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.

Seven Samaritans

I am scared of phoning the Samaritans. I have an idea of what I want to do with the conversation, which terrifies me. My judgment that I am worthless, without the most basic resilience or intelligence, is mine, and I feel that it comes from my childhood. However from the same place comes my judgment that I had an unexceptionable childhood, and that no-one would be affected negatively by it except someone who was worthless, stupid and disgustingly fragile.

“You were tortured,” Liz said, referring to how hurt I appeared in 2011.

I had the thought that I would talk about my childhood with the Samaritans. I would project my judgment on them that there was nothing wrong with my childhood, so saying it would take my courage. Then, in speaking it out loud I would advance towards believing my childhood really was difficult. I was not in this position because I was worthless. Unfortunately, I could not have the conversation I desired.

I explained to the first what I wanted, and he took control, asking questions. When in answer to a question I said I noticed I felt worthless when I was twenty, he asked “Did something happen when you were twenty?” Yes; but something to make me notice the feeling, not something to cause it for the first time. I was fed up with his questions. I was afraid of addressing the question: I would talk about my childhood, and believed he would find nothing wrong with it. As I was psyching myself up to start, he filled the silence with distracting questions. So I rang off.

The second wanted to explain his role to me in great detail. He listens because he makes mistakes himself, he said, though he should not have told me that, he said. Everyone suffers with depression and anxiety, he said. If you’ve locked your door then gone back to check it’s locked that’s obsessive-compulsive, he said. There’s no stigma here.

The third wanted to explore the fact that I might get help anywhere else? Have you had counselling? he demanded. Yes. “Has it helped with strategies?” Oh, you mean like cognitive behavioural therapy. No, I am trying to get to the root of the problem, why I feel the feeling so I can lay it to rest, not how I can tell it it’s stupid and drag it around with me. “Are you on any meds?” No. “Have you spoken with your doctor?” Erm. “How are you feeling today?” “Is it an especially bad day?”

-You’ve just asked two questions, I said. Which do you think is the most important?
-Is it an especially bad day today, he said. No.
-How do you think we can help?
-I am frightened of you, and I want to face my fear.
-Why?
-Because I am projecting judgment on to you. Does that make sense to you?
-No. We don’t judge.

I rang off again. I find women Samaritans more useful, so when the fourth to answer was the fourth man in a row, I rang off immediately. (Hello! Any Samaritans reading this?)

The fifth was a woman, called Samantha, who thought we had spoken before. I felt mild embarrassment at that, but when you phone them as often as I do it’s possible, I suppose. She said they try not to remember calls. In a brief moment, facing my fear, I thought, I want to convince them it was unbearable, but not by showing pain or distress in my voice. I want to talk rationally, as if communicating my feeling by tone of voice would not be an acceptable way of convincing them. That is, I devalue my emotions, at least for this purpose. I want to persuade by rational argument, and as I am projecting judgment it is that I need to persuade myself. As I faced my fear, she interrupted to tell me to get on with it. They have lots of callers to speak to. Have you had help?

Yes. Counselling over decades. Sorry to trouble you.

I ring off again.

With the sixth I realised I did not just fear judgment, which I was quite clear I was projecting, but also incomprehension, which was only partially projected. I needed to convince myself of the difficulties of my childhood leading to my ongoing feeling of worthlessness.

I am not just calling to confuse Samaritan volunteers. I am in need, and have nowhere else to go. My seventh call was to another Liz. I said I needed to make a declaration to another human being. I started by saying good things people have said of me, and that I believe them: in fact when someone pays me a compliment I write it down in order to squeeze every last drop of affirmation from it. Friends have called me “bold and brave and honest and open”, and see kindness, gentleness, tenderness and tenacity, courage, authenticity, insight, integrity, and concern for others in me. I do too. And I felt worthless, because of the difficulties of my childhood.

We discussed my childhood for a bit.
-Your feelings were not appreciated, she said.
-No.
-That must have been tough.

