Joy in the World

My calling is to manifest joy. That is a Truth about myself that I know. It fits my experience. What does it mean?

I have chronic depression, with little energy to tackle tasks (most of it channelled in this blog). Depression is not a matter of sadness but of motivation. I know I should, for example, clean my house, because it would be more hygienic and pleasanter to live in. At some level I might say I want to clean it; and yet I don’t, for weeks. I am not sure I can distinguish energy and motivation. Depression is different from anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure, which I do not have. I bit into a ripe pear this morning, and felt delight.

Joy may be linked to the state of being aware in the present moment. I find that a heightened state, which gives me pleasure. There is the monkey-mind, ruminating all sorts of old stuff, mostly fantasy rather than reality, and I drop out of that into Presence.

Joy is linked to positivity, to seeing possibilities and opportunities, movement, growth. Denial, the refusal to face uncomfortable truths, is anathema to it, because you never succeed in denying, you are always aware of the Problem on some level. Bracketing can be useful- I know the unpleasant Fact exists, and I will deal with it later but must deal with this first. Avoidance, picking anything to deal with rather than the Problem, is harmful.

There is joy in action towards a goal. “There is no ‘try’,” as Yoda said, that’s avoidance too, faking an attempt at doing something because you don’t believe you can achieve it. Joy in action is linked to exhilaration in movement.

Humanity is being, doing, knowing, and there is joy in our simple existence. It is filled with possibilities.

My niece, when she was a toddler, at one time had a practice of going up to her significant adults and saying “I love you”. “I love you, Uncle Stephen,” she would say to me, and I was at a loss how to respond. Eventually I said “That is what you are for”. That is the child’s value. Love will grow into action in time. Only love is real. She grew up, perceptive, with compassion and a strong sense of integrity. Now her daughter is three, and my nephew reports she too is very smart, loving and generous. They played a game together where you throw beanbags at targets, and when he missed she put his beanbag where the target was. Competition is all very well, but that was the common goal.

If my calling is manifesting joy, is this unique to me? Possibly stronger in me than in others. It is my fundamental nature. Someone ministered that our certainties are stripped away, and insofar as they come from outside us, from the culture, our certainties about ourselves may need to be (though it is possible that somewhere there is someone who is “normal”). Humans have different gifts.

I said in my revelation that my calling is manifesting joy, and communicating it. If I am simply myself, that may bring joy to others. If something makes me joyful and I show that others may see the delightfulness of that thing.

This is something I want to grow into, this year. The revelation is like a gift. I will explore it more deeply, and come to know it. I end with Edwin Muir’s description of a wise man, not elsewhere on line, from Collected Poems p288:

I think the shrewdest sweetest man
I ever saw, modest and yet a king
among his harvests, with a harvester’s eye
that had forgotten to wonder why
at this or that, knowing his natural span,
and spoke of evil as “the other thing”,
Judging a virtue as he judged the weather
Endured, accepted all, the equal brother
Of men and chance, the good and the bad day.

That is something to aspire to.

Manifesting joy

My essence is joy, and my calling is to manifest joy in the world, and communicate it.

That was my revelation at a Zoom group, where we share deeply. I am on four such groups, and it is the great blessing of 2020 for me. On Tuesday 22d, the question was, “What is your testimony?” “Let your life speak,” say British Quakers. What value or purpose has my life? My work, at the moment, is self-discovery, and I talked of phoning seven Samaritans. I took twenty minutes, saying things I could not have said last year, and my voice did not shake. When God is with us, I say things which surprise me, and I ended saying something like, “God’s leading for me is to bring more joy into the world &… I’m working on it”. It touched a Friend’s heart, and she wanted to know exactly what I had said.

On Wednesday, I felt and communicated darkness. There was the long drawn out teasing around whether there would be an EU-UK trade agreement. There were chaotic queues of lorries in Kent, with the ports barred because of the new, more infectious Covid variant, and the supermarkets were airfreighting fresh veg. There was Liz Truss’s scheme to inflame prejudice against trans people. Possibly I was most affected by the darkness of the day, with constant rain. At Pendle Hill worship I asked prayers for England under these threats, and expressed my misery.

