Not where I want to be

JMWTurner, Sunrise with Sea monstersSaturday. I am not happy. I am alone with my telly and a cough rather than at a party with beautiful people, where my talent in writing and delivering my monologue would have received the recognition it deserved- awe, wonder, then thunderous applause, obvs. I am less happy because this occasion would have been a bigger deal for me than I would wish it to be, not the highlight of the year but one of them.  I have also recently heard some law-of-attractiony stuff about how everything in your life, you have called into it, which makes me feel worse. I don’t think cancer- or colds- work that way, I say, and though Menis Yousry might be my guru in so much, he is not, in that.

This is not where I want to be.

JMWTurner, Sunrise with Sea monstersComing here has been the best way of caring for myself which I have known. I have cared for myself, without respecting myself, driven by the inner critic or controlling parent. It is my hope that this has changed, and that, seeing myself better, I will love myself rather than despising myself.

Individual words of that Affirmation come to mind, gaining significance.

radiantly open.
I am Radiant.

I have a power in me, which I do not understand, which holding in has always hurt and which I have had no idea how to let out without hurting myself and sometimes others. Come from Love. Keep trying.

We protect ourselves, is the theory. I protect myself by pushing people away. Everyone, just about. Cease to protect, for my armour weighs me down.

There is a grain of truth (a grain is 1/7000lbs, or 65mg) in that idea, that ones mental attitude can produce disease. In April 1994, I had been coughing all winter, so I went to the doctor. He asked me various questions, then what work I did. I said I was unemployed, and saw a light bulb go on over his head. It was that clear. His face changed. I stopped coughing.

What is  the next step?


Essence process day 3

I am Abigail.
I am worthy of Life,
Radiantly open to myself, my world, and to 
all people,
giving and receiving Love.
I am soft, gentle, peaceful.
I am an artist with words, 
communicating my authentic self 
with compassion and acceptance
dancing in Abundance
touching people's hearts with my truth 
and courage.

Turner, Buttermere Lake, with park of Cromackwater, a showerWhere does this come from?

On Friday, a man’s share fits me perfectly, and so Menis’ response fits me too. He says “The anger that you feel at the moment is your way to heal”. Then he dictates for the man, with me silently repeating:

I will stay angry
until I understand
that you have given life to me
and that I deserve it.

I have issues around accepting help from others, and so claiming benefits is my way of relying on others. I do not need to share this, with this group. It is cold, uncomfortable care, but it is sufficient, and now I rely on it.

M dictates again,

I allow others to take care of me.
I am at peace with myself and the world.

Then we get on to Affirmations. This is a statement of what I want, couched in the present tense, for the Universe. I want to say what is true now. If I say I am truthful, etc., I reinforce my best self. I have words, and I hone them over the afternoon. I have to go in to see Menis three times, because I still resist. I want to leave it at “touching people’s hearts” on the specious grounds that I touch people’s hearts with all of me, not just my courage. I was wrong. I need a reference to my courage. Courage is entirely separate from this faux-masculinity I have sought in vain.

He changes I am resilient, courageous, truthful, safe, peaceful to I am soft, gentle, peaceful. My voice changed when I said “resilient”- that masculinity I have sought to use to protect myself, the filthy rags I have pulled around myself. These powerful, truthful words are the most difficult to recall when I speak it. Indeed now (Wednesday 3rd) I can be put off at them.

Worthy of Life is a reference to the Gospel of Thomas saying 114. My straightforward interpretation was male-like, taking no shit. I find this site too Gnostic for my taste, which says all souls are from the father therefore male. Whatever. Menis deleted “I have always been my best”, a defensive assertion he sees as coming from my protection, and dictated “I communicate my authentic self with compassion and acceptance for myself and others. I touch people’s hearts with my”- self-acceptance? I had to turn this to my own words. I would not, now.

Dancing in abundance: this is an abundant world, though how I approach it matters.


Esssence process day 4

A Disaster at Sea- the Wreck of the AmphitriteOn Saturday evening, I got the chance to perform, and how could I resist? Performing, I am at home. But I wanted my performance to have meaning for me, explaining it: I have drunk so much poison, and this evening I will complete one course of one antidote; or I have a devil on my back, and will rip it off.

