Welcome and entertain them all

I am interested in this man, and we talk. He tells me of his life, work, and power, and I am tongue-tied. I might retreat into small-talk, and cannot bear to: just to pass time, until the time is passed. I want to open my heart and be real together, and my heart prompts me to say, I have not worked for eleven years, and I rarely go out. Shame stops me. My brain comes up with various things I could say and stops me saying any of them.

What is this shame? What good can it do me? It might have been introjected to bind me. It might be my own. I retreat from the world, hoping to heal, hoping to get to know myself and be able to face it again. I am not sure but I might be making progress.

In that moment, the shame was fully conscious. I feel it now. Is it shame because I ought to face the world manfully, and bestride it? Have I a right to protect myself in this way? Well, right or not, I protect myself. What now?

I sit in my room, numbed out, noodling. The Feelings are there, all the time, mostly out of consciousness but not quite- fear, shame, anxiety, perplexity, sadness. Occasionally one leaps out and floors me, paralyses me, overwhelms me.

The only thing that can free me from Love is Love.
I see you. I imagine you active, happy, determined, triumphant
worried, perplexed
and resent you have no thought of me.
Cursing myself for being ridiculous does no good.
Wanting nothing from you, I might feel free to love.
Loving, I might let go and want nothing.
It feels like a virtuous circle too far above me to reach.
The resentment is mean, small, ineffectual.
It has my worst qualities, and my face.
I reach out to touch its cheek.

Then what?
It sucks me, screaming, into it?
It enters my heart, and my heart expands?

The resentment is not a problem to be solved
or dross to be transmuted.
It is a companion, a guide from beyond.

Can I love myself?
I was taught which parts to love, and which to fear.
Fearing, I held my heart down until it changed shape.
How can I love it as it is now?

I do not know what I might be.
I only know I must love as best I can.

On Monday, five of us wrestled in conversation. It was the right people at the right time. We did some good. I played my part. I gave myself wholly and entirely to a problem which could be easily solved by hurting someone, searching for a better way, and in the process learned something about myself and about boundaries. I was taught to discount the good. I must recognise and celebrate all the good.

Facing the shame and the guilt:

-What are you doing with your one precious life?
-I am healing myself as best I know how. Sometimes I take action which seems good to me. It never seems enough to me, and I doubt I am making progress in healing, and sometimes a feeling seems to hit me like running into a wall.

I want to be sure, and I am unsure of anything.

Rumi says, “You have to keep breaking your heart, until it opens”.

The Piano Incident

When I was eight, my mother wanted to show off my piano playing skills to her friend. She wanted me to play the grade 2 exam piece I had just learned. I did not feel entirely sure of it, so wanted to play the grade 1 exam piece I knew well. I insisted, and ended up weeping uncontrollably and humiliated for it.

In September 2009, having told this story to selected hearers with all the emotion of the shamed, weeping eight year old, ending with “She didn’t understand!” I suddenly realised, oh, right. She didn’t understand. She did not get the depth of my objection. It seemed all the pain of the memory left me, and I forgave my mother, or better, accepted her. She had done her best. She had not been superhuman.

On Saturday 25th, I saw it differently. The child was not particularly heroic- my mother wanted me to take a risk of getting the notes wrong, and I did not- but I knew my desire and insisted on it, and I felt my feelings and expressed them. These are things I have great difficulty with now. I remembered the piece I wanted to play. I still have it, though not the other one. It is by Thomas Dunhill, who wrote a great deal of educational piano music at different levels. It is grade 1, and I see the tricky bits- a chord staccato pianissimo? I have the muscle memory, though I have not played it for decades- I have to pull my hands in, as they were not full grown and I automatically stretch further than I would now, to play a sixth.

What if I could be like that child- knowing my desire and feelings, insisting, now?

On Friday night, I awoke in a panic. Normally waking in the night I am bored. I have taught myself to think of familiar, boring things, but I was thinking of the media anti-trans onslaught and of my recovery from M- after brief hatred, and making her words bless me, I hate the fact that I am thinking of her so much. On Saturday morning, I had a panic attack. Normally my anxiety is unconscious, but I felt it. I tried to hold it down: that is what causes the panic attack. If I am to be conscious, I will have to bear the anxiety. The alternative is numbing out.