The relief I feel hearing that is great. I am understood. She sympathises. Perhaps in her eyes I am not worthless.

-How do you get on with your parents now?
-They are both dead.
-How did you feel about that?
-Relief. (That’s not the whole of it, but a large part of it. I can love them now they can’t hurt me any more.)

-Are there people now who make you feel worthless?
Enough to keep my old conviction simmering.

We also establish that my desires were not appreciated, such that I did not know what I wanted. I had no particular friends, and was not given choices. We ate meals together, and talked of current affairs: there was one right way to see current affairs, that Thatcher was Britain’s saviour, which is not an opinion I cleave to now. I say how devoted my father was to self-improvement, reading and treating high culture as work, which he must concentrate on to gain appreciation. I say my mother wore the trousers, and this was something we could not discuss.

Liz wants me to look in the mirror and affirm myself. She keeps mentioning this. “Look in the mirror and say, ‘I am not worthless’.” I want to say it to her, and I want to say it with my whole being, with all of me accepting and believing it. I am not there yet. However, in continuing conversation I say with a part of me, in a soft voice, “I am not worthless”. Then with a rational, conversational part of me I say “I am not worthless”.

I have faced a lot of challenges. I tell her of Dr Patel. I did not just want to be invisible, not to be noticed because it was a threat. Nor did my father. I wanted what I saw to be right. This comes from integrity.

I called the Samaritans this afternoon, and eventually had the healing conversation I had wanted. And this evening, I am not saying “I am not worthless” but, sometimes calmly and confidently, sometimes repeatedly,

I have value.

Smiling, and even believing it!

I had a dreadful childhood. I was kept warm and well-fed, and pushed to academic success, and my feelings, desires and even my very nature were so systematically devalued by my parents especially my mother that I could not value, or even perceive them. I was taught to hide my nature in terror and pretend to be normal, and not even to realise that was what I was doing. I could not have typed this paragraph yesterday, and even now it starts with the positives, reducing the weight of that word “dreadful”. The positives are there and they do not begin to mitigate the depth of the trauma. Acknowledging it is a step to healing it.

In praise of self-loathing

Put a tiger in your tank! You run really fast from a tiger.

First day canvassing for the election had good and bad moments. The best was persuading someone to think more about voting for us, possibly even to change her vote.

More disturbing was another woman’s shouting. She had an unbreakable syllogism:

We knew what we voted for
You have not given it
You are undemocratic.

Ian tried arguing. He too voted to Leave. The Tories were in government, and they messed up their own Brexit- they could have been out by March had they tried to exit in the National interest, rather than their own- but her talking point, or shouting point, was impregnable. All her anger in Life, it seemed, was channelled through this one issue against us.

In the cafe for lunch, we were just leaving when a man started shouting at us. “I fought for my country! How can you wear that thing” (a red rosette) “that anti-British traitor!” I looked at him. He looked late fifties, so he might have been in Northern Ireland, or possibly the Falklands. I tried saying my father also fought for this country, but he was not interested in listening.

There was I at my most beautiful- not cowed or triggered, but wanting to understand and engage, to find some common ground. When Beth came over, he just started shouting “Get out! Get out!” She told him, reasonably, she was leaving and he could not tell her not to use a cafe.

I came to this position, by the next morning. If you disagree with a more articulate debater, it is a reasonable tactic to keep repeating your point until they shut up, which is more self respecting than putting your hands over your ears and shouting NONONONO until they go away. We don’t have the right to change another’s mind.

And that evening, tired after canvassing, I sat up until midnight maundering in my chair, fiddling with my phone.

I took two hours with two separate Samaritan men working it out. They gave me the time but irritated me. What use is self-loathing, one asked, as if recognising it would be enough for me to slough it off. People saw it in me and pointed it out last century. One reason for it was my “disgusting” (a word I used) cross-dressing.

It is my main motivation, or at least was. It may motivate many perfectionists, and if you can be close to perfect being perfectionist is painful but effective. Gosh you get things done. It was wound up too tight in me, I think, or worked with other characteristics to hurt me too much so I broke, but until I broke it got me working.

