Hope, beauty, and God Within

I need a source of hope, and wondered if I might find it in beauty.

I have slept in the same bed every night since January 2020. I have not gone on a bus since about March 2020. I see people almost every day on Zoom, and often can be heard on it, saying what I believe, showing who I am, and being affirmed for that. Perhaps this is why I value the blog so much, as I am heard there. I want to be seen. I want to be heard.

If I know I am valued, it has to be by myself. I noticed when I transitioned that I got a lot of love and acceptance from colleagues and the Quaker meeting, and yet when someone was rude in the street it affected me for days. I realised that the rejection of some random stranger meant more to me because it was echoed in myself. I had to create my own self-acceptance before that of others meant anything to me. This may be ABdP Johnson’s superpower: an invincible sense of his own worth, which survives all the condemnation of others, and all the damage he does.

My hope was that I could come wholly into the present moment through perception, with feelings through my fingertips as I touched whatever I could, in the beauty of the park, its trees and birds. I would simply be me in my perception, relating directly to the world. Relating to beauty and feeling delight I would gain a sense of self. This is who I am, the being that loves this.

On Friday 4th I met J, who told me some of the bad management and bullying of the office she is leaving. Even Paul, the most equable and self-effacing of men, had made a complaint. This brought to mind my troubles in various offices over ten years, which though they ended ten years ago feel as alive, as I type, as they did then. Further psychotherapy is a possibility.

On Monday 30th, in worship, it seemed to me that I had to let go of any desire for an outcome from the Yearly Meeting on gender. What was required of me was Love, including for “gender-critical” Quakers; and faith, trust in the process of worshipful discernment. This seemed like spiritual preparation, and letting go seemed like being better attuned to reality. Perhaps they were.

On Tuesday evening in worship I felt rage and terror, my old emotions. The thought came to me,

I have a right to exist.

I felt that “the iron enters into my soul”. That is from the 1662 prayer book rendering of Psalm 105:18, and is not the usual translation. I find it evocative, as a double meaning- iron cutting the soul, or infusing and strengthening it.

While the anti-trans campaigners have a rigid refusal of sympathy to trans women- women’s needs, reality and bodies should not be subordinated to “men’s feelings”, they say- my feelings matter.

If it is a matter of my feelings, it is the difference between expressing who I am freely and being forced into a mask, a pretence, an act, a falsehood, and the desolation I would feel at that falsehood.

I have blogged a lot. My fascination with blog statistics comes from my hunger to be seen and heard. And I grow sick of it, indeed of all social media. Of twenty posts in May, Google lists only seven of them: if you search for a direct quote from the others, Google will draw a blank. It is not a way to be seen. And, the anti-trans campaigning is fierce. If I check a trans facebook group, I am likely to see rigid, hateful articles by transphobes shared, to show how commonplace and orthodox anti-trans arguments are in Britain, and defiant, angry, or miserable comments after. It makes me ill. If that transphobe wins her case at the Employment Appeal Tribunal, I would have critiqued the judgment, but feel no appetite to. Though, if she wins, it will advance the Equality Act, protecting beliefs even if they are disgusting and irrational. The question of how acting on belief might be protected would remain open.

So I may not blog so much. Advices and Queries tells me that if I “cherish that of God within” me, “the healing power of God’s love” will “grow in [me] and guide” me. This is my working theory on what “that of God in me” might mean, and what might get in the way of me hearing it.

What stops me hearing it is my judgment of what it ought to say, based on introjects and learned morality. That of God in me is that which I locked away and silenced, which began to emerge in February 1999, my feminine self that feels rage and terror at assertions that I should present male. It is that in me which is burned out by work, so that I could no more go into my old office and attempt a PIP or UC appeal than I could call myself John again.

The closest thing to ego in me is denial that I am burned out at all, and a belief that I could go back to work if I had to, sustained by as rigid a denial as that which I needed to present male. It is that which drives me on to work harder than I can at exercise, and creates misery at my judgment on my own inadequacy.

