Against confidence

I do not want to be confident. When I feel confident, I make mistakes.

Russell Crowe, every time he came on set, required a round of applause. He can produce wonderful performances out of a place of deep insecurity. The applause might be an affirmation of his power rather than of others’ respect for him; but remembering it is not enough, he needed the symbol of it each time.

I am doing an “Improving confidence” course, and seeing how I interact with people new to me. I am unlikely to meet any of these people again, and in one case at least I am glad of that. I am also hearing useful stuff. You need to be confident approaching a horse: they can read you, and take advantage of a nervous person.

I feel they, and I, are dancing around a central truth which is hard to put in words, and their words are very different from mine. I faced difficult challenges until I could not any more. Helen, the tutor, says Mindfulness practice, or “chill-out time”, is good for health. Yes, when I could not come down from the last stressor before being stressed anew it became too much. I am completely turned off when she quotes from “Feel the fear and do it anyway”:

Squash that doubt. Squash it down!

Well, no. It is me, and I will not be cruel to myself. Perhaps I should coax myself reassuringly- yes, this is important to me, I will give my all to it– and possibly I should listen to the doubt, and get myself away from the situation. I forced myself, and then I gave up, and while neither forcing or giving up has made me happy they may be the best I can do. I am not sure what middle way is available. I can think of words for it- reasonable, ordinary courage; know your limits- but don’t know what that would look like in practice. It is a judgment in each case, and I can make mistakes both ways.

Helen tells us Richard Branson is afraid of public speaking, Whoopi Goldberg of flying, Oprah Winfrey of people chewing gum (after continual bad experiences of her grandmother sticking it to her own furniture) and Jodie Foster of other people’s opinions. As she is the youngest of the four, aged 55, and our age range is from sixties down to twenties, including people who do not recognise her, I feel they should get different examples to show respect to us. What is Taylor Swift frightened of?

It was all too much for me, and I don’t feel this course is going to help me at all with that. “Once more into the Breach!” they shout encouragingly, and I just get more worried.

What words describe confident people, class? Self-assured? Yes, possibly. Or, merely acting it. Georgia O’Keefe was absolutely terrified all the time: effectiveness is the goal, not confidence per se. Smug, suggests C. Her former boss in sales had loadsamoney. Knowing what you want and going for it. I feel telling me being goal-oriented is good is no use to me, if I cannot find goals within myself. Or I can, such as keeping my benefits and keeping out of others’ attention, and they are not the goals I am supposed to follow.

Rather than being “Confident”, I want to be open to possibilities. I imagine the meekness which would inherit the Earth- no sense of entitlement, observant and aware, no assumptions, open to possibilities and pursuing them when seen. I feel confidence is a product of success, which in part is luck, in part is social and community support, so cannot be given by a course. But I am here, and trying to get all I can from it. T performs a drag act, and shows his photographs. I show some of mine, too. We are capable people, and we are in the jobcentre.

At the Gender clinic

To Charing Cross Hospital, to see my psychotherapist. Serra is a psychologist, who starts by taking a history: how do I feel? How have I felt?

Right now, wonderful. I met Ian on the train, and he told me a lovely story about increasing confidence in his daughter, who is 22. He is married to a Quaker, meditates with her, and proposed that we meditate together. With my eyes closed I was aware of the young grandmother’s banter with the toddler, and my passing thoughts, so varied, so unimportant. The train was over half full, and I asked someone to move to a vacant seat so we could sit together: I would not have had the courage to do that, at one time, but the man moved readily. I asked Ian what his mantra was, but he could not tell me, as that is part of the Rules and Ritual which give it meaning. He got it from the London School of Meditation, who will give him a new one when it wears out. As we walked through St Pancras, its bricks appeared brighter.

The waiting room contrasts with Serra’s. The whining air conditioning irritates. I eye up the bonny young trans men. The receptionists are disdainful: after, one asks me to wait for an appointment letter for next time, but finishes other work before printing it for me. I think of that Trans Privilege conversation: a week ago I saw it from H’s point of view, and now do not. I am twenty minutes early, and she is ten minutes late starting.

