Transphobia and hate crime

The report on transphobic hate crime in Britain 2020 makes horrifying reading. Of 227 respondents, 42% had experienced more than ten transphobic incidents in a year. There is usually no accessible support for trans people facing hate crime. Hate crime has severe impacts, stunting people’s lives.

Recorded hate crime has doubled in the last three years, but only one in seven trans people report our experiences. While much of the hate comes from the transphobia pervasive in the Patriarchy, nearly half of respondents were abused by people radicalised in trans-excluding spaces, who may imagine that they are feminist or left-wing. Online hate has real world consequences. The report refers to such transphobes as “transphobic ‘activists’”- I call them trans excluders, who may be physically violent, or troublesome by making vexatious complaints, rather than merely whining in their own spaces. It shows that whining trans excluders may become violent or vexatious. Their enablers and proselytisers cause great harm.

transphobia & transphobic gaslighting from family, even if it is less directly violent, can be devastating for young trans people’s sense of self and wellbeing… transphobia in what’s supposed to be your safe space, from those who are supposed to care most, is devastating.

Not just young trans people. I was 36. Family reactions had a lasting effect on me.

We also experience transphobia from strangers, LGBT+ people, colleagues, medical professionals, and “friends”. Twelve experienced it from police officers. I tend to feel my bad experience of the police comes from poverty rather than transphobia, but the police can be disrespectful.

Transphobia is not just hate crime. Abuse and harassment can be horrible to experience. When someone asks what I have between my legs I am demeaned. Someone treats me as if I am unworthy of respect, and I doubt that others will respect me as I deserve. I don’t get deadnamed, but that is a claim that how I see myself and present myself is somehow unreal, that others should be entitled to define me.

25 respondents had experienced death threats, 28 threats of sexual assault, 47 threats of physical assault, 16 physical assault and 14 sexual assault. But if we have any trans acquaintances, we hear about these things happening to others, and that can have similar effects.

More than half the respondents had contemplated self-harm or suicide. Nearly two thirds were unable to use public toilets, and half were unable to leave their house. Transphobia makes us insecure about our appearance and exacerbates gender dysphoria. It makes us less likely to trust strangers or open up to people, so that we become ever more isolated. 67 had panic attacks, 87 had trouble sleeping, more than half felt humiliated, more than half stressed, more than half afraid, nearly half hyper-vigilant. Transphobia drains our motivation. It causes symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD. Two thirds said the effect on their mental health and emotional wellbeing was big or significant.

Transphobia impacts our physical health, causing drinking, comfort eating and self-neglect. We might avoid exercise or avoid seeking medical help. One said they had developed twitches, and reading that makes me feel sad, but also reassured- it’s not just me.

Transphobia makes many of us us self-censor. We don’t feel able to speak up for ourselves. Transphobia intersects with ableism and other discrimination. Part of my reason for moving house was transphobia.

97 said transphobia had made them more active in trans activism, and 61 said it made them more open about being trans. These are healthy responses. Echoes within us, from our internalised transphobia, can make the experiences worse. We need Pride. However, being involved in the struggle had exhausted some of us.

Transphobia can distort the way we see ourselves and our gender. It prevents some from expressing their identity- I know people who put off transition for years. We are badly affected by ideas of what it means to be truly trans:

Every time I am not feeling crippling dysphoria, I am terrified that I am not transgender, and I have been told that I have to hate my body all the time otherwise I am not transgender.

Transphobia affects our relationships. We are less able to meet new people, and we get driven out of groups. 43 had experienced an abusive relationship, and our relative lack of power can make this more likely; and fear of transphobia may make us less likely to seek support. We lose touch with others.

I now assume everyone is transphobic until I’m proved wrong to avoid disappointment and ridicule.

So many of us fail to reach our potential.

The sheer amount of issues is staggering. I feel in a persistent state of battle.

Only twenty had gone to the police, and most had found the police unhelpful. Possibly the Samaritans would be more helpful, at least validating our feelings.

One officer said I left myself open to being abused because I “chose to be different”. Misgendering throughout the interview then told that the physical assault, death threats and threats of further violence against me weren’t strong enough to do anything about and maybe I should “go home, make a cup of tea, and dress ‘normally'”.

