Forgiveness II

What would forgiveness mean?

Someone wrongs me at work, such that I can’t bear to be in the same room. There is no way to complain about the wrong, and I have to continue working with them. I grit my teeth, or I “let it go”- I swallow the feelings of rage and resentment, and get on with the job. I have to.

Or my friend does something I might find objectionable. I learn they are not reliable. My self-esteem is so low that I just suck it up. Or I balance pros and cons, finding that despite this let-down friendship with them is still worth the effort. These are separate experiences, but in both the objectionable act is new information about the world and my place in it. In one, I see myself as worth little, and a little less after the experience. In the other, I see that I can trust my world less than I thought.

Or, I do not forgive. I decide I am worth more, and the world has better possibilities, and write the person out of my life. Which is best depends on which is right. Wisdom to know the difference, and all that. It is the same with that work situation: is it better to slog on, or can I find something better?

All this is happening within me, but it is possible that the other has feelings of remorse, and has learned a bitter lesson about themself. They will not be like that in the future. They apologise. Possibly, they really can change. That is something to add to the calculation, that it is worth still bothering. If I can enjoy helping them change that is my classic understanding of forgiveness, which is repentance and amendment of life, so that there is no need for punishment.

My experience of forgiveness is mostly from childhood too, though, bickering or fighting and being told to make up. Possibly experience of being forgiven colours ones understanding of forgiving.

Society is set up for the privileged. Are the police, social services, etc, on your side, or are they there to stop you stepping out of line? Are the rules of society there to make your way through life easier, or to advantage others over you? The privileged might find “forgiveness” easier, the resentment of the others might be too great. Or the put-upon have no illusions, make clear-eyed calculations, and waste no time or energy on resentment.

Coming back to that work situation. You have no alternative. You have to continue working with that person. You cannot get another job. Yet it is all too much, it sticks in your craw and you cannot do it, so lose the job.

Forgiveness- what is virtuous, or sensible, or creative and generous- depends on circumstances. Desmond Tutu writes, There have been times when each and every one of us has needed to forgive. There have also been times when each and every one of us has needed to be forgiven. And there will be many times again. In our own ways, we are all broken. Out of that brokenness, we hurt others. Forgiveness is the journey we take toward healing the broken parts. It is how we become whole again. If I have found some way to resent the world less, or “forgive” it, that is letting down a burden of powerless emotion, “giving up the hope of a better past”, benefiting myself.

Spiritual Gifts

The door closed, and I am outside. It feels as if I could have been earning more than I ever had, doing something fulfilling and worthwhile, something I could delight in devoting myself to; had I just taken an opportunity, at some time last year. Perhaps it closed some time ago, and the fact of it was stated on 25 May; and on 28 May at Yearly Meeting I was in mourning, feeling intense shame, and vulnerability, and Yearly Meeting brought me to peace.

On Saturday morning, we considered our spiritual gifts, and the questions,
1. What do we mean when we speak of gifts of the Spirit?
2. Can you think of times when someone you know acted on a Spirit-given gift?
3. How are you acting on your gifts?

We first did this in pairs. I turn to Marian, and burst into tears. She offered to hold my hand and I accepted. One would rather be doing the supporting, but being supported is nice. And now, my answer is, how am I acting on my gifts? As well as I can, right now. Not as well as I might hope, not like perfect-me, in a way I have been quite judgmental of; and as well as I can.

Next morning I caught her up walking from St Pancras, and recognised her, but did not know from when. Another woman recognised me from K–, the singing bowls, and I did not recognise her, either, I was having a spiritual experience then, too. She remembered how moved I had been.

Two pieces of ministry spoke to me. As always with ministry, what I hear is not necessarily what was said or what others heard. One seemed to be about following ones heart to greater and greater things- as one would want; and the other ended,

We could not have done any different.
We can now do differently.

Can I put that any better? We do our best. We see when we see. We have to live with it, perhaps even forgive it; and there is always a chance in the moment of behaving differently because what I will do has not been done yet.