I shared there, and was consoled that it is not personal, but it feels personal. Truss incites attacks on trans people, and the Tory damage from Brexit and their incompetent response to covid may affect me personally. A woman who worships there sent me a Christmas present of cash, saying “We wanted you to know that you are loved”. That warmed me.

Manifesting joy does not mean suppressing uncomfortable feelings. I think it means accepting the hard feelings, processing and digesting them, and the news at the start of this week was hard to stomach. I am doing my best against the causes of my fear, and still have reason to fear. Dealing with the uncomfortable feelings is something about unflinching truthfulness, facing the darkness and death, always acknowledging the light and life. The full range of blessing and horror in the world, and the breadth of my reactions to it, are hard to hold all at once. I am working on it. I will die, and always there will be light and love, and when all is gone it will be beautiful because it will have been. Dante went through Hell to get to Heaven.

“Underneath it all, you are a joyful, playful child.” That compliment speaks to me, raises deep echoes in me. There is joy and playfulness at the heart of my nature, and I want it to shine through, because it will bless others. It is my vocation. The work, now, is unpicking my history and internal conflicts. More and more the truth of my joy will shine, and the darkness will not overcome it. I said communicating joy was my vocation, on Jamie’s Lovely Gathering, and someone said “You definitely did that!”

One thinks of a vocation as the basis of a career, and I do not see how that could be, now. So where this “vocation” might lead me is unclear. Yet I am certain of it, and I will work on it. I think of the infectious giggles of the Dalai Lama or Desmond Tutu, and see joy can be spiritual. With Quakers on Sunday 27th I repeated to myself, “My calling is to manifest and communicate joy,” and it felt like acceptance and recognition, solidifying as I worshipped.

Covid solitude, and touch

My zoom social life is booming. I am in four international zoom groups that meet at least weekly, and drop in to others or attend occasional groups. Since March I have had so terribly few in person conversations, and not touched another human or been touched, but I see faces and hear voices more than I did last year. There are fewer Australians now it is Summer, but I meet Americans, Canadians, Irish people and others, and have deep conversation with my kind of people- wise, caring, articulate, sensitive, obvs; writers, performers, therapists.

With twenty-five tiny pictures on my laptop screen, I look round who is here and what I know of them. Some I might even call friends, and when people share deeply, personally, they move me; then I treasure these things in my heart, and see the person behind the tiny image. I look into people’s rooms. It is beautiful.

Many have cats- “fur-babies”- and I found myself staring at these images, the cat on the lap, thinking of cats who have deigned to sit on mine, seeing the finger scratching round the furry neck and imagining that touch- my hand, my neck.

Then I saw my friend with his granddaughter, a toddler, on his lap, and suddenly saw through his eyes- the back of her head, and its beautiful clean hair, the soft baby-shampoo smell, the wriggly unselfconscious joy of her. It was only a moment yet it was overwhelming, and the intensity of the feeling lived with me the rest of the day: joy so great it felt dangerous or frightening, joy that might overwhelm me.

Part of being frightened of going out is fearing the intensity of my own emotion, feeling unable to contain it and fearing what might happen if it leaked out. I go to the supermarket. Today the sky was cloudless, and I felt the sun on my skin as I cycled along, fast enough to get hot. I am not a mind, I am a human, embodied, and there is sensation from all over my body which brings delight. Right now there is the feel of the floor through my socks. Later, there will be the smell of citrus as I peel a clementine, the feel of it in my hands, the sight of skin, pith and segments, the sharp or sweet taste. A single fruit can be worth all my attention. There are things to delight my animal nature. But they do not include slight pressure from a hand on my arm when I meet another’s eyes, however deeply and personally we share, leave alone my bare skin against-

I read suggestions. If you spend time in the shower and give it attention, warm water flowing over head, back, belly, down the arms and trickling from the hands- it almost makes your nerves come alive, not as much as another human would but almost. Then there’s the hideous facebook algorithm, which shows certain of my posts to certain people. I had three comments and a like on a post an hour old, and shoddy little dopamine hits, which are no replacement for oxytocin. It is still compulsive.

