Honesty

I introduced myself in a 12 step programme way. My name is Clare, and I am-

The purpose is to strip back the ego. It may affect what others think of me, but for me, what I think of me is far more important. Of course, that’s just weird and wrong to me, like everything else about me is, but this is the sense of it. Keeping my expressed emotion on an even keel is important to me because that stops others noticing me. I don’t want to be seen. This is an inherited trait.

I don’t want people to think of me at all. If they do, that’s a fail. So, suppressing my feeling is success. So, what I think and feel about myself is far more important to me than what others do.

And, I am angry about this. Anger is my underlying, everlasting emotion. And, taking oestrogen and especially progesterone made my emotions more volatile. It all makes keeping emotions level difficult, and I am paralysed with the effort.

At the Pendle Hill worship sharing on nonviolence on Wednesday 2d, I said my difficulty is my sense of my own worthlessness. Ruth, a spiritual director, had not realised that self-rejection, violence to self, is a root of violence directed at others. Self-love is the foundation of nonviolence. She proposed this mantra:

I love myself unconditionally
I forgive myself unconditionally
I feel myself loving myself unconditionally
I feel myself forgiving myself unconditionally

My self-improvement side thought I should practise listening. Attempting that, I wrote,

The more I see of each of us, the richer my experience is.
The more of each that can be present, the more powerful we are.

Then there was the Friday group where A invited me, then said everyone should introduce themselves. He is A, who has a life which seems in that moment to me to be so much better than my own. So I went all twelve-step. I have chosen this life. My voice barely shook as I said it. That was the end of the introductions.

This is for my good. The working theory is that it suppresses the ego and puts me more in direct contact with reality.

Ministry at Pendle Hill seemed important. I wrote,

Is it possible to be a self- undefined and unaffected by others? No.
Could there be a boundary I could make, around those parts which will maim me to be redefined?

People said,

Trouble means that you are alive
To live with hope is to live on the divine bank account
Living with winter and summer, sickness and health- the meaning is in accepting it all

I could barely hear a woman, and heard her as saying, in a baleful way,

… You think that you folks in the north with all of your wealth are somehow protected from human pain?

But others had difficulty hearing, and someone explained that as people in poor countries thinking we in the North are protected.

Then there was this Atlantic article, on measuring α by adding a single photon, with a laser, to caesium or rubidium atoms to put them in a state of quantum superposition, and measuring their velocity. This involves calculating gravity at the precise point where the experiment takes place, to eleven or more significant figures, and may confirm or refute the Standard Model of elementary particles. I find this amazing and beautiful, but the comment of Saïda Guellati-Khélifa, leader of the team in Paris doing the work, struck me most: “You have to be rigorous, passionate, and honest with yourself”.

On Sunday 6th I cycled to Aldi. As the shadow moved, putting the grass in sunlight, the frost on it began to turn, but was pure white in the shade. I have been thinking of that Anna Akhmatova poem. Why then do we not despair? Because I have not been paying enough attention? I read the Observer editorial on Keira Bell, a harsh anti-trans polemic, which hurt and frightened me.

With these stimuli, I looked at my Friends’ zoom-faces. The intense concentration on some, cogitating, putting the pieces together. The beautiful loving smile of another. I feel my pain, give thanks for the beauty of my Friends, and of the world- and feel intense joy. I would like the joy to leak out and infect others. I would like to minister on this, but it seems for me alone at the moment.

That joy and darkness- to contain it all at once! I want my dishonesty to make me feel better about myself and fool others, but it doesn’t, not really. Through me the gale of life blows high, so- let it fill my sails!

---

On Tuesday 8th, I had a fight with my inner persecutor, which denies anything good about me. Imagine me, if you will, curled into the foetal position, weeping, shaking, and fighting to gasp out a few words.

The words were, “I am passionate about injustice, and I fight it to the end when I see how I can”.

The persecutor does not like me saying anything good about myself, and demands evidence. I have evidence. I come away having won the ability to say that for myself. I was sort-of aware of it before, but not really able to say it, bewitched by the persecutor’s doubts. This is a win. I came out delighted, in an emotionally labile state, again wanting my joy to burst out of me and infect everyone and fearful they might object to my vehemence or even [gasp!] not understand. It did, a bit, in M’s zoom group. Some caught it, and liked it.

Here are some more good words and true: “I love at least some of my enemies.”