I could not see God in me, for how can I see what I think of as wholly inadequate and call it God? I am delighted today to come across the concept of Theopaschism, belief in a God who suffers, indeed a God who suffers for me. I must dive to the depths of the suffering in order to fully experience the delight.

So, this month. Less blogging, probably. Time spent consciously seeking out delight in beauty. Acknowledging the misery, weakness, anguish, rage and terror. I am still seeking out health, power, strength, effectiveness, as always, but seeking them through what I have seen as weakness, for in my weakness is my strength.

A shameful desire

What’s that feeling? Wistfulness, or yearning.

Paul Alexander is an impressive human. Read this article about him, or possibly even his memoir. He is 74, and has been paralysed from the neck down since he had polio aged six. His diaphragm is too damaged to breathe unaided, but he mastered glossopharyngeal breathing so that he could get out of his iron lung. He went to university and worked as a lawyer. His courage and determination are inspiring.

Content: suicide. There are some tentatively positive ideas here, and I want to write about suicidal ideation. Continue reading

Social Conservatism

When people object to immigrants, and my American-born friend says “I’m an immigrant”, they often say, “oh, we don’t mean you”. She has British nationality, but not all those people would know that. It’s the same with a Canadian woman I met. I wondered what the difference was from my German friend, who has a slight accent, noticeably foreign if you’re listening out for such things, who is a successful professional woman whose grown up sons are English, who has been told to “get back where you came from”. Is it because Canada, US, Australian and New Zealand citizens speak English as a native language? Is it because Germany has won the World Cup more than England, and we fought two world wars against them?

I think it’s because no-one’s been taught to hate the Americans.

There’s certainly no real distinction other than nationality at birth, and I am not sure why that should be a distinction.

So what does social conservatism achieve for the average social conservative? It gives them someone to look down on. It gives them someone to blame, even to hate. It gives a symbol, like Brexit. We, the 17m, matter because Parliament is at last giving us what we voted for. I may be struggling from wage to wage, never knowing I will have enough, but at least I’m not gay. (Irony ALERT!) It gives them a cat to kick. When their manager has humiliated them and they can’t speak back, they can take out their rage on Immigrants (which includes Black people whose parents were born here).

It gives them something to care about which will either make no difference to their lives, or hurt them. Brexit is no good for anyone unless they have a spare ÂŁ500m to short the ÂŁ. But it is made a symbol of Democracy and the value of Leave voters. It’s what they are told they want. Similarly with gender self-declaration: no woman will be any safer if all trans women are excluded from all Single Sex Spaces, but it is something they can campaign for to show they matter. Equal pay would be better, but the Tories are not going to do anything to achieve that.

Social conservatism is corrosive to the soul. It lets people judge others harshly without even knowing them, by stereotypes divorced from reality. It produces the sensation of righteous anger, but you cannot warm yourself by the frigid flames of this hate.

It achieves nothing. It may make others’ lives more miserable, LGBT folk, BAME folk, immigrants, with no gain to the average social conservative.

It gains something for the plutocrats and the conservative politicians who serve them. It increases anger, and the angry and fearful are more likely to vote conservative. Don’t come here expecting handouts. Don’t change our country to suit your way of life, ranted someone on facebook, and I imagine him puce with anger at a myth. People want to work and better themselves. No-one just wants handouts. It suppresses votes on the other side, which have to be votes for hope for something better. Someone else ranted, Our country is run by the major capitalist conglomerates and vastly wealthy individuals worldwide who politicians merely serve. Lets not fall into the trap of believing that politicians of any persuasion actually “care” about the common man. I think John McDonnell, for instance, went into politics to make life better for people. Possibly even John Major. Voting for better public services means voting for hope. It’s not “free stuff”, it’s basic services which make everyone’s lives better and build communities.

So Labour should make no concessions whatsoever to its “traditional voters’ reasonable concerns” about immigration, gay-inclusive education, or “streets where no-one speaks English”.

Labour could have made real differences to people’s lives, making Britain better for everyone, but now we have a government of the reptile overlords, “unchained” from Parliamentary scrutiny by their huge majority. The choice as always is rage or hope. The Left can only win through hope.

