropogenic CO2 emissions, and Mr Trump is wilfully denying that, but who knows what Trump believes? He really might believe something because it is in his interests to do so.

When I was a child there were nine planets, and there are now, as far as I know: but Pluto has been redefined as a dwarf planet and Konstantin Batygin’s planet nine has been hypothesised but not observed. I could not assess the weight of Batygin’s evidence, and I could not say whether there is some agreed need to observe it before declaring it exists though there appears to be. When I was a child, a kilobyte was 1024 bytes, and now it is 1000. 1024 bytes is now a kibibyte.

A sacked writer about taxation issues, echoing Winston, wants the freedom to say “Sex is real”. Of course it is, but not all the implications she wants to make from that follow. I don’t name her because her power comes from her notoriety and I call it notoriety rather than fame because I disapprove of her. Here I am, trying to mould reality with the words I use. I say “Trans women are women” and you agree with me, and freedom and human diversity and flourishing are enhanced, and she and her ilk say “transwomen are men” and they are not disagreeing with us, they are using language differently. It is a power struggle not a search for truth.

Michel Foucault said, We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative terms: it ‘excludes’, it ‘represses’, it ‘censors’, it ‘abstracts’, it ‘masks’, it ‘conceals’. In fact power produces; it produces reality; it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth.

You wanted to tell me something was going to happen that I would find difficult. You called me up and asked me not to tell anyone, and I said I was minded to promise but would not do so yet. You explained slowly and carefully why, and I agreed that was brave and possibly the right thing to do. I then promised, and started trying to explain something (I hope my allusions here are sufficiently nebulous not to have broken that promise). I was concerned I might be telling you things I had told you before, and I wanted to tell quickly a lot of information, and I became incoherent. A sentence might make sense by itself but not with the one before or after, then the sentences broke down. I don’t know what I said.

Richard Rohr says the myths of heroic sacrifice or redemptive suffering can prevent us from rebounding from rock bottom. I don’t know what keeps me here. Possibly the prejudice of others, possibly some error in me, wrongful desires or misperceptions. Evolution says that if we are more likely to reproduce if we don’t see reality, then we won’t see reality.

I felt that I wanted to play the Chopin A major prelude, and wondered if it would be too much work, my wrist and finger strength, my dexterity having faded, even the brain structures necessary having atrophied with lack of use. (The plastic brain is another truth new since my childhood.) It is beautiful. Those leaps in the left hand when the first melody comes back fortissimo are difficult. Could I learn it again? Could I apply myself, which would mean trusting myself?

I have difficulty knowing what I want, especially when it makes no sense to me.

I wanted to write, just now, thinking this would get me somewhere. I was weeping while hand-washing my towels. I thought, and the thought seemed like a huge revelation, if I can realise when I am incoherent possibly I could realise when I was resisting the world, rather than acting to change it?

And, perhaps, if I stopped trying so hard to mould reality, I could see it?

After, I read in Richard Rohr: Humility is the truth. That is to say, humility is the capacity to accept whatever happens, peacefully. Then you can decide whether God is calling you simply to accept the situation, or to do something to improve or correct it. Humility is a constant and permanent disposition that puts one in tune with the universe and with whatever is happening in the present moment.

What I can do

I’m not sure I would call it a personal crisis-

Last week I was effective. I was out protesting, talking, persuading, encouraging, writing, photographing for eight hours a day. I valued myself and people valued me- that vicar on Friday talked of me dancing on Tuesday. I think she saw I needed valued, and she valued me.

The week before I was not effective. I was supposed to go in to the office twice and both times failed to do so, and the thing is that I did not realise I would not until I did not. There’s the moment when I should get up, having had breakfast, and shower and dress and I just carried on reading the Guardian on my phone. Well, my phone is my main source of dopamine. And this week, on Tuesday I just stayed in bed.

I don’t have the energy or motivation to get up but until I should but don’t I don’t know it. I imagine I will.

I don’t know what I feel. I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what I will do, and when I think I want to do something I don’t know if I will. I would not call it a personal crisis because it doesn’t feel that bad to me; it’s only when I see what I do that I think maybe I should be worried.