There are few positives to take from this report, published by Galop. One is simply that it exists, that work is being done to expose the levels of transphobia and the effects these have. I am glad Galop, which published the report, exists:

Galop is the UK’s LGBT+ anti-violence charity. For the past 37 years we have been providing advice, support and advocacy to LGBT+ victims and campaigning to end anti-LGBT+ violence and abuse. Galop works within three key areas; hate crime, domestic abuse, and sexual violence. Our purpose is to make life safe, just, and fair for LGBT+ people. We work to help LGBT+ people achieve positive changes to their current situation, through practical and emotional support, to develop resilience, and to build lives free from violence and abuse.

The report is timely and necessary, but flawed in that it does not make a clear distinction between transphobia generally, and transphobic hate crime. It is called a “hate crime report”, but includes things which are not crimes. Deadnaming may be part of a criminal series of actions, but I can’t see a circumstance where simple deadnaming is criminal, however hurtful it is. That does not detract from the report’s evidence of the effect transphobia has on trans people: it cripples many of us.

Mental health

Normally, the word “Kafkaesque” is too strong for my life. I have not turned into an insect, or been arrested on charges I don’t know, but which could be capital. I am not in the position of the mother who knows the social worker will take her child if she does not give the right answer, but has no idea how to believe what she must say.

Today has not been completely wasted.

Water has been coming into my flat for years, but only when the rain was particularly heavy and the wind in the right direction. Since March it has been coming in most rainy days. I told the letting agent in March, and eventually when I saw him and the landord outside, I invited them in to see the damp patches on the ceiling, the crack which drips along its entire length and the bucket under the light fitting with several pints of water in it. We went up on the flat roof, and saw the guttering on the upper storey was broken.

A few days later I saw a man with a blow-torch applying more sealant to the flat roof. Never accuse the landlord of not spending money. Water is still dripping in, though. Trickling, sometimes, down the light fitting. I called the agent again, and the secretary would see what was happening. She sent a man round.

The man and his son went with me up on the flat roof, where we saw water flowing from the break in the gutter onto some gravel on the flat roof. The son poked around on the gravel for a bit, and the father said the roof should slope a bit, rather than forming puddles like that. It may still be under guarantee. He thought the gutter should be fixed, but could not just come and do any job needing done- he had to provide a report, then a quote, for everything. Next door has water flowing down an inner wall. He left down the metal stairs and I just stood for a bit, thinking I should probably go down again but not really seeing the point.

Today I cycled to Scotstoun to see someone who works for the local mental health services. I had been referred by the woman trying to get me back in employment, then a woman, Ines, had phoned me, and told me I could have a “follow-up” appointment. She had quizzed me in great detail about my suicidal ideation, and I told her those metal steps were my chosen place for the drop, and how I had considered the precise nature of the rope and the knot I would need. I found the detailed quizzing wearing. Today, Bharti was surprised to hear I was suicidal in December, she thought it was in 2009. No, that was when I left the office at lunchtime intending to take my sleeping pills. The thoughts of hanging were around the start of this year. Even as I said it, I was unsure of the point of explaining.

I got the impression that she did not think she could do anything for me, perhaps because of funding, or the particular service she offered, and wanted to create a file record to justify that decision. “You’ve not got any goals,” she said, near the end of the 45 minutes. I reminded her that I had said my goal was to get back to work, as Esther’s minions were liable to take away all my income. I would like my rational self, which tells me to apply for work, and my emotional self which can’t bear to, to be talking to each other and working together. I would like to be able to talk about these things without crying. Near the end I was blurting all sorts of stuff about why I could not trust or respect my GP practice- the first mistake I can forgive, the second carelessness is more troublesome. Was that a mark down against me?

But the day was not completely wasted, because I cycled thirty miles in sunshine, and spent some time in mature woodland with these bluebells.

Confidence II

Confidence is knowing how to get what you want, says Helen. No; confidence is thinking of things going right, with reasonable belief, rather than of things going wrong, and the things that you fear happening are never the things going wrong that actually happen. Confidence is imagining What people will think as approving admiring accepting rather than criticising or opposing. Confidence and motivation intertwine: when I cannot see any point, or chance of success, I cannot bring myself to start. At a worse stage, I don’t know what I want because it seems so impossible that I can’t admit to myself I want it. I suppress it.

Each of us here is reeling or prostrate from some blow or other.

