Ironic detachment

Anti-trans activist and Today Programme presenter Justin Webb interviewed Nancy Kelley today on Today (starts at 1.48.50 in). Kelley did a lot better than she has in the past, she’s obviously been practising.

Webb’s tactic, after his endless confected anger against “biological men”, was to pretend no-one objected to real trans women. No! Perish the thought! They only objected to Men, pretending to be trans women to get into women’s services. This disingenuousness got under my skin, until I was lying down, wailing inarticulately. I surprised myself with the depth of my distress. After, I felt exhausted.

Tina said I appear serene, and the depth of my distress perplexes and frightens people. Graeme McGrath said I use an attitude of ironic detachment as a powerful defence against acknowledging the strength of my feelings. A man I knew had nerve damage, such that he did not know when he needed to go to the toilet. My state feels just as embarrassing: I do not know what I am feeling until I weep like a child abandoned.

I phoned the Samaritans. Talking it over with Dave, I surprised myself again by the strength of my feeling. We were talking about suicide at the time, but even so.

Imagining that was over, I texted M. I don’t know what I was thinking but think I believed I wanted a little playful contact. However when she texted “How are you?” I told her how I had felt wildly upset this morning. “Tell me about this upset, without analyzing or justifying,” she commanded. Well, it’s a good question. I do not need to justify. My reactions are justified.

Ironic detachment is my defence mechanism. Earlier in my journey of spiritual growth and self-understanding, I would have said, ironic detachment is my mask, it is my oppression, I must descend into my softness which is my true self, and liberate myself. Then, I might have thought knowing what I must do was sufficient, and discount the need to make a habit of it.

And now- ironic detachment is my defence mechanism. It stops me acknowledging the depth of my feelings, or even knowing that I am feeling something, but protects me from some pain. And, it can make me appear serene when with other people, at the cost of needing to be alone most of the time.

I don’t want to get rid of it, just not to use it reflexively or constantly. I want it working for me, not against me. I want to know when I am doing that, and be able to go underneath it, to find what I am feeling. This is a lot of work. And, I can find my softness, more and more easily, and there I seem to be more emotionally aware. I want to keep surprising myself with my true self, until it is no longer a surprise.

I may stick in another complaint about Webb, but I don’t need to worry about that now.

Indelicate questions

“Is that a boy?”

I have my answer to that one. “Some would say Yes, some would say No. I would say, ‘I am Clare’.” I was bothered by her father quickly dragging her away and whispering at her. I wanted to interact.

“I said there were only girls here”, he told me. He sounded irritated.
-I would not want to interfere in your bringing up your child, I called across the garden.

It’s my friend’s garden. Before today, I have met one person here, and the husband of another- the husband wasn’t here- and it is mostly friendly. The father went off for a walk just after, and when he returned the family left.

I would like greater openness. I don’t want him giving the conventional answer, I want understanding. I want the child able to ask such questions- “What happened to your arm?” “Why is your face like that?” “What’s a miscarriage?”- to hear the experiences of people rather than the standard view.

Later, when most had left and we were in front of the fire, drinking champagne, I brought up that I had grown up in Argyll. I had to explain what a septic tank is.

-Oh. Real country. What’s that like? So I told my Argyllshire tale of woe- this one. This produced an outburst of sympathy. That’s Awful! I have processed it, though. I am not upset about Inez any more, hardly about my sister.

Here is the wonder of blogging- here, I can work this out. I have processed that story. I don’t want to be dragged back to feelings of misery rejection and frustration. It just is. Perhaps, now, I could tell that story to elicit feelings in others for my own purposes, rather than to process my own. It took a long time processing.

I am inspired, though, by Maria, who has suffered a miscarriage and recounts others’ insensitivity. There are several what [not] to say posts around. The worst thing is if two people’s raw nerves are touched at the same time, like the stutterers who got into a fight because each thought the other was mimicking him. If I am tired, or feeling vulnerable, I find it harder to deal with remarks, but at any time someone might touch a sore spot. And I used to have a big red button, which people would notice, and push- “Clare, I find you profoundly masculine”- and I would collapse into a wreck. It is so liberating not to.

Some people need to deal with their own stuff, when they hear of your distress. Some want you not to be distressed, and that can be selfishness, because they find openly expressed distress embarrassing. They want to tidy it away, like Cassie’s father yesterday, which left me feeling aggrieved. Some are emotional vampires: they want you to express your distress, so they can sympathise, but if I am distressed there are times I want to process it, perhaps with help, and times I want to just get on. When I see others’ need, I offer assistance and state that I do not need to be needed: it is lovely to help, but often others want to deal with things on their own.

There are no rules with this. I don’t like what I see as the other imposing control or conventional understanding on my feelings but this may just be rationalisation- I was somehow uncomfortable in that situation.

Renoir, two girls in black

Bedside manner

A woman had to see the cardiologist. The first thing he said to her was that she had to give up smoking. So she did, just like that: it was her health, she knew she had to, she did. She saw him again a month later, and expected a little stroking: did you? Oh well done, that is difficult, congratulations, it will make you feel so much better etc. Instead he said, “You’re far too fat. You need to lose a stone”. She left the room wanting nothing so much as a fag and a creamcake.

I saw one unsympathetic specialist, and could not bear to see him again, though I needed what he only could prescribe. I went private.

I find that if people tell me their woes, and I show my respect and sympathy, they feel better for it. I feel as if I am a wire, earthing distress. I can generally shed any distress I feel from the story quite quickly, though in the case of a schizophrenic woman it took two hours, and I had to talk to a friend to do it. She told me things which were true- she had problems at work, then got sacked; or clearly false- there was a radio transmitter in her head, which transmitted her thoughts to the Government; but it was the things which were in between, not clearly either, that most messed with my head.

And I have heard people who seem to have a bottomless pit of distress, and can pour it out to me yet have an infinite amount more. I feel ill after, and feel I have given no benefit. It is the sense that I give a benefit that makes the experience worthwhile for me.