Masculinity III

Maybe it’s cos Google is more of a bubble than facebook is, and they have me down as a Lefty, but when I search “Masculinity” most of the first page is about Toxic masculinity, violent against women and driving men to suicide. Then I learn that rugged, dependable masculinity is fragile: As Victorian men moved from the fields into factories, so grew a fear that their sons, now spending more time at home with their mothers, were at risk of becoming feminised, or “inverted” (the Freudian term for homosexual). Organised sport, with its emphasis on male bonding and toughness, was a concerted work of remasculinisation. Toughness is the heart of masculinity, yet all sorts of things can leech it away.

What makes masculinity dangerous is the need to prove, assert, demonstrate toughness, which hurts others, and doubt of it, which hurts men. They want to assert toughness at the cost of other qualities. Self-doubt increases. They imagine empathy and caring dents an image of toughness. Men secure in their own manhood selfhood can care for others, insecure men can care for no-one, nor seek the help they need.

You need to be tough to work in a shipyard, hammering red hot rivets all day. It takes skill and bravery to manipulate them, working with others. You need to be strong and dependable. Then you take home your wage packet to your wife, as symbol and proof of those manly qualities. But the shipyards, mines, steelworks and car plants closed down, and how can you prove that toughness now? Iain Duncan-Smith says by committing crimes, drinking too much, taking drugs and fathering multiple children. He thinks marriage is the answer.

YouGov asked people to place themselves on a scale from 0, completely masculine, to 6, completely feminine. Sadly, negligible numbers of men said 4-6, if any. 56% of men over 65 said they were completely masculine, but only 2% of 18-24 year olds. 47% of these young men chose two, only one stage away from neutral between masculine and feminine. This may have more to do with perception than reality. The youngest men have a negative view of masculinity; or, they are comfortable distancing themselves from it, not too ashamed to tell someone in a survey. My own positive description of masculinity, above, hearkens back to conditions when I was a child, thirty or forty years ago.

If we pretend to cliché masculinity from decades past, it sets up tensions with reality now, where men are not dominant in work, where work is insecure, and we are all insecure. Getting from imagining, and desperately asserting, that you feel what that cliché says you ought to feel, to realising what you do feel can be terribly painful. I find that crying can bring me to authenticity, to consciousness of my feelings, and even though I know this the crying is painful. To be a Man, who cannot cry, and does not understand that process, it is overwhelming, and may be so humiliating he just resists it even unto suicide.

We need some activity to organise our lives, too. I blog, as I do not work.

Is masculinity in crisis, the Guardian.

Masculinity

If before transition I had to define the masculine ideal I was trying for, I would say “Christian gentleman” or even “Boy scout”. I had enjoyed the Scouts.

A Scout is to be trusted.
A Scout is loyal.
A Scout is friendly and considerate.
A Scout belongs to the worldwide family of Scouts.
A Scout has courage in all difficulties.
A Scout makes good use of time and is careful of possessions and property.
A Scout has self-respect and respect for others.

The Prayer of St Francis, not by Francis of Assisi, has some similarity:

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

The similarity is self-reliance. We act, give, create unflinchingly and unswervingly. It is a promise not to be weak, not to be stressed, not to be unable to cope with the burdens on you, which is a promise only a fool makes. At the university Christian Union I changed “Francis”‘s word “seek” to “need”.

The emotions of this man are strong and positive, quiet and undemonstrative: pleasure in service and achievement. Like Arnold Swarzenegger in Commando, first seen carrying a large tree trunk on his shoulder, doing a manly thing because he is a man, getting the pleasure of being entirely himself and fitting his world. Men on the front line of the Somme would go over the top and walk towards the enemy as they were ordered, resolutely because that was simply what men do, even though machine guns made such tactics insane.

A man’s shoulders are broad enough for anything. In that film, Arnie shows intelligence strength and courage thwarting his enemies. He has the task of rescuing his daughter and he does not rest until he accomplishes it. The one joke I remember is cruel.