And yet I was effective last week. It’s odd. I wanted to do all that stuff.

Consciousness is overrated. Subconscious (superconscious?) me makes decisions, conscious me watches. Possibly there are different voices in subconscious me that pull different ways, so one wants to go to the office, and possibly it only fibs to conscious me that it wants to because temporarily that makes conscious me feel safe. Possibly the bit getting its way, and not going to the office, is the Real Me following my heart, and possibly it’s childish-in-a-bad-way me, following immediate pain-avoidance at the cost of long term goals.

I have the experience of speaking with whole me integrity, which indicates that at other times I am torn, or in two minds.

The good thing I have done today, rather than phone-touching, is half an hour’s meditation, holding XR Quakers in the light at the time they were worshipping. I think it “good” because it was focused beyond myself.

It seems to me that in the lower ranks of that office people are constantly irked, and the strict hierarchy is shown by who gets to moan and who has to listen. C said to me she did not expect me in, the day after I did not get the job, and I said, well, it was a matter of pride- and self-interest, getting me into a routine whatever my motivation. It was, that day, and that worked. Then after S complained to me about M moaning to her and how M should think of that quote, you know, the something to accept what you can’t change, I walked back down the corridor fighting the tears (usually a losing battle for me) deciding I would demand a listening ear and it would be whole life all problems, the expression of pain I would erupt into, starting I used to be a solicitor! Well, I fought down the tears and found myself hearing an account of someone’s Saga holiday in Egypt- not telling us of tombs and temples, but of the transport getting there. The day trip to the Pyramids (Great Pyramid of Khufu, I thought to myself, not all pyramids are at Cairo) involved internal flights.

“Now you’ll know what to do, when they weigh your heart against a feather,” I said, but she did not rise to that one. There may be many things messing up my relationships there, but I doubt being trans helps- even if only in the sense that I had male privilege and have not got it now.

In a world which is almost all black, going to that office offers the faintest chance of the darkest grey for me. It’s not what I would have wanted. It may be all there is.

I feared I could not do the job anyway.

I have a cold, and together with the depression that takes away my motivation.

Mostly today I have played on my phone and watched telly. The Broo is after me again. I could have bought food or done washing. I liked the busker’s puppets, moving their mouths as if singing harmonies.

Rationalising desire

Inner peace comes when all your faculties are working together for common goals.

I woke at two, feeling anger and resentment at a failure of my organism- it hardly matters what- and then had the thought,

I should work with not against myself,
Coaxing not driving.

The word “coaxing” was not right. Inciting? Incentivising? Persuading? In the morning the Quaker metaphor felt right:

seek unity.

At Queer Spirit I had said my work is self-understanding, and projected judgment onto the workshop group: silly navel-gazing, a waste of time. And the judgment was in me not them. I am so glad that I saw this immediately! I see how I project!

I phone the Samaritans for a listening ear so I can work through this. She was so much more, asking useful questions and accepting me.

I felt my judgment. This should not be a problem for me. I felt my pain at that. I bring these matters into consciousness, into slow thinking, because my unconscious fast thinking stops me from fulfilling my promise. This is difficult and tiring. My insights have an incremental strengthening effect on me. I seek to embed them in this conversation with her, and now blogging with you. That involves trusting her, and you, enough.

It involves putting my understanding into continuous prose, I hope rational, a step by step argument which makes me feel safe. I believe I understand.

This is who I am and what I do. I work on my recovery.

My responses frighten me, and I judge them. All sorts of responses to all sorts of situations, and I catastrophise: All of them! No, not all, I like some responses, but the price of not feeling consciously continually anxious- will I measure up- is feeling always disappointed.

It will be worthwhile to consider what responses I judge, and seeing them in a different way, and which I value.

What frightens you about your responses, she asks. That needs unpacking too. The response and the immediate sharp fear reaction to it, what do I fear?

She is surprised, she says. You come across as rational and measured.

