Inspiration

lucie-leon-at-the-piano-1892 Berthe Morisot

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/73/Auguste_Renoir_-_Young_Girls_at_the_Piano_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg/363px-Auguste_Renoir_-_Young_Girls_at_the_Piano_-_Google_Art_Project.jpgI made a child cry. I am not proud of this.

When I visited last Christmas, Alice, now 15, was playing the piano and about to take grade 3. Since then, she gave up. Possibly she started a wee bit old: by 15, I was playing pieces which interested me, and my obsessive nature kept me on scales and fiddling with a bar until I got it: I spent a week getting the first four bars of the Maple Leaf Rag, aged about 15.

Her sister Olivia, now 7, has started, and is playing tunes with both hands, but not both hands together. I thought the way to interact over the piano was to let her explore it, and ask me for any help she wanted. Her mother told her to play it: she has not been playing over Christmas.

I asked her if she enjoyed playing the piano. “Yes”, she lied. I am almost certain of that. She sounded completely insincere. It was the wrong question. Does she want to play the piano? If so, she might be willing to work at it.

Jacob Maris, girl at the pianoOf course I would like a child mad keen to play the piano, with a clear idea of how to improve at it, natural talent, and a desire to explore my expertise to help her on- but I want to inspire the child, get her interested, and give her some ideas to bring her on a bit.

She needs to count on the notes and count on the stave to work out the first note of a piece she has played before.  I had a trick for H, which was done with me: my parents hold out thumb and fingers horizontally as if on a stave, and indicate a position for the child to name the note. The point is that rather than spending half an hour on the piano, or even ten minutes, which can be tiring and boring, you can do this for half a minute and give the child praise.

When she looks at the score and sees that there is a Bâ™­, next time she sees a B she still plays Bâ™®. I can sympathise with this: it is the kind of mistake I can imagine myself making. And- playing Bâ™® she hears it is wrong, checks the score and gets it right. This gives me hope. I want to make it easier for her to correct her mistakes.

How I brought a tear to her eye: I explained that a minim, a quaver and a crotchet- the one with the hole, the one with the tail, and the one with neither- last different times, and when she played the piece again with each note the same length, the third time I ejaculated “No!” I suppose I was pushing her to learn something when she found the rest of it difficult enough.

Unfortunately, that evening, they were still tired after their hogmanay party, and I could not enthuse her family to play that game with their hands.

Hope

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/dc/Femme_cueillant_des_Fleurs_by_Pierre-Auguste_Renoir%2C_c1874%2C_oil_on_canvas.jpgI rushed for the train, ignoring the man playing  jazz at the St Pancras piano, but seeing it was late went to hear him. He was listening to a young woman singing her own song. She harmonised very simply- an octave in the bass, a triad in the treble, not even using inversions, and only chords I, IV and V- once, a VI. When he looked at me I wondered if he wanted me to go.

She left for her train, and he sat down to hit blue notes in a way those of us who do not, envy. “Do you play?”
-a little.
-Would you like to?

I sat down to play Giorni Dispari, a not terribly difficult piece, not terribly well- though with feeling.

“Oh, more than a little,” he expostulated, warmly, and I bathed in that warmth. I am thinking of it now. I went for my train.

What is that “A little”- mock-modesty, perhaps, to elicit praise; or my best estimate of my talents; or not properly valuing my gifts? It is the kind of thing I hear from others: it might be for varying causes, to hide ability in order to get one over on someone, or even because it is the done thing or the fashion.

I procrastinate, and retreat, because I have little hope, or valuing of my gifts, or belief in what I might achieve. It seems that seeking to evaluate my achievements and abilities might help me: discounting them does me no good. My feeling of never being good enough- if that were true, I would not be here.

He who fears he shall suffer already suffers what he fears.
-Michel de Montaigne

Noticing

Lovers (detail)I look up at the sea, and down at the sun.

Oh.

It is easier to have my head back against the headrest, the forces cease to be uncomfortable. When the thing stops to let the others off, I have a gorgeous view, and look down at the pier. One of us had wanted to go on the dodgems and eat candy-floss, perhaps to reunite with childhood; I wanted to go on this thing, because I did not do enough of that when young, and one really should, you know. Or I wanted to.

I took my wig off and left it below, as Nadia had worried it  might fly off. Unlikely, but something to avoid. My aventurine necklace came loose, though I did not notice it, and when I stood on the pier again it fell out of my coat, and snaked between the boards into the sea. I am a bit upset to lose a £40 necklace- and the story I create is that I got it to symbolise and catalyse Emptiness, and its work is done. It can take my condemnation into the sea.