That door: it is a unique situation, and I don’t want to explain it because it is other people’s stuff as well as my own. So I sort-of explained and generalised, and Yvonne said, “Oh I hate it when-” and I had to say, that was not how it was at all. Just a way of not explaining without details. And I thought if I can be understanding of others, perhaps I can be understanding of myself. I did my mourning with Friends at Yearly Meeting, and might find some peace.

Paolo Veronese, the angel appears to Hagar in the desert, featured

Forgiveness

You loved me. “Dearest” and “Beloved” are the best translations I can find for “Cariad”, as a form of address. I got the job in Wales to be close to you, as well as to get away from Oldham, where teenagers were picking on the tranny. I had been going to you every weekend for two years. Four years later I got the job in England to get away from you. I had only applied for jobs in England, not in Gwent.

We were still speaking on the phone, just about every night, until August this year. I felt you let me down; probably I let you down. After I lost that job, practically we were cohabiting for eight months, yet I still had to keep on my own flat. I was still visiting- Christmas two years ago was the last time. The phone calls were boring, and it was hard to think of anything to say: we could moan about Quakers, or talk of your beautiful cats. Then we just stopped.

I have just had your Christmas card. You always sent them at the last moment, but this is prudently early so I may return one. “Hope all is well. Love.” It had me in tears of bitterness, rage, frustration, regret. You loved me and your daughter got in the way, and now she is just about your only social contact, apart from Ocado deliveries. All your enthusiasm, drive and energy going to

NOTHING!!!!!!!

Mine too, of course.

In September 2010 I had the realisation that my mother had always done her absolute best for me. She was not God. She controlled me completely, because she could do no better. My rage at her melted, and now I know “forgiveness” is the wrong word, for there is nothing to forgive: I love and honour her, though I only got to that point fourteen years after she died. With you, I have just found my pain and resentment anew- yet I do see, you always did the best you could, which, considering our shared curse and your other difficulties was pretty impressive.

It is unresolved. I might phone you. I wish you well. I never loved you with that aching yearning I can feel, yet you impressed and delighted me and I was quite happy to form such a partnership as we could; and now I do not know how either of us could gain anything by further contact.

Though since I wrote that, we are back phoning occasionally.

 ♥♥♥

Right now my life has all the challenge I can bear. I have limited the challenge: often, I spend four or five days in the week alone indoors. I am not satisfied with it. I am bored and resentful, and the siren thought that I deserve more than this crosses my mind, though I have no claim on anyone. I have judged myself harshly.

I have always done my best.
it is as it is

 ♥♥♥

I rebuilt my friendship with him, and he confirmed that he had got more angry than he needed, and I am very happy with my gentle way of approaching, asking forgiveness rather than offering it; for that friendship gives me pure delight. I know him. I know all I gain from him, so am willing to give a great deal; and the giving is getting, the giving is delight. We find a way to be together, which is not always possible.

Quantum leap

Degas woman seated by a vase of flowers

A woman seated, detailIt seemed that my spiritual growth came in Rebirth moments, and I could give their dates. I Awoke on 14 February 1999. On x July 2001 I came to value my feelings. On 1 July 2011 I turned to Positivity from Negativity. That no longer fits. I have always been positive, and I remain negative. I may have seen a spiritual lesson, but the work still has to be done. Perhaps, we are always learning the same lessons throughout life: I must ask my wise nonagenarian friend.

One moment still feels like a great liberation. When I was about nine, I wept, and my mother looked on uncomprehending; and until September 2010 I would have told you of that with my original outrage and resentment, ending SHE DIDN’T UNDERSTAND! And suddenly that changed, and I understood. Oh, right, she didn’t understand. It was liberating.

It remains remarkable to me that anyone could fail to make a connection and not be ridiculous, disgusting, useless, worthless, moronically unfit. That is why I have my intelligence that others remark upon, but which I find hard to recognise. And I could permit that one failure to understand in her, which had hurt me so much I still felt the hurt 35 years later. So I could accept all her lapses from the Perfection we demanded of each other. I was freed to respect and love her.

And I had loved her since, just after her death, I picked on two beautiful loving memories to be my special memories of her; and before. Steps forward at the pace I can manage, and suddenly turning a corner and finding a new vista ahead, make the journey seem worthwhile.

