The weight of the world

I want to save the world because I could not rescue my mother.

The suggestion that TERFs claiming to protect vulnerable women from trans women is as baseless, as much in bad faith and as invidious as racists claiming to protect white women from Black men was like a plunge into cold water or a slap in the face for me. I simply could not have seen it that way. That someone else sees it that way gives me hope. Those calling me monstrous, those demanding protection from me, are wrong about me.

Then the leadership team of UNISON wrote a letter, including this: UNISON stands with our trans members and all trans people, who face high levels of discrimination and prejudice in work and increasing levels of hate and abuse in public spaces.

I am writing something for publication. I dumped a sentence in the middle of it, apparently apropos of nothing: A social work tutor said BAME and LGBT people were less likely to complete courses. The editors pointed that out. I really had not wanted to state explicitly, on my own authority, that people leave courses because being policed into heteronormativity or the constant reinforcement that Black is less, white is normal and better, is STRESSFUL!!!!!! It may be easier for me to speak, as an ally, on behalf of people of colour than to say it for myself. I should just cope, after all, it’s entirely normal, everyone has their problems.

It is about acceptance and rejection. I am crippled by repeated rejection. It sits like a reservoir of pain in the centre of my being. Conform or be cast out– I suffer from it now, and have not processed it.

There is a risk in writing of something I have not fully processed. The pain may come out. Excuse me for a moment, I need to scream.

NO IT IS NOT NATURAL AND NORMAL AND RIGHT IT HURTS IT HURTS IT HURTS!!!!!!

Ah, that’s better.

Writing of something I am processing may set me off, but it can give the writing an immediacy or edge which is harder to capture when I have finished the processing.

One group kicked me out, and another group takes me in, and my friend’s words and actions, especially the hugs, are warm and welcoming. And I want to say, look! Listen to them, this is what they say! I respect them (though I have riled them and they have rejected me I still like and respect several of them). Partly I might tell myself this is wisdom, seeing the positive in nine years of relationship and even Acceptance of Reality, and the thing in me which is harder for me to see is my assertion that they were right to reject me because I really am that bad, destructive, negative, totally worthless. And I am nervous about the new group. It is only a matter of time before they see how repellent I am, and reject me too.

I wanted to download four years of texts from my phone, with a particular person, as a reminder of her intelligence, strength, enthusiasm honour and humour. So I put a “phone manager” program on my computer which has probably hoovered up all my data to sell on. A few hundred texts is not much of a memorial- I have blog posts and diary entries, emails and even memories- but I wanted them because I cannot resurrect the friendship, which is dead. Previously I have felt good about dumping a long chain of emails as a sign of moving on, but not in this case. Despite quite a bit of fiddling, I could not download the texts.

I have not been crying much this year, and now I am weeping helplessly. I want the tears not to go down the tear ducts to the throat, I want them to well over, because that is a cultural proof that they are real. Sobbing is not enough. It is midnight, and I feel I need to talk to someone to regain equanimity. I will not tell myself sharply to GET OVER IT!!!!! It has to be the Samaritans. The phone rings out for a long time, then I get Ivy. She wants me to explain. I am crippled by rejection, I say. I do not want to give all the important or most recent examples, though I tell her of my father and sister to establish I am not whining over nothing.

Emoting for a bit to another human being gives relief from the immediate misery, and will help me sleep, so that’s a good thing, but I want more. This is shaking me to my core, and I want to understand why. I want all gender variant people, including the anti-trans campaigners, all working together for our common good, united. It is a ridiculous thought, and there is nothing I can do to forward it- or small actions now and then which have a pitifully small effect before the enormity of the task. I may go into pointless symbolic activity, like copy-pasting each of those texts individually, to create a relic or monument which I despise even as I create it. The relic is worthless, the desire is pointless, and feeling that is unbearable and I weep. Well, it makes sense to me, whatever Ivy or you think of it. I type notes as I talk to her, because I am questing for answers beneath my screams.

The pain is in my need to reconcile the irreconcilable. My love should be sufficient to understand explain and persuade. And it isn’t. And others see the dispute very differently. I am loving, creative, intelligent, articulate, persuasive, and that gets me nowhere because the problem is intractable.

I could not save the friendship and I could not save my mother.

I did all I could.

I could not rescue my mother. All I can do is rescue me, which I do more slowly than I would wish.

Anguish and relief

It’s lovely when someone understands.

I had a difficult morning. My phone was not displaying my emails. Then the banking app was not working. Then I cycled to Zhuzhkov fifteen minutes early so I could go to the bank. Then I spent twenty minutes in the bank, waiting or talking to two different staff members until finally I could not make a payment there either- partly my fault.