Eye contact exercise. I am with someone I liked last week, and I wonder if I am merely a mirror to others’ feelings, echoing them to keep myself safe and invisible. My judgment is harsh: I am just a whore, having no self. Then the idea that could make me a “permission slip”, letting others be who they are. Another says that is her way to avoid her own feelings. Three interpretations- how could I know? Perhaps all are true. I want to put others at ease and connect with them.

We share on a topic, and as Jamie says my creative self can just come up with the words. I am surprised at my creativity. What I say sounds prepared to me, with beginning, middle, and end, and it was spontaneous. It is easier to create like that than to create for a purpose or to speak from the heart to communicate what I need to another human, but this playfulness pleases me. I contain playfulness and anxiety and will judge neither.

My intention when I refused to play the more difficult piece on the piano was to keep myself safe, and now that desire has taken over my life.

I would like not to be judging and fighting myself. And now I am sitting with and accepting my pain, exhaustion and perplexity. There is no need to think, or find a solution.

Escaping the enmeshed relationship

My mother did not allow me to develop a personality independent from hers. My attitudes, opinions and desires matched hers. I rarely had any idea what I was feeling. Though we had moved several times, and local people spoke with a different accent, I spoke with hers, and still do. She died when I was 29, and years after that I decided it was time to rebel against my parents. I last voted the way they voted in 2010, though my politics had been diverging for years.

Do not resent the world.
Respect it.
Dance with it.

I still do not know who I am, but I am learning. I do not fit the mask my mother clamped on me. I am fey and feminine, and my mother brought me up to make a man of myself. The enmeshed relationship makes boundaries difficult. I was allowed no boundaries. Even now I have difficulty understanding the concept, leave alone- I understand the phrase is “creating healthy boundaries,” but have the foggiest idea what that might mean.

I have conflicting desires that I do not understand. My friend said, “It’s as if you want to merge into the background in the most eyecatching way possible”. I want to hide away, and I do. And I want to be seen: three times I spoke to hundreds of people last weekend.

The inner critic is quieter. It still says, “’enmeshed relationship’ is a diagnosis, you have no qualification to say that”. Well, I have no qualification in psychology, and I know what I experienced. It says, “Why are you still on about that? Why go round in circles?” And I reply, I still go on about that because you resist. I will stop dwelling on this when I have cleansed it, when I am merely myself. And, “I want to cultivate flowers as well as pull up weeds”.

I went to the Yearly Meeting, and looked forward to it for months, and Friends there noticed how tense I was. I played a part in our discernment, and am pleased with my ministry, recorded in The Friend. I like the idea of “Caste” rather than privilege: it is to whom you defer, and whom you expect to defer to you, unconsciously.

I stayed with Friends on Saturday night, and walking from Hammersmith tube to the bus station we passed three beggars. My friends gave them a few coins. I do not use cash any more, and gave nothing. One used a loud desperate pleading, almost a scream, which I find disturbing thinking of it days later. Returning, I looked out the window of the bus then the tube at the passing city, delighting in the rapidly changing impressions. My feelings flow better. I see them more clearly.

On Tuesday I went to the supermarket, and rather than merely put off going I felt the anxiety. Feeling it is so much better than being affected by it unconsciously. So I did what I had to do. And my inner critic says, “How trivial”. Well, I am where I am. I feel this is progress.

Someone ministered that the Way is not a straight road. Surrounded by darkness, having no idea where we are, we wait, pray, listen, and God shows the next risky footstep.

I love “Inside No. 9”, and this week’s episode is particularly good. You see the man with his ridiculous haircut and his pursed lips turned downwards, in the dark, old-fashioned house, and think, “Who is this weirdo?” At the end, he takes his first steps towards freedom, and I was moved to tears because it is a road I am walking too.

I would love it to be easy. Is it that, hiding away is my mother’s way, wanting to be seen is mine? That is an attractively simple view, and I am not sure of it yet. Even if I were wholly my own woman, there might still be paradoxes and inner conflict. The way to freedom is through accepting my own feelings, however challenging, threatening or incomprehensible I find them.

And I can. At any moment, I can step into the presence of my inner light. I do it when talking- sometimes I wear a mask, sometimes I speak from the heart. So, why do I not speak from the heart, all the time? What frightens me about it? What does- the other way of being- do for me?

My sexuality is completely different from what I was taught was right and acceptable. I want to be sexually overwhelmed, I want to be taken by a strong woman, and that was such a challenge to my fragile sense of self that I could only admit it within the last twelve years, though I had hints of it in the 1980s. So I have never really had a satisfying sexual relationship. Bound so tightly, I would have been a dreadful parent, though my true self, soft, gentle, peaceful, loving, creative, graceful, would make a wonderful parent. I feel such terrible loss, and waste of potential.