I have created my sketch, instructed my improvisation-partner, and obtained the props. Asking for the props, and for the stage-hand work, was difficult, and getting it lovely. Then: there are things in my life of which I am not proud. I reached down to the floor on Monday, pushed dust to one side, then picked up a handful of it. I had been thinking I should sweep my living room.

I had thought initially that I would confess my inactivity, and turn my back on it; that would be stepping through the looking-glass, making the turn of 1° that I needed to make. At lunchtime on Saturday, suddenly that changed. I would not deride it, my pathetic, paltry attempts at feeling not worthless, justifying my existence by my achievements, when my achievement was reading “Christian Origins and the Question of God” or “In search of lost time”. I would show it as beautiful. I have done what I have wanted to do.

The change I desire is not in any of my actions, but their motivation: rather than fear of my insane controlling parent, I would do things because I wanted to do them in love of me and the thing itself, nurturing myself as I need. I do not need to judge, or mock, or refudiate my past. Rather, I need to accept it. Moving on may come in its own time. So I did.

I showed these people my life, now: dressed in my old sweat-shirt and woolly hat in which I slob around the house, I strewed magazines and books round the floor to show its untidiness and told them how I spend my time. Before, I had waited in that woolly hat, and caught someone’s eye, and she smiled at me. Then, embracing my femininity, I changed into S’s beautiful long dress, borrowed because I had only brought jeans. I am soft, gentle, peaceful.

My life had shamed me. Disclosing it, I absolved myself, with the help of the loving, accepting attention of these people. The dress symbolises my increasing self care. Then, as Menis suggested, Rose playing my mother discovered me dressed female and expressed disgust and horror, addressing me as “John”. This no longer need hurt me. I ignored her, helped by the felicitous fankle in my ear-ring, then cuddled her, showing her the audience- they love and accept us. She would have got this personal growth stuff completely had she had the chance. I forgave her long ago.


Essence process

To begin at the end-

Turner, Keelmen heaving in coal by moonlightI woke in the night on Sunday, weeping over my resentment at the waste of my talents and the restricted position I find myself. There is blessing in it, of course, not having to work, I see the blessing, and still resent, now and my painful past.

I may not get the chance to share to the whole group, though. There are so many of us. Perhaps another’s shares will do. They are useful, and Menis’ comments are useful. We are used to failure, he said. I lived in a hut. Then I was given a castle- and I wanted a hut. I scribble this down, hungrily. Our past comes up because it wants to go away…. when it comes up people around me can reject me, or make me feel safe. Love is about safety. He tells someone to ask us, Can you all please hold me until I feel safe? I could do this vicariously-

I note down that I am soft, gentle, peaceful, and it feels like that gets in my way. I have been told it is ridiculous. It isn’t. But to get on in life, I need to be Determined, Confident, I need manly characteristics. If Dad had a catchphrase before retirement-

-Dad: I’m defeated! Defeated!
-Mum: Oh, Sandy!

Menis: Do more of what works, less of what doesn’t, try something different. It sounds so simple, said like that. You must push people away, until you can have safe boundaries.

Last share. Does anyone want to speak who has not spoken before. I put my hand up, and get invited forward. “That was a lie, I’m afraid,” I joke.

I am soft, gentle, peaceful, and it feels that this gets in my way. To get ahead, I need to be a man. I stand, move away from him. I am soft, gentle, peaceful, and I resent it! I circle back: “I am soft- gentle- Peaceful…”

I lie back in his arms. I want a relationship with a woman! I expostulate, as if this were completely absurd, with me as I am. It isn’t. It really isn’t. They come forward, hold me, touch me, hold my hands, caress me. It is utterly lovely.

Given a chance to speak at the end, I quote,

We shall not cease from exploration
and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time

I feel I understand those words better than I ever have. I feel that my soft gentleness which I rejected is truly who I am, and the only way I can possibly move forward is to be that person, where I started.

Do you find this strange, that I repose such trust in this man, note down the words he says, want him to touch me? I do not trust easily. Perhaps it is because of the atmosphere of acceptance he creates: when we are relaxed, we find our best selves and accept others better. Perhaps it is how his words seem so intensely valuable to me, that he sees things in me which I had not seen, yet which when I hear them, they fit so perfectly.