I find myself thinking through the day of my next meal. I’m not overeating, as my trauma distraction response has never been food, but I think of the smells and sensations. It felt my choice was unbearable, overwhelming sensation and feeling or deliberately shutting it off and living in the grey dark, as I do much of the time. As I think of what to write next, I am squeezing my own hand.

I miss art. I went looking for 18th century Nativity paintings, it being Advent, and found this. Art on a screen is less than on canvas.

Honesty

I introduced myself in a 12 step programme way. My name is Clare, and I am-

The purpose is to strip back the ego. It may affect what others think of me, but for me, what I think of me is far more important. Of course, that’s just weird and wrong to me, like everything else about me is, but this is the sense of it. Keeping my expressed emotion on an even keel is important to me because that stops others noticing me. I don’t want to be seen. This is an inherited trait.

I don’t want people to think of me at all. If they do, that’s a fail. So, suppressing my feeling is success. So, what I think and feel about myself is far more important to me than what others do.

And, I am angry about this. Anger is my underlying, everlasting emotion. And, taking oestrogen and especially progesterone made my emotions more volatile. It all makes keeping emotions level difficult, and I am paralysed with the effort.

At the Pendle Hill worship sharing on nonviolence on Wednesday 2d, I said my difficulty is my sense of my own worthlessness. Ruth, a spiritual director, had not realised that self-rejection, violence to self, is a root of violence directed at others. Self-love is the foundation of nonviolence. She proposed this mantra:

I love myself unconditionally
I forgive myself unconditionally
I feel myself loving myself unconditionally
I feel myself forgiving myself unconditionally

My self-improvement side thought I should practise listening. Attempting that, I wrote,

The more I see of each of us, the richer my experience is.
The more of each that can be present, the more powerful we are.

Then there was the Friday group where A invited me, then said everyone should introduce themselves. He is A, who has a life which seems in that moment to me to be so much better than my own. So I went all twelve-step. I have chosen this life. My voice barely shook as I said it. That was the end of the introductions.

This is for my good. The working theory is that it suppresses the ego and puts me more in direct contact with reality.

Ministry at Pendle Hill seemed important. I wrote,

Is it possible to be a self- undefined and unaffected by others? No.
Could there be a boundary I could make, around those parts which will maim me to be redefined?

People said,

Trouble means that you are alive
To live with hope is to live on the divine bank account
Living with winter and summer, sickness and health- the meaning is in accepting it all

I could barely hear a woman, and heard her as saying, in a baleful way,

… You think that you folks in the north with all of your wealth are somehow protected from human pain?

But others had difficulty hearing, and someone explained that as people in poor countries thinking we in the North are protected.

Then there was this Atlantic article, on measuring α by adding a single photon, with a laser, to caesium or rubidium atoms to put them in a state of quantum superposition, and measuring their velocity. This involves calculating gravity at the precise point where the experiment takes place, to eleven or more significant figures, and may confirm or refute the Standard Model of elementary particles. I find this amazing and beautiful, but the comment of Saïda Guellati-Khélifa, leader of the team in Paris doing the work, struck me most: “You have to be rigorous, passionate, and honest with yourself”.

On Sunday 6th I cycled to Aldi. As the shadow moved, putting the grass in sunlight, the frost on it began to turn, but was pure white in the shade. I have been thinking of that Anna Akhmatova poem. Why then do we not despair? Because I have not been paying enough attention? I read the Observer editorial on Keira Bell, a harsh anti-trans polemic, which hurt and frightened me.

With these stimuli, I looked at my Friends’ zoom-faces. The intense concentration on some, cogitating, putting the pieces together. The beautiful loving smile of another. I feel my pain, give thanks for the beauty of my Friends, and of the world- and feel intense joy. I would like the joy to leak out and infect others. I would like to minister on this, but it seems for me alone at the moment.

That joy and darkness- to contain it all at once! I want my dishonesty to make me feel better about myself and fool others, but it doesn’t, not really. Through me the gale of life blows high, so- let it fill my sails!

---

On Tuesday 8th, I had a fight with my inner persecutor, which denies anything good about me. Imagine me, if you will, curled into the foetal position, weeping, shaking, and fighting to gasp out a few words.

The words were, “I am passionate about injustice, and I fight it to the end when I see how I can”.