With that woman, I wanted a relationship, I wanted romantic involvement, and it appears she just wanted sex. I am complaining about “Of course I’ll still love you in the morning,” which as a cliché may be outdated. It activates so many of my insecurities. Yes. I am claiming to be a woman, with a woman’s reactions. Not all women, maybe. Not how women ought to be, necessarily. Yes I was born with testicles. And I am a woman, reacting as women so often do.

This is who I am.
I am Clare.
I am a woman.

Joy and the inner light

How might I move on?

I am more isolated now than I was eleven years ago. Am I merely ruminating about the past? I wrote in my diary, “It is time to rebel against my parents”. I was over thirty at the time. I may have had an enmeshed relationship with my mother. But, why should I be dwelling on that now?

How do I feel about my situation now? “Miserable” is not a feeling, it is an accumulation of feelings, all mixed together, hard to identify and differentiate. There is anger, frustration, resentment, fear (the feelings I identified in 1999) and perhaps others. There is great sadness.

And, still, I am unconscious of feeling. Objectively, my lifestyle, rarely going out, is a product of overwhelming anxiety, and I am rarely conscious of anxiety. It manifests as just doing nothing when I know I should take a particular action. Hours pass. I am burned out.

I was acting in anger towards another and not conscious of it. Now the anger has done its job: not by changing her, but by changing me. I cease to care about her. I see her actions as hurting me, wronging me, and let go my former illusion of her. I let in these additional perceptions, see her more clearly, and let go.

I am between the Id and the Inner Light. The Id, a roiling, terrifying storm of feeling, which makes us lash out, comes from feeling being suppressed. The Inner Light may be the human in touch with feeling and therefore empathetic. David Brooks, in The Second Mountain- the quest for a moral life, writes,

Every once in a while, I meet a person who radiates joy. These are people who seem to glow with an inner light. They are kind, tranquil, delighted by small pleasures, and grateful for the large ones. These people are not perfect. They get exhausted and stressed. They make errors in judgment. But they live for others, and not for themselves. They’ve made unshakable commitments to family, a cause, a community, or a faith. They know why they were put on this earth and derive a deep satisfaction from doing what they have been called to do. Life isn’t easy for these people. They’ve taken on the burdens of others. But they have a serenity about them, a settled resolve. They are interested in you, make you feel cherished and known, and take delight in your good.

I too have met people like that. Brooks does not claim to be there yet. My route involves bringing the unconscious to consciousness.

The “Heart” I seek to speak from is more complex than I can know. It is like the Id in some ways, because of the powerful forces still repressing my feelings. I bring myself to consciousness but am not there yet. My desire to be good comes from a desire to be safe. I want to follow the rules so no-one will be nasty to me, even though that does not work. Or, I want to be good so I might deserve not to suffer. I want to avoid pain. I need to feel the pain, uncertainty, sadness.

Possibly, behind that heart there is something that might be called an “inner light”- aware of the community, seeking its good, wanting connection. Possibly that is how the heart matures as the Id, accepted, lashes out less. I fear being a doormat.

I was irritated with Brooks claiming “Self-created identities are also fragile. We need to have our identities constantly affirmed by others if we are to feel secure.” His cis male conservative successful writer identity is always going to be affirmed. I know of trans people who view other trans people’s different journeys as not the right way to be trans, and therefore a challenge to their own trans identity. But if people feel sufficiently affirmed in our diversity we can accept each other’s difference.

Brooks is too dismissive of others’ travails. No-one leaves a marriage “based on some momentary vision of their own needs”. It is so difficult to divide a shared life that a conviction that it is necessary may grow over months before it crystallises.

I don’t know what that permanent joy would be like, but I felt delight today being affirmed: someone I respect said my published pieces were well-written and to the point. It is a gift.

Brooks and I both see that an “inner light” and living from joy is possible. He names the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and Paul Farmer, but also believes ordinary people can become like that, like Dorothea Ladislaw: “But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

If I were ever to get there, it would be through loving my Id into consciousness. Brooks writes that “Some shrivel in the face of suffering. They seem to get more afraid and more resentful. They shrink away from their inner depths in fear. Their lives become smaller and lonelier.” Well, some wounds are too great to heal. I hope I don’t end up like that.