In conversation, two stories from work came to mind, and I told them, and I was surprised and ashamed that I was still upset about them, because I should have processed that emotion by now, and let it go; and frightened, because I am stuck, and my reaction to these old stories is part of my stuckness. What causes it? Changes in hormone dose?

The Quaker meeting is a good place to process things like this acid reflux experience. What tools do I have to deal with it? That “forgiveness” of my mother- forgiveness seems the wrong word, posthumous reconciliation is better. Forgiveness of self is a useful tool to develop. Sometimes I make connections later, which I did not make at the time. This does not mean I am useless and fuckwitted, necessarily. If I can untangle the feeling that I should have done better from resentment at wrongs in The World or The System- for these are memories of injustice which I wanted to correct and could not- then I can accept myself.

I need to deal with my feelings about the world and injustice, as well- but disentangling them from my feelings about my own capacity is necessary. One thing at a time.

How did I do? As well as I could have, at the time. Breathe.

In the silence of meeting I became emotional, and the process made me feel good. No, not a Rebirth or Awakening, but the patient work of taking that step forward feels good. Keep taking the steps.

Indictment

IFile:Michelangelo Caravaggio 018.jpg feel I have wasted my life.

So a friend wrote, on an email. I hope anyone who has paid full attention to this blog and its comments over two years, or is an attentive “friend” on facebook, cannot identify him/her, and will not try; and perhaps it is such a common feeling that you may imagine many people who have thought it at some time recently. This set me off. Well: what do you imagine you might have used it for? What have you actually done with it, and how might you have done more?

I read my diary entry from December 2012, and it seemed that I have not moved forward at all, from there. Anything I can say about my spiritual development and my spiritual plight is there. I need to love and accept myself, get on with goals, etc.

Ridiculously, I still feel a pang when I come across U’s name. I don’t think about her every day, now, not even every week, but some reminders pull me up, take me aback. So I can think, well, it is not ridiculous, it is my reaction. Breathe. It is alright. Delete the word “Ridiculously”. Or-

I too feel I have wasted my life. I feel I have not used or developed my talents, or taken my opportunities, or filled the unforgiving minutes with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run. Writing in my journal is the place to do this, not here: here I will simply announce that I intend File:Davide con la testa di Golia (particolare).jpgto compose my own indictment. Precisely how have I been useless, fuckwitted, cowardly, wicked, worthless, a waste of oxygen? What in me is worthy of my hatred and contempt? For that is what I feel.

I have been running from my feelings, burying myself in social networking sites and television, and I have airy spiritual plans: a Vipassana retreat, perhaps, or using my solitude here, now, as my own silent retreat. Not touching the computer, but meditating and reading and doing stuff useful to me- keep the house tidy, say, do my washing promptly- working out and rectifying my spiritual malaise. When I do come across the depth of my feelings, anger frustration resentment and fear, I realise how necessary that running away is- and the anger is still there, anger with the necessary running away itself.

So. An indictment. Why do I deserve my anger and contempt? For I have them, in full measure. Why am I worthy of Hell? I cannot forgive myself, if I cannot see all that could possibly need forgiveness.

The aim is self-forgiveness: but I do that by going through my anger, rather than repressing or denying it.

Thoughtcrime

File:Ingsoc logo from 1984.svg

When Newspeak is introduced, thoughtcrime will be impossible. The sentence “Big Brother doubleplusungood” would be meaningless. Only orthodox thoughts will be possible. Our language accomplishes that purpose, now: just not so efficiently.

The way it accomplishes this is negativity. Words that describe those who do not conform are negative. A gay child in the 1960s would hear words like “sodomite” but perhaps not words like “gay”. That example shows we get better, but we still do not have a positive word for “sissy“.

The bus stop was immediately behind the taxi rank, and though the taxi rank was empty, the post office van was parked in the bus stop. “I’ll show him”, said the bus driver. He got out and scratched “Please do not park in bus stops as a slap in the mouth often offends” on the van’s bonnet. Later, we were having coffee. Sara, who is three, wandered away from the table only for a moment, and when we looked she had gone. “Easy come, easy go”, said her mother, and indeed no-one gave a toss. And- just after I noticed the used condom lying on the footpath, the jogger ripped my wig from my head, threw it in a puddle, and laughed.