The exercise was to say to another what I would like to do with them, and hear them. We did it in three stages: with the response “Yes please!” (whether the other wanted it or not); then “No”, which can of course be belied by body language and tone of voice, and finally a neutral “Thank you”. Quite a deep exercise, some found not enough time to process it. I noticed my difficulty in asking for things, and I noticed with one other in particular, and myself- I think we were projecting, saying what we would like the other to do to us rather than vice versa. I asked two others, and this was not a general impression.

Tricia had a party and barbecue, and put me up. I had friendly chats with DerekandUli, and a glass or two of wine. Silly, really. I did not need it to relax, and it simply made me more tired, and less responsive, than I would otherwise have been. Sub-optimal.

After, I snuggled briefly with S. She held one wrist down, lightly, and circled the http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/bd/Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_-_Young_Girls_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg/630px-Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_-_Young_Girls_-_Google_Art_Project.jpgother with thumb and forefinger. At first I wanted to respond with action- but this is a conventional rather than heart response, out of fear. I let her, and liked it. I think she noticed. This passivity: oh, I have denied it and fought it and condemned it, and now it frightens me- surely nobody will want that in me, it is so ridiculous; and now I think, well, it is who I am and how I am, and it might be better to just go with it. Fighting disnae work.

A police car blocked the A6, and the car in front of us stopped to ask the policeman what road he could use instead. The taxi driver, who had nearly clipped his brake-light, got upset at this. He should not have just stopped! He should have put on his hazard warning lights! Yes, he should have. And probably all thought beyond a panicked or frustrated not-knowing-what-to-do just left his head. Sometimes you have to notice what ought not to be in fact is, very quickly. And- the taxi driver dealt with it, well enough. I should have commented on that.

And I was sorry to hear that M had split with his partner, but then thought, why? Perhaps it is right for both of them. It means pain, but that pain may have been inevitable, and the pleasure worth the pain. And perhaps it is my pain that bothers me, losing one wee bit of evidence that things are OK.

Fragility

I will celebrate my fragility.http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/85/Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_-_Jardin_de_la_rue_Cortot.jpg/647px-Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_-_Jardin_de_la_rue_Cortot.jpg

Fragility is not vulnerability, that beautiful openness to possibility and risk which sets us free, or sensitivity, which is both easily hurt and intuitive. These qualities are a burden, as they demand my Understanding and my Action, which I have always demanded of myself, never satisfied. Fragility is not brokenness, being affected by past hurts. It is not just my state with my scars and my damage, but my natural unscarred way of being.

Fragility is me, freed, allowed to be, my flinching and softness permitted and not judged, because the judgment just hurts. It is not “masculine” or “feminine” because whether I am a man or a woman, whether I am authentic or deviant, is just more judgment.

Fragility is me categorised. It is a word rather than a sense or feeling, because I reach understanding through words, communicating with myself as well as others. It is not a box or a boundary, but a stepping-off point, a possibility, a permission. It is a word which fits without constraint. It is OK.

Hello. 

My name is Abigail, 

and I am fragile.

I reached this understanding in the HAI Room of Love. It is not Pupating, or being born again, but it is a new understanding, a step forward. It is liberating for me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

The bus draws up as I kneel in my nightwear in my ritual space, and I do a thought experiment:

What if I were to get the bus into Swanston, dressed like this?

It would probably be OK. I might get a few looks, but perhaps not many. It is unlikely that anyone would approach and be horrible to me. It really is not all about me. Our self-consciousness and desire to fit in prevents us from doing that. Much of my resilience comes from the way society is- my fear does not fit reality, though it may be part of the matrix which makes that safety for most of us.

Making connections is a different matter- that comes from my attitude: I want a superb bearing, and approachability as I am a nice person.

These teenage speculations arise because I do not trust myself to know how to interact with other people well, and hope thinking about it with words may help me improve.

Taking the gloves off

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f5/Madame_de_Bonni%C3%A8res.jpg/783px-Madame_de_Bonni%C3%A8res.jpgThe Thameslink train stops at Blackfriars station. There is blue plastic stuff covering up something- work in progress, probably- but through it- gosh! That’s the Thames. A station on a bridge over the river! How cool is that?

Thameslink has not been operating long. Now, I can go down two levels at St Pancras to the new Thameslink platform straight from the Swanston train, and-

yes, I know, not everyone finds railway stuff fascinating. But Will, a Cockney, did not know of it. Victoria was the station for Brighton as far as he knew.

You leant your head against that instrument as if it were alive, I said to the young man in the bright red coat.
-It is, just about, he says.
-Yes, I know, I play the piano.