The persecutor does not like me saying anything good about myself, and demands evidence. I have evidence. I come away having won the ability to say that for myself. I was sort-of aware of it before, but not really able to say it, bewitched by the persecutor’s doubts. This is a win. I came out delighted, in an emotionally labile state, again wanting my joy to burst out of me and infect everyone and fearful they might object to my vehemence or even [gasp!] not understand. It did, a bit, in M’s zoom group. Some caught it, and liked it.

Here are some more good words and true: “I love at least some of my enemies.”

I was also wrestling with what it would mean to find the light within. It is, to be a whole and integrated human being, and the bits missing will be different in each case. I am aware of the inner driver, that part of me that wants me to work hard at self-improvement, and the inner protector, that protects me from the worst of the driver’s goads. I am not really aware of what I want, other than wanting desperately to be safe, and feeling so unsafe that this manifests in wanting not to be seen, not to be noticed by other people (in the most attention-seeking way. I’m confused too.)

Knowing “What one wants” is clearly not the problem for, say, Donald Trump. The part of ourselves we do not know will be different in each case. For many people, it will be multiple suppressed parts of their personality. The Light, union with Christ in God, God in us, is the part we do not know.

Femicide Census

The Femicide Census is a publication of profiles of women killed by men since 2011. Hitherto, it has included trans women, but this year it excluded us: Andrea Waddell, Chrissie Azzopardi, Destiny Lauren and Vanessa Santillan. So this post is to honour our dead. These women are still named on this Women’s Aid page. Naomi Hersi had never been included, perhaps because she was still spending some time presenting male.

Andrea Waddell

Andrea Waddell was strangled by a man who set fire to her flat to cover his tracks. She has two beautiful tributes on line by her Quaker family.

She always showed the world a cheerful face, despite serious health conditions and repeated major surgery. She befriended homeless people in Brighton, where she lived, with food and conversation. She took one homeless woman into her flat. She was “dazzling, brilliant and cheeky, funny, intellectual and glamorous”. She was vegan, and passionate about animal rights. She was bullied terribly at her all-boys school, but she concealed this from her parents. So did the school, and the fact that she declined from maths prodigy to the bottom set. Before University she spent a year in Prague as an English language teaching assistant, and contributed to an English language Prague magazine.

While studying philosophy at Durham, she reinvigorated the Philosophy Society. Comedian Pamela Anderson spoke on the topic “Is feminist philosophy a contradiction in terms?” Her poetry book was published. There is a bench in her memory in Blagrave Park, Reading.

Chrissie Azzopardi

Unfortunately, such tributes are rare. Google Chrissie Azzopardi, and read about her murder. The BBC reports her surgical status.

She was 22. She was stabbed and suffocated over drug debts, then left in her flat for a month before the body was discovered. The murderer was sentenced to a minimum of 18 years, and the prosecutor said Chrissie “had everything to look forward to in life”.

Destiny Lauren

Destiny Lauren was strangled at home in 2011. Headlines refer to her as a “transsexual prostitute”. The BBC gives her dead name and operation status.

“More on this story: Why transgender people are easy targets”.

Vanessa Santillan

Vanessa Santillan, an escort, was strangled by her husband. The BBC thinks fit to say this was “after” he found her with a client, as if he were provoked.

In court, her family’s impact statement said, “This loss cannot be remedied or changed. It is something that has greatly affected us and hurts a lot. Our family will never be the same again without Vanessa. We cannot stop thinking how unjust her death was.”

On line, victim impact statements are often the nearest we get to some interest in the murdered woman as a person rather than as a body stabbed or strangled. When I read of these women I want a sense of the person, her value, to celebrate her, rather than indulge creepy voyeuristic descriptions of violent acts. Perhaps this is selfish of me: they have family and friends to remember them, who should not put details on line if they do not want to, but we are left with accounts of the murders and nothing more.

I celebrate the Femicide Census. It is a project I support, to record violence of men against women as a societal phenomenon rather than as isolated incidents. I just don’t see who benefits from excluding these women from the lists. They were killed by men as women. But there is one last victim to name:

Bethany Hill

Jack WIlliams and Kayleigh Woods murdered Bethany Hill. Bethany Hill, 20, had been in a relationship with Woods, 23, and hoped to have a child with her. At the time of the murder all three had shared a flat, with Bethany Hill in the bedroom and Williams and Woods sleeping in the living room. They murdered her, then tried to make it appear to be suicide. The murder weapon was recovered from the river Avon.