I was also wrestling with what it would mean to find the light within. It is, to be a whole and integrated human being, and the bits missing will be different in each case. I am aware of the inner driver, that part of me that wants me to work hard at self-improvement, and the inner protector, that protects me from the worst of the driver’s goads. I am not really aware of what I want, other than wanting desperately to be safe, and feeling so unsafe that this manifests in wanting not to be seen, not to be noticed by other people (in the most attention-seeking way. I’m confused too.)

Knowing “What one wants” is clearly not the problem for, say, Donald Trump. The part of ourselves we do not know will be different in each case. For many people, it will be multiple suppressed parts of their personality. The Light, union with Christ in God, God in us, is the part we do not know.

The inner gaslighter

I have an inner gaslighter, rather than an inner critic. It refuses to accept my feelings, saying they are a pretence or an act, or to admit that my motives are ever worthwhile, saying they are cowardice and the most ridiculous short-term self-serving.

Quakers asked me how well I conform to the testimonies, and I could not say. I made a joke of it. I said when I did not. This morning I asserted to an audience of fifty wise souls, and now to you, my utter commitment to peace, equality, simplicity and truth and the absolute authenticity of my feelings. Before that, I suffered a painful- transition, I will call it: a stage when my inner gaslighter berated me, and I asserted my truth against it, feeling all the pain of its denial and my own lack of belief. There I am, talking aloud to my empty room, inarticulately- “I- I- I- I Am Truthful, I Am Truthful, I am Truthful…” both with a need to convince myself and terror and also delight in asserting it.

I said it to those wise souls and they affirmed me. Hurrah for chat:

your words resonate with me.  Thanks for being so open and honest
Missed you so so much xxx much love xxx
I think  you have most beautiful kind generous wise energy

Separately, someone wrote,

More and more I realize that being free from that instance/ need of pleasing everyone and being validated by others is the real deal…the freedom…the liberation…we think that “enlightenment” is exclusive, something that is far away and available only to few …while instead is much closer than we think…if only…we could embrace totally ourselves and look at reality from those healthy lens…..

Then there was the Pendle Hill worship, where I sat, feeling I was in my holiness, my inner light fully conscious and in control, and Friends ministered on giving gifts freely, and paying them forward. In my Friend’s time of greatest vulnerability and need he was supported.

Perhaps the inner critic or gaslighter will return. Those paths through the dendrites are too well-trodden to disappear in a day; and every time I assert my truth, it gets easier. I feel I broke through the barrier that held me back earlier this month.

I need to be affirmed- I am in great vulnerability- and I am affirmed. When I did not see myself my Friend saw me, writing of me, “she is absolutely committed to Truth and spoke … with honesty and courage”. In another meeting this week I moved a Friend to tears, and he wrote, “I think this writing is absolutely beautiful”. I write this here because these are the things I need to take into my heart, these are the things I have locked out for too long, I need to know that they are true. I feel affirmed.

I am Abigail, and I am Love, radiantly open to myself, my world and to all people, giving and receiving Life.

Being together, speaking truth from the heart

“This is what the scriptures and the mystics talk about,” she said. Yes. I want to write about it, to map my route up the mountain.

In between my “Speaking from the heart” experiences, I have doubted them. The doubt grows less. When I express myself like this, people affirm me. They find it powerful and beautiful, and so do I. There was one on Sunday, at Jamie Catto’s workshop. Then on Monday and Tuesday I was with my old sorrow, bearing the weight of it, and on the computer, reading and commenting, in my head. On Wednesday morning I felt I had to go out, to be an animal in the air, and went cycling. I want to push myself, but effectually: beating myself up does no good. I want to gently encourage, and in fear I am close to beating myself up. There was that day in May when I seemed to balance the need to protect myself with the need to push, and I have not been cycling much since. Too hot. Too wet. Too windy. I was monitoring my cadence, and there were moments when I looked about, and noticed trees and the valley.

Wednesday afternoon was the Whiteness and Racial Justice workshop, and an exercise was to repeat five times the phrase “I am white”. I started off as the good girl, the rule follower. After the third time, I paused. I was numb. I tried to feel what I feel.

I want to do something useful with this.

Ah. There she is. That is my heart, my power, my light. Before I said it, I judged it- I have no right to state such lofty motives, said my judgment, but now I have the strength to say it regardless.