His friend plays keyboards, and often rags him about not having to cart his own instrument everywhere.

There were two toddlers on the train who wanted to go and look at the baby. No matter how young the child, they always love playing the adult to a younger child. “Yes”, says the mother, “and at their age there aren’t that many children they can do that with”.
-They’re changing the nappy,” says one girl, happily. More than I really wanted to know.

File:Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Children on the Seashore, Guernsey - Google Art Project.jpgThe child had wailed to have its nappy changed, and a few minutes later is wailing for some other reason. The most distressing sound there is, I understand, we are all programmed that way- and I listen to it with my happiness undimmed. Imagine, to have trauma repeated many times daily, that awful succession of needs you cannot satisfy except by wailing- imagine the abandoned misery of the wailing- Thank God we don’t remember it!
Perhaps we do-

And there were the two women: getting on, one said “I’m glad I can face the direction of travel, as I won’t be sick now” and I said “I’m glad you’re facing the direction of travel too”. They grinned, and got out their respective phones to check the Textstorm and emails. Only briefly, they did start chatting to each other eventually. A man pointed out that if the train crashes into something, those facing the rear have the spring of the seat to take the shock- though you would also have me thrust forward onto your face over the table.

This morning, on the seafront at Brighton in bright sun and strong wind- too strong for a dinghy, but I would have loved to be on the lone yacht tacking into the wind out there- I saw a man with headphones, and thought-

Why should you walk through the field in gloves,
O fat white woman whom nobody loves?
The grass is as soft as the breast of doves
and shivering sweet to the touch
Why should you walk through the fields in gloves,
Missing so much, and so much?

So I am taking the gloves off. My thought yesterday was, http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e2/Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_-_Boating_Couple_%28said_to_be_Aline_Charigot_and_Renoir%29_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg/627px-Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_-_Boating_Couple_%28said_to_be_Aline_Charigot_and_Renoir%29_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

I want to value my fragility

and this feels like-

No, not a pupation, but a step forward. A useful lesson. My sensitivity is a gift and a burden, one I have so resented, and I want to stop kicking against the goads. So- value it, perhaps even use it!- perhaps later. Baby steps. “Fragility”- a bad thing, a dangerous thing for me, Shadow, something to deny-

something to acknowledge.

I had a new appreciation for that Lowry I saw at the Lowry Centre, after seeing the sea today, the swell crashing on the beach, the colour of it; and I thought with friends in this place I am Happy. That is the first time I have used that tag in 620 posts!

Emotive argument II

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3f/Auguste_Renoir_-_A_Girl_with_a_Watering_Can_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg/746px-Auguste_Renoir_-_A_Girl_with_a_Watering_Can_-_Google_Art_Project.jpgIt is an odd feeling, at the refectory: that goes with that, but is not what I want. I do not feel revulsion, exactly, I was eating it only at lunchtime, but I am quite clear that it is not what I want now. D remarks on the odd combination on my plate, bits meant for the other main course, bits from the salad bar, some for taste and some for need- something carbohydrate- and more from impulse or instinct rather than the usual learned habitual response. I normally have a cooked breakfast when I am away, and this morning I did not want one. Someone comments that is “good” of me. Strange that we think of impulses as harmful, and restraint as moral. For me, then, it was instinct and desire rather than conscious restraint, and I think of self-care as morally neutral, just what one does, rather than virtuous.

So I am happy with emotional decision-making. What feels right? What calls to me? What hunch do I have about what will enhance my life, rather than what arguments can I create? Often the arguments feel like post hoc rationalisations not reasons.

We communicate these emotional decisions. It feels good to be with others who feel the same way, and I follow those feelings. A dominant person expresses feelings to mould the feelings of others.

Empathy seems to be a good way to make group decisions.

I want to please people. This shames me, it feels like part of my hiding away, and also pleases me, as a way of getting closeness I desire. Strange. It is what I want.

2012

In the woods, detail 1It isIn the woods, detail 2 hard to argue my year has been other than disastrous. I still have no paid work, and now I am not doing the voluntary work I started the year doing. I want to be a Healer and a Performer, and am not now doing or working towards or training for either of those roles.  I write only here. Have I done anything worthwhile with this year?

Yes.

At the end of the year, I know and accept myself better than at the start of it. And that is it. It feels like putting a jigsaw together, but one with a pattern which is completely unexpected: one could be aware of two pieces for some time, and only be aware they fitted together after a happy accident. Or a piece falls out of the box, and I pick it up so much later. This is intensely difficult, and not helped by my desire to be perfect immediately. Give it time- what, even more?