-You remember I said I would kill you last?
-Yes, yes (the man begins to beg and plead)
-I lied.

But he is provoked, and so the audience of pimply boys completely sympathises with him.

Emotions would be positive, and rarely expressed. Men do not cry: I cried three times in the year following my mother’s death. Ideally, emotion produces motivation. One is enthused by a task, which one chooses rationally. The paterfamilias behaves like the good father, in control for the good of all. A man would fight if he had to, but that would be a last resort.

My problem was that my emotions were not accepted when I was a child, so I did not know what they were. They still affected me and my behaviour, but I was not conscious how. I began to learn to accept emotion after I had decided to transition.

We observe that the violent man who physically abuses his partner expresses emotion- hurt, anger and resentment- easily. Anger and derision, especially for weakness, are emotions men are encouraged to show. That produces the vicious cycle that boys learning to be men show anger and derision at any perceived effeminacy in fellows. Drunk men can become enthusiastic, but their enthusiasm carries the possibility of violence.

That ideal, of the Man capable of all life would demand of him, is not within the individual’s control. I would temper it with resilience at setbacks, clarity in perceiving possibilities and determination in pursuing them. Kipling’s Man is surrounded by knaves, fools and doubters who lose their heads, so this is an ideal many cannot live up to. A Scout is considerate- that is close to “kind”- and that is a feminine virtue seen virtuous in men: in the end, I have an ideal for humans, not for one gender.

The divided self

It seemed there was sensible Clare and flighty Clare.

-Do they talk to each other?
No. They talk past each other. Or they issue orders to each other: flighty me says No, definitely, like a toddler, or “This interests me now”, to deny the pleadings of the other. The apparently sensible part tells me what I should do, and I don’t.

I feel they fit Steve Peters’ human and chimp better than Richard Rohr’s egoic identity and Beloved of God, but perhaps that is because flighty Clare has not experienced enough Love. Possibly neither is either, but they seem to be the parts of me most conscious and most debating.

-Is the part that feels distress the same as the part that feels joy?
Fascinating question. Sometimes it seems yes, sometimes it seems no. What feels joy? I have just been out, and taken my new header photo, of two ducks. I am pleased with it. What part feels joy in that? I could say I feel satisfaction at doing something I wanted to do, taking a photograph I can value. This is my winter header, the snow was lying on the riverbank. I have boosted the colour and brightness a little. Possibly flighty Abigail feels joy, sensible Abigail rebukes that this is a hobby which will not make money but indulges the other in her play.

Both want the good of the other, but disagree about how to achieve it.

-Which do you prefer?
I laugh bitterly. I hate both. Oh fuck.
Then I cry.

-There’s the pain. Why?
-Neither makes me happy. Neither gives me peace, or gets what I want. They do not agree.

-What is this self which is distressed?
Possibly it is the self I access in Mindful presence. There is distress, it is me feeling it. But mindfulness theory tells me that distress is just a passing mood, not the real underneath.

Say I feel I ought to have a shower. What good does showering do me? The only answer I get, the only motivation, comes from the sensible bit. One has to do certain things to keep alive, and while ideally those things would include working, bringing up children, getting a house and pension, at least my list includes showering.

I always shower eventually. Sometimes I enjoy it, the feeling of water on my skin, sometimes I nag myself to get on with it- apply soap, wash it off, turn off water, dry self
sometimes I just stand under the water, my mind blank.

There is love and concern here. I love myself. I want my good. And perplexity, I don’t know how to achieve it, which in part concerns self-motivation.

She observes that I practise tone and emotionality. Sometimes it is spontaneous, sometimes it is thought out. I am sad at that. Yes, I want to communicate my feeling, but what I am actually feeling, not some part of my feeling which I want to get across to appear in a certain way. I don’t want to see myself as manipulative, but as authentic.