What do you do when you feel fear? Take alcohol, says a man. Touch my face or hair, bow my head, says a woman. I may withdraw, or go into anger and confrontation. Ideally I can be conscious of the fear, feel it and allow it, not make an outward sign of it because I can admit and accept it, perhaps imagine a homunculus within, pacing and freaking while I stay still.

“Homunculus. I like that word,” says Helen. I repeat it. Next day she says it again.
-You learned that word quickly.
-I am a languages teacher.

“The only time I am confident is with a horse,” says a woman. She is in a situation she knows well, knows what to do and what might happen. You need to show confidence with horses or they may take advantage. And with people.

Helen is frightened of motorbikes. Twice on the pillion with different riders she did not lean the correct way, and got shouted at.

Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with a feeling of helplessness, she quotes. However this does not tell us how.

Communication. You need to say what you want. I am elliptical, then peeved when I am misunderstood.

We are at the jobcentre, and getting us into work is the thing. Have you ever said to yourself it would be nice to swim with dolphins, but not done anything about that. I have another rare word for this, “velleity”. Mine is hang-gliding. Dev has done several parachute jumps. But then, getting a job is important and you have to do that, whether or not you take the steps to swim with dolphins. Goals must be SMART, Specific, Memorable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. At all this sensible stuff, I am switched off. Write your goals down, she says. Stick to your plan. My priority is my own mental health, not quite the same as equanimity.

How would I feel if I had achieved all my goals? She has pictures showing delight and satisfaction. I imagine feeling relief, disbelief, and misery as I contemplate the next thing I have to do. I would feel no better. I realise mine is a depressive reaction, minimising the good, accentuating the bad.

Find your happy. I find her suggestions, of countryside beauty, unimaginative, as if only rest can make me happy. Fifteen things to give up- no, to replace. I cannot give something up until I realise what it does for me, and what else might do that better.

I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it, said Maya Angelou. I have been reduced by what happened to me, whether the most resilient person in the world would have been ground down by it or the least resilient would have brushed it off. Can I bounce back?

Everybody has difficulties. Stop putting yourself down.

Unfortunately my propensity to put myself down is one of the things I criticise myself about. It does not make me feel better. How can I imagine what I may realistically achieve?

I have not been put down as drastically as one woman, whose partner said she was fat and ugly and no-one else would look at her. “Prostitutes wear knee-high boots,” he said. I like boots too. I have heard of men choosing a woman because they don’t think she would ever leave them. I felt anger at that moment. How dare he.

Harlan, who went to school after physical punishment was banned, said “I would have taken the cane off him and shoved it up his arse”. An older person said There’s no discipline nowadays.

“Nobody is thick or stupid, it’s about the opportunities you were given.”

Just coping can leach your confidence. You are always stressed, and the stress gets too much. Helen says we should give ourselves a pat on the back for coping- ie, look on the positive. We are here. We are survivors. Mark said he wants not to cope, but own the situation. He had to leave home and move to a new town aged 18, and feels he has never grown up. He is completely irresponsible.

“I did everything on my own but then something happened which knocked my confidence.”

At the end of all this, we have not been told how, just that we should get back up and keep going, somehow. However. It has been quite fun, meeting people, talking.

Mental Health in our Meetings

When I told a friend of that road-rage incident, she commented that I had done well to hold myself together through the Meeting for worship I went to immediately afterwards. After a strongly emotional experience, I find a measure of calm, then find the feeling welling up in me again, as with my fantasy of that man attacking me, and me thumping him. I anticipated that so was not shocked by it. The fact that he was actually unable to harm me makes me feel safe, and that feeling came to me in Meeting too. It felt like the Ministry which was for me alone. In Meeting I had sat mostly still, though not unmoving, and almost entirely quiet.

I may lose my income on Monday, and if so I am not sure what I will do. I imagined myself standing in Meeting and saying “They want to take away my fucking money. I need my fucking money.” The fantasised meeting is not the real meeting, but I wondered if that would be seen as disruptive, assuming I did not resist an impulse to share my terror. Abigail has to be managed. The meeting must not be disrupted.