If it meant anything, it would result in action- well, perhaps it will, in its own good time. Knowing some of the problems is useful- I am afraid of my fear and anger. I am afraid of my reactions. I do not trust myself or the world. I need to trust myself and the world. I judge myself harshly, and it will behove me to judge more kindly, I would never be so unkind to another. These learnings this year have moved me forwards.

Have I merely dwelt on past hurts and marinaded in resentment? Rather, I feel I have considered past hurts and earthed, expressed, shed some of my toxic suppressed emotion. I have more of that to purify.

In 1999, I became aware of the vulnerable bit under my thick shell, and on 10 February 1999 it came out. I felt so different. I identified that with my female self, and I was not ready to transition to female until April 2002. Now, I identify that with my intuitive and emotional self, held down because I was taught to despise it, and value only rationality.

Now, more and more I am that intuitive and emotional self, and rather than hiding away from myself in a shell created to confront the world, I amFile:Pierre-Auguste Renoir - In the Woods - Google Art Project.jpg open and consciously that, and if I hide it away from the world in my living room, at least I am conscious of it. That is better than hiding it from myself.

I heal.

Work in progress. Moving forward.

Work in progress.

Moving forward.

And- I have lived in this so beautiful place, and spent time with wonderful people. I have done some good through the CAB, so often despite it rather than facilitated by it. I have had some fun. This is not to be discounted and deprecated and considered nothing. This is valuable and beautiful and enriching and nourishing, for me, and that is a good thing. God. Seeing that, realising that is so difficult, and so necessary.

What are words for?

Young Women Talking by Pierre-Auguste RenoirOn the train, the woman is reading the Telegraph. She would read the Times, but she hates everything Murdoch stands for. She does not want to say why, though I would particularly like to know as most people so repulsed by Mr Murdoch are on the Left. I find all I hear of Fox News utterly repellent- she has no television. She knows that this seems blinkered. I would not challenge her so much as say how much I like telly, how visceral the experience of the drama is, but she is ready with an insult for herself, to defend herself from any mockery I could come out with. She reads her broadsheet Telegraph, and would not dream of encroaching on my half of the table between us, though I only have my kindle. So we did not have the conversation I wanted, and might have wiled her into enjoying, a sharing of experience and finding things in common, which she avoided by protecting her own.

I have felt with comment threads, and even with conversations, that I share an experience with another person, but defining it, the quibbling over words, precisely which box to put the experience in, makes a shared experience into a sterile argument, even a point-scoring exercise. I am wiser than you, and so I am the one teaching you here. Our conversation divides us.

One with a trans man. I said that in my brief time with experience of both loos, fairly posh loos in nice hotels or loos with puddles on the floor, the women’s was always nicer. His experience was the opposite. I thought, but how could it be, it is so obvious, and realised- it is like how we say, we wear the right jeans and they fit better. Women’s jeans should not fit my hips, and just feel so comfortable. Oh. Right.

Is it like-
-No. It is Nothing like that at all.
I was only trying to be helpful, and feel closed out of the conversation the Wise people were having.

-Did you go through some sort of gender reassignment or something?
Yes, ten years ago. I am surprised at the question, as I had been joking about it to her the day before. Later she asks,
-Were you all right with me asking about your gender reassignment?
-Oh, yes, no problem at all. (I am not uncomfortable, she seems uncomfortable to me, either one of us could be projecting on the other). I thought you had realised.
-Yes, but as a researcher
(academic, Cambridge graduate, lives in Cambridge, three separate occasions she tells me)
I never assume anything, I always check.

Group hug. Sue calls me a “beautiful soul”, which makes me glow despite my developing cold. I have got out the compliment to delight in it, several times since.

Three women

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/73/Auguste_Renoir_-_Young_Girls_at_the_Piano_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg/775px-Auguste_Renoir_-_Young_Girls_at_the_Piano_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg-Would you take the job, if we offered it?
-Yes.
-That’s the first time I have seen you smile!

Oh, Fuck you. Really. Fuck off and die. I did not say that to the woman, of course. I can do the job, to a high standard, including sympathising and winning the trust of and making the client comfortable, which one man last year thought I would have problems with. Too distant, he said, as if my reserve in a job interview, with its particular power structure, has any relation to my Acceptance of a client. Where I have the power, I share it. I don’t have the power, here.

I am crying about it now (Th 22nd). I was crying repeatedly the day after (Tu 13th). So when I tell myself I should be getting out and getting a job and supporting myself, I can’t hide away for ever, I see that is not as easy as it seems. Just possibly the little activity I muster really is doing my best at that.