There was a male perpetrator, Jack Williams; but in the new report Kayleigh Woods, who was trans, has been named as a male perpetrator, under her former name Kyle Lockwood. She was in the news again in 2019: she was imprisoned in a women’s prison because she had transitioned, though she did not have a gender recognition certificate- the Mirror says she was not “legally considered a female”. But she was put in a men’s prison after sexual activity with another prisoner.

She is a trans woman. She is a woman. I don’t know of any mitigation, of any suggestion that Williams led her on, and I do not suggest her culpability was reduced. I have no wish to excuse her because of our common characteristic, any more than I would wish to excuse a murderer who was Scots. But she is a trans woman, not appropriate to be named as a male perpetrator here.

Resilience

Keeping going is what humans do. “KBO”, said Churchill, Keep Buggering On. Now, with Covid, people keep going, put up with the ordinary things which were bugging them last year, as well as the restrictions now, the lesser social life, and worry about covid. It’s lovely to zoom socially, then I hear someone’s relative is in hospital with it. Brexit is coming: I am stocking up my larder anticipating the snarl-up in the ports in January. Will we have fresh food in the supermarkets?

So we keep our heads down, and KBO. I kept going until I stopped, and I wonder if I am still in keeping going mode, part of me trying to grimly press on even though it doesn’t reach the controls any more. I remain desperate for self-improvement. That is the point of all these churning speculations here. How could I keep going better? How can I improve myself?

This long period of not working could be relaxation and replenishment, and I still feel stressed and tired. Is it that I am not truly relaxing? I am stopped, sitting watching TV, but resenting it. I think I am getting close to an idea but not fully there yet. In some way I am not relaxing, but instead trying to press on with something which is not supporting myself but is meeting some needs.

The need is to be better, or at least see myself as striving to be better. That is the way to cope with the shame of never being enough. So I KBO, cycling or reading for self-improvement, and beat myself up because it is never enough- so I am still stressed.

When we put our heads down and get on with it, we benefit by achieving what we want to achieve. Human beings die, mostly within a century of their birth, and spend ourselves, whatever we do. So a lone parent struggling to support their children, keep them well fed, get them educated, may have little time to relax but the spending is worthwhile.

One thought I had was that to KBO you have to numb yourself to the pain of it. KBO is simply what you have to do, even if it shortens your life. Some unconscious part of your brain wants to resist, and some other part has to stop you hearing it. But the part stopping you hearing or feeling does not only numb the pain but other things too. To have a full emotional life you have to feel the pain.

This internal conflict does me no good. So I wondered, could I do anything I do because I know I want to do it? It is not, I ought to do this, but this is behovely. That however means accepting all the sadness I feel at my current predicament and the way I have got here. What I did, the self-improvement by reading thinking writing or cycling might be much the same, but the internal conflict, and so the effort of it, would be less.

Being in touch with my full emotional range might increase my power. Menis Yousry said to me, “Speak from your heart and you will touch others’ hearts”.

It also seems that it might increase resilience. I am so fragile, I have such difficulty in KBO, because I have so much to suppress.

Then I read this Atlantic article about a man whose mother kicked him out of the house when he came out, and what has happened since. It made me weep, not because I am a prodigy of empathy feeling his pain, but because of my own.

I ministered at Pendle Hill. In childhood I learned the most important thing was to deny my femininity, because it must on no account be seen. Now I am learning to value myself, “every part hearty and clean” as Walt Whitman says, and that work is worthwhile. I feel a lot of shame, including at not working for money now, not being resilient enough, and now I assert that work is worth all my time, right now.

Of course I saved the chat. People loved what I said, and said so. And Ken Jacobsen shared his prayer:

oh men,
setting out again with your rifles
this hunting season,
what is it you are trying to kill,
is it some hurt, some fear you are trying to kill?

oh men,
what if the fear does not go away?
how will you heal your hearts now?

I love these paintings by Jean-Claude Bonnefond: the pictures are still yet full of tension, potential, life and change. What will happen next?