That psychiatrist in June 2001. I wanted to transition, and had marshalled my rational arguments why that was right for me. He took them all away. I was left only with my feelings and desire. I have always seen that as a good experience, realising I had to accept and trust my feelings, and now I recall how painful it was. I could not see him again, and had murder fantasies about him.

I did not see that what I wanted could have value without some rational underpinning. So I did not know what I wanted.

Seeing myself as two, rational and emotional, is reductive. Perhaps better to see the two as parties, or even a Quaker position of no parties or only one, but with a range of positions, at first contradictory, which might be brought to unity.

The living response to an actual situation cannot be predicted by rational quasi-scientific means. The organism responds to the whole situation which cannot be foreseen, perhaps cannot be fully noticed consciously.

Why do you need a rationale for your desires? Is it possible, she asks.

I use the ability to rationalise as a crutch. I greatly value my ability to rationalise, and use it where it is not the best tool. It is not always possible, so it means devaluing some desires. I did not know what I wanted because I lacked the ability to accept or value it.

My mother also lacked the ability to know her desires, wanting to fit in so imagining she wanted what she imagined it was conventional to want.

I had thought of healing my relationship with my mother, and seeing Dr Dalrymple, and now see how painful these things have been. I am stil living with the consequences of my mother’s treatment of me.

Now I feel judgment, which I project onto her. “Surely at 53 I should have got beyond ‘I blame my parents’.” I think of the stories to show I have, and feel the pain of those experiences. She reassures me: she sees I am living with after-effects, though no longer blaming.

Now I see how I mock, deride and loathe my failure to have seen these things earlier. I feel shame. I feel tired. It is like Dumbledore having to drink a cavern full of potion, which poisoned him. I will work through this.

I am working through it. I am pleased with progress. I want to be more tolerant and accepting of my- again faults, imperfections, failures are words that spring to mind but the fitting word is Humanity.

I may learn to trust myself without the crutch of a rational explanation. This is me. This is what I desire, what I feel, what gives me pleasure.

Erotic dreams

It is a sign of maturity to have accepted your own sexual nature.

I had an erotic dream the other night. I was wearing a long tight corset which held my penis pointing down between my legs, and my penis strained to be fully erect. In my dreams I have a penis. Then I woke up.

Last century I had dreams of being in a room perhaps in a theatre, trying on lots of costumes. I was utterly ashamed and frustrated. For others, their sexuality united them with a partner, and mine kept me alone. It may even be another reason I sought treatment, to lessen my sexual desire. I was bringing myself off looking at pictures of me dressed female. I was rueful about this. I had been told it was reinforcement activity: the more you do it the more you want to. After the op, others have sexual sensation in their “clitoris”, I almost none, and that was a relief.

Why tell you this? It would please trans-obsessive feminists, who would see it as more evidence we are male sexual perverts. But they have enough evidence to convince them anyway. In humiliation, shouting my ridiculousness into the ether, there is perverse freedom. One more thing I don’t have to worry about people finding out. And I find my blog reassures people who feel the same way. We are not alone.

In 1993, I waltzed with Jan, and she started to lead. I objected. “I thought you wanted me to lead,” she said. I did, but did not know it I had suppressed the desire so much. In December 2015 I pulled you on to the dance floor and wanted you to lead, and you went off and we rowed. I was so confused and hurt and I think you were too. Later you told me you had so wanted a man to swirl you onto the dance floor. And now you are strong, using your hurt and anger as fuel and affirmed by your audiences…

I discussed you with H, who told me, “You are giving away your power.” I thought, I do not want power, I want to be winsome, sought for my sweetness.

After I left Scotland Dad had Jan over to dinner, and she took him to bed.

C told me some men read her as dominant, and it was a faff- they wanted dominated precisely in the way they desired, and would not do what she wanted.

I found that passage from Ulysses erotic, even though I knew it was riffing on cliches of the time, such as the school play. “With this ring I thee own” is brilliant.

In the corridor, I saw F, high status woman, walking as if she owned the place, and enjoyed it. Then she turned to look at me and I was abashed. It was definitely a sexual thought in me, and that was highly inappropriate: and people desire others.