The other reason I don’t give up until I am dangling on the end of a rope is that I am not consciously aware of my discomfort. Now all my feelings came to the surface- confusion, hurt, the desperate need to kick out a climate-denying MP and a nationalist government, one of whose aims is to whip up hatred, including of trans women. I am confused, and can’t bear confusion.

My previous way of responding, not knowing my feelings, was to shut down. I would lose all motivation and stop, “depressed”. No, really, Depressed. The self-deprecation, refusal to believe that any problem should give any difficulty to someone who is not worthless, weak, useless, or even that it is a real problem is strong in me. I suppose it is reassuring. If I am not really depressed, I can get up any moment and surmount all difficulties.

Excavating feelings however painful is my way to health and freedom.

So I slept badly, and wondered about not canvassing on Monday. I was in chaos, perceiving different feelings, trying to put together a rational understanding and not grasping it, frightened.

Highly intelligent, I am dependant on my rational understanding. It keeps me safe, and without it I am terrified, which is a problem when the world cannot be understood.

And I talked it through. I have a tiger in my tank. I went canvassing, which in a more Labour area was more encouraging.

Rationalising desire

Inner peace comes when all your faculties are working together for common goals.

I woke at two, feeling anger and resentment at a failure of my organism- it hardly matters what- and then had the thought,

I should work with not against myself,
Coaxing not driving.

The word “coaxing” was not right. Inciting? Incentivising? Persuading? In the morning the Quaker metaphor felt right:

seek unity.

At Queer Spirit I had said my work is self-understanding, and projected judgment onto the workshop group: silly navel-gazing, a waste of time. And the judgment was in me not them. I am so glad that I saw this immediately! I see how I project!

I phone the Samaritans for a listening ear so I can work through this. She was so much more, asking useful questions and accepting me.

I felt my judgment. This should not be a problem for me. I felt my pain at that. I bring these matters into consciousness, into slow thinking, because my unconscious fast thinking stops me from fulfilling my promise. This is difficult and tiring. My insights have an incremental strengthening effect on me. I seek to embed them in this conversation with her, and now blogging with you. That involves trusting her, and you, enough.

It involves putting my understanding into continuous prose, I hope rational, a step by step argument which makes me feel safe. I believe I understand.

This is who I am and what I do. I work on my recovery.

My responses frighten me, and I judge them. All sorts of responses to all sorts of situations, and I catastrophise: All of them! No, not all, I like some responses, but the price of not feeling consciously continually anxious- will I measure up- is feeling always disappointed.

It will be worthwhile to consider what responses I judge, and seeing them in a different way, and which I value.

What frightens you about your responses, she asks. That needs unpacking too. The response and the immediate sharp fear reaction to it, what do I fear?

She is surprised, she says. You come across as rational and measured.

That psychiatrist in June 2001. I wanted to transition, and had marshalled my rational arguments why that was right for me. He took them all away. I was left only with my feelings and desire. I have always seen that as a good experience, realising I had to accept and trust my feelings, and now I recall how painful it was. I could not see him again, and had murder fantasies about him.

I did not see that what I wanted could have value without some rational underpinning. So I did not know what I wanted.

Seeing myself as two, rational and emotional, is reductive. Perhaps better to see the two as parties, or even a Quaker position of no parties or only one, but with a range of positions, at first contradictory, which might be brought to unity.

The living response to an actual situation cannot be predicted by rational quasi-scientific means. The organism responds to the whole situation which cannot be foreseen, perhaps cannot be fully noticed consciously.

Why do you need a rationale for your desires? Is it possible, she asks.

I use the ability to rationalise as a crutch. I greatly value my ability to rationalise, and use it where it is not the best tool. It is not always possible, so it means devaluing some desires. I did not know what I wanted because I lacked the ability to accept or value it.