Ten minutes late I went into the office, and could not get the main program to work. I tried various things, and a countdown froze at twenty. “Turn it on and off again,” suggested a colleague so I did. I kep fiddling, and eventually it counted down and I was in- I had done something which hadn’t worked before, but the system had mercy on me.

As so often, my distress was bearable as I kept trying, and only unbearable when I am actually in. I know what I have to do:

Pause
Feel the feeling
Recognise and accept it
Let it pass through me

But I can’t. I am desperate not to show a physical sign of it, so I suppress it, so I start crying.

You listen and understand and it is lovely. I am expressing things about how feelings work which chime with your experience and that gives you the same feeling of affirmation. My inner critic tells me none of this should matter, and we both know what it says and why it is wrong.

I am not sure all my distress will win empathy. I feel pride in my gifts- I pleaded an oral hearing before the Social Security Commissioner, that’s High Court level, and now I have difficulty with basic data entry, even if it is a glitch rather than my fault. I am so humiliated by having no money and dressing like a tramp. Steady, we all have our problems, you might say.

The weeping, talking, and being heard, only takes five minutes and I feel much better, though tired after the wrenching of it. I get on with my data entry. This is why I am here, to face these problems, and practise feeling and accepting my feelings. This is a win.

I left early, and phoned the Samaritans. I need to decide whether to go to Edinburgh in September. My depraved superego has a hellish reason to go. It says of course I should go. It will be the delight such things are expected to be. Any difficulty I anticipate is simply foolish. No one with any backbone would have a problem.

But I, me myself, my love and truth freed from the crushing mask of pseudo-conventionality my mother, inner critic or superego has forced on me, has a good reason to go. If I can do the emotional work and come to accept my own feelings in two months, I might be able to talk authentically, honestly, with my family and repair our broken relationship.

Discussing this, I admit to myself that I can’t. I have to accept my own feelings when something relatively trivial goes wrong before I can try that. Don’t run before you can walk, however desperate I am to run.

Descartes, trapped in scepticism and not trusting any of the reasons he had been given for believing anything he had been taught to believe, nevertheless realised that he was thinking, and therefore he must exist- whatever “he” was. In the same way, I have a sense of myself. These are my feelings. The inner critic or superego is an introject.

Sue, this afternoon, said I am kind. I know. I have sufficient memories of responding kindly, and enough people have said it, for me to accept the evidence that I am.

How do you feel now, asks Charlotte the Samaritan. A peculiar mixture: anguish and relief. Anguish as my ability to face the world seems so weak, yet relief that I am not running away any more, but facing my difficulties. It’s not “by opposing end them,” that can never be guaranteed, but I have decided to try.

“You sound very hard on yourself,” she says. “You have come such a long way.” And I choose to tell that story. Until September 2009 I could have told you of my mother watching me weeping and with all the distress of the eight or nine year old me said “She didn’t understand!” And then I realised, she didn’t understand. She couldn’t. She was blameless, and to “forgive” her is the wrong way to conceive of it. I should not expect perfection of her. I thought I had settled into love and acceptance of my mother, but when I tell Charlotte this story I surprise myself by screaming it.

She didn’t understand!

I may have accepted, but today see how badly I remain hurt.

It is so hard to unlock and reprogram myself! It was hard even to see the problem, it was just how the world was.

“You have told so much. It’s so powerful,” she says.

Demons

I wrestled with some demons, they were middle-class and tame, sang Leonard Cohen. My demons and I are well-matched, for they are me.

On TV Tropes, there is the term Wangst, meaning weedy or whiny angst. Cohen might have overcome his demons, but mine have the trick of making themselves appear small to me, and then mocking me: you mean, you could not even overcome Us??

Well, it’s meaningful to me, matters to me, bothers me. My demons want to convince me they are not there, or not a problem, so that they can overcome me.

They are trying to protect me.
They are failing.
A woman turned her occupying army into security guards.

All of me is trying to protect me, seeking my flourishing, but in conflicting ways. Much of it is unconscious, or so normal-seeming as to be imperceptible. Bring it into consciousness, name it, notice it- not the air I breathe, but the wind that holds me back. When I call my reaction Wangst, I minimise it, so make it impossible to overcome. Or pass through, whatever, the whole point is not to feel bad, surely?

I feel pain, and I blame myself.

How could you be so fucking useless?

Hello, Mum.

-It feels very Scottish, she says. The English woman notices the Scots resistance to showing pain: it’s showing weakness. All genders are like this. I, having made the opposite move, Scotland to England, am not so sure: it is English, too, possibly in many or most societies.