I got less bothered by groups of loud drunks in the street when I labelled them “boisterous”. There are positive ways of seeing anything, which liberate both the viewer and the viewed.

AArgh! I am feeling disturbed and out of sorts, and

Where I am is perfect.

I have never made a single mistake, 

for I have got to this perfect place,

being loving and creative along the way

and blessing others with my presence.

I am perfect as I am:

what might seem a "fault" is beautiful if seen correctly.

File:Lightning in Zdolbuniv.jpgHave you ever noticed those abrupt changes of gear in the Bible? The prophet is going great guns, God is wrathful and Israel is going to get what is coming to it, very soon and it can’t come quickly enough. And then everything is going to be Wonderful. God like an abusive parent or wife-batterer, swapping at random from rage to weeping declarations of LOVE and apology, with nothing in between.

Better find one, now. Get down the Bible- Isaiah should do: And indeed, as soon as I thumb through to Isaiah, I find this:

You will be like an oak with fading leaves,
    like a garden without water.
31 The mighty man will become tinder
    and his work a spark;
both will burn together,
    with no one to quench the fire.’
This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
In the last days
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established

    as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
    and all nations will stream to it.

Remember that the chapter and verse divisions are Mediaeval French, not original. It begins to make psychological sense to me, if not rational or objective sense: there was I in my misery, not showered today until 3pm and playing spider solitaire obsessively, and beating myself up about it until I decided not to beat myself up. If that is what I want to do, then that is OK. Then I went for a walk and wrote my purple prose.

Desires II

File:Moon 2966.jpgThis is the Hicks quote which bridges the gap between what I believe, and what I imagine the Law of Attraction to say. It is not just woo-woo, but a “spiritual-mystic” turning of ordinary understandings on their head, based in human psychology with a materialist-practical effect.

It is natural that by knowing what you do not want, you are able to clarify what you do want; and there is nothing wrong with identifying a problem before beginning to look for a solution. But many people, over time, become problem oriented rather than solution oriented, and in their examination and explanation of the problem, they continue the perpetuation of the problem. That which is like unto itself, is drawn—so tell the story you want to live and you will eventually live it.

Um. I wanted to make a man of myself, and I did not. I am not sure this is a refutation of Hicks, I think I did not really want to be a man, but something else. I do not really know what I want. A year ago I said I wanted to descend into, really feel, and work through my anger.

I held a discussion within myself when deciding to transition, with my male self, female self, inner rationalist and inner toddler. The toddler said “I want to wear skirts and I want to walk down the street and buy stuff.” I want to express myself female, for that is who I am, and I do. I want money, I am strongly materialist in that sense.

Other formulations I have do not work. “I want to be told what to do,” except when I am often I resent it and go my own way. Perhaps

I want to find a place where I fit

and that is a human thing, we are a social species.

I want to feel I am doing something useful, valuable and worthwhile

and I have managed that, in the past.

I want to be safe.

I want to protect myself, because I hurt.

And that conflicts with

I want to be doing things, moving forward, achieving.

The depth of my hurt amazes me. I cannot quite believe it. So my desires conflict, rather than working together.

I want to heal

but I am not sure how, and I can’t quite trust that I am doing it naturally. Am I just ruminating and fading away?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I do not speak to my father for weeks, because I want something from him that he cannot give, and I cannot relinquish that desire. There. A nice formulation. I have several answers to that, I must accept reality, I forgive for my own benefit not for others’; and I do not. So I sit with the difficulty in unknowing- inner critic laughs, but I do- and I realise I have this voice in myself which stops it. That voice, which sounds very like the one I declared war on, says-

It's not right it's not fair he she they should have cared, thought, seen, acted-

Note the pretty script, for it is hard for me to respect this voice, which resents the world, lots of individuals and groups, and myself. For I should have seen things coming, acted otherwise, avoided particular consequences-

I need to listen to that voice. I need to hear and respect that in me. Not with the thought of taming it- certainly not at first, hold that thought at bay- I want to hear it, and worship with it. Or, I want to know what I am forgiving.