Thursday morning I was thinking about the welcome I had when I came to Friends. I felt friendless and rejected. I could not worship God disguised as a man but was afraid to worship expressing myself as a woman. I was welcomed by a gay man who had done a great deal to bring Friends to welcome gay people.

I search QF&P for “Welcome”. I read, “Do you welcome the diversity of culture, language and expressions of faith in our yearly meeting and in the world community of Friends?” And, 21.23: “What do ye to excess? How often Jesus showed his approval of extravagant generosity when it arose from a simple and pure impulse of the heart.” She writes of the father going out to welcome the prodigal son. God’s love is excess and extravagance.

I realise I need to welcome myself. The Power in me hides away because I judge it cruelly, suppress it, will not let it come to light. I see that something is my goodness, and the judgment comes out: “Goodness? Ineffectuality”. That cruelty is untruthful.

A signpost? I don’t know. I want this for you. I want this for Everyone.

Say what you know to be true.
Speak from your heart.
There may be judgment in you. Mind it not.
Speak what you feel, not what you ‘ought’ to say.

Speaking to my friend in the afternoon, I am just there. It speaks to her directly. She says, “When your heart speaks I listen and my heart hears you”. This might be a signpost: when I speak from the heart I may touch people who listen. Ministry in Meeting should be like this.

We are silent together.

When some guru asks me, “Where do you feel it, in your body?” I have not felt anything. On Sunday I felt old tension in my neck and shoulders. It is stress, but the judgment asks, “What have you got to be stressed about?” Old stressful things, that I have not yet healed. And on Sunday I also may have felt something under my sternum. And now I feel warmth over my ribcage. It is love. It is

Beneficence.

I will make good come from this.
It is too much for me, now, I cannot sustain it.

What I like about myself

I can imagine a teenager writing that in their diary and here I am, fifty three.

I like what I like. Or I like that I like what I like, it is good to like what I like. Not everyone likes the same things and that’s ok. I saw at the CAB that I liked talking to people, relating to them, getting them to open up, hearing their woes and thereby making them feel better, and I liked delving into regulations and the precise meaning of words. These things seemed not obviously to go together and I rejoiced that the job including both fitted me so well. Or, I made it include both, I could have got away with a much simpler understanding of both law and people.

It is good to value what I value. I value beauty. Uli said she lived with that painting for weeks before she noticed the butterfly, and I saw it in minutes. The liking means I appreciate and attend.

I like my writing. I like the sinuousness and the suppleness of it. If I trusted it more I might write thousands of words at a time, rather than hundreds. I may come to trust it.

I love my journey. I love the work I have done. It shows courage, integrity, and a powerful life-force oriented to healing and sanity and willing to go wherever I need to to find that.

I like my gender.

Oh wow. Can I say that?

It is me. It is how I am, what I do, how I relate to people. It has never given me problems, not ever.  How people react to it has, but not my gender itself.

My creativity. It is not just the writing, it is around how I see and react, how I respond to problems.

My depression? Mmm. When nothing else took me away from toxic situations, that did.

Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and of any [one] hearty and clean,
Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be less familiar than the rest.

Not my inner critic, though, not how hard I am on myself, I was terrified into that long ago. Introject, I understand the word is.

My body. Oh, my body, the way it moves, the way it looks, the way it heals. The miracle complexity of it, the wonder of hands that can play a piano, legs that can cycle, the nervous system conveying feeling from my whole skin. And the senses! So much delight through the senses!

My ability to give myself wholly, and to hold myself back.

My Love.

None of this is self-concept, the ideas we have about ourselves before we know ourselves. All of this is who I am, known from observing myself and how I respond, really.

The integrated human.

The Light.

I could not have written this in a diary as a teenager, and I honour anyone who knows themself like this at that age. For me I was firmly stuck in my self-concept, not beginning to see how it was not who I am, and an idea of what is Good different from the one I hold, now. So I love my ability to see and understand, to hunt down truth for nothing less will do. I shall not cease from exploration.

God within

In very real ways, soul, consciousness, love, and the Holy Spirit are one and the same. Each of these point to something that is larger than the individual, shlarger than the individual, shared with God, ubiquitous, and even eternal—and then revealed through us!

Richard Rohr

When I say I am a materialist, I am doubting that. There is something at the heart of each human being, which Quakers call “That of God” or “The inner light” which I believe is in me, because I respect the experience and observations of mystics and their ability to put their experience into words; and also the ability of the Society of Friends to winnow those words, retaining and distilling the best of them. But, as a materialist I see it as part of the evolved human being, part of me, so I doubt its goodness or even its value.