Part of what I can achieve by permitting myself to feel the pain is not showing it. I try to ignore it, it shouts louder, it manifests in tears or gasps or wails.

So that part of me which seeks to suppress pain, and that part which seeks to acknowledge it and feel it and process it, all internally, are on the same side: not to show it.

I am going round and round in circles with my counselling. What am I trying to achieve?

I am finding out about myself, and how I function.
I am finding out about myself, and valuing my qualities.

I am reconciling my different internal voices, the
part I call rational and the part I call emotional,
both of which are both rational and emotional

-Do they speak to each other?
No.
But they can speak, here. I am sure that higher, softer voice is a part I do not hear, myself, which-

God was not in the wind that broke mountains, or the earthquake, or the fire, but in the sound of sheer silence.

while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen

that higher softer voice is a strong part of me, which normally I cannot hear, which does not trust enough to speak, but trusts when I am in counselling. Then other voices in me crowd in, and change the subject.

The reason why

With Tina Livingston, the best counsellor I have ever met, I went into a mild hypnotic state.

-My mother said that I was happy when my pram was under a tree, and I looked up at the sun through its leaves.
-What was that like?
-Let’s see.
I laid back on the couch, and was there. I felt rage, frustration, terror.

On the Hoffman process, we did exercises to let our unconscious speak directly, as if seeing visions. Supine, I reverted to babyhood. My mother looked down at me and said,
-I never wanted you.

These are not memories as one would understand them. They could be confabulation. As I went through my period of hatred and loathing of my mother, and then forgiveness- for she did her best, under difficult circumstances, like most ev’body- they were essential to my understanding of that relationship and of my development. I still think of them. I have needed them.

Why? is the child’s question. Parallel to coming to self-acceptance, I have been asking,

Why am I not as I ought to be?
Why do I not have what I ought to have?

So I have come up with reasons. My parents could not cope with my femininity, any more than my father’s, so denied it, so I denied and suppressed it and tried to be something I was not. And failed. Etcetera.

Why am I/ Why is my life this crap? Whose fault is it? It is the heart of negative thinking, though it has perhaps moved me towards self-acceptance.

Today I am born again. The premise of the question has ceased to apply.

I am who I ought to be
I am where I ought to be
I have what I ought to have

The need for the reasons falls away.

I have been depressed, and I went into Meeting yesterday in turmoil. I read QFP in an attempt to calm myself and be still. I read a quote,

Hitherto the Lord hath helped me

and it calmed me. It is true.

Charles Le Brun, Horatius on the Bridge

I was considering writing, “The next question is, what shall I do now?” Ah. That’s it.

I shall meditate.

Towards a sketch

Kandinsky, four partsThe sins of the fathers are visited on the children to the tenth generation, and Robert Hoffman sought to break that chain. During the Hoffman Process, a week long immersion in techniques to connect participants to our inner inspiration, to confront us with ourselves, and to free us from patterns inherited from parents in imitation or rebellion, I visited my parents’ deathbed again. Four years afterwards, though I have not escaped my parents’ programming, I find the model useful. I don’t use the “tools” to let my unconscious speak, because I find they work in particular heightened circumstances rather than the quotidian, and I have the Quaker meeting for that. Or perhaps because I am frightened of going into such a magical, mystical world, where I see in metaphors the reality which fails to correspond to my apparently rational illusions.

Twenty of us sat in a large room visualising our parents’ deathbeds, whether or not they were already dead, surrounded with mementoes of them, crying our hearts out. How to describe, introduce or capture that scene eludes me.

Also that weekend, I lay supine, a helpless baby, and she said to me, I don’t want you. While I have no conscious memory before I could walk, I trust this unconscious memory or reconstruction, just as when in counselling I went back to the pram under the tree- you told me that I liked looking up at the leaves in the wind- I felt such rage and terror. I went back there. At the very least my unwavering belief makes it real now.

Then there is the demon mother. She came to the CAB with her son, who had lost benefit through being found fit to work, and when I asked him about how he felt, she answered. One of the points available was “does not care about his (sic) appearance or living conditions”. The doctor had written “Appeared well-dressed today” and she started to wail. “He only dresses well because I make him. I even have to shave his head, or he would let his hair grow long, and untidy, and dirty.” There was nothing wrong with the man that liberation from his mother would not cure, yet when I thought of her I felt my own mother was worse.

rain landscapeAnd there was my friend showing grief twenty years after being 24 with a new-born, and no idea what to do with it, and her shame and distress now, as great as at the time. I don’t have any, but I understand that bringing up children is not easy. We all have these memory-scars, where if you touch them our pain is as great as ever. My mother’s solution, to control every aspect of my life, could be faulted, but it really was the best she could do. She didn’t understand, she didn’t see anything better, she did not have infinite resources money or energy, and she did her very best.