I am aware that it behoves us to be silent in Meeting, and test the spirit of a prompting to speak- be accepting of other’s ministry, and questioning our own. But it seems to me that I can endanger the Meeting- I would go into my head, into that small child who knows the rules and seeks safety in obeying them, and I would merely be silent for an hour, as in a waiting room. That could enervate a Meeting. Instead, I seek to be my whole self. Rather than suppressing feeling, I seek to permit it, to allow it to flow through me. This carries the risk that it may overwhelm me. My goal is to trust it completely, so that I do not block it, because I feel the blocks cause the problems; I learn to let go of the blocks, but a block might make me- quake, is the best word I can think of for it. I would show a physical sign of the emotion within. If Friends are distracted, I may distract them further.

I don’t want the Meeting to become the Abigail Support Group, a sort of Circle of Support and more support, rather than accountability. I would be the cuckoo in the nest, diverting the energies of the Meeting from its service to God in the world. Most of the responsibility of managing my distress is my own. And I want to take the risk of being overcome, even of appearing disruptive, because otherwise I cannot take the risk of meeting God. If we need the meeting to be comfortable, then it cannot be alive.

Privilege is not an absolute. If it were, the epitome of white, male, straight cis privilege would be Donald J Trump, and he would not be the tiny, blustering man that he is without having been repeatedly traumatised. Yet it has some meaning. My friend showed courage in admitting one of his favourite psalms is 137, Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock! I love it because when I became conscious of my feelings, in my thirties, I found they were anger, frustration, resentment and fear. I have never wanted to take a baby by the ankle and smash its head open, but I am glad of that level of anger being in the Bible, because it has helped me realise I might be acceptable to God. Then again I understand that most women and the vast majority of men, like me, have fantasised about murder at some time in their lives. He and I may both like it because we are both LGBT. Not everyone understands our love for it. My lack of privilege includes an intimate acquaintance with impotent anger, and a default fear of people, even of Quakers.

I am glad that Wanstead Quakers want it to be known that our Local Meeting is a place where all are welcomed and nurtured, including people who are transgender and non-binary. It will not be true unless my high level of anger and emotional lability, arising from my trans nature and past circumstances, is welcomed. I bear most of the responsibility of looking after myself, but if I get no help from my meeting there is no point in going. Jesus take me as I am- I can come no other way. I give help, too, when I can. I dare to hope that the value of what I give exceeds that of what I take.

On the first full day of Yearly Meeting Gathering George Lakey spoke at length of his experience of the death of his son- hearing of it, travelling home, meeting family, the wake, the funeral, his feelings (though very little of his son, and only one positive fact about him). I am glad he did, as it cracked me open, but a friend commented that anywhere else there would be trigger warnings, and organised support offered “If you have been affected by the issues raised”. I blundered off, and proceeded to disrupt a discussion group by suppressed but still audible sarcastic laughter when the man leading the group shared deep, spiritual things. A woman left the group with me and spent two hours hearing my anguish.

“I am here to take,” I told her. “Sometimes I need to take.” And then when she fell on the stairs I stood and looked at her rather than going to help her up. I am not proud of this, but it is where I was at the time. I saw her later and expressed gratitude for her support and regret that I had disrupted the group. She could pass that on to the group leader, who was from her Meeting. I also feel her listening, when she held me while I plunged into my own darkness, freed to take a full, positive part in the Yearly Meeting. Many people thanked me for my ministry to the main session, which seemed to move them, from which I judge that it was worthwhile.

In fifteen years as a Quaker, I have found many shoulders offered to me to cry on, and have often taken full advantage. In a discussion group on Listening, a woman shared that sometimes she does this, and takes on pain from the other, but the other’s distress seems accentuated rather than relieved by the process. (I have also listened to others and sensed this in them, a bottomless pit of hurt which can never be dredged.) She compared such people to vampires, sucking her energy. I like to think I am not merely a vampire. Yet, from my side of the exchange, it can seem that people are very keen to provide shoulders to cry on. It makes them feel valued and valuable. It is an exchange, not a gift- we both know we will enjoy it, and sometimes we go at it for the good feeling rather than for any lasting good it will do. Don’t offer support in order to feel valued, because the outcome may make you feel insulted and wronged.

I put that too strongly when I first published this post. Being heard is unburdening for me, a huge relief. My inner critic bullies me as I unburden- I am being self-indulgent, this is not real, I should be tougher. The next day from publishing, I am not sure. Sometimes it can go wrong. I have listened, and felt I am earthing pain, like an electric charge passing through and out of me, but I have to let it go. I could do this, consciously, and move on. Once, after hearing a schizophrenic woman, the process of letting go took me two hours and involved seeking the help of a friend: that woman’s distress had evoked my own.