Day after

J.M.W. TurnerI got a completely different impression of the hotel today: the room next to mine was open, and I saw a normal-sized en-suite hotel room with recent furniture rather than 1950s.numbers The photo shows my room number in marker pen in case you don’t believe it: I hardly do. I have a cold. Should I just go home, or go to the Tate as planned? I have a feeling I might miss something.

I enjoy initiating conversations, and want to clarify my thought: this view of Venice, the moon here, the sun over here, that is clearly not a single view, is it? The woman agrees, there is night and day in the same picture. That is night, or perhaps that. “Painting set free”, they called the exhibition: for me today that fits “Steamboat off a harbour’s mouth” with the swirl of black and some white showing an emotional, rather than physical, storm.

Before A disaster at sea– the caption refers to the Amphitrite scandal where the captain refused to allow the convicts to be rescued, in case they absconded, and most died- I find two elderly gentlemen discussing Michael Frayn. They like his plays but not his novels. I interjected, “You don’t have to finish it if you don’t like it.” To call that crass is too harsh, but in the ball park. The one sitting closer turns to me, and says, “I did not hear your question,” then, “You will have to forgive me, I am rather hard of hearing. I did not hear your question.”

We got talking anyway. Frayn went to Kingston Grammar school, and they live in Kingston. I can’t remember his novel which I read. “Quite,” he says, “You would remember it if you liked it.” What would I recommend? I have just been reading Octavia Butler, African-American SF. She imagined a church as horrible as could be: if all the wickedness is outside our Group, then anything we do is justified. Anything comedic? Um. No, not recently.

I responded to his gentle, probing questioning and then said something of what I have been doing.

-You’ve had it quite hard, haven’t you?
-Yes. I am gentle, and I have heard that called weak, and so I have sought strength in vain, hating both my gentleness and defensive, failed attempts at strength.

He tells me that I need a partner. He has been with his third wife for 35 years, no, since he was 40- 38 years. She is his best friend: that is more important than passion. He hopes I may find such a partner before I am forty, and shares a “friendship kiss”, just on both corners of the lips.

In the last room, there is a picture which is almost entirely white, mixed- I don’t remember the technical details- with something which makes it glow and shine. In the group, one of us was surprised I had not noticed something about her. What, you did not see-? I am, not ashamed, for it is where I am, but sad that I am so internally focussed, on my own responses not the world around. Shame turning to sadness seems a great healing to me.

Turner Prize exhibition “Not Art!” shock

Rain, steam and speedThe other artists in the exhibition had videos. One gave me a moment of surprised delight. An ink line- animated, we do not see the pen- joins dots in a grid. The line lengthens, then suddenly appears to bulge and change shape, joining more and more dots. There you go. I don’t know if it’s art (well, I think it is) but I know I liked it.

The projector was odd, and I spent some time examining it. It points sideways, not at the screen but at a small mirror at an angle, which reflects the light upward to another mirror, which reflects it towards the screen. The narrow film is held taut above the black projector. I could see unfocused colour on the mirror, a blurred misrepresentation of the image on the screen- a cup, from above. It was made or altered for this installation, in a black room. I was intrigued, trying to puzzle it out, though I came to no conclusion.

Duncan Campbell’s other film had a series of African art works starkly lit against a black background, while a white female voice read an essay. I could disagree with the voice- that the Nigerian constitution echoes Kant and Voltaire is not a sign that Colonialism continues, because Kant and Voltaire are world heritage, too great to be merely European. I could argue that is a patronising judgment for Campbell or the woman to make, more acceptable from a Nigerian. I would say it is not Art: it is writing, or a documentary, a film, “The Arts” but not for an art gallery. I would say that. So there. There were far more people watching this than the other videos.

The other videos were more what I am used to, as the video installation in an art gallery. The film lingers on a book of photos, parts of which have been scratched out. Where the photo showed a man lying on the floor, I could not tell whether the boot on his face was part of the original photo, or filmed on it, but a boot on a face is horrible. A wild flower caressed a woman’s face- we could not see who held it- and her open mouth, then her labia and anus. Not suitable for teenagers. I felt detached, and was self-conscious about myself with this art work: attempting to be open to it, wondering if the feelings it evoked were the point- mainly in my case disgust and puzzlement. It gives me a safe space to feel these things, like a horror film.

I loved the voice on the second artist’s film. It was beautiful, sounding to me urgent, wanting to convey to me its feeling of excitement, though the repeated words did not make clear sense. H thought it sounded “needy” and I wondered how that related to my own experience.