Clarity and possibility

Clarity is not always a good thing. If you open Schrödinger’s box, the cat may be dead. But possibility may be an illusion: I hold onto hope for something which never materialises, until the hope dies by degrees. Too many such hopes, and hope becomes unbearable.

You will see I am not in my most positive mood.

I had many blessings at yearly meeting- hugs, gifts, encounters. New ideas increased my clarity. When I spoke in the auditorium there were many of the customary indications that it was ego-led, not spirit led. A Friend observed that she had not heard me speak at that YM, I heard an implication that I always had spoken at other YMs, and then I spoke at this one too. I was thinking of it the night before specifically as something I could speak on in Meeting. My heart was not beating loudly, it never does. And the synchronicities of it- my other experiences, my recent reading, seeing a man sitting alone, speaking to him later: I am clear what I said had value, and came to me as gift. It was worthwhile for others to hear it. It was ministry to the yearly meeting, and people came to me to express appreciation of it. It got into the minute. How positive I am can determine whether something is blessing or curse- I am clear enough this is ministry, and being given it is blessing.

My world is weird and inexplicable- everyone’s is, however clearly they realise that- and at yearly meeting I decided I had enough confirmation that the weirdness could delight me as well as

HURT ME

-that it might be worth taking some chances. For example that applying for a particular job might not be humiliation and judgment from beginning to end. I know the judgment is almost all mine, projected onto others and generally that does not make it bearable.

I am nearly or actually in tears as I write. Snap out of it, I command myself sternly. Become Positive!

As human relationships end, I can see there might be advantage in denying someone clarity- letting them have hope, without any intention of justifying it. Someone without hope might become a threat, and I can see that other ways of preventing me being a threat could also be unpleasant for me. Generally, my seething chaotic anger is directed inwardly at myself, and when it manifests to others it is never physical. Sometimes it is articulate passion, but more often it is conflicted: I fear what I want to say is ridiculous so the bits which escape me are inarticulate, confused and contradictory. Still the anger is perceptible, and might make someone feel a need to protect herself.

My negative mood convinces me that possibilities are illusion and certainties are of pain. It makes it harder for me to see others holding me in regard (admiring me is far too strong a word- any possible evidence of that at yearly meeting I must be misinterpreting, or at least the admirer is hopelessly deluded). So where there might be possibilities I see only horrible certainty. I see my wish for reassurance as the most disgusting neediness and my anger against myself increases. The cat may come out biting and scratching.

I am laying it on thick here. This is ridiculous- I am now smiling as I type. It is so difficult- only Godlike omniscience would satisfy me!

Hope IV

Eliminate false hope- yet hope has value. Here she is.

pierre-cecile-puvis-de-chavannes-hope

Pierre-CĂ©cile Puvis de Chavannes, who discovered his particule in adult life, painted her the year after the Franco-Prussian War. She sits on the ground- a burial mound, I read- in front of ruins. Yet new growth comes already, in the oak sapling before her sheet. She is calm, open, receptive. The catastrophe has not crushed her. Christophe AndrĂ©, in whose book I found her, calls her visage “triumphant”, though I do not think that is quite it, merely confident. Would that I could enlarge the face, but that is the largest net reproduction I can find.

Most net reproductions are of the alternative.

pierre-cecile-puvis-de-chavannes-hope-ii

I loathe this. The burial mound becomes a wall, the sheet a dress: bowdlerisation is boring, but the nudity was not particularly erotic. Those who would demand she be clothed would not have understood “erotic” in art, only be applying rules. Her bare toes are peeking out- “looked on as something shocking,” but not breaking the rules. I find her face revolting. She is a lady, her face composed to receive visitors, her hair done. She is putting on an act. Her right wrist seems much stronger than the other’s, for she is striking a pose. The other has, in the moment, found the olive branch, peace, and holds it up for us to see. She is present in the moment, unselfconscious, ready.

Though it could be fashion. The ruins are less impressionistic, and I know impressionism is better.