As this angry, labile, vulnerable, benefit-claiming, moderately depressed Quaker I want to be welcome all the time, not just when I pass as a quirky, middle-class, spiritual, highly educated and intelligent Normal-person. Please do not be self-sacrificial. Maintain your boundaries, and care for yourselves. So, tell me when you think I am pushing it, taking more support than I really need or that the meeting can offer, before Something Bad happens, and you exclude me in anger and blame me. People so often leave things unspoken, or assumed, but it might help to discuss the boundaries, to bring them into the open.

I have so much to offer you!

Scissors and glue

I spent a pleasant hour or so this afternoon with scissors and glue- craft activities based on positive psychology. I am tempted to be dismissive, but I enjoyed it, and will share with you what I made. I went to the local Mind for a taster session on their Building Self Confidence course, and may take it. I forgot to take my lunch: possibly I was nervous about going. There was Christmas cake to fill me up, and another service user gave me a satsuma. She seemed a kind, gentle soul. I thought her eyes were lovely. She talks herself down, and was gently challenged.

Everyone’s normal, until you get to know them.

They quoted Oscar Wilde- Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. Well, yes; and you cannot be anyone else anyway. Anthony Burgess told of a boy at his school who affected a French accent to appear sophisticated, but spoke French with an English accent. I have huge privilege, being educated and having a fund of stories like that; it came to mind at just the right time.

We discussed the inner critic. “You would never be as cruel to others as you are to yourself,” I said. I am trying to show you I know this stuff. Nothing they said seemed new and useful to me. Yet I want to get out of the house, into a non-threatening environment with other people, and this might do. I have thought of voluntary work, but not enough actually to volunteer. And something did seem worthwhile, a thought I had, prompted by being there:

I have been thinking of a facebook interaction. I commented on a Remainer group, and a troll responded “Lolwut”, and another the eu was trying to take our freedoms away. Thankfully within a few years the corrupt dictatorship will collapse. Not people who were seeking to understand my point of view, people who were trolling, possibly to spread gloom and despondency on my side, so I responded, [names] not very bright, are you? Find out about the issues before showing your ignorance here. Now I am second-guessing. Was mine a constructive pacifist response?

It is very controlling, wanting your every response to be right.

I don’t like their ending visualisation. Imagine yourself happy and successful, as you would want to be. I hear that if you imagine having something you are less hungry for it, less likely to go out to get it; or, I do not want to imagine something I do not trust I can create. But- why not enjoy fantasy? Am I too puritan? Second-guessing again.

There are some good paintings here, but our exercise is less technically stretching: cut words out of magazines, which apply to me, and glue them to a silhouette. So, here it is. Some of the words were offered by others. “Does anyone want Bohemian?” Yes, I wanted Bohemian.

I enjoyed it. This is a place I might go. I need to go somewhere.

scissors-and-glue

An anchor of stability

If I were to write to her, to express desire or resentment
the best I could expect would be indifference
the worst, mockery and disdain.
I still think of it-

I fear for S., starting work again. I fear she will find the idiocies and vilenesses of the situation- no respect for her professionalism, no care for the good of the pupils, as far as she can see- too much to bear. She may do it for the money, which makes a certain amount of sense. I beg her, look after yourself. Healthy children test boundaries, so you should be expert by now- push them as hard as you can, without overstepping. After months off work, she is only just now relaxed. She fears being stressed within five minutes, and counts the weeks until Summer.

She gave me a copy of an article on Quaker membership from the Friends Quarterly. For some, membership is a life-line, a connection that provides an anchor of stability in times and situations of personal challenge or isolation. So it was for me. It gave me the sense of support, and so the courage, I needed to transition. I needed somewhere to belong. We have our usual conversation about membership. She finds it divisive, I a necessity.

It comes to me that because I needed the life-line, I was prevented from seeing the Society as it actually is. I needed rose-tinted spectacles, because I needed a sense of safety. I was like that with HAI, come to think of it.

I still think of it, but I would be better to phone J. I could write to her, but my main need is more reassurance, someone else for my Support Network, and J offered.

S’s Sufi group, by contrast, refuses entry to people who need a life-line. They are there for spiritual- something, and the Spiritual cannot be emotional. Here I disagree. I am intensely emotional, so my spiritual experience is emotional. I get the point, I see the value, it is not for me.