I have started reading again. I have been depressed for months, not reading books, but now I am reading Joan Didion’s non-fiction. I love her way of turning a sentence, and her-

all I can say is her Joan-ness, her self-ness. I could call her liberal or conservative, world-weary, realistic or cynical, regretful- there is a person there, a small woman with a large intellect who sees others and finds them interesting.

Anyway. I am glad I am reading again.

Sharing our stories

Should we share personal stories of transphobia? The time I was called a “fucking nonce”, the time I was assaulted. Yes, if there is a good reason to.

The story becomes mine, to do with as I wish, when I have processed the emotion arising from it. That man tried to push me in front of a car. I was distressed after, but talking of it now does not bring up that distress. The world has risks, and chaotic individuals, but fortunately the risk of coming across such a person is low.

Processing emotion is a bad reason to tell these stories in public. I have told my stories privately, using people as confidantes, as my distress returns and eventually it subsides. But I don’t want to use them to gain sympathy. She has heard people’s stories, and she is angry. She wants to tell their stories to make other people angry on our behalf in the same way. I don’t feel that emotion is useful. It paints us as victims. Sometimes, journalists want us to tell those stories as entertainment, to paint a picture of the world and what kind of people we are, rather than to produce useful change for us.

And, as a professional I wanted to see what good I could do. People would be surprised when my care and sympathy turned into a curt dismissal; it was because I felt they had no chance.

It might be better to share public transphobia. Linda Bellos, otherwise an admirable person, does not like trans people, saying of us, If anyone of those bastards comes near me, I will take my glasses off and thump them. Yes I will take my glasses off… But I do, I am quite prepared to threaten violence, because it seems to me that what they are seeking to do is piss on all women. I don’t, actually. That shows there is a general problem of prejudice, which everyone who wants diversity and inclusivity should oppose. It illustrates a systemic problem rather than individual victimhood.

I do not want to come over as a victim. Society has a problem of transphobia. It is pervasive: The Times reports that Lily Madigan has applied for the Jo Cox Leadership scheme, calling her Lily Madigan, who was born male but identifies as female. This is not a story: woman applies to women’s scheme. It might be a story if she got in, so we could celebrate her, but this is only of interest to those who want to tut or fume at “men pretending to be women”. Linda Bellos should know better than to get in bed with Rupert Murdoch. Let us gather to resist this transphobia.

We are people with rights. What can you do so that we vindicate our rights?

But she has heard the personal stories, and she is angry. She is fired up on our behalf, and cannot believe than anyone hearing those victim stories would not feel the same way.

Emotional thinking V

Emotional thinking is rational thinking.

Before University, I went for a taster weekend at St Andrews. We stayed in the halls, had a tour and saw the tiny town with its three parallel streets; and had a few sample lectures and a dance. How could anyone ‘live by logic’? asked a philosophy don about Star Trek. Who would do anything without desire? Logic can work things out, emotion motivates. But emotion also creates rational decisions, of what is in my interests or what I find bearable. Vulcan main characters in the Star Trek universe show loyalty and drive. Their subsuming emotion means doing their duty when they would feel fear or disgust, and judging others impartially. They have no sense of humour, but one of honour and right conduct. Minor characters also show a sense of their own importance and the respect due to them, sometimes overblown, and even competitiveness.

It is hard to see how emotion might be excluded from any opinion or decision. We cannot be “rational”, making appropriate decisions, if we do not use emotion. Vulcans would not be impulsive, they would defer gratification or eschew lower animal tastes, they would be imperturbable, but the emotion is underneath, influencing their actions.

I wonder about those impulsive decisions. Fear and desire war in me until desire overcomes, and I do the foolish, ridiculous thing- which is liberation for me, even authenticity. Decisions about what risks to take are emotional. Even “logical” tools like enumerating pros and cons of alternatives are a way of drawing out the emotional reaction- for which are more important? Illusion, asserting that something is not as it really is, is a way of suppressing true feeling.

Desiccated? But desiccated thinking uses old, diseased emotion, old resentments and hatreds, to find revenge where there is no delight left in it, and even completed revenge would leave the hatred unappeased.