Let your God love all of you

Let your God love you means Let your God love all of you. I am ready.

I wrote, Anxiety is congealed fear. Sorrow is congealed sadness. Resentment is congealed anger. Underneath them is failure, repeated and complete, and self-blame. These are hard things to love. How can I love the daggers that I turn on myself? By understanding them. By slow, patient work. By allowing myself to be conscious of the hurt.

There are tempting views. This is not failure, but success: the life-journey which has brought me to the point of self-acceptance or self-love, which involves stripping away the denial of my nature that was my real problem. Or that Love makes me better able to achieve the goals my ego set: God’s love is that ego’s power, bringing it to the ego’s concept of success.

The failure is failure. I failed because I sought introjected goals, ego goals, not the goals of my true self, which I fled in terror, which set up a war within me. I must see the failure. I let God love me, and the love warms me, allows me to accept myself. Then I must love the world, because that is the only way to see the world clearly. Too often I hate the World, and resist it- ineffectually, as it just rolls over me.

Let your God love you, and here am I talking of what I will do to deserve it or make it real, or achieve-

There is only Love. Only Love has meaning. God’s love, my love- love for the whole world, all of it, and judging it as bad is meaningless. Judge not. God’s love for me, all of me, including the bits I judge.

Only love is real.

Love and healing are processes. We move on, not back.

Fear, sadness, and anger congeal because I denied them. I made myself small, by hiding parts of myself- this is the concept of the shadow. They were too frightening to be acknowledged. God’s love helps me process the anger.

As I write during worship, one speaks in Ministry. “Know, Friends, know that a million people are praying for you today.” She means it literally- on a prayer schedule, she prayed for “those who worship over the internet”. Mine is a lonely struggle, and there are others I can speak with, who help me.

And one whom I respect shared her songs:

The Elements of Love

The water of love will ease us through our grieving
The rock of love will hold us fast as we let fear go
The fire of love will purify our anger
And we will breathe the air of love
As we sing new songs of joy and we lead new lives of peace.
We will sing new songs of joy. We will lead new lives of peace.

If I only could open up my hands, feel these heavy stones and let them go.
If I only would open up my heart the the rose within would start to grow.
Now I find that I can open up my mouth and a fountain of song begins to flow.
Oh please help me to open all my self and let the breath of your love within me blow.
Now I find I can open up my hands, I feel the touch of your hands and now I know,
that I truly can open all my life and will go any way you bid me go.

I am on the path.

James Baldwin wrote in 1963, “Now if I were a teacher in this school, or any Negro school, and I was dealing with Negro children, I would try to teach them- I would try to make them know- that those streets, those houses, those dangers, those agonies by which they are surrounded, are criminal.” It is clear in his case, though many then would deny it; and some now would concede it in 1963 but deny it now. I have the feeling that my being crushed, and my mother’s before me, and hers before her, is also criminal, though fear I could never persuade anyone of that. So I resent. These are hard things to swallow, to love the resentment and the crushing. So I do the work with God’s help, offering up parts of myself I can hardly bear to look upon, to be Loved.

Quakers and Politics

“Are you working to bring about a just and compassionate society which allows everyone to develop their capacities and fosters the desire to serve?”

Most unprogrammed Quakers are left wing, and BYM Advices and Queries 33 fits that beautifully. The desire to serve, within a reconciled, harmonious society. I am relieved at the election of Mr Biden, and on Saturday I was not in favour of reconciliation, but overcoming. Republicans are still lying, and will lie until they are driven out. For example, Rand Paul lying about masks. He tweeted,

the only published randomized clinical study of cloth masks shows 97% penetration of particles & higher infection rate than control. But never mind, it’s all about submission…

Masks are useless, he claims. The NYT article explains why this is untrue, and why the evidence he cites does not bear it out. For Paul, “the desire to serve” is submission, or servitude. His rugged individualism goes so far as to refuse the basic decency or courtesy of wearing a mask, and distorting the facts about it.

Angered about the liars lying about “the transgender agenda”, claiming trans people want to force children to hormones and surgery rather than let them grow out of their gender confusion, I was in no mood to tolerate Senator Paul. I was moved to quote 1738 Dialogue II (The Defence of Satire):

Ask you what provocation I have had?
The strong antipathy of Good to Bad.