So I have a number of disparate elements, a rich seam to mine- the experience of everyone and something completely alien to most; extremity of feeling; there might be too much detail in places, too little in others, so my projected “four visits” might become three, or an essay with incidents.

I won’t be long back from Flintshire before going to the Yearly Meeting Gathering- another week on a campus with Quakers, you would think I would have learned my lesson- but I will work on this, hoping to produce a piece of continuous prose worthy of the subject-matter.

Quantum leap

Degas woman seated by a vase of flowers

A woman seated, detailIt seemed that my spiritual growth came in Rebirth moments, and I could give their dates. I Awoke on 14 February 1999. On x July 2001 I came to value my feelings. On 1 July 2011 I turned to Positivity from Negativity. That no longer fits. I have always been positive, and I remain negative. I may have seen a spiritual lesson, but the work still has to be done. Perhaps, we are always learning the same lessons throughout life: I must ask my wise nonagenarian friend.

One moment still feels like a great liberation. When I was about nine, I wept, and my mother looked on uncomprehending; and until September 2010 I would have told you of that with my original outrage and resentment, ending SHE DIDN’T UNDERSTAND! And suddenly that changed, and I understood. Oh, right, she didn’t understand. It was liberating.

It remains remarkable to me that anyone could fail to make a connection and not be ridiculous, disgusting, useless, worthless, moronically unfit. That is why I have my intelligence that others remark upon, but which I find hard to recognise. And I could permit that one failure to understand in her, which had hurt me so much I still felt the hurt 35 years later. So I could accept all her lapses from the Perfection we demanded of each other. I was freed to respect and love her.

And I had loved her since, just after her death, I picked on two beautiful loving memories to be my special memories of her; and before. Steps forward at the pace I can manage, and suddenly turning a corner and finding a new vista ahead, make the journey seem worthwhile.

In conversation, two stories from work came to mind, and I told them, and I was surprised and ashamed that I was still upset about them, because I should have processed that emotion by now, and let it go; and frightened, because I am stuck, and my reaction to these old stories is part of my stuckness. What causes it? Changes in hormone dose?

The Quaker meeting is a good place to process things like this acid reflux experience. What tools do I have to deal with it? That “forgiveness” of my mother- forgiveness seems the wrong word, posthumous reconciliation is better. Forgiveness of self is a useful tool to develop. Sometimes I make connections later, which I did not make at the time. This does not mean I am useless and fuckwitted, necessarily. If I can untangle the feeling that I should have done better from resentment at wrongs in The World or The System- for these are memories of injustice which I wanted to correct and could not- then I can accept myself.

I need to deal with my feelings about the world and injustice, as well- but disentangling them from my feelings about my own capacity is necessary. One thing at a time.

How did I do? As well as I could have, at the time. Breathe.

In the silence of meeting I became emotional, and the process made me feel good. No, not a Rebirth or Awakening, but the patient work of taking that step forward feels good. Keep taking the steps.

Fear and anger

The worst mother I ever met came in to see me and spoke for her son, aged about 22, who had been found fit for work and therefore not entitled to Incapacity Benefit. She dragged him along then spoke as if he was not there. She wanted my help appealing the decision. The doctor had written “Appeared well-dressed today”, and she screeched, “Of course he appeared well dressed! I tell him what to wear! I even have to shave his head, or he would let his hair grow long, and untidy, and dirty!” No wonder the son had mental health problems.

My mother could not bear my anger and fear, and so I learned very early to suppress them from my own consciousness. She told me that I was always happy placed in my pram under a tree, looking up at the light in the leaves, and in a semi-hypnotic state I went back there, and felt overwhelming rage and resentment. It was dangerous for me, before I could walk, to show anger or fear, and so it is important for me even now to avoid feeling them. (How do I know how she was when I was a baby? I know her very well, and talked to her and others about it.)

Just as an arachnophobe might practise with small, black and white photographs, so I need to practise with situations, to feel and accept and pass through my fear. And I want to separate out the fear of the situation, and the fear of fear. What is the situation? Is fear a reasonable response? Should that stop me from acting? If any of my fear is fear of fear-

Remember the supermarket. Before transition I was frightened of going to the supermarket dressed female, so I did, for practice, repeating over to myself “These are ordinary decent people minding their own business”. And of course it was alright. And soon after I thought nothing of it.

So. A mantra for fear-filled situations.
“The only unacceptable risk is to refuse to take risks”?
“Feel the fear and do it anyway”?
“Everything is all right”?

In my experience, holding back because of fear may create the very situation feared.