If you share your pain, you risk three possible responses:

  • So what?
  • Deal with it.
  • Prove it.

And, there are other possibilities:

  • You gain sympathy, which is different from pity
  • Others agree there is injustice here, and they will work with you against it.

I feel better after sharing my pain if someone says, yes, that should not have happened. You were wronged. That was a mistake. They should have known better.

Eventually I deal with my pain. I suffered sustained bullying at work for six months. I can describe it mostly unemotionally now. It stripped me of self-confidence at the time. It was more than ten years ago. Yet the first three responses leave me vulnerable. If I describe what happened, I want my hearer to accept what I say. Challenges reopen the wounds.

My poet friend said that when she had processed pain, she could use it in her art. She can go on stage and express the feelings which the incidents evoked, and communicate them to an audience- an authentic theatrical experience, a whole room feeling with the performer- because she has processed it. She cannot until she has processed it. The healed pain can be catharsis for the hearers. We feel with the performer, and deal with our own pain, or, we feel with her and gain empathy, gain a broader understanding of what it is to be human.

Yesterday I knelt to meditate, and thought, what am I feeling? Hope. I immediately started second-guessing it. It is after playing Metamorphosis III, which rather than being bright and beautiful is the blaring bombast of the Dictator. Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t; maybe it is an arrangement of chords which can be interpreted as you wish, the harsh sun on the desert or a unique move not in other music. I felt hope, and possibly it was authentic.

Yet sharing pain, at whatever risk, can bring together opposite sides. We see the other as human. There they are, doing their best under difficult circumstances, and our heart goes out to them.

Amos Oz was a child in Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate, and he was a child hurling stones at soldiers with rifles. It was, he said, the first Intifada, which translates as “shaking off”. Now children throw stones at soldiers, and their oppression is his oppression.

I want to make the thing that hurt me impossible, so that I will never again feel that hurt. It cannot be done. As long as we are alive we may be crushed. I want to heal your hurt without sublimating myself.

Dammit. Put down the shield of your rage! The shell crushes and isolates even as it protects.

Vagina Monologues

On Tuesday I heard the call on Facebook for a trans woman to be in the Vagina Monologues last weekend. My reaction of course: “Pick me! Pick me!” We did three performances just off Brick Lane. I wrote what I wanted to say on Wednesday. I read it from my phone, which is not good enough- I had not had time to memorise it.

Of course it is not transphobic to talk of vaginas. Shaming, and pleasure, around vaginas is a feminist issue, most women have them, and trans women who do not should be allies, however important it is that we are not shamed into surgery. Eve Ensler, who wrote the monologues, speaks up for trans rights, and Andrea, who put the show on, wanted a trans woman in her cast. She found someone, who dropped out with a week to go; she found another for Saturday afternoon, who was suddenly ill on the day. Another cast member was stranded in Ireland by the snow. I could not have afforded a place to stay, so Drea let me use her bed. She wanted trans involvement, and offered to read out something a trans acquaintance wrote, or play a recording of a trans woman.

It was a great privilege to be with such strong, vibrant women, around half my age. Two acted professionally: an American in the audience thought two were American, from their accents. “The Flood” has hilarious moments and pathos, all of which Natalia drew out in her New York Jewish accent- her grandparents escaped there, from the Holocaust. How dare anyone speak against immigration when it brings such people to our country!

With about 130 in the audience over three shows, and a Just Giving page, and selling wine at the venue Drea raised nearly £3000 for Rape Crisis London. In March, we could put the play on without royalties because we were raising money for charity.

Drea performed the dominatrix segment, finding her calling giving women pleasure and making them moan. This involved demonstrating moans, even in front of her mother, who was in the audience on Saturday afternoon. The moans were beautifully authentic, sometimes funny- the student moan “I-should-be-studying”- ending lying on her back with the triple orgasm moan. That is brave.

I had one line apart from my monologue, which this morning I thought how better to deliver, now it is too late.

-What would your vagina say? Two words.

-Come inside
not yet
whoa Mama
Yes Yes
Rock me

I crescendoed, and today thought if I crescendoed until the fourth line then whispered the last in simple happiness, it would be funny. Too late! Yet, I have faked orgasm on stage.

We were happy to have men in the audience. Men need to hear this stuff. Some men would just mock or ignore it, but some who want to be allies to women but who might have some problematic attitudes will be helped to understand. One of us said her partner was generally woke but said occasional wrong things- she explains, patiently, rather than getting angry.

I was sitting there, thinking, how wonderful these words are, how charismatic the performers, and my inner critic went for me each time- I should not be here, my own words are anticlimax at the end of the play. The other performers praised me and said how good I was, and my inner critic said they are just saying that, they don’t want you going to pieces on stage. Yet I said my piece, three times, and the one compliment I will take to heart is when they said how passionate my delivery was. It was what I wanted to say. On Sunday I went to Meeting at Friends House, feeling tired but loved-up and blissful.

This is the monologue I read.

To Hull

I got the train to Hull on Monday. Philip Larkin was at the station. I love the expression on his face.