Other people may attempt dialogue with Senator Paul and those who think like him. There is a range of opinions between his hard Right and my Left, and someone closer to him might be more able to persuade him to moderate his views. God has more hands than mine, and not all God’s work falls to me. The gay Evangelical who believes Christ calls gay men to be celibate might have a better chance of convincing an Evangelical who thinks gay men should seek a cure, and conform to masculine stereotypes, than I would. I think the celibate gay man is wrong, but he has enough common ground to gain a hearing. To quote John Major, I might “condemn a little more, and understand a little less”: I might strengthen people’s convictions against the false claims, and reassure trans people worried by the false jibes, rather than bother engaging with the right wing extremist.

Advices and Queries 33 is one of my favourites. In 2001 I wanted to transition but was terrified. I went to meeting in Chester, and a Friend read that paragraph, and when she got to “Bear witness to the humanity of all people, including those who break society’s conventions or its laws” I broke down in tears. That rugged individualism, or self-reliance, can be a virtue, though can be taken too far. 17th century Quakers when travelling in the ministry took no payment for it.

Complete self-reliance is impossible. We all depend on society. And we cannot live with only a desire to serve, for we all have needs. The two virtues are interdependent. If we are to be “involved in the work of reconciliation” as enjoined by A&Q 32, we have to see the virtue in others. The peaceable kingdom will include us all, and God does not necessarily demand that others change far enough to make me feel comfortable- or that I change, or deny my discomfort.

Let your God love you

The phrase “Let your God love you” continues to reverberate in me, for my healing and the world’s good. It is my mantra for the week: I pause, say it, and savour it, seeing how it might help. “Let your God love you.”

I noticed how I resisted it, and now I seek to let it in.

So yesterday I cycled thirteen miles, and I considered doing the same today. The sun was out, the wind was light, it may be the best day for it until March, and I did not. I thought of cycling yesterday, of the inner conflict of the slave driver and the self-protector, and thought, it would not be so hard if I did not need to get it absolutely right all the time, without [so much] effort. The perfectionist is the problem.

Let your God love you.

I have noticed the perfectionist in me, and seen it as the problem, and much of the time it is unconscious so that I do what I do in desperate misery until I stop doing anything to avoid that hurt. I am depressed today, lacking energy, seeing things bleakly. I notice the perfectionism, judge it, hate it.

Let your God love you. That means all of you. That means my perfectionism, everything that appears to be a stumbling block within me. Look at it with the eyes of love. It tries to protect me, to keep me safe. Where did it come from, how did it become like this?

Let your God love you, means, when I notice a part of myself which I deprecate, or which I rarely notice, I should look at it with the eyes of love- with no judgment, accepting it, caring for it, seeking its good. That love might make it less desperate, less hurt, make it relax a bit, make it happier, make it more positive for me.

I feel tense. I rarely relax.

I spoke on this at Jamie’s gathering, several times repeating “Let your God love you” because that is the thing to remember, that is what I must remember, the Love is there, I just need to permit it to flow. When it flows it warms and heals me. Let your God love you. Let the love in. It is what I want you to remember too, if you remember nothing else from this post. Let your God love you. It gets easier. Let your God love you. Let the love flow.

I did something good this morning. I connected to people. I shared a healing message, which warmed people, and did them good, and that makes me happy. I hunger for such experiences. I treasure their responses:

-Hairs up on the back of my neck!
-so wise, thank you for that gift ❤️🤗❤️
-Listening to you has let me hear something in myself amongst chaos.
-Just breathtaking!

It is in all of us. It is strong and healing.

I helped people by sharing. I hunger for such experiences. I want to spread Love. I consider this desire, which I might have judged as giving me trouble- Let your God love you, including the desire. I got what I wanted- it makes me happy- savour the happiness. That was a lovely experience.

Let your God love you.