In worship someone quoted Living our beliefs, the introduction to Quakers by and for adolescents: “feel your whole self, celebrate it, be happy and proud”. I bought the book immediately, but could not find the quote. The working theory is that the Id will only get in the way of the Light if it is unconscious. I move on by bringing it to light.

The value of sadness

Anger and fear give energy to fight or flee. Sadness softens you. That softening felt like a threat to me, and my inner scourge berated me in fear and anger. I suppressed my sadness below consciousness.

On Monday 16th, I eldered the Woodbrooke zoom worship. It involves holding space, which is a particular kind of loving attention and care: you don’t need to speak to show it. I could see someone’s microphone icon was off, and her lips were moving, but I could not hear her, so I messaged her. She wanted to find “The poem by Rumi”.

I was worried that I was spending too much time facilitating rather than holding, but guessed she meant The Guest House, and copied it to her. She asked me to read it to the meeting. It enjoins us to value every awareness, even sorrow.

I broke down crying at “Welcome and entertain them all,” for my inner scourge rejects my sadness and so rejects myself. I had to start crying to realise how much this means to me. Consciously softening let me finish reading.

My resistance to my own feeling is a major source of the inner conflicts which bind me and drain me of energy. I could suppress feeling out of consciousness, but the effort to do so increased until I came to my current inactivity. I cannot be harder than I am, however desperately I wish, so I look for the value of sadness, so I might accept it.

Sadness is information. Something hurts. Grief at loss expresses the human need for love and connection. We are made to live in couples and communities.

If sadness softens us, it can bring people together. We are vulnerable, feeling beings. We see our need to support each other, and reach out for help.

Softening also helps us see each other more clearly. Once I am past the overwhelm of my own sadness, I can see it in others too, and feel with them. Feeling the feels, we come together authentically.

There are times when you have to keep working, and softening inhibits you. Trying to ignore or suppress any feeling does not work. Better to bracket it: acknowledge it, but pay it no attention for now. If you bracket feeling, you have to deal with it later.

Softening from sadness can feel like a threat to the community, which needs each individual to pull their weight. So we mock children- “Big boys don’t cry”. “Put on your big girl pants”. When adults console each other, “Don’t cry” can be a wheedling demand to stop raising things which the other cannot cope with. It can mean, “Pull yourself together,” but unless we soften we break our community apart.

I found I could make people feel better simply by listening to them without judgment. I did not take their sorrows upon myself, I earthed them. I let them pass through me and drain away. This gave me joy, because I am soft.

I tried to harden, to make a man of myself, and it almost killed me. Transition, becoming the woman I am, is the way to save my life, and I am still working on it.

Numbing out

I am becoming aware of how much vulnerability scares me. I can’t avoid it, but I go to great lengths to avoid feeling vulnerable. My life is so quiet. Much of the time I watch television, or just go through the same websites, over and over again, in case there is anything new.

It is hard to be positive about this, and my blog started with a pledge to be positive, and an overoptimistic first sentence. So I will sing in praise of numbing out: it keeps me safe from my vulnerability, and gives me the space to explore that vulnerability as far as I can bear.

Numbing out passes the time in my days after I have done whatever I can do with them- a little housework, a blog post, some reading, and occasionally a glancing encounter with reality. It keeps me amused. Almost every day I have a time when I can share, deeply, with wise spiritual people over Zoom. I like my life. It gives me all the challenge and experience I want. Perhaps I may want more later, and perhaps not.

I think I am clearer, now. Before, I would have said I watch television, and what a waste of time that is. Now, I would say I am numbing out, and that is self-protecting. I am nurturing myself as best I can. Numbing out, though easy to deride or despise, especially for me, is good for me.

In 2012 I did a ritual, and found I was firmly in Winter. Winter is the place where it seems the world sleeps, but seeds are germinating under the soil. Soon new shoots may grow. It is a place to be, if I can have faith the seeds really are germinating.

On Saturday night (theirs) and Sunday morning (mine, 12.30am) I read three poems about Love to American Quakers, and someone wrote in the chat, “my heart has never been touched in that way. beautiful”. I have told people this. I said I was boasting, and one said, no, you are sharing your joy.

I have no idea how good those poems are, and how I read them had some part of it. And, I know I am beautiful, and worth looking after. I have not always known that.

