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.


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,

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


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.


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



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

Foetal position

File:Chair Louis XIII style 04.jpgI feared this counselling session. I did not want to come. I decided to start in the foetal position I had ended up in. I had various thoughts about how this would turn out, but did not anticipate how good it would be.

-Is that OK with you? She assents. So I lie down and curl up, facing the door.

I feel angry, so I state this. Then it matters less. I admire the door: it is wooden, and I can only see the joins between the planks because of the shape of the grain, not for any visible crack. I uncurl a bit, and notice the texture of the paint on the walls. I feel- playful. I feel curious.
-Relaxed. I throw my arm out.
-Relaxed. I look at the chair, which is the challenge. Yes, I ought to sit up. I discuss this internally, lessen my demand, and (having shown my ability to refuse) go to sit on the chair.

People are extraordinarily closed-minded. There’s Tim, asserting the Bible has no contradictions, and he knows exactly what to say to shut down anyone who asserts otherwise, to his own satisfaction. I say, God’s not like that, inspiration is not like that, I am happy that Gen 1 contradicts Gen 2, and the day Jesus was crucified is different.

Seeing how much effort people put into defending their errors, I am terrified of my own blind spots.


having that terror,

I am defended from blind spots.

File:Charles Rennie Mackintosh - Chair - 1903.jpgWow. I am glad to be here. Saying that aloud, and assenting to it, feels so good, though I do not see any assent from Yvonne.

At N. CAB, the management were wrong, demonstrated because funding was withdrawn before I was there five months. However I created the bullying situation because all I knew how to do was confront. My boss did not like me telling her what to do. Then I did Employment law, where the pressures I put on myself combined with the actual pressures from others overwhelmed me. Then there was the job in Swanston, with a wildly optimistic overestimate of demand for the service. I did my best to get it going, with little support (not communicating, not aware of support) but failed.

I find your screensaver distracting. May I turn it off? Or would you turn it off? She agrees to turn it away from me, but not to turn it off. OK.

I did my best. Failure does not mean I am useless, worthless etc. Though at the time I had all my gifts, and most of my current maturity. Years after it ceases to be an issue, I could perhaps see how to advise on an IB appeal averaging two hours, even perhaps passing peer review, but not how to communicate it.

God, people are so stupid. Could I just exploit that, channel Becky Sharp? I imagine whipping up a patsy’s excitement, and being gone before truth dawns. Not sure I fancy that…

I became aware of my rage and terror around 1999. I have been working on it since.

Now, sitting on the floor again, back against the wall, the screensaver distracts again, but she refuses to turn the monitor further on the spurious grounds that this may affect the cable. We agree another appointment in three weeks.

-It’s better than There. [the foetal position.]
-Sort of adolescent? I assent. I am doing teenage.
-You can think about getting into the chair before we next meet. (I do not express my revolt against that. I am happy enough on the floor for the moment.)

I had been out with friends, and when they dropped me home Steph came rushing out to ask if I could get her Blackberry to work. My phone is more primitive, and I had no idea. I offered my landline, but her Mum will be round and Steph could use her phone.

-Have you taken the battery out? asked J as if this is as obvious as rebooting a PC. So they stared and poked at it, trying to assist. I don’t want to draw a moral from this story, but it pleases me.


Sigismund Righini, Portrait of an elegant lady in the gardenThe woman at the butcher’s brought through a large vacuum-packed batch of bacon. “Here was I thinking you had a bacon-slicer through the back,” I said. She grinned and shook her head. The butcher in Aberdeen had one of those, but that was in the 1980s. My grandfather was a butcher, and he did everything from slaughtering the beasts to serving customers- ninety years ago.

Yvonne had double-booked, so gave me half an hour. I have come away with more ways of thinking about The Issue, but that may be a bad thing.

-What did you get, last time, from curling up on the floor and screaming?

It really has been that bad. I am here because of the pain I have suffered. I am not here because of being useless or worthless or weak. Absolution has to come from me.

(It occurs to me that I have got something from curling up in the past- someone takes pity, and lessens the demands on me- but that is less likely in adulthood. A psychiatrist wrote my friend’s issue was “adjusting to adult life”.)

Crisis is coming. Early next year my benefit is not certain, but very likely to get cut by £50 a week, and possibly stop entirely. So I could get evicted. I accept that it is better to deal with that now than the day before: now, I have more options.