I have no idea what the writer of Isaiah 53:3 meant, but it could be read in this way:

He was despised and rejected by others; [or the ego, or the introjects]
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one who hides his face from us
he was despised, and we held him of no account.

If there is that which is called That of God within me, I do not see it properly because I imagine it to be other than it is, or do not see its worth, or cannot imagine its reality. Yet it is there whether or not I am conscious of it, and my spiritual task is to become conscious of it and cede control to it.

This morning before worship I went for a walk, thinking of it as a walking meditation. And I was looking at the ground underfoot, or in a reverie. And sometimes I was captivated by the beauty around me, on a walk I have done hundreds of times. Once I was brought to a halt. Hockney’s Woldgate Woods helps me to see the variation. Yet it is only a preparation, openness to outward experience as a training for openness to inner experience. Possibly I could remain with it if I walked more slowly.

Then in worship, with the swifts circling overhead, and a red kite, I was aware of the beauty, of the wind and birdsong when I had my eyes closed. I thought of my meeting, how loveable they are, and at the end ministered to myself, that thought of being open to the Light. Possibly I see it now, fleetingly; and I will be led to pray continually.

And it seems to me that if I speak from it my voice is naturally above the break, in my feminine register, and I can only speak from it in that female voice. So I could be my real self, my inner light and more feminine, if only I were brave enough.

 ♥♥♥

And, after, I say it to be it.

I am.

When I say it I speak above the break, and notice my shoulders and neck relax, and I stand taller. I say,

I need no protection. I want a junior counsellor, a different view sometimes, but I am braver than he.

A search for the Inner Light

There is a creature, which takes in ideas just as it takes in vegetables, processing them and continually changing. It is made in the image of God, so is loving, creative, powerful, beautiful. It shines.

I don’t give up until I am dangling on the end of a rope. I was helping build something, struggling to do the work as quickly as the experienced man I was working with, and my boot slipped on wet metal. The safety harness caught me and I was in mid-air, arm covered with bruises, shouting. I had not before realised how much I devote myself to that which I devote myself. My ardour has achieved worthwhile things and got me into trouble.

The creature does not know itself, but does not need to. It simply is.

When I was suicidal, one of the ways I argued myself out of it was to consider the beauty of my hand. I did not like to hurt a spider: how could I kill my hand? Then I left the office at lunchtime, planning to go home, leave the door on the latch, and take a hot bath, hot chocolate and my sleeping pills. I sat in my living room and realised I did not want to kill myself, just to get out of that situation now. The unconscious and conscious self had communicated. I did what I wanted, and understood it after. I find what I want when I see what I do, often. I wanted that, but I only realised looking back.

I realised aged twenty that I saw myself as utterly worthless and at the same time as the centre of the Universe. Neither self-image is true. If every insight I gain is proof of my stupidity- why did I not think of that before?- it is a sign my inner critic is too harsh. I realised I compared myself with Perfect Me, which wanted what I ought to want and achieved it without effort. I trailed after it through deep mud which it skated over, being illusory so weightless.

If all my inner light can say is NO how can it be other than worthless? Why was she born at all? Is it Light or illusion? I had the sense of a vulnerable part, in a locked chest in a locked room in a locked house on a moor I never visited. Then on 14 February 1999 when I was Born Again I let her out. How could she be a Real Me? She was clearly too flighty or ridiculous or stupid or worthless or unable to do the right thing to have any value at all. So all I could say from my heart and integrity was NO.

And yet. When I fought to keep up in that safety harness, I was doing what I wanted to do, in that moment. The understanding which I could state, to you or to myself, appears to be a discrete part of me that devalues this- whatever-it-is. Real me. Vulnerable bit. Despised curse. Light.

I write, and I want to understand with words. There is a wordless understanding, which is present, which is confident that it sees what is, and a verbal understanding. When I know I do not understand I may grope my way to greater understanding. Conscious and unconscious, verbal and non-verbal, dance together in increasing understanding, for I want to understand. And the “I” writing here is the conscious I, and there is a- chimera? A Real Me, dancing, just out of view.

A poem can emerge almost full-formed in my mind, and the Greeks said it must be inspiration by a muse. I can stand in worship and minister and say words I would not have thought of saying. What is speaking is Christ Within, or the Inner Light, or the Best of me, my essence, my truth. I can write a poem then run from it, fear its implications, understand it years later.