Rational thinking is emotional thinking, using healthy emotion to find what will best help the actor flourish and be their true self. Logical thinking, finding what is clearly right, is emotional. Even rationalisation is emotional, believing what I need to believe so as best to nourish my relationships.

Only through emotion can I find who I truly am, and only through emotional decision making can I realise my true self, and flourish.

I love Theresa May’s necklace of huge chain links, like shiny carabiners.

It looks like a slave thing, she said. I am not sure. Possibly her disapproval was not diminished when I said I thought it more strong than submissive- to appeal to the virago rather than the submissive woman. That’s my sexuality you are discounting, I think. There is gay pride, I need an analogous but distinct pride. The patriarchal ideal of sexuality is flaunted all the time. It is a clear part of the Foreign Secretary’s public persona.

The pride stirs in my heart even as worry at disapproval and wanting agreement and reconciliation- both very me- arise too. With such feelings, how hard for me to attain authenticity! So many competing feelings to permit, to nurture to maturity, to reconcile! How beautiful I will be, when I do!

Embrace simplicity

I’ve embraced spiritualism. Rather than focusing on a particular way of life or religion; I prefer to embrace aspects that bring peace and harmony to my Being.

It is my hope that through my writing Readers will discover peace and harmony within their own Being, discover the now and what they value in the present moment.

I wonder what she means by embracing spiritualism: I thought it meant the religious practice of contacting the dead. Google says spiritualism is also a philosophical concept, that the spirit exists as distinct from matter, or that spirit is the only reality. Wikipedia confirms that: spiritualism is the notion, shared by a wide variety of systems of thought, that there is an immaterial reality that cannot be perceived by the senses. Then how do we perceive it? The perception is in my heart, an emotional response, or a sudden conviction- it feels like a communication.

Perhaps she means Spirituality, an openness to such communications. It is openness to reality. I was going to write what Spirituality is not, but then I am not sure it is opposed to anything. Opposed, perhaps, to addictive escapes, such as drugs, overeating, alcohol, cutting, ways of shutting off feelings which are not Peace or oblivion-

but no, those are tools, unless you vanish into them totally so that the escape is all you have. The human seeks respite from the hard work of processing reality, then plunges back into it. Or, in Cutting, relief comes from physically manifesting feelings too painful to access in any other way. (I am attempting to empathise, I have not done it myself, or felt any desire to.)

So I imagine a human being, suddenly becoming conscious, like being introduced to a warm swimming pool by loving hands, or chucked into a cold ocean to struggle even to breathe, and-

What would “harmony” mean? When I started on my Journey of Conscious Spiritual Growth, I wanted to avoid painful feelings like anger and fear. I still do, though not by denying or suppressing them. I want to want to not seek to avoid those painful feelings by avoiding situations which evoke them, though I am not there yet, I am still hiding away. I see intellectually that the feeling is not bad in itself, and that some situations evoking it are worth persisting in

though I was stressed. I was angry and afraid and stressed, and unable to process the stress anger fear before further stressors hit me. Of course I wanted to stop feeling anger and fear.

Perhaps I was projecting onto Natasha my- I was going to say wrong and immature desire. Of course you can’t avoid anger and fear, and the harmony would be dull without it, like harmonising only with triad chords not sevenths and ninths. I have no reason to suppose her concept of harmony lacks richness like that. Mine was not wrong, only incohate and perhaps immature. I want not to be overwhelmed by anger and fear. I want to be able to accept and process them.

Dear Natasha, I was irritated. Two “awards” in two days. These things are chain letters. So I set out to attack your understanding, and found it was only a pedantic attack on two letters at the end of a word. “It was unbearable! It will be unbearable again!”- Yes, the Now is a good way of counteracting that.

You asked, Who inspires you? Too many people to count or name, famous and unknown.

If you could have dinner with anyone, who would they be? What meal would you serve them? What is one question would you ask that person? I would not be doing the cooking. People who might be fascinating, from the past or present, might object to being brought to eat with me, and might clam up or show only an uninterested and affronted public persona- so my answer is, anyone who would open up to me so that we could come to know each other; and then, anyone, famous or unknown, would do.