-You get out a bit. You do things with the- Mormons?
-No, Quakers. We like to think they’re the weirdos, we are perfectly normal. Or weird in a good way.

I want to survive- but just surviving has very little appeal to me. Any way I can envisage of earning money just seems a grind. I want instant gratification.

Counselling is not her telling me stuff. She said something, I forgot it, I asked her to repeat it, I forget it again. Something about my values.

-How do you see yourself?
-Ah. Long counselling journey there. I realised aged 20 that I see myself as the Centre of the Universe, and at the same time utterly worthless. Total arrogance and terror. In my forties I come to “I am a human being”- fearfully and wonderfully made, but one in seven billion; this seems a more rational way of seeing it; but the extremes are still there.

-What would you get out of volunteering at the charity shop?
-Getting out of the house, doing something worthwhile, being with people. I had a summer job in a hotel when I was at university, and a woman took me to task for being “The Lawyer, looking down on all of us” though my aloofness was partly from nervousness. I did not despise them. I think. I would get more practice with that.

-How do other people see you?

This is the new way of (over)thinking the problem. I notice, and am affected by, rejection far more than acceptance or admiration. Admiration is never enough. Just as winning every claim and appeal, at work, was never enough.

-What options do I really have?

Stating the Problem II

Gertrude SteinThis is the problem: emotional lability and lack of motivation, though I feel I am making progress with the self-acceptance. Seeing the psychiatrist was good. I fear my anger- rather than being energised, I become locked up. I fear my fear.
-Can we discuss an incident?
-Well, staying at home alone I manage to avoid situations which would induce anger. I wanted to print out All things bright and beautiful as a score. I found a website, but when I printed it was gobbledegook. So I tried another, and it printed only half, in landscape. So I set it to print portrait, and it printed gobbledegook. So I photocopied it.

Then I found myself thinking over things years ago which had made me angry. Then I was exhausted. I had solved my problem, and my solution was good enough- just not what I originally wanted. Thinking of those old things was a way of making my anger conscious.

-Are you overanalysing?
-No, don’t think so.

Everything needs to be perfectly as I want it. I notice that when I realise something or make a connection, I berate my stupid self for not making it before. I am doing that less.
-Why do you do that?
-Because it has really mattered. And then the tears come.

I settled an employment tribunal claim the day before the The Actorhearing for a humiliating £250, and just after, realised the killer argument which would have given me a good chance of winning.

Have you a pillow or something? Oh, there. It has a paper case on it- OK-

I scream into it, four times. That is good. It relieves my feelings, yet even in deciding to do that, I had some care for the people in the waiting room. Screaming is not what you want to hear in a doctors’ surgery. They would think you have an 18th century barber-surgeon in here.

I throw the pillow, stained with lipstick and mascara, on the floor.

I thought I was completely worthless. I only had value for what I could achieve. So I needed to get everything perfect, in order to deserve existence. This is an impossible way of being, in employment law- there are clever people trying hard to thwart you. So I just gave up.

I could spend ages trying to convince you I had the killer argument, too late for the tribunal, but can more or less trust my own judgment.

With C, I know the magic telepathy could not work. I could have told her how irritated she made me, but that was a more difficult Assertiveness task, given how much she irritated me. I planned my devastating put-down, knowing she would crack that stupid joke yet again.

La Coiffure-Could you have saved the friendship?
-Well, there will be other friendships.
-At least you knew what you were doing.

I came in early, but because the automated entry system was not working I had to queue at reception. I wasted time with it because it had a postit note saying “This is working, just very slow”. “The trouble with efficiency”, I said loudly to the person ahead of me, “is that if you have no slack you can’t cope with any problems”. Rather than having another person on reception, people started to footre with the touch screen.

-Is there a switch on it?
-It’s switched off at the mains, said the receptionist.

I went over, took the postit note, screwed it up and threw it on the floor. The woman came over, unscrewed it and said it should be there. I looked her in the eye and explained to her that it was misleading, and she removed it again.

I am moderately pleased with that. Mostly assertive, not really aggressive- I did not smash the thing. I prefer to maintain relationships, and here I made her day slightly more unpleasant. I prefer to maintain relationships, perhaps because I do not expect to win confrontations like that. Better, I think, than sticking the anger in a pressure-cooker.

I could “relocate” the memory of that tribunal case. She explains the jargon. It was one of the bad experiences which broke me. And- I don’t need always for things to go my way exactly. It won’t kill me- even if that is exactly what I feared. I shall ask her to explain that one again.