My mother also lacked the ability to know her desires, wanting to fit in so imagining she wanted what she imagined it was conventional to want.

I had thought of healing my relationship with my mother, and seeing Dr Dalrymple, and now see how painful these things have been. I am stil living with the consequences of my mother’s treatment of me.

Now I feel judgment, which I project onto her. “Surely at 53 I should have got beyond ‘I blame my parents’.” I think of the stories to show I have, and feel the pain of those experiences. She reassures me: she sees I am living with after-effects, though no longer blaming.

Now I see how I mock, deride and loathe my failure to have seen these things earlier. I feel shame. I feel tired. It is like Dumbledore having to drink a cavern full of potion, which poisoned him. I will work through this.

I am working through it. I am pleased with progress. I want to be more tolerant and accepting of my- again faults, imperfections, failures are words that spring to mind but the fitting word is Humanity.

I may learn to trust myself without the crutch of a rational explanation. This is me. This is what I desire, what I feel, what gives me pleasure.

Without the mask

If I were to appear without my mask, I would appear almost exactly as I do now: serious except when humorous, caring, determined, sometimes deeply moved. Heaven and Hell are so close I almost cannot tell the difference, except for the pain of it.

I was unable to speak again, and as always it surprised me. After we discussed his wedding at the weekend, he asked why I volunteer here.

I have emotional problems, I thought. I am (or part of me is) happy to be open about that. And I could not say it. I closed my eyes trying to gain control, feeling tears rise. It is not that I consciously feel overcome. And then suddenly I was over it, as if there was a barrier to speaking and then there wasn’t. And later when D asked the same thing I had no problem saying it, in that higher voice which feels the more authentic me.

I do not know what I am feeling, much of the time, but today I realised how anxious I am. I wish I were not, but the need to be perfect is hard.

And I do not realise what I want, often. I wrote, “I want”,  then put the paper down for some time. Then I picked it up and wrote,

“to take a full part in my AM. I want my service valued there as it is elsewhere.”

When I got home, I called the Samaritans to talk of that paralysis or barrier. I don’t climb over the barrier, I let it go.

I want to be high-functioning, I said, and saying it I know it to be true, and so learn the fact and realise how much I want it.

I want to appear competent, so there is a barrier to saying things like “I have emotional problems”, because a competent person should not; yet achieving competence requires that I am able to admit it is it is true. Competence does not mean pretence.

She asked, why do you wear a mask? Because I am frightened of showing what is underneath. What would happen if I did? Utter humiliation equivalent to death. And yet I showed myself this morning and was met with sympathy and understanding.

I don’t climb over the barrier.
I let it go.

I may learn this fully, then the barrier (fear, need to keep up appearances, whatever) will have no more power.

Then it is a paradox: the need to appear competent in my own mind prevents me from being competent. My fear of being unable is the only thing preventing me.

Then we talked of suicide. I have been suicidal, and am not now though I feel incapable of looking after myself, and my income is inadequate and precarious. I tell the safety harness story. Jess said, “The thing I learned about you is you are a really hard worker,” and that is how I learned it myself. I had not known it before. And now I realise how much I am hurt by that.

I am seeing how hard I am working now and what I have had to overcome. I would have said ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ Perhaps I would still: me without the mask looks very like me with it. Yet I would no longer believe that.

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.

Telling the Truth

“When you talked of courage and truth that really shone out to me,” she told me. It felt that I was speaking from my real self or my inner light. Now, after working on this for fifty minutes I am exhausted. I wanted to explore the barriers which prevent me from speaking, and I found myself beyond them.

Yesterday at the office I wanted to explain why I am there, and I couldn’t. The words would not come out. “Are you OK?” Yes, but I just can’t speak. I wanted to say, “I find it hard to believe anything good about myself” and a complex emotional mix of sadness frustration and resentment stopped me. I paused to try and sense these feelings fully and get past them, but could not. So the frustration increased.