I am only just relaxing into my quiet lifestyle, two years on.

Am I projecting when I say Quakers locally do too much work for too little value added, too little joy in service? Is it just me? S reassures me, I am intuiting not projecting. She also finds me extremely feminine. I fought and denied that for so long, and it created my every action though I did not see it.

S says we have to be able to trust. I think, but do not say,

NO.
I need to KNOW.

Then S mentions the parable of the talents, which I use to beat myself up, I weep.

I feel drained after that. I could just cycle home, but I decide to face the supermarket.

It is not she I should write to, but he.

van Gogh, corridor in the asylum

Battleaxe

Jugglers 1Sally’s car was in the garage, so she sat outside- she worried if Tracy came round she would just drive past, not seeing Sally’s car. Sally had gone to bed early, but having breakfast at 9 worried that she had not had time to do her housework that morning. She shoved a mop round the wood floor and got a stool to sit on just before Tracy arrived. Tracy insisted she would have knocked on the window even though the car wasn’t there.

Tracy talked about herself, mostly. She’s not on the sick much, but when she goes sick she takes a long time off. She was off 5½ months once, she came back just before half pay started. She had a meeting with Helen and her daughters on Friday night.
-No use? asked Sally.
-And then some. They just shouted at each other. Helen has such a short fuse. She shouts at Tracy, too. Mind, the daughters would wind anyone up, all the time it’s not what she wants, it’s what they want. Helen was complaining Tracy talks about her.

Jugglers 3Tracy asked about Sally’s Welsh course, in Harlech, and her painful hip. It’s bad in Sally’s knee and all. But after Elaine came, Tracy and Elaine just talked between themselves. Elaine had been out for a walk on Sunday, and had a seat outside a pub. The man came out of the pub shouting at them not to sit there. Then he had a bucket of water which he threw out, nearly splashing her. If he’d thrown that water at her, she told him, she’d have emptied that bin on his head. He was really stressed, she said, “I felt sorry for him”.

Jugglers 2-Didnae show it, though. That earned me a sharp look but not a sharp reply.
-He said, those stones are free over there.
-Did you get a cup of tea or anything off him?
-No, and I wouldn’t now, he’d probably spit in it or piss in it. He was really angry, he was really stressed. There were no people there, it’s gone dead quiet since he took it on, he should give it up.

Elaine went to see Tom Jones in Colwyn Bay. Tracy’s friend had been, but it took her 2½ hours to get away after. It took Elaine 1½ hours. Elaine goes into great detail about the transport. She could have gone to the train station (Railway station, Sally corrects her, fruitlessly). They had to walk all that way. Then a bottle ‘a wine was £20, just ordinary wine, £2.75 in Aldi. I’m not buying that. Still, everybody was buying it. They do, don’t they. Tom Jones was really good, and on for two hours, she didn’t think he’d be on that long. She hadn’t heard of anyone with him, they were on The Voice and she doesn’t watch The Voice.

It’s her 35th wedding anniversary coming up. She’s not going to celebrate it, nothing to celebrate.
-You could get drunk to forget, I suggested, helpfully.
-No, I still have to go to bed with him at the end of it.
-Now the children have left you could use another bedroom?
-I have six bedrooms, I could use another bedroom if I wanted.

Elaine went into a hospital which was the dirtiest hospital she’d ever seen. She told Pauline to wipe her feet on the grass when she left. There was sick on the seats. Sally and Tracy make yuck faces.

Elaine and Tracy took Sally to the Post Office. So that is what support work is like. Tea and conversation. Sally doesn’t think much of Mental Health services round here, they’re useless.

Klee, arrival of the Jugglers

Counselling V

van Gogh, thatched cottages at CordevilleI had thought I would sit on the floor, symbolising being a teenager. If I sat in the chair, I would be the sulky teenager, dragged along with the adults to silently suffer their polite conversation. Actually I sit in the chair, but feel different- playful and child-like rather than -ish.

Here am I in the “world in a grain of sand” moment. My sensations feel heightened. I notice the grain on that table or that speck of dust by the skirting-board. It still feels vulnerable but bearable. I meditate so can get like this easily, such as when washing my hands.