Hope is openness to all that is good, all that is possible. Hope is false if delusion. The first message of Christ that I find in his own words is, face reality. Accept reality. There is so much more, but that is the urgency of it. Even “Love one another” comes from Reality.

Here’s a study for the painting. Of course she was intended to be nude.

pierre-cecile-puvis-de-chavannes-study-for-hope

Gauguin loved the painting.

gauguin-still-life-with-hope

I note she turns away. We see her profile- perhaps if we saw her face, her face would be all his painting. And the plants are emphasised- perhaps his flowers are that hope, full grown.

What I want III

I want to be safe. I do not and never have felt safe- this is not simply “because I am trans” and yet being trans has poisoned this, as everything else in my experience. I want to feel safe in the short term: medium/long term being less immediately important.

We were discussing Maslow’s hierarchy, and in this particular summary they are, Survival (food and water); Being safe; Feeling a sense of love and belonging; Having esteem; Self-actualisation; Knowing and understanding. Working with the homeless, said Eileen, knowing that they are not safe, she sees that they might consider the “higher” needs but only momentarily.

And so I retreat to my living room. This is only safe in the short term, and militates against “a sense of love and belonging” but has been the best I could do, given my false understandings of the world and my contempt for myself, and the way my other attempts at safety have been stripped from me as impossible and illusory. I wanted to fit in and support myself, and I could not.

I only sought work for safety. That is hardly unusual- I wonder how many people get beyond this stage if Maslow’s theory has any truth to it- but the safety I sought was against what will people think? in my particular false way of seeing that. My resentment is overwhelming: I resent being trans, even though I would not exist if I were not: this agglomeration of atoms as cis woman or cis man would be so entirely different from who I am. My rage and terror is greater.

I am not working towards medium or longer term safety because I do not see how: the effort will be too great, the chance of success too small. My old negativity has never gone away.

I get better. My contempt for myself lessens, as I realise its depth and bring it to consciousness. And now my contempt is conscious rather than the all-pervasive natural way things are, I may lessen it and consider my good qualities. Eileen did not understand why I needed to retreat, mentioning gifts including articulacy and intelligence. I can hear that, now. I would have heard it as a judgment- why do you not do something with them?- but not now.

Bringing this to consciousness I might start to consider medium-term safety rather than immediate safety.

Thinking, over the last three years I have been working as hard as I could, might bring me to amazed despair; or the hope that if I understand better I might manage more.

I want to be safe.
This is an entirely reasonable desire.

TItian, Diana and Callisto

Positively Clare

I have always faced the world with Courage, Love and Hope.

My mother said I was a good baby, quiet, giving little trouble, liking to be left under the trees to watch the light through the leaves. In delight she told of me singing to her. My beautiful self, soft, gentle, feminine, submissive yet playful and dramatic, was never accepted by her. She had me without wanting me, because it was the conventional thing, and was beset by fightings and fears, within, without. So she looked after my physical needs, and I looked after her hurts, curbing those parts of me which disturbed her, being the “good” child she wanted. She controlled me completely, making all my clothes- knitting socks and pullovers, cutting and sewing shorts. I supported her, caring heroically.

So my persona aged around 20 felt controlled. Others observed me as The Professor, pedantically explaining, or easily hurt, or sweet, which I recognise now, but I was unconscious of my feelings- and that was strong and beautiful, the best way I had found to cope with strong and difficult feelings. In my first job as a solicitor I found my delight in doing something useful and creative, my stubbornness, pushing on to my goals, and a love of country dancing.

I could not suppress all feeling. I bought and purged women’s clothes compulsively, so sought aversion therapy to control this.

In February 1999 I was born again, discovering my true self free and relating for the first time, and it felt like being someone entirely different. I recorded it in this verse, which frightened me at the time and which I now love: my poetry has been a way into my unconscious, and sometimes my conscious self has caught it up, understanding only later. Now, I am being that self more and more, and it feels like life made intense.

I decided it was time to rebel against my parents. I realised how I lied to myself to see myself as a good person, and set out to uncover my lies and blind spots, or my protections, my denials of what had been too painful for me to tolerate.