Why bother? It is me stopping me saying these things, after all, one set of neurons and dendrites wanting to say it, another blocking it. The answer is introjects: I googled to check I understood the term. It is from psychoanalysis, meaning to unconsciously adopt the attitudes of others. The explanatory quote is revealing: “They introjected a sense of their own worthlessness”.

Introjects are not me. I seek my freedom.

I phoned Samaritans with the hope of finding what phrases I find hard to say, so that I could practise saying them. “My name is – “, she said. I can’t remember it. I was focused on my own need, and working hard on it.

“My name is Abigail,” I said. I would give that a nine, very difficult to say. It means coming out as trans, as my voice sounds so male on the phone. I take notes as I speak.

“I have some understanding of introjects.” Seven. Stating the difficulty is itself difficult.

“I have difficulty believing anything positive about myself.” Three. I have said that before.

“That must make life difficult,” she says, evenly, challenging my belief that it should all be easy for me.

“I am terrified!” I burst out, tearfully, high-pitched. Her acceptance is helping.

It’s to do with competing views of reality: as in Narnia, the witch puts the prince in the Silver Chair to save him from himself.

I practise saying that I understand what is going on.

“I sensed your difficulty saying your name,” she says.

Self-deprecation is easy. “I am not playing the game particularly well,” I say. I should try to pass better.

“It is important to accept who you are,” she says.

Yes! To practise speaking from sanity.

“Different roles are necessary for different situations,” she says.

I find it hard to get beyond small talk, I say. Then I pause to think. I can state my resentment of a past experience, but is that a line I want to go down?

Things are easier to say now. I tell my dangling rope story. “I have been broken repeatedly.” That’s a mere two. I can say it with stories.

“I have faced the world with courage, I say. Two again. I say it softly- indeed, I say it from my softness

Which is my strength

I now pause to check truthfulness. I seek the best words to express it. Softly- “One voice finds it easier to say than [pause for truth] others do.”

When I speak Truth I have this strength, I say.

“That must be very powerful,” she says. It is.

My theory is that if in mindfulness I pause to accept a feeling I can pass through it, then can speak.

What is the mask? Sometimes it is appropriate. In the office I apply myself steadily to particular tasks, not letting feelings hang out; yet the mask should not be screwed on so tightly that I can’t let it go. I feel I am almost always masked.

And some people, possibly musicians, barristers, politicians? can be themselves in their work, being not acting. Everyone is emotional, just some people’s emotions are accepted and validated and called “rational”, and some people’s are deprecated and called “emotional”.

I asked her for feedback, and she said, “When you talked of courage and truth that really shone out to me,” and that pleases me so much I have written it here twice. It is the Real me, the Inner Light.

Shapeshifter

Why would you want to see him? Because it seems possible we could have true authentic communication, heart to heart; not deceiving each other, or concealing; without masks.

OK. Why not? Because I am not sure that authentic communication is possible. I think he wants to pastor me. He, the wise, spiritual soul, reaches out to me because he wants to help me see the truth and heal, because he is kind like that. Then all my anger and my contempt for him might just spill out. I might just shout at him, and relationships would have broken down even further.

Right. So- you want to be authentic, but the thing which most terrifies you is that you might be authentic?

Well, when you put it like that-

I didn’t put it like that when I first called the Samaritans this morning. I told the woman that I wanted to pour out at her the rage and contempt I feel, because I do not normally express that. I just don’t, normally. I don’t have anyone I can shout at like that, and often it seems people punch down because they are unable to punch up- get angry with a convenient target rather than the source of their anger. She would not like that.

So she asked a few questions, in an even tone, and I answered, feeling frustrated and perplexed, and then she asked, “Is it because of abuse?”

Oh, God. Is she asking me to justify my anger? So I said yes. Much of my anger comes from childhood abuse. I was completely controlled, not allowed an independent thought. In response to further questioning, I say my father was as much under my mother’s thumb as I was. Did you have any siblings? How was it for them? So I challenged the question and she explains something and then I answer it.