Would I cycle this afternoon? It turned out I did not, though the day was so lovely. I am looking at the wafer-thin lead in Georgia. With a four million vote lead nationwide, it is repugnant that that one thousand vote lead in Georgia should matter so much. This matters to all the world- as Trump damages the world, our environment, our economy, our decency. I am glad to spend time in worship with Pendle Hill. The possibility of a better presidency becomes clearer, and this is a threshold moment, especially as there remains some doubt. A Trump win would indeed make this “lib” cry. I would be spectacularly Owned. This is a thing I care passionately about and cannot affect, and ministry was about God’s love. I feel the meeting needed reminded of it. Yesterday I joined a small group of Quakers discussing the liminal. And I feel in a liminal state myself. I have been penetrated by

❤️🤗❤️ Let your God love you ❤️🤗❤️

and it works its healing within me. May it heal you too.

Loving yourself

What would it mean to love yourself?

“Let your God love you,” she said. I don’t believe in God. I believe in a mystic observation, of love, light and guidance within, which human beings can access. It would be better, obviously, to have a theory including what this whateveritis actually is, to pin it down, to describe it in prose rather than that irritating poetry, but the bare observation of how people feel and what they do, and what they say about it, shows the whatsit, this “Light”, this “Spirit”

(note the anger, my loathing of my incomprehension, my frustration, my inability to use positive words unqualified, because “Light within” is a huge thing)

this Light within

No, I don’t believe in it. Such a thing could not be in me. Yet “Let your God love you,” shared in the zoom Quaker meeting as the Americans there enter their election day, hit me over the head. I may still be giddy from it.

Now, I know the poetry becomes prose, literal and merely descriptive. For example, “The disordered society is full of loyal patriots” (Tao Te Ching, 18) is merely true. What else are we to call the loyal patriots but what they call themselves? “Be broken to be whole. Twist to be straight” may eventually prove to be prose too.

I am grasping after prose. There is something I do not know.

This light within that people call God

Tomorrow I will cycle thirteen miles (I hope) and the difficulty of it will be admitting it is difficult, because it should not be difficult, it should not trouble me at all. There I was at war, between the part of me driving myself on and the part telling the driver it was too much, miserable, trying to suppress my feeling of misery below my own consciousness even though it makes me depressed and stops me doing anything. That’s the root of the depression.

Then there’s the “inner light Which Is god”

scare quotes again

which could be the primary feeling which I fear and seek to suppress, because I should not find any difficulty. That protean, mercurial, changeable, reactive thing within me, could it be the Light? And the problem with it is all those unpleasant feelings, the fact that when there is something I cannot allow myself to admit I find difficult it feels the difficulty.

And it seems so completely in the moment in the worst possible way, in that it seeks short term comfort. Be comfortable for a minute because I won’t be, within an hour.

For twenty years I’ve been on this

“Spiritual Journey”

and the point of it, I realised early, was not to feel angry and scared any more, and I realised that was what I wanted from it, and I realised that was full of shit even as I admitted it was what I wanted and I still wanted it. And I still want it. To stop feeling angry and afraid. To stop the world going on at its dizzying pace (here the world is, waiting for the result of the US elections, a lot of people feeling angry and afraid right now, loyal patriots terrified of each other)

I am on a spiritual journey

And then at worship someone shares a poem by Edwina Gateley finishing with the line “Let your God love you”. And I want that in prose. There’s the emotional being, within, feeling angry and hurt or frightened

when it is appropriate to feel angry, hurt, or frightened

and beneath it, perhaps, there is God, an inner light which I have never met, the bit I am supposed to have been seeking for nineteen years in various Quaker meetings, I may have been both wasting my time and disrupting every one else who has this Light, active and accessible.

God loves the emotional being. God, within me, loves the slave-driving part of me that cannot admit anything is difficult, because it is scared, and the resisting bit which is also scared and cannot bear the slave-drivinng bit. But both are complete shit, utterly worthless and bad, because they are scared. Who could love that but God?

“Hell is rejecting the love of God,” says prosaic Christian apology. That must be in CS Lewis somewhere.

How could I possibly? “Let your God love you.” Is there a God in me which loves all of me?

Just be, permit, and be loved, for c’est son metier. And then go out, not knowing who will be President (depending when you’re reading this) or cycling and being at war within, doing what you have to do.

There is a light within which loves me and loves the World and everyone in it. It is an emotional being looking at all of life and eternity. It is the Light of humanity.

Let your God love you.

Yeah.