On Monday 21st I worshipped with Pendle Hill, and had a glimpse of the depth of my anxiety, confusion and sadness. It felt like a revelation. This is as much as I can bear, and I can bear more than before. After, sharing joys and sorrows, I shared that I have a joy I cannot articulate. Later, I thought that I am growing and healing.

On Monday evening we agreed how hard it is to warm oneself with one’s own love.

My hope, now, is that it is Spring, and to symbolise that I am wearing my daffodil earrings. It may be as illusory as the idea of pupating. But I know life develops, in the tuber under the soil. I have taken one more brick from the towering edifice of my self-hatred and contempt, and carried it towards the fragile construction of my self-respect.

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.

Imprisonment and liberation

In 1998, Dr Graeme McGrath, who had helped my trans friends, decided I was not trans. It is hard to know what to feel about that, twenty years after transition. He said I talked about strong feelings then adopted a mask of ironic detachment as a defence of my fragile sense of self. Even if he could provide the depth of psychotherapy I needed it might just threaten my defences. I was too messed up for psychotherapy to work.

I’ve been feeling “a bit” sad. And, I hate that “a bit”: it is minimising. Like I have “a little” poem I would like to read: little, slight, not really worth noticing, I crave your indulgence. Don’t do yourself down, I think, though Steve said, Spanish uses diminutives, eg “Conchita”, as terms of endearment.

-How are you?
-OK I suppose.

OK. Being below par is a bit frightening- no, terrifying. Less than OK is unbearable. So there is a depressing burden of alrightness, where unacknowledged pain builds up.

-Share your heart, if you feel safe to do so. (I do, with you.)

I don’t know. A feeling I am missing something, stuck in old patterns. If I am feeling hurt, I want to explain and articulate that, rather than simply being “hurt”. That distances me from the feeling. This feeling of being only just OK might be ameliorated by a sense of being loved, but I need constant reassurance of being loved and loveable. This makes me terribly vulnerable.

I hurt, feeling unloved. I don’t want to say that to other people, because I am an adult and do not want to appear vulnerable. In some way that causes me to be unable to admit it to myself. The imprisonment is that I cannot admit my misery to myself. The causal link locks me away.

My retreat to my living room is an attempt at emotional regulation. It calms my fears to bearable levels for me, and means that I don’t show unacceptable emotion- misery, fear, despair- to others. Out in the world, my feelings burst out, undammable, and so I feel too vulnerable, but even retreated I am still tortured by stress. My retreat is a waste of my gifts, but not the cause of my isolation. If I must conceal my feelings and never be open with anyone, then I am isolated from people even when I am among them.

Then, another’s love is threatening: it could make me emotionally incontinent, admit that I am not OK. I am not receptive to Love because I cannot show that part of myself.

I could not feel that delight fully without feeling my sadness. Delight alone would have been inauthentic and incomplete- it was delight and sadness commingled. My back tenses as I realise this, then releases as I write it down.

I want to let feelings flow naturally, I say, but I don’t want to pause to feel them. I want to hold them in myself and not show them. I can’t admit this is difficult. I am emotionally constipated, and fear incontinence, but if I feared my feelings less-

Could I learn to feel? I could cower, cry, or rage (or just gurn) as a way of processing the feelings through my body. I wish I had learned that as a toddler, in my family, before going to school.

I know that if I feel the feelings I will show them to others and that is Death. Possibly, you could help. You would tell me it was safe to feel and even express emotion. Or, the ghosts that I keep in my head, and use to talk things through, could tell me that. (I am in control of the ghosts in my head.) I want to be mothered. I come to you with my emotional problem, you help me find a way to deal with it.

First this made emotional sense to me, but having written it out it makes rational sense, and that is far more comfortable. I could never have explained it to my mother. She just would not understand. So it all became unconscious. I could not see the prison bars, or love, the file to cut them.

Imprisonment is feeling unsafe to feel fear, sadness or anger. I am convinced that if I feel them I will express them and then I will be judged, and suffer. Liberation is to let the feelings flow, feel them fully, accept them as part of me that needs my Love.

The dance and the game

As she looked at me, I felt my softness being valued. In her regard, my delicate flower stood tall. She said it was beautiful to look at me. I have to accept my sadness completely, in order to appreciate my delight. We are present to each other.

This is how I want to be, and I enjoy it, then analyse it. What am I doing, now? I take off my masks. I speak from the Real Me. Or, I show my vulnerable, feminine self. Three ways of seeing it each casting light from a different direction, each illuminating parts other images leave in shadow, none complete. The mask seems welded on, and to be seen without it is liberation, my only desire.