The safety harness story is from 2015. It is practised. I can tell it easily even if I do not understand it fully with my verbal self. And I am depressed. So many colours form when you do not clean the basin in the bathroom for a month! I really ought to. What would people think? And that does not motivate me at all. I have only illusions about what people would think, anyway.

Then I just clean it. This week. And I cannot tell you this story because I do not have a story yet. It does not seem like self-discipline suddenly winning through, because it seems to me that self-discipline is the problem. It seems that I cleaned the basin for the sheer joy of it, from my real self. I am in doubt and confusion.

A Friend gave me “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle and I have just found Jonice Webb. Reading helps. There is a creature, made in the Image of God, filled with love and ardour, need and desire. It is not Good as anyone understands Good, not even Quakers listening earnestly to the words of George Fox. I understand- Help my incomprehension! God in you understands too. Maturity is making the unconscious conscious.

I loved a line from Audre Lorde: The white fathers said, “I think therefore I am” but the Black mothers say “I feel so I can be free”. I identify my inner light with my emotional being. Perhaps this is because the emotional part is what I particularly work on, now, to bring into consciousness.

I had the thought that all the intellect and sensitivity, all the intelligence, I sense, belongs to me not to part of me, and can all be one.

Could I let go of my need for understanding and simply know? What would that look like? Is it like diving into water and swimming? It seems my conceptions and my need for them get in the way. I am reading and thinking. I hesitate to call it “praying”- perhaps I am thinking in a way which might lead to changing what I think. So this that I wrote two days ago is now not enough, and I want to reframe it.

Birth of the inner critic

You have that inner voice which tells you how useless you are. Most people have. I know mine comes from my mother, and possibly this is how.

In counselling, the inner critic said “How can you be so fucking useless?” and I knew that was my mother. My mother would not have said “fucking” but it came from her- probably pre-lingual, that is my adult vocalisation of the interaction. I know it comes from my mother like I know my own name-

yes, that’s me protesting, I know it and I don’t think anyone will believe me-

and at the same time it does not feel right. I have felt my own rage, as a baby, in a pram under a tree watching the light through the leaves, a recovered memory, a reconstructed clarity of how I felt at the time-

it does not feel right because my mother was so completely dutiful and controlled, as well as controlling. She would never have expressed rage like that. Rather,

she felt that rage.

Her rage, like mine, was always directed internally against herself. She could not get me to stop crying, or I did not like what she fed me, or there was some inability to communicate, and she was angry- with herself, not me, but I sensed it, and felt it was with me. I feared it. So comes my raging sense of inadequacy, whipping myself until I can go no further.

Research shows that the sins of the parents are visited on the children. We know how patterns are created, maintained and passed on, says my friend who should know. This fits, for me: how the pattern could be passed on. Two human beings want to be happy, together, and fail- and each rages against herself.

I told her that I do not trust my “Inner light”. I am not sure I have one. I can discern different voices or characters within myself, but not an inner light. Of course, that may just mean that I do not understand it: I have a false view that it should be particularly moral, or it should seek my flourishing in a particular way, or even that it should fit me into wider society in a particular way. One barrier to spiritual growth is a false conception of what that growth might look like.

She found this hard to understand, and asked, “What sustains you?” I don’t know how to answer that question. “Test the spirits,” said St Paul, and Licia Kuenning’s local Quaker meeting easily discerned that the voice she thought was that of Jesus leading her to prophesy was a damaging fantasy.

I have been crushed. I did not know my feelings, and when I found them I felt them as anger, frustration, resentment and fear, later refined to rage and terror. Does this mean that my inner light is crushed, feeling rage and terror? It would be easier if I were a theist, believing the Light is from God, but the Light is part of my humanity.

How weak, that I would want to hide away as I do, would not use my talents but just bury them? I despise myself. I have wanted to die, wanted to kill myself. I have found how I want to survive. These are two strong voices inside me. My mother was very controlling, and that came from fear. Everything has to be accounted for. I have taken on that controlling pattern. Possibly, the idea of a “Light” is getting in the way of perceiving how I am.

And yet- I like the idea of an inner light. Many people testify to its existence. I want to know it.

There is that one thing that I feel I could do, that would be worthwhile. And my Friend wanted to warn me of the dangers of it, especially for a trans woman. I cannot be sure it is a leading. I might test that leading, even if my Friend thinks it unwise.