You asked, Do you have a party trick that is unique to you, and you alone? Yes.

She took this photograph, which I quite like:

Physical emotion

Perhaps every move we make is prompted by emotion. All non-verbal communication, such as eye contact, mirroring or a shake of the head; the walk, confident, cheery or broken down. I must use this joy, I thought, feeling it, putting it into my walk, wishing to look confident because I am worth it. The joy can be channelled into movement.

As can anger or fear in fight or flight. Thoughtful, contemplative, I am not analysing in a series of syllogisms but sensing my feeling. Turning outward or inward, hoping or fearing, seeing possibilities are emotional moves.

If you and I see a poppy, do we see the same thing? Or, if you and I see a poppy in the garden of the Meeting house where we both have worshipped for years, do we see the same thing? Does it matter that you are red/green colour blind? There is a reality that we both experience, and though the experience we bring to interpreting it differs there is some commonality in our shared experience of it.

The ways we function differ, even before damage or trauma is considered. To Myers-Briggs’ thinking/feeling, introvert/extravert, judging/perceiving, sensing/intuition, I would add internally/externally focused, irenic/polemic- how much you value Being Right or Getting Along; libertarian/authoritarian, controlling/easy-going, and how much you value free collaboration. That is, like most of my blog, off the top of my head, though I see introversion/extraversion has six “facets”, which are not always the same for all “introverts”. Underneath all this are emotional reactions.

Desires may be programmed in, or come from the heart. The programming works in me through fear. I fear for my own existence, and decide I want what I ought to want, to preserve my own existence. Then what I really want conflicts within.

I wonder if you can know all your feelings, especially about things you cannot control. I have not met the new neighbours, but there were grown men pounding on their front door and then running away, then kicking a football against the front door, and then I heard angry shouting though could not make out the words. The music from there has been particularly loud and horrible. I thought of going upstairs to the other neighbour, to- not sure, ask him to intervene, perhaps, or just reassure me, or ask if he had met them. I am perturbed, but the more chaotic neighbours tend to leave quickly. I was watchful. There was little I could do.

I phoned the benefits office. There was a long explanation that no enquiry may be made by phone for Universal Credit, you have to check on line, which is tough on people who cannot afford broadband or a computer, and a long explanation that if your phone company charged ridiculous amounts for the call you had only yourself to blame. At 3 mins 15 the hold music started, and at 15.30 someone finally answered.

I thought, surely they will behave reasonably, then realised what is “reasonable” depends on whether you think benefit claimants should be given a break because they are vulnerable, or screwed as hard as possible because they are cadgers who will always push it as hard as they can and need to be forced to behave well. After the phone conversation appeared to indicate everything was OK, at least for a week or so, and I rang off, I started shouting swear words at my empty living room. I was mostly calm with the woman, though I found her controlling, asking impertinent questions.

My underlying emotions appear to be perplexity rage and terror. These are great when they make me do what I need to do, dreadful when they make me freeze.

Toddler II

I was delighted to find this gender analyser, which says my blog is written by a feminine person- this post was 84% female. It was 94% negative, but I was stating the problem. You need to see the problem before you can solve it. Though even after the election, writing about fun, I am only 50% positive. That text was aged 31% over 65, 21% 51-65. I am not insulted by this: wisdom comes with age. It was leavened with 12% aged 18-25.

Do I care? Do I look like I care? I thought I was re-doing teenage, but a lot of what I do is toddler lessons. I find what joy, anger, fear, complex mixes of emotions not immediately nameable are like. They bubble up within. If I do not hear and acknowledge them- yes, something is Feeling, somewhere else in the brain is Acknowledging or Accepting- they manifest in delighted wriggling or a clenching of the back muscles, or other movements; highly affecting memories which I may have processed but which are symbols for feeling Now; or deadening, when I suppress them and therefore suffer loss of energy, inability to perceive Now clearly, and nameless disquiet.