Burnt Norton: In the still point of the turning world, there is only the dance. There is who I am and what I do in the moment, and how I imagine it looks or want it to appear falls away. In almost all my actions there is care for appearances, more to myself than to others, and self-consciousness, and here I might flow naturally, unconstrained.

Nirvana is nonbeing. There is no I. There is only the dance. Possibly I should only do this with a lover (not with her) or possibly it could expand to all of life. This is paradise everyone old has dreamed of all their lives: the deep blue air that shows nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless, behind high windows Larkin could only look through, hoping that couple of kids were free to fly, like birds.

As a potential partner I have a great deal of beauty but fear I have little use. My earning potential is minimum wage at best. So I unfankle all the mess, the masks and pretence, the desire for appearance rather than reality, the impossible falsehoods. “I” is the whole animal process dancing with the world, changing it as I am changed, and “I” is the illusion that blocks the flow, the demands not to feel that were branded in me.

Mind-blown, I went to the Quaker group. With adolescent certainty I told them where they were going wrong. There is the dance, and then there is the game, which has rules. The business meeting is on the second Sunday of the month, and members should send agenda items to the clerk by the first Sunday so that the agenda may be circulated in good time.

But—but—

The DANCE!!!

If only I could put it into words. But those words would become dust as soon as they were spoken, not even a finger pointing at the moon. Human kind cannot bear very much reality.

If only we could trust the wisdom we know. If only we could sit in silent worship in the business meeting. You only speak once, so you gather what you must say. You seek the good of all, and not appearances. You listen to Friends, and see their unmasked beauty. It is not a committee meeting where we talk over each other.

Nirvana is possible, and ungraspable. I fall away from it into habit. The words cast light and shadows. And I dismiss the rules, for they only permit a game, which is less than the dance. But there is wisdom which might let us dance freely. And I delight in my adolescence: I have been stunted, welded in, and adolescence is growth and life.

Loving my fear

Fear dominates, pervades, defines, controls my life.
I fear my fear.
I am as conscious of my fear, usually, as a fish is of water, and even perhaps unconscious of the currents in it.
I want to deny my fear. I want to escape it, and create a life where I do not feel it. So I have my life as it is now.
I do not fear what others fear. I have no fear of speaking in public, very personally.
I felt fear of cycling on wet ice yet went the Oundle run the second time.
I will prosper if I know my fear, am not dominated by it, heed its warnings.

I fear myself. I fear my own responses to how I react rather than others’ observed responses and my realistic expectations of them. It is the internal structure of illusion, inherited from my mother’s fear.

To say “I should listen to my fear” creates a false I, separate from my fear, which is less than whole I. But there are blocks in the flow of fear, and whole I has ways of evading consciousness of it. Yet fear dominates my life: I am practically agoraphobic.

I have just started reading Iain McGilchrist’s phenomenal “The Matter with Things”, on how the right brain and left brain produce different ways of acting in and perceiving the world. There is an unconscious mechanism which decides which hemisphere processes a particular stimulus or response, and still I will stick to trying to conceptualise one Whole I, an individual human being, for now.

I rarely feel instant fear, as my life goes now, and I did this morning, cycling downhill towards a bend on a wet road, when I braked to get round the bend and found the bicycle drifting towards the side of the road. I stopped, after, to compose myself. With just the chance of ice, and wet roads, I can be going too fast for safety. But that is a rare experience. That physical threat feels different from fear of other human beings.

My fear is like my shame, an overexposed photograph. Fearing everything, I do not know where I might fear less, and where bad experiences might reinforce my fear so that I trust even less.

My fear comes from my family’s, keeping ourselves to ourselves, and is the source of first my desire to be normal and conventional and not stand out, and then my retreat to my living room. Fear has created my desires, and I have achieved my desire. The competing desires to be seen, to achieve, to do good or produce value, have not found a way forward that the fear has not prevented.

Often, though not always, I judge myself far more harshly than others judge me. I am judging myself less. Fear is part of the complex, tangled web of feeling and response which I judged. The judgment paralysed me. Therefore- I must love my fear, as I must love all of me, for the good of the world.

What do I fear, and why? Beyond- humans! Everything! The World! I don’t know. So that is a question it would behove me to address.

And accept. This is what I fear. I have judged it, and made it more intractable. I will not attack it as irrational or counter-productive or wicked. Only contemplating it with Love will help.