Rejection

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b1/Hildreth_Bridge.jpg

In October 2011 when I started getting all emotional I put it down to the hormones. Now I go back to Dr Anne, and I don’t. She spent twenty minutes with me, and tried to build on what we have discussed so far. In 2011, I wanted referred to the Charing Cross GIC endocrinologist, because I hoped s/he would have experience of trans women on hormones and might make sure things are going OK. Anne thought I should be counselled by their psychiatrists, for whom I have little respect. I cannot bear the thought of reverting.

Nicola got rid of me saying I should have counselling within the surgery, and their counsellor has just retired. They have not yet replaced her. Anne thinks I am upset because of rejection. And I think, no, the acceptance is far more important. All the acceptance I have! Positive thinking, be aware of the positive, even when the negative is true it is not useful information. But no. I cannot just ignore the negative, because I have been hurt by it. All this stuff in my past. It hurt overwhelmingly, and still hurts. Rejection: by my father when I was most vulnerable, by my sister, by Quakers in a long drawn out, hideous way, by the CAB in large and small ways, the annual funding crises and the annual audit crises; rejection by partners and potential partners, and the original childhood rejection, after which I tried to make a man of myself. I need to see all the positive in any situation, and I cannot ignore this hurt, for I am still hurt by it. I am hurt so much that I stay in my flat and do not go out.

Then- Oh wow.

My resentment, anger and fear are overwhelmingly aimed against myself.

This was this morning’s thought. I am angry at that part in me- not, clearly, all my emotional being- which is frightened of getting a job, frightened of looking for one. So there is the fear, and the anger I feel at it.

And it is all my fault. I should have been able to cope. I should have been able to achieve. That should not have affected me. That supreme joy which absolutely blinded me to what was actually going on: my own joy is my enemy.

I need to forgive myself.

In a spiritual exercise, the speaker told us to pick an object, and become aware of it. I took my pocket-mirror from my handbag, noticed a mark on it, and began cleaning it. Unsurprised, the speaker remarked several of us were cleaning.

I would not normally clean it, I would just use it. It was still useable, despite the mark. Why clean it? Because, in taking time to consider the mirror, I saw the dirt and was ashamed of it. Or because I valued it. Because I feared judgment, or out of love.

Being aware of myself, there are things I might wish to clean away.

Acceptance

File:Malczewski Jacek Umywanie nog.jpg“Do you want women to accept you as a woman? If so, what are the reasons why we should?” My friend could accept me as “a lovely person who wants to be a woman,” but not a woman.

What is a “woman”? Here, we mean a person with two X chromosomes, a uterus, ovaries, female skeletal structure who is probably straight. Why not? That is the vast majority of “women”.

I am not sure I “want to be a woman”. Menstruation sounds a bit of a pain. Much as I complain about my narrow hips and wide shoulders being a tell-tale sign, I am not sure I want to learn to use a different skeleton. Being attracted to men? Well, that is a large part of the personality, and I am not sure I want to change attraction. I would like a beautiful alto voice, and am not sure I want to give up being able to go baritone.

I am quite certain I want to express myself as female. It is more important to me than being accepted by other people, and that is extremely important to me. Over ten years that certainty has not wavered. I am not going to revert: that would make life easier in so many ways, but for the fact that I could not bear it.

What do I want of others? I want them to use my name. Now, it is simply my name. The old male name is not my name, I have Affirmed a Statutory Declaration that I will never use it again. If they refer to me I want them to use female pronouns, “she”, “her” and “hers”. I do not want people to avoid me, or to get into conflict with me, and so acceptance as a “lovely person” is better than seeing me as a horrible woman.

File:Malczewski Jacek Portret kobiety.jpgWhat are the reasons why you should accept me as a woman?

It is being kind to me. Being cruel makes the world a more unpleasant place, including for the cruel person. Being kind makes it pleasanter. Being cruel drives people apart, being kind builds connections, and connections are good for people.