You need the wisdom of age to write about these things.

I fear the deadening the most. It is my old tactic, what I learned when I failed at Toddlerhood, setting me up to fail at life. It locks me into prescribed responses and steadily increasing pressure until nothing is bearable any more. Or, it worked for a time, it kept me alive, scrabbling to survive, suicidal and self-hating but sometimes effectual. The first time I could prove a doctor was crooked I got him sacked. The second time I might have proved it I ran away screaming.

Historically, we have taught children at all costs to avoid the visible, physical manifestations. They are even a mental health symptom: in strong emotion, rocking can help some people process it, but rocking, or screaming at the floor, is deprecated. When you tolerate it in yourself you are clearly mentally ill. Suppression achieves that, motionlessness rather than stillness, at worst robotic learned responses to all situations. How am I supposed to respond? We knew “Children should be seen and not heard” was wrongful, because repressive, when I was a child, yet my family practiced a less severe form of it.

I find myself trusting myself, but only in part. I had vegetarian lunches with Quakers and in the evening craved a bacon butty. So, I thought, though factory farming is monstrously cruel, especially of pigs, I cannot be vegetarian because I crave meat. Then I find that if I use a lot of olive oil I do not need meat. I want fat. I want less sugar. Is my desire for chocolate an addictive (bad) or nutritional (good, but unlikely) craving? Or could wanting a mild stimulant be good? I am exploring my world, but slowly and too carefully, having lost trust. That is another thing you can teach a toddler, and it is more difficult to learn for yourself, later: I am trustworthy. I have experiences which might tend to indicate that, but others which do the opposite. Or, I have to trust because not trusting makes things worse. Could I-

My toddler lesson is that feeling the emotion fully, using its strength to respond, is the best, most mature adult skill; but wriggling, cringing or rocking can be an aid towards that. It embarrasses me; it is a hard lesson.

S.O.S.

Pansy

After the election, where I anticipated an increased Conservative majority, I am overjoyed. At the station, that woman asked how I was.

“I’m delighted,” I said.

“I can see that. It shines out of you. It’s beautiful” she said. I offered a hug, and she accepted.

I was already overjoyed, and my cup ran over. I spasmed with it. Feeling happy, walking along, I have sashayed; sometimes I turn my wrists outwards, as if the Qi in me needs to flow out; now muscles tense and flex expressing it. Joy ripples through me like aftershocks, on the train. I don’t tend to notice other adults doing this sort of thing. I am still doing teenage, but here going right back to being a toddler, a different kind of toddler-hood which teaches me to integrate rather than suppress feeling.

It seems to me that I could call what I am a “Pansy”. The word has little baggage, unlike “Sissy”, co-opted to describe non-penetrative sexual services offered by some discreet older women. I can make of it what I will, add my own baggage to it. I am a pansy. I like viragos.

We went to the Giacometti exhibition. Man and Woman, which he created in his late 20s, fits this idea.

You can’t see it from the photos, but that sharp point is not touching the female. She bends backwards, but does not retreat, and a flower opens to accept the point. It is vulnerable and proud. There is a meeting, and a balance, between the two.

Sexually, I identify with the flower not the point. Yet calling me transwoman, trans woman, woman, whatever, is only an approximation. That vulnerable flowering is overwhelmingly seen as Female, but rather it is feminine, and I am a feminine male. A pansy. I should not need physical adjustment to actualise myself, just to find how my body can work with my spirit.

This is not normal, but “normal” must be resisted. It is a cultural creation of powerful folk who cannot conceive that anyone could be other than they, or that what is best for them might not be best for everyone. I don’t fit the norms, or rules, so have to make my own rules. It might have helped if I had not been so indoctrinated so strongly into the value of normal. Discretion protects the abnormal, it can be good not to be noticed, and one can take that too far.