My sister was conforming at home but managed to make an independent life for herself outside it. For example once I went to visit her in Edinburgh when she was training to be a nurse, and she met me at Waverley station and we walked to the pub to meet her flat-mates, also student nurses. When we got to the pub, Olive said, “Oh, Susan, you’ve got your English accent on”, that is, the accent my sister used when at home. I remember that evening she had a fag and told me not to tell our parents. I remember that now, I did not tell it to the Samaritan.

And then I got very upset and said all the time I am telling this story I am thinking you won’t believe me and you will think that story irrelevant proving nothing and I have this voice in my head saying what are you making a fuss about and you’re playacting and there is nothing to fuss about.

I wasn’t hit, often. I asked a woman does your husband hit you and she said “Only occasionally”. I asked a man if he hit his wife and he said “Only when she needs it”. I was hit once or twice but mostly the control was by extremely conditional positive regard.

This is why those men did not testify against Michael Jackson. He climbed inside their heads. There was a little Michael inside their heads telling them what to say, what was the only loving and right thing they had to say.

In the same even tone, she asked, “Are you suicidal?” No I’m not frelling suicidal. I mean I would rather be dead but right at this moment I am not about to kill myself. But I didn’t say that- I just thought it, and was silent for a bit. So she asked whether I had had counselling and I shouted at her for asking these stupid questions. That is, I got to be authentic, and it did me no good at all. To show me that I had not discomposed her, she asked another question in the same supercilious tone. So I told her to fuck off and rang off.

The second Samaritan was even more frustrating. She asked if I would mind telling my name, and I could not answer. I want to relieve feelings of anger and frustration by shouting (not at you, I would say, it’s not personal, please don’t be offended) and my voice will sound male. Should I say Clare, or Stephen? What about Hillary? I am silent, because the question just bamboozles me.

-Call me shapeshifter, I said.
-Oh, it’s too early in the morning for that.

I have authentic love and creativity and a desire to communicate and deep playful joy, and also anger which I can’t admit and others sense. Sometimes they think I will get violent, but I never do- when I am hit I don’t hit back, I just freeze.

So I rang off, rang back, and the third was a genial old buffer. And I thought I will see X but not Y. I can be authentic with X. So I started to email that, then stopped. I could just not see him, but don’t want to be a coward. So I remain undercided, and dissatisfied.

Per ardua ad astra

At the Greenbelt festival, I loved the Death Cafés the most. We gathered in groups to talk of death, and as there were about twice as many there as we expected Annette asked me to help facilitate one of the small groups each time. In one of those, people seemed more concerned to talk about how to set up a Death Café than actually participating; in another a priest whose previous professional experience included business facilitation took over, interviewing each participant until I mildly said that was my job (though she was doing great at it), and I borrowed a woman’s umbrella to poke the awning above our heads, to drain the puddle bulging down towards us. We took turns, propping up the awning.

The attitude to talking of suicidal ideation is “how brave you are” (to talk of it). In thee separate sessions, my groups talked openly and fearlessly. What do we think of the Afterlife? At a Christian festival, my disbelief was not agreed with, but was heard without challenge.

I was on stage, to talk of Quaker understandings of God, and how we were changing our Book of Discipline. This was on Monday at 5pm, after quite a lot of festival-goers had left, before an audience of thirty. There were four of us. I have a thank you card, signed by eight, thanking me for my moving, open and honest sharing, and my wonderful presence. It delights me.

I made some contribution on the Saturday morning with the children’s activity. We had pictures of heads to glue onto paper, and the task was to draw a body; twigs to decorate with wool, glue and glitter; and “fairy dust” to play in. I played in fairy dust, making ephemeral pictures in metal trays, and some children joined me.

I met PT, an Italian-heritage New Yorker who spent tens of thousands on gay cures, which inspired his first stage show. Before the festival started, we walked around the field, going up on the Mount to look over the festival ground, almost empty of people but with all the tents and banners, and into venues where he would speak. I found him lovely: clear-eyed, deeply sensitive and