Then we went to the Late Turner exhibition, which was crowded out. H saw Rain Steam and Speed– through a huge crowd, it took patience. The mythological paintings seemed to us lit from different places: there is the moon in a night sky, reflected on the water; there is a city up a steep hill, seeming lit by bright sunlight from another direction. Agrippina brings home the body of Germanicus, and I saw the figures as relaxing, as with a picnic. It is possible not to get 19th century art too. I loved the members’ coffee bar. It really does not need all those arches and supports, the pillars and capitols. Even the corridor to the loos, sky-lit and dark panelled, was a sensual experience.

Comprendre est pardonner

Moonlight, a Study at Millbank exhibited 1797 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851So what if F refers to B, a trans woman, as her Dad, and even “he”? I know where my loyalty lies: to B, who is female, who is entitled to be referred to as such. Then I meet F, and what can I say to her?

B’s first wife left, and F lived with her Dad. Then B remarried, and the step-mother was so lovely that F thinks of her as her Mum; then S was born. Six months after Mum died, B transitioned. S had a nervous breakdown, and F was going down to Nottingham to take her to the psychiatrist. Then B was being harassed by local teenagers, and there was the problem of getting her moved to Wales.

Then B and J bonded. J’s family did not talk to her, and F did not like J, particularly. Any use of the word “Dad” was objectionable, leave alone “he”, and for F such words would, well, slip out.

You see I could get irritated. F tells me I am the most presentable of J’s [tranny] friends she has met, and I am uncomfortable with this: it ranks us as acceptable or less acceptable depending on how passable we are, and to me we are all acceptable. I am not particularly comfortable with being told how brave I am, either: because being trans is totally normal, and transitioning should be normal too. We can agree that people abusing me in the street- not for years, but when I first transitioned- are wrong; that it is nothing personal, but something going on in their own head, and that friends who accept me are far more important as evidence of my acceptability.

Now she is losing her Dad. So I hear the words “Dad” and “he”, and how can I object? J is losing her best friend, slowly and painfully, and of course she objects. Mostly, F says “B” and “she”.

Yesterday’s sweetness and light is qualified a little. On morphine, B can be confused. “I went upstairs for a shower”, she says, and F just nods. “We went for a lovely drive today,” says B. Still, as long as she is happy. Someone was bedridden and terminally ill for 18 months, and started having wine with breakfast. Well, why not. When F visited she would have a glass of wine too.

The pain is not completely relieved. There was additional painkiller for breakthrough pain, but staff insisted that B had to ask for it. The pain was so great that B was curled in the foetal position, in no condition to ask for anything. You get so much pain you retreat into yourself. Then B’s drip stopped working, and F could not get staff to restore it: though her shift had half an hour to run, one nurse said they had done the handover already.

No, I do not object to “he”, or “Dad”. I sympathise.

Mold Civic Society put up a blue plaque for the Mold Riots of 1869, where rioters sought to rescue two convicted miners being escorted away by police. Troops opened fire, killing four people.

Bladder cancer

Moonlight, a Study at Millbank exhibited 1797 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851To the hospital. We stop in the coffee shop, opened 1991, and the lino on the floor is a bit scuffed, it could do with replacement. I do not like hospitals. The place is too crowded. Striking tattoos on that man.

-When does visiting time start?
-We can go up any time you like.
I do not say, then why have we stopped for coffee?

Could my hands get warm? I could offer healing for comfort.

B is semi-reclined, her hair neatly brushed back, looking lively enough. The flower pattern on her nightdress and the pattern on the bedspread are pretty. Out of the window, there is not a cloud in the sky. I hug her, and say what I wanted to say: as she introduced me to the Sibyls, I might not have transitioned without her. Then I hold her hand. Yesterday, she was sleepy, but today she is better. I meet her daughter, F.

I had to come, to say goodbye, but having said that I don’t know what else to say. She is comfortable enough on the morphine. She was sitting up for a bit this morning: I saw the slippers, and say I thought that was a good sign. I told my Macbeth joke. And that story about the lion. What can you say? The cancer has metastasised. I went there to see her for the last time. F goes out for a walk in the sunshine, and brings her back a choc-ice. The hand-holding is the most important thing. In comes a “housekeeper”- she is going off shift, and she tells us this is her twentieth wedding anniversary, and they are going out for dinner tonight. F tells us the staff are all lovely like that.