A woman I hardly knew, executing the Promenade movement, pulled my hand back slightly and I felt displayed, vulnerable. It was delicious and terrifying, and she had read me and I had not seen it in her at all.

Porn and discreet services, dominating or sissifying, seem to miss the point. There must be a way to live it in relationship. Dad managed that twice. I don’t have a handle on it, a cultural template. All the words for it are horrible, pansy, harridan, “woman wearing the trousers”, Joyce’s old “Petticoat government”. I read there are far more pansies than harridans. Seeing my mother’s photograph you were surprised she did not look a particular way. There is a certain look. Not all women like that have it.

I remain with this vulnerable, hurt feeling. In Pose, Electra’s gentleman friends will pay her rent and an allowance, for sex. As they penetrate her they like to know she has a penis, and may fondle it. After her operation they don’t want her. They want to humiliate a man. I don’t want humiliation; I want to see beauty in my vulnerability. I might then come to terms with it, though it frightens me so much.

I wrote that, then read a story with the line “I wanted a nice Canadian man… I wanted him to take me, first to bed, then to the altar.” I wanted him to take me.

Slut! I thought.

How brave! I thought, even to write that through the persona of a fictional character.

It’s all right for you! I thought. You’re a woman!

Our desires are heaven and hell, possibilities to create and dreams to make reality unbearable.

Heart’s desire

What do you want?

I know the right answer to that question in the sense of what will produce nods and smiles and happiness in others. If I want that, it will be a sign of Lucie’s success, moving me forward in a quantifiable way. It will be a statistic her manager can report to the funders. So, with my mask on, I would give that right answer and we would both be happy. And I have decided that the mask is my most important problem, the thing I must take off before I do anything else.

I want her to be happy now. That would make me happy (really!) But there would also be a gnawing doubt and resentment underneath, that it was not what I wanted that mattered. The mask is the right answer, which hides my true face, my own feeling. The mask mirrors the other’s feeling, happy when I ought to be happy because the other is happy, or concerned, sad, remorseful, whatever is appropriate in the moment. Under the mask my feelings are otherwise, but the mask shows the right feeling, however painful.

The mask exists because it was essential to ingratiate myself.

I did not know I was wearing the mask, at first. I thought the feelings the mask showed were my feelings. I denied and suppressed the discomfort underneath so that I was unaware of it, then it was a nagging feeling which I could not put my finger on, and now it is the only thing that matters. I remember a moment when the mask would not work, where there were two incompatible appropriate feelings. The Aberdeen University Debater (motto: Thay haif said Quhat say thay? Let þame say) travelled to debate with the Glasgow University Debating Society. We were two teams, and one of our teams was late. I expressed anger at the Aberdonians’ lateness to my Aberdonian partner, and felt contempt from her. I should be sticking up for my lot in front of the Glaswegians, whatever I said to them in private after. I long thought of that story as proof of my cowardice, but now I see it was an insoluble problem: I could not mirror Glaswegian resentment and Aberdonian defiance at the same time.

With the mask clamped over my face, there is no me.

What do you want?

I don’t know. I want Lucie to be reassured- that is, I want the mask. Underneath it, I am anticipating the future, and I feel catastrophising fear. Everything will go wrong and it will be my fault.

In part it is a problem. If my heart, my real self, wanted that, which would please Lucie, it would make life so much easier right now. My conscious self leans down, trying to catch the quiet voice of my heart, but at the same time wanting its answer to be the right one. So I would not know, if I think the answer is “Yes I want that” if it were my heart or the mask speaking.

The trouble is, if my catastrophising belief takes over, I will not do the preparatory work. Unconsciously I will sabotage what the mask claims I want, which will make me feel confused and distressed. So Lucie imposes a target for that of three weeks, with a review when we meet again in two weeks. It is six hours’ work, which I should be able to manage in three weeks, whatever else I have to distract me, whatever else has to be done. Yeah. Logically I can see that. Tolle writes of “Awakened doing”- taking action in the presence of the Life-force, rather than in the ego (mask). That sounds nice. Whole-I might exert its strength, without different parts of me in conflict.