Thursday morning (15th) to see Nicola. That bucked me up a bit, though I have not done anything about her Behavioural Activation techniques. I should have planned one extra activity each day last week, and two a day this week, and the sense of achievement I get from that will make me feel good and motivate me to continue. Oh. I did think of keeping a record of what I did- two hours of Solitaire, checking the stats page just in case anyone has looked at my blog, whatever- but have not done that. It was not quite Carl Rogers’ “Unconditional positive regard”, but a refusal to be negative about any of my whining http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a9/Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_-_Acrobats_at_the_Cirque_Fernando_%28Francisca_and_Angelina_Wartenberg%29_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg/773px-Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_-_Acrobats_at_the_Cirque_Fernando_%28Francisca_and_Angelina_Wartenberg%29_-_Google_Art_Project.jpgand a toned down infant teacher’s enthusiasm for the task she proposed.

Thursday afternoon to see Lizette. She is from Lima. She volunteers at the CAB, where she was very friendly, and her friendliness included frequent touch. I love touch, I get far too little, and still I was uncomfortable. I cycled to meet her at a coffee shop in Zhuzhkov. I thought that I did not need my saddle-bags and then realised when I got there that the lock was in the saddle-bags. I was early, and wandered up and down the high street- bank, butcher’s, clothes shops, pubs- and a man admired my bicycle so I chatted with him briefly. I love these rural towns for that.

I was a little nervous, but propped the bike at the stands the other side of the street from the shop; a little distracted, I was looking at it when we chatted. When four people congregated round it, she noticed I was studying them and went out to talk to them. They drifted off. It could still be a friendship. It might be worth the work. I was reserved, keeping to shallow talk, but that is OK.

Illustrated with Renoir, not for the relevance but the beauty.

A cure for lesbianism?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8d/Auguste_Renoir_-_Gabrielle_and_Jean_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg/851px-Auguste_Renoir_-_Gabrielle_and_Jean_-_Google_Art_Project.jpgThanks to William and his “Strange side effects” blog. I followed the source to the LA Times. If a mother at risk of her child having congenital adrenal hyperplasia takes steroids during her pregnancy, it may make the child less likely to be lesbian.

CAH has various effects, including retention of male hormones in the foetus, so that a girl’s genitals may be made ambiguous. Once a woman has had a daughter with such ambiguous genitals, she might be offered steroids during subsequent pregnancies, which will treat that particular symptom, but not the CAH itself. And the steroids have to be administered before the child’s sex may be detected, when there is a one in eight chance of a girl with CAH.

There are no long term studies showing this treatment produces fewer lesbians. There is a study showing that women with CAH are more likely to be lesbian, and one showing that treated girls are more feminine. We don’t know. That lesbians are always more masculine is demonstrably false.

The choices are, leave the child at risk of ambiguous genitalia, give surgery, or give steroids. Even if the child has CAH, the enlargement of the clitoris may be slight. DSD advocates oppose genital surgery on infants- it should be the informed choice of the adult woman- but if human diversity is a http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/1f/Auguste_Renoir_-_Maternity_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg/790px-Auguste_Renoir_-_Maternity_-_Google_Art_Project.jpgproblem, this treatment may make one aspect of it go away. My political view is that human diversity in general, including ambiguous genitals, is not a problem, it is society’s reaction which is the problem- but while society has that problem, I can sympathise with a mother seeking to avoid her child being a non-voluntary pioneer in breaking down that intolerance. Even if the child has CAH, the enlargement of the clitoris may be slight.

Dr John Grohol‘s political view is that doctors and patients should be able to decide together to take whatever action they might wish. No. Professional bodies and government will always have a say, and while I cheer on brave doctors who have pioneered sex change treatments because those increase the freedom of the patient, this treatment changes the child, not necessarily for her good, because of the parent’s desire.

Alice Dreger (see the LA Times article) is concerned that the risk the parent might seek to avoid is not an enlarged clitoris, but homosexuality. Homosexuality may be affected by the intra-uterine environment, as well as by genes. She wants to prevent the treatment because of that. There must be no attempt to cure homosexuality, in anyone. I think society would lose out if diversity is reduced, and the idea of getting people to conform to a norm so others can feel less uncomfortable repels me, but-

I admit the possibility that heterosexuality might be preferred to homosexuality, if there is a completely free choice. I am not certain. This is separate from whether gay people are of equal value with straights (we are) or are immoral per se (we are not). In a society purged from kyriarchy, if there were a completely free choice I might prefer to be androphile. What about you?