-When is your benefit reassessed? Early next year?
Oh, these irritating questions. Must you just be brute Reality? I don’t say that.

I am irritated about that coffee invitation. My friend does not have time. So I ask once, then a few days later ask again, then see her and yes having coffee together is a lovely idea. Well, suggest a time, I say, and she doesn’t. So it goes from a desire to a velleity. One would not say (though there are exceptions) “I do not on any account want to spend time with you” but lets down gently with that “Let’s do it- sometime-” I was glad later to find this was my own silly misunderstanding, and failure to listen to phone messages, but it was useful for the session this morning to think this way.

I fantasise that you are bored, just enduring the tedious hour as we only have one more appointment- but alternatively you might be giving me my head.

I despair. Yes, I could look for work, or do voluntary work, but I don’t want to open up to yet more of the endless, painful rejection. That woman and that Quaker meeting. Not having the funding decision for April in March, with a sincere belief it might be withdrawn.

I feel too intense, as if I scare people- HERE I AM ready to take on the world and other people want conventional, trite, unreal interactions. So I hold myself in check and am trivial. Though such Power would be useful for cross-examination, and I never managed it there.

I had wondered if I would play the Empty Chair with my mother, or visit her deathbed again- but I have nothing to say, and no purpose in saying it. Whether I express rage, or love and care, so what? The bed spins away, receding to a point on the right, and vanishing. I can’t put my head in the sand, now, so I spend most of the rest of the time with my eyes closed. It is defensive.

Yet I feel more open, like the grass which bends in the wind, not the tree which falls. The paradox is that the more defended I am, the more vulnerable. Yes, let’s meet again, it has not been entirely useless. Oh, Thank you, she says- it was a litotes!

If I were on £72.40 JSA, £1 for a cup of tea in the caff would be an extravagance to consider carefully, but on ESA, which is more, I can manage it. I sit outside in the cool breeze and watch the passers-by. I find the loo surprisingly decorated with quotes: The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart, said Helen Keller.

It is never too late to be what you might have been

said George Eliot. Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate brownie in one hand, latte in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming WOO HOO what a ride!” They may have amended that last one.

Ranting

Van Gogh, the Raising of Lazarus 1Van Gogh, the Raising of Lazarus 2My ministry this morning was as close to the Ranters as I have come. They imagined that anything they did was led by the inward spirit of God.

It began for me with thinking of a paedophile who came to my Quaker meeting. He had served his time, and professed that he did not want to offend again. My sensible, Quakerly position was clear. He had committed a crime, but human beings have to be capable of repentance and correction; we took sufficient precautions to protect our children from him; subject to those precautions we should welcome him into our community. Yet when I spoke to him I did so in a stiff and formal manner. I was conflicted, knowing the reasonable response and fighting it. My real sympathy for him- he has to be able to make some sort of life, I can imagine his suffering- was not enough.

Call it what you will- my id, or inner child is where the energy comes from.

I said that one is supposed to consider whether ministry is for the whole meeting, or for me alone, but this is for me. I described the man, and how I could not talk to him authentically. Van Gogh, the Raising of Lazarus 3And now I can be sensible, or I can be that inner child, but all that inner child is able to say is

 

NO.

There has to be more than my NO. (By this time, I am crying.)

After, G was delighted at my energy- he needs that energy, he has been in three mental hospitals and had ECT which he hates. I need that energy, but it frightens me, and so I have screwed the lid right down on it. I am still frightened, but pleased with my clear rule-breaking here. Generally, Quaker inspired ministry appears to come from a superego sort of place. I have taken a risk with my ministry, if not in others’ eyes in my own. I imagine those Ranters letting their Ids play and calling it Spirit. Some balance might be possible.

Previously I have had the experience of weeping, and thereafter being more in touch with feeling, more able to sense and express it, and perhaps this is similar- expressing anger, then being more able to use that energy. This is something to practice. I judge my revolt, or exploration, or whatever it is, harshly- I grope blindly and move poorly- but it really is the best I can do. Something to celebrate then.

J ministered on how she had permitted an artist to make a cast of her body, so lay on the woman’s kitchen table having wet plaster bandages applied. The artist was lovely, but as this proceeded, especially over J’s face, she retreated into herself. We have these public and private selves. I have support here, to grow as I may.

Van Gogh, the Raising of Lazarus 4

Van Gogh, the Raising of Lazarus