Also there is this sculpture, “The Journey”. It is far more affecting from behind than from in front.

I found Sam at the station, there to meet Lucy. We walked back to his house, which he explained is an intentional community. He is Christian anarchist. In the evening we went to an artists’ collective, with their works on the walls, and saw the placards they had been making that afternoon for Mad Pride. The walls upstairs were covered with murals.

They gave us a thick vegetable stew.

On to the Adelphi club, where Lucy was to perform. Sam also performed his poetry about his bipolar experiences.

There are several murals round the town. One commemorates the sinking of three trawlers.

I asked if I could do “The story of my breast”. Sam was fine with that, and the audience were very friendly. I had several laughs. I am pleased with my delivery. I must write more to perform. Em joined us. She had visited Lucy at Yearly Meeting Gathering, where I met them, and been amazed by the electric atmosphere of Quakers together. Paula performed too, a sketch where the negative voices in her head- telling her she is ugly, reminding her to mourn past hurts, telling her she is not good enough and not capable- were symbolised by puppets worked and voiced by four other women. She decided to walk to the other side of the stage, they attempted to stop her, the drama was set up in the simplest way. It worked. She won my sympathy, attention, and will for her to succeed. Then Lucy performed, in the way I aspire to. We had a curry, and went back to Sam’s place.

I love the stained glass in the Minster transept, and particularly the grief on Mary’s face

and Mary Magdalen reaching up- but what is that spare hand doing?


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.

Heartbeat II of us are one end of the room, the other half at the other end. One comes forward to dance our anger, then her half come forward to do the same move, to back her up. I lead, once: in sumo stance, I am doing head-level punches, eight forward, four to each side. It is Wonderful, haka-ing at each other like this: there is no sense of threat for me, just the huge energy.

Later, we are in a circle. Again, one comes in to dance her anger or fear, and I do, twice. My fear is a relaxed move, quiet, lithe, eyes turned upwards, with some desperation, some resignation and expectation of nothing, some misery. -This flavour of fear: join in if you feel with it. Watch out for becoming disconnected from your feelings. Oh, Sue, you have understood so beautifully.

File:Zoom blur.jpgAt the start we are in a circle, and we show how we are in movement. My mind is-; my body is-; my heart is-. It can be difficult to differentiate promptings of the body from those of the heart, the physical response always seems to be an emotional response, to the intellect- and there are non-rational, simply physical responses.

You can plan, before, if you want to. You can even do as you plan, that is alright, it is not always perfect: or, you can move in the moment. I moved in the moment, spontaneously without thought or planning, and surprised myself. Others apologised for standing up rather than doing a motion kneeling or sitting, and I moved around the whole circle. Yes, there is a difference: my mind is inquisitive, eager to experience and to see, playful; my body is relaxed, stretches, loosens; my heart is open and responsive. The conscious I sees that, from my own spontaneous movements: and the memory of the movement is more precise than the words used to classify it. In the circle. I go into the centre to dance my anger. Sumo stance again, karate moves are dance-like and can be brought into dancing. In sumo stance, I am tense. My fists are up, defensively, and I turn, to face each person. “Give her a moment to find the movement.” I feel more and more threatened, then I am on the floor, either Salaaming or banging my head on it, then curled up, then writhing. Rage and hurt become conscious, real, present for me in the moment, in the movement: I am they.

In the end, we move in a performance, which is quite unplanned. We may emerge from the audience to the four instruments at the end of the room, or two seats at the side where one may speak, or the floor space. Here I speak without thought, spontaneously: I evoke titters from the audience, always a pleasing response. I love to perform to an audience, I need to find spaces where I may develop and use such talents. I participate in all four spaces: chairs, audience, instruments and floor, and on the floor dance alone or with others, in harmony.

All this evokes the judgment of another: “Beautiful soul”. Mmm. I mentioned that before, didn’t I? I breathe it in.

More stage time

“Comedy with content”, one supportive friend said; “it’s too intelligent”, said a useful critic. “Gorgeous legs you’ve got”, said a member of the audience, without irony. I need to improve my writing, and so I will devote time to that; and also I want to see some quality comics.

Tiz, the best of the evening, has his own stage persona very far from his own: the loser gay man who has not had a relationship since The Nolan Sisters were in the charts. He counselled me against using my own life quite so closely: it can be too near the knuckle. I see the point. He also advises, stand still and talk, so that the movement when it comes has power. In too much movement, energy dissipates. And keep practising.

I was not too keen on the joke about the turd in the loo, which would not flush away, or the joke about rape.

Sunday was a different sort of performance. We have been rehearsing a performance created by improvisation, based on King Lear, for nine evenings and one weekend, and performed it on Sunday. Each of the nine of us shared the roles. With a loving, supportive, invited audience, I could reveal myself on stage. Jane emailed to a larger group,

Still completely blown over by the staggering wondrousness of King Lear

That is what I want. Naked and unashamed. Today I remembered a memory I have not considered for years and turned it from a source of shame and symbol of my weakness into a source of celebration of my courage and strength of character.