I transitioned in April 2002, and had my operation in February 2004, and gender recognition certificate on 30 January 2006: The above named person is, from the date of issue, of the gender shown. I am proud of my courage and determination in achieving this.

In the years since, I have found my true self and am more and more able to express myself as I am. Increasingly I accept my feelings and am conscious of them as they happen. I release my bonds of shame. I am my beautiful self. Myself I know.

I have always done what I needed to do to protect myself and advance my interests, and my world has been supportive, with beautiful friends. Sometimes it has felt precarious but I have always been warm enough and well fed. Increasingly I care for myself: I tidied my house yesterday and it is pleasanter to live in. I choose to liberate myself.

I have made this post without apology, stating the truth. I am made in the image of God, loving, creative, powerful, beautiful. I have responded to my circumstances as best I knew, in creativity and love.

All is well, and all is well, and all manner of thing is well….

Profile picture

And now, I permit myself a little panic:

It has been so difficult and I always saw myself as completely inadequate and blown around by winds and powerless and under Threat and I was going to call it “My Struggle” a bitter allusion to mock and denigrate it and put in joky asides to show I did not really believe it it was an act for a purpose and I am so ashamed and the Granite Statues are all judging me and IT IS TRUE it is true it is true it is true it is

true

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 ÂŁ130 a night. I have no idea how to market my performance, though I could just invite an audience as I could afford ÂŁ130, 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.

Hope II

File:Pandora and The Forbidden Box.jpgThe world is heading for disasters.

The natural rate of extinction is 1-5 species each year. Now dozens go extinct each day. Thousands go extinct each year. Humans emitted 4.5 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere in 2012. The rate of increase was 1.4%. Undertakings to reduce carbon emissions were not kept. More than half the world’s rainforest has been destroyed. Often it is simply burned. 12m hectares of arable land are lost to drought and desertification each year. Collapsing fish stocks create ecological dead zones in the oceans.

Even democratically elected governments are a conspiracy against the people. The UK government will pass all publicly owned land to a “Homes and Communities Agency”. Rights of way will be ended. The Infrastructure Bill allows the government to sell that land off. The government whittles away our means-tested benefits system. Benefits are not increased at the rate of inflation. People confined to wheelchairs are found fit for work. People mentally incapable of independent living are found fit to work. Government policies inflate housing costs. Housing benefit to pay rent decreases in real terms.

Private firms take over public services. Private companies run prisons, schools and hospitals. Outsourced hospital cleaning caused job cuts and lowered standards. This increased hospital-acquired infections. Direct public ownership is cheaper than “Private Finance Initiatives”. The public still bears the risk of failure of these schemes. Profit goes to the private sector.

File:Opened up a Pandora's box.jpgGovernments conspire to make public or environmental protection legislation illegal. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiated between the US and EU will introduce investor-state dispute settlement. This means Australia is unable to require plain packaging of cigarettes. Germany is unable to phase out nuclear power.

Kinnock was right. I warn you not to be ordinary. I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to fall ill. I warn you not to get old.

The wealth of the richest doubled in ten years. Their charitable giving decreased. 85 people own the same amount as half the world’s population. The income of the poorest reduces. Conservatives argue this gives them incentives to work harder. Those incentives are born of desperation.

Fear of nuclear attack from the Soviet Union has decreased. Fear of nuclear or terrorist attack funded by Islamic states has increased. Fear increases. People are controlled by fear.

Government spies on the people. Automated facial recognition, monitoring of internet use and keyword recognition in emails and phone calls make this spying complete.

Each of us will die. Our bodies wear out. Muscles recover more slowly. Our beauty fades.

————————-

I remember being told that metal cannot be used in a microwave oven. I was warned not even to put a cup decorated with a thin metallic line round the rim in there, as it would produce spectacular firework effects and the microwave would cease to work. This morning by oversight I put a spoon in the microwave, and there were no fireworks- and the food heated.

Ah, progress. There is some, slight hope.