She is mostly comfortable on the morphine. She tells us she had a very bad night last night, but actually F later tells us that that bad night was over a week ago. She just remembers it. So F has to remind her of the good things- wasn’t it lovely to see Clare today?

B is getting a bit sleepy, so we leave. F comes out with us, and tells us the cancer, originally in the bladder, has spread to both kidneys and one lung. Suddenly we have a lot to talk about. She tells me how feminine and attractive I look, which I think is a trans reference- though she did not say “for a tranny”, she said “not like me”. I said I think she looks lovely.

B’s other daughter is back in the US. She keeps referring to her “dad”, which irritates us. I suppose she has a right to use the word.

On our way home we stop at the model shop: radio-controlled cars, planes and boats, £60-£120. Lovely things, and I would like to have a play, but not to use them more than once. Here is a helicopter the size of your hand. Dave would like one steady enough to hold a camera, as his hobby is archaeology, and it is useful to get aerial photographs.

Parliament burns

Tally sticks, I read. Incompetent and despised Parliament burned down, and Turner dashed to the river to see it. What could be more beautiful than that? Joseph_Mallord_William_Turner_012

Varnishing Day at the Royal Academy, when painters could add finishing touches. Turner came in with a rough draft, and painted this in six hours.


And here are paintings he did on the night:

The Burning of the Houses of Parliament, from the River 1834 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

Colour Study: The Burning of the Houses of Parliament 1834 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

The Burning of the Houses of Parliament, from the River 1834 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

The Burning of the Houses of Parliament 1834 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

The Burning of the Houses of Parliament 1834 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

The Burning of the Houses of Parliament ?1834-5 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

To Cardiff

800px-Rain_Steam_and_Speed_the_Great_Western_RailwayI met a lawyer I liked!

The train from Paddington is fairly crowded, but we have a table between us. He is about thirty, in a rugby shirt with a neat beard. “That looks antique,” I said, approvingly, of his briefcase: it is thick stressed leather. It would not start a conversation unless he were happy to join in, but he is: he shows all the papers in it. He has a busy Christmas break ahead.

He clerks for a judge, and has files to assess before he returns to London: are there grounds to justify hearing an appeal? He finds that the cuts in legal aid may have increased the number of appeals: there are far more litigants in person. This saves no government money, because the cases take twice as long. On immigration cases, there may be more claims, as before someone might not appeal if legal aid was not granted, but now, knowing a few people who have taken a case themselves, they have a go. One woman had been housed in one town, near people from her country but not those who spoke her language or shared her Christian denomination. She wanted to move to join her community, but as her only ground for a challenge was “homelessness” her claim was hopeless. He sympathised, and wished that something could be done administratively.

Employment cases will be reduced, though, with the huge increase in fees for lodging a claim or fixing a hearing.

He loves London, and cannot imagine living anywhere else. It would just be too small. He had a year in New York, and imagines that he could get fed up with that; but in London you are in your own particular village within it, which has a human scale. He would like to use it better, more concerts, more theatre, and art exhibitions, but does not get round to that.

ParnaggiHe recommends Mahler’s sixth symphony. It is profound. It contains the three hammer blows of fate: the end of his marriage to Alma and his daughter’s death- and one other. G would go anywhere in Britain for a performance of it. He played the trumpet in youth orchestras. As a brass player, he has great affection for John Williams: other composers use brass as the fanfare section, but Williams gives the brass melodies. When about to go to university considered schools of music; but it is difficult to make a living and he judged he did not have the wholly exceptional talent needed to live well. As a trumpeter, given the choice of one night playing Shostakovich or six nights playing for The Lion King, he would have to pick the musical.

His phone rings. “Do you mind if I take this?” Oh, of course. I open my kindle intending not to listen in rather than covering up my listening in. I fail: his friend tells him he is getting married, and asks him to be best man.

He did a year of journalism school before being called to the bar, and appreciates a particular Guardian interviewer, who can put a character on the page. It passes all understanding. Later, I see he is a PhD candidate.

Looking at the Vavatch Orbital site, I felt envy. This is a man’s student site, and he has packed his third decade with interest and achievement. I choose to change that to appreciation. I delight in his enthusiasm and his good will.