There is no benefit to anyone in rigorous, logical categories, in this specific case or generally. They can never be the whole truth. A lot of women do not fit that strict definition, XY, uterus, ovaries, even if you miss out being straight. The map is not the territory. The categories are a jumping off point to greater understanding- if you cling to the category you prevent greater understanding.Why call me a “woman”? It seems weird, but, well, I am one.

I have no idea if those are sufficient reasons. How might I deal with non-acceptance? There are many strategies: demand, challenge, passive-aggression, whining, argument-

the only one which works, really, is forgiveness. How many times should I forgive? As many as seven times? No, seventy times seven. I obey Jesus’s gentle suggestions, not in order to be good, but for my own benefit.

I had not heard of Jacek Malczewski, a Polish symbolist, 1854-1929, before seeking out illustrations for this post. I started out seeking pictures of Rejection, but was waylaid by his beautiful strangeness.

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/74/Malczewski_Jacek_Meduza.jpg

Tolerating intolerance

Judge not, that ye be not judged…

“I suppose there are two views about everything,” said Mark.

“Eh? Two views? There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there’s never more than one.”

That Hideous Strength, CS Lewis.

A rather lovely comment from Mindy, here:

I disagree that love requires judgment. (And from everything I’ve experienced — both inner and outer — pointing out another’s sin, evangelizing, requires judgment.)

I can absolutely share my opinion with a beloved friend about what’s right for them, and doing so can be a very loving thing. But I do not believe that it is love to insist that they agree. For one thing, it’s entirely too possible that I am wrong about what’s right for them. For another, I am not their keeper. (My kid being somewhat an exception of course, heheh… altho a diminishing one as she gets older…)

To frame it in a Christian theological context: is not the idea of free will birthed from great love? Personally, I think the immensity of God is limited by binding that idea into a box of sorts that says “you humans must behave a certain way in order to be worthy of salvation. And, by the way, you are charged with telling each other about that certain way.”

I know there are scripture quotes that can be used to refute what I’m saying.

And I also know that I would much rather that those people who are righteously judging (judging me as a gay person, judging non-Christians, judging universalist Christians, etc.) would change their behavior… which means I am judging them. I get it. /sigh…

I am a firm believer that following the words of Jesus does me good, and that the evil consequences in the Bible are descriptive- just what happens- rather than prescriptive- God rubbing his hands and Punishing. What do I lose by judging?

I lose the fellowship, input and response from the homophobic Evangelical. Possibly I know what they would tell me, possibly they would not want to associate with me, possibly our approaching each other and “Not Judging” would be so artificial and hypocritical that the falseness of the situation would be unbearable- and the more I can hear another person, the better it is for me.

Is it enough, when Not Judging, to say, That is how the person is, and that is not a bad thing. Quite certain about his beliefs, but that does not harm me. Still doing his best under difficult circumstances, like human beings do. Or, should I surrender my belief- “he is quite certain about his beliefs”- in order to perceive better?

File:Byron Katie 2.jpg

In the Quaker meeting, I went to the bookshelves, where I do not normally look, and found Byron Katie’s Who would you be without your story? It contains her Judge your Neighbour worksheet:

1. Who angers, frustrates or confuses you, and why?
2. How do you want them to change? What do you want them to do?
3. What is it that they should or shouldn’t do, be, think or feel? What advice could you offer?
4. What do they need to do in order for you to be happy?
5. What do you think of them? Make a list.
6. What is it that you don’t want to experience with that person again?

Judge your neighbour, write it down, ask four questions, turn it around.

The four questions are,

1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
3. How do you react when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?
Turn it around. Find three genuine examples of how each turnaround is true in your life.

T drove me home after the Quaker meeting, and asked me what I thought of “faith is believing in impossible things.” That could be bad, or it could be good. It could be fitting in with a social group defined by its demonstrably false beliefs- gay people are damned, or whatever- or it could be stretching my own false beliefs of which I have convinced myself, in order to see reality more clearly. Faith in something better allows me to question my limiting belief.

In associating with Evangelicals, not all of whom believe that gay people are damned, it might be harder for me to cope with their belief in the basic depravity of humanity, or their terrible need that others Must believe the same as they do. Oops. Judging again. Even if a person does believe these things, how could it possibly hurt me?