Yvonne points out that all the active sculptures in the Giacometti exhibition- pointing, walking, even falling- are men. Some of the busts look childish in execution. One of his wife reminds me of a sex doll, or at least the cliché I have seen on TV: wide eyes, mouth like an O, flat caricature face. Before marriage she had worked in an office at the Red Cross. From the 1930s, here is a narrow sculpture (The more I wanted to make them broader, the narrower they got, he said) about four feet tall, her head slightly raised to meet the eye of an adult observer about a yard away. It’s not assurance, exactly, nor apprehension: she does not know what that viewer will do. She will respond appropriately, to whatever requires a response. The mind of that figure contains no story about what thing feared or desired will happen next, or what ought to be happening now, so will see what is happening and respond to it. I see capability in that standing figure.

Across the room is another standing figure on a plinth which would be chest height on her, if she stood beside it. This relatively huge imposing plinth supports her slender figure, which is an inch tall. “She does not know she is tiny,” I exclaimed, and a woman says “I would never have thought of it that way”: here we are open, so that talking to a stranger seems natural. It is one of the most moving works of art I have ever seen, and she has the same naturalness, lack of constraint, and capability.

I do not need to be constrained by Manliness. I can be a Pansy. If I relax and lose my stories of how the world is or should be, I may even be able to be myself.

We ate on the South Bank at an outside table, and I loved the Sun gilding the edges of the clouds. When it was a bit cool to stay there, but still light, we walked across the bridge. “Love the T-shirt,” I said of a passer-by. It was blue with an EU circle of stars and the words “Member of the Liberal Elite, established 2016”. He stopped to enthuse about the election.

Narratives

Truth [is] what we cannot change; metaphorically, it is the ground on which we stand and the sky that stretches above us.

And yet, the totality of facts and events is unascertainable. Who says what is always tells a story, and in this story the particular facts lose their contingency and acquire some humanly comprehensible meaningSorrow, joy and bliss become bearable and meaningful for men only when they can talk about them and tell them as a story.

I tell stories about my life. So do you. Possibly, with Krishnamurti I should just forget them. Why am I happy now? Because of X. Ah. That gives me an understanding, I can file it away. I know what is going on. I can remember that happiness later: it was caused by X. And if X also caused that misery, possibly the learning was worthwhile, possibly it is time to cease pursuing X.

Decisions are emotional not rational. It is like jars filling up with cumulative water droplets, and eventually one overflows and I must do X. Then I can tell a story about it. X was obviously the only thing I could ever have done, for these reasons. The story helps me accept what I have chosen, pacifies and calms my remaining resistance.

It is an end to thinking of the matter. I have thought enough. Or it is an attempt to end thinking; unconsciously, my resentment grows.

What we cannot change- so, what ought to be is meaningless and impossible and worthless. Ought is a damaging fantasy, because though you cannot make is from ought, it can make you disbelieve or resent what is. But what is includes what might be, what is possible, all the changes I can make.

I have read Truth and Politics by Hannah Arendt, and consider her thought that feelings become bearable when part of a narrative relates only to the conscious mind, thinking in language. The feeling of terror feels overwhelming until I accept and welcome it. What is overwhelming is its demand to be recognised, not the feeling itself. It fits Now. And then, it does not fit Now, so it goes away, unless I cling on to it, perhaps by questioning it or saying I ought not to have been terrified. Or I tell stories about it.

I can gain an understanding of feelings, at the price of them always being with me. Telling stories about my past might pacify my feelings- it’s alright, my honey, love, it’s alright, my poppet- but distances me from them; and they lurk, underneath, always liable to burst out, which is the constant failure. No game is enough to control my feelings.

Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it.

And- X may happen again! I will be terrified, again!

Words are so useful. Speech impels us… to urge the mind to aftersight and foresight. I think of what might be though probably won’t, because it will never be that bad again. I imagine the fear I would feel. Then I am afraid of fear, afraid of feeling fear and being powerless.

Yet normally I am not powerless; and powerlessness has to be bearable.

olga-boznanska-self-portrait