Serra is about forty. Her left eyelid droops: her right eye is on me all the time, but when her left eye looks up at me it has all the force of sudden eye-contact. She is friendly in a brisk, professional way. At the gender clinic, I can say “I have come to terms with autogynephilia. I don’t believe it, but I don’t need it to be untrue,” and “I have come to terms with how feminine I am, and how femme-phobic I have been,” and have that just accepted. She agrees with me about my trans privilege conversation that this is not privilege, and notes (with approval?) my comment “I did not see her and she did not see me”. I tell her of my Blessing. This will continue. She clarifies- I am unsure of the distinction between “will” and “shall”, but I am predicting, not stating a grim intention to cling on.

My main problem is that I am work-shy, or phobic. I had a series of difficult experiences (I said that to other-H, and she said “Doesn’t everyone?” I wanted more sympathy)

-Do I have to give the details?
-Tell me how you felt.
-I have to give the details. So I do. I felt angry, frustrated, out of control, frightened. Her face shows sympathy, twisting in pain at one point. This is a contrast to psychotherapy in 1998, when I found it difficult to recognise feelings and the man refused to treat further, saying the risk to my defences was too great. And I can be confrontational.

Do I want to come again? Yes. Eventually, I am tearful, but not too much. She asks me to set goals, which is a lot easier than last time:

  • To be less frightened
  • To support myself
  • To make a contribution

We will set more goals, she says.

I go to the Tate.

This is really good

This is really good, beautiful, positive, new pieces of the jigsaw giving a new view.

Mmm. Should I bother stating the old view? Perhaps, for a bit of context. I need to celebrate moving on from it.

OK. How have you felt about being a recluse?

Dreadful. A complete failure. I have stuck with it because I have not seen any better way. Meanwhile, my inner critic has told me that I am waiting to be rescued by some knight/ dame on a white charger, and that that is never going to happen, and that I had better hit rock bottom soon and start doing something about my problems myself, but then that is the challenge that I have never been up for.

I have felt completely shamed. The shame has sat, undigested, mostly below consciousness, a ball and chain.

I have had a Christmas present of “The Sacred Journey- Daily Journal for your soul”. My friend writes (in part) Give yourself an entire day before New Year’s Day, really thinking about the “goals” and “questions”  at the front of this journal. I LOVE mine, and I love my day of solitude, preparing for the coming year.

And of course my inner critic has been delighted with this. Goals=Income, except that is going nowhere because I am useless.

The inner critic even got hold of “I am worthy of Life” and twisted that. I have buried my talent. I am “soft, gentle, peaceful” and that is my problem.

The breakthrough came with saying, “I am soft, gentle, peaceful, and that is what is ‘worthy of life’.” There is no vulnerable bit, no “real me”, there is just me. The accretions of self-image or desire to be other fall away. The inner critic split those two statements and the answer is to unite them.

It leaves me with fear. What shall I do? Better than shame whispering there was nothing I can do.

This feels big, like new insight; and it feels like yet another wave: down into shame, up into healing. Down into old patterns and understandings, up into new. Fear is better, it is conscious, it does not eat my self-respect but sits alongside it, because it is not introjected from elsewhere but of me.

Still with the problem, of course- what shall I do? Things to cheer me up, I think- a bit of self-nurturing.

Chagall, le pond de Passy et le Tour Eiffel

The Shropshire Lad had it about right:

Her strong enchantments failing,
Her towers of fear in wreck,
Her limbecks dried of poisons,
And the knife at her neck.

The Queen of air and darkness
Begins to shrill and cry,
“O young man, O my slayer,
Tomorrow you shall die”

O Queen of air and darkness,
I think ’tis true you say,
And I shall die tomorrow;
But you will die today.

Hope III

Boldini- Berthè considers a fanKnow the past. Let it touch you. Then let the past go. Good advice from Octavia Butler’s heroine Olamina. Actually, it starts “To survive, know the past…”- well, it is dystopian SF. I thought of putting it as my header text.

I was crying this morning about the job I left in 2006. After various jobs round the CAB, I was going round the hospital wards, advising patients referred to me. Meanwhile, Steve, hospital service manager, was in a stand-off with Andy, chief executive. Steve said he was a manager, so should not be advising clients, and that it was unsafe to open the office when there was only one worker in it (though it was in the hospital) so if he was alone he would lock the door. Andy failed to provide any volunteer workers. I don’t know why, possibly there were other considerations, or possibly he just wanted Steve to give in and advise like Penny had. Meanwhile the hospital continually threatened to withdraw funding, including the funding for my wage. My job was fascinating, but often stressful and frustrating apart from this.

Let the past go. Of course, good advice, but how can I? My last four job-roles turned to shit, and it was not merely and entirely my fault. It will always be like that is what I take in to myself.

Let it touch you. I do not think about this a lot. I think I let it touch me at the time, my fear that funding would cease, my irritation at Steve.

I have goals, and given the exercise I wrote them out. Some, I even approve of.

To survive.
To control my space.
Not to suffer.
To see myself as a good person.
To do something worthwhile.
To form connections.
To learn and understand.
To accept and forgive myself.
To see myself and others as we really are.

What goals do you want in your life? was the question. These are not my goals, but I would like them to be:

To support myself without recourse to benefits.
To get stage time.
To write something more substantial than a blog post.
To learn new music on the piano, and polish and enjoy my repertoire.

Stage time is possible. There is a small amateur theatre in Nupton seating 83, to hire for £130 a night. I have no idea how to market my performance, though I could just invite an audience as I could afford £130, and that would be a good experience or useful try-out. Though I have only written half an hour, and am not entirely satisfied with that. Six minutes of it is good, and has had good audience reactions. I found memorising difficult. Having just found that theatre three days ago without having thought to look for such a thing before, I may start writing again.

I need hope. I want to put down this heavy weight, it will always be like that. Neil told me he just kept going. Fucking brilliant. Bully for you. I did until I couldn’t.

Forgiving the World II

starry night moon“Goals” said Yvonne, insistently, for the umpteenth time. At last I said “Yes”, hands folded in lap, imagining them both behind my back with the fingers crossed. Yeah, right, I did not say- “In five years’ time I want to have some sort of a job”. It’s like chess, innit, I explain to myself. While there are strategies, and you have to see three moves ahead, in each situation there is one best move. Rather than having goals, I will look out for Opportunities.

-How do you see yourself?
– A dancer. A poet. A beautiful, evanescent thing. I can be rational too, I suppose, it is good though not the only good. I no longer wear the leaden cloak of Dante’s hypocrites.

You have given yourself the nurturing self-love you need to become an adult, she said. Gosh, she is being encouraging, though a sting in the tail. Adult. Um. S’pose. Well, yes of course, but it’s difficult.

I think it has been of some use. Acknowledging being on the floor, curled up like a baby or a traumatised soul blocking out the World; and sitting on the floor, looking up, engaging but not taking on adult responsibility. I am a Benefit scrounger, I say happily. starry night starsPlans include approaching Dr Lorimer if my ESA gets reassessed. I was in a state when I just procrastinated. Deadlines had no effect. Anything I do would fail and make me look bad and feel bad, so I did not do it. Had I been sacked, it would have been fair. The bullying had ended by then, I had been under a different line management for 30 months.

I have done the work. I no longer see myself as worthless and bad. So I can see things differently. That claim where the Respondent forged documents: the claimant got her money in the end. She was capable of more than I had thought. The system worked, and the scoundrel got his just desserts. I did my job well. It is a matter of reframing. When I was worthless, I took in the wickedness of the employer’s lies, so the nastiness of the world; the suffering of the client; and the great difficulty I felt in proving it- by luck, eventually. So evidence of everything being utterly ghastly becomes evidence that the world is sort-of-OK, or OK enough; and I am OK.

If I see myself as OK, and my parents as OK, having done their best under difficult circumstances- losing your dad in 1934 aged 9 and moving in with your grandfather just as he gets sacked is traumatic- and just take all my rage terror and resentment at my Worthlessness and turn it against the world-


starry night swirl-then the World becomes shit-coloured, unrelievedly, irremediably Bad. So I hide in my living room because it is too horrible to go out. However, increasingly I can see my past differently. I had achievements. I had opportunities. I had even breaks. When Kerry from the jobcentre checked my capital, on Monday- the letter threatened I may need to suspend your claim to benefit- she was OK.

Seeing yourself as OK, you can walk along with your head held high, Yvonne counselled. Mmm. Yes, possibly. I wanted to be in a dress, and here is everyone in trousers, and my dress is still OK.

I was late, and on Station Road a man asked directions to Station Road. “It’s one of these side-roads on the left”, I said, in complete certainty. “If you drive me along I will look out for it”. So he drove me through Marsby to where I wanted to go, and I realised Station Road was not where I had thought. This does not make me Completely Utterly Bad. I will not be punished for it.

the town

Fear-based Christianity

File:Blake The Blasphemer.jpgIt can be terribly difficult to be Christian, navigating between the power of Satan and the justified wrath of God, with eternal damnation the risk and a serious possibility if you fall away. This, quoted with approval by Nathan Bickel here, showed me the full horror of it: “We are not showing authentic love unless we are intolerant of all the popular perversions of love.” So other people are pretending to be loving, but they must be corrected. Even Love is perverted by the Devil, for the damnation of souls.

Jesus is a liar. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”, he said, pretty confusing after he tells me to pluck my eye out. God, his thirst for blood not slaked by the Amalekites and the Jebusites, or even the Flood, sends hurricanes to kill Americans for their failure to get this impossible task right.

A commenter here said paedophilia is wrong because the bible condemns sex outside marriage. The Bible also condemns residents of Crete, which I hope no-one follows now.

“God’s Will” is the iron moral law for society. So morality cannot change as society changes. Homosexuality is condemned because it was, 2500 years ago, in a subsistence farming society in an area the size of Wales.

Messages of love:
Love your neighbour as yourself
Love one another, for love is of God
Perfect love driveth out all fear
are negated.


File:Blake-Höllensturz.jpgYesterday (9th) I was weeping uncontrollably in the shower, thinking of- something eighteen months ago. Think of it now. Mmm. Slight pang, but I am not overwhelmed.

I want a short paragraph I can say truthfully about the incident and the people involved. An Understanding. That was that, and this is how the world is. I cannot create it. I can hardly create it about the incident itself, involving human reactions, leave alone the World now, or myself.

I want it, and I cannot have it.

I have these Spiritual Tools- Acceptance, Presence, Meditation, Positivity– which really ought to sort such problems out, with the result which has been my lifelong goal, that I never feel emotions that make me uncomfortable. Possibly I have to learn better how to use them. (Writing problem- should I state specifically that I am not getting it yet, or leave that implied?)

That period of weeping. Whether it was about that particular incident, or my inability finally and conclusively to Make Sense of everything, I was overwhelmed. I find such weeping very painful, and I want to avoid it. Recursively, I can’t make sense of the weeping- it was not about the incident, was it?

Can I use my own weakness to empathise with others?

The fourth tempter

I intend to cease judging my actions with words. I have judged a choice: is it courageous or cowardly, selfish or generous, moral or wrong? The trouble is that these are not judgments I can make. So instead, I choose to judge my choices according to whether it make me happy? Will it advance my goals?

I feel safe in doing this, because I am a good person. I have met a sociopath, and have a great deal of evidence that I am not like him. As part of my transition, I have a diagnosis from a psychiatrist that I am “not psychotic”, which is a relief. Made in the image of God, I am loving, creative and powerful, and basically I trust my own motivations to be morally good enough. So. Will it make me happy? Will it advance my goals? And, if later I see that the action has not made me happy, how can I improve it?

This matter of judging can get people into a terrible fankle. Jonathan Dale, a major contributor to the book “Faith in Action- Quaker Social Testimony”, is an inspiring man whose actions are saintly but who judges himself as to his motivations, very harshly. But for any act I can undertake, I can imagine saintly and devilish motivations for it. And how might I judge which are mine?

The “fourth tempter” in “Murder in the Cathedral” tells Thomas a Becket to do the right thing, and he will go to Heaven.To which Becket responds, he will do what he will do because it is right, not because it will profit him.

the highest treason-
to do the right thing for the wrong reason

But I think to achieve my goals or to make myself happy are good reasons for acting. And I will see if an action really is mean, or beneath my dignity and integrity.

Faith can move mountains

What on Earth was Jesus on about? Was it just another way in which he was so much above us normal people, by faith making the blind see and the lame walk and the dead rise? Should I seek to construct in myself a belief that this mountain, or mole hill, is somewhere else, and, when I see it is not so, just account myself one of little faith, unable even to curse a fig tree?

Sometimes, I cannot know that I can achieve what I want to achieve, but I can see the first step I must take towards that goal. And so I take that step, even though I do not see the path ahead, and possibly it will not achieve that goal. So I have faith to take that step. Whereupon, I may see that another step is possible. Or, as my role model said, at one time she did not know that she wanted to spend the rest of her life expressing herself as female, but she did know that she wanted to investigate gender psychiatrists. So she did. She did not need, that day, to make so momentous a decision, just a comparatively small one.

Or, sometimes, I need faith to remain open to possibilities, when my goal seems impossible, and hope seems merely a painful, destructive illusion. Only if I have the faith to remain open to possibilities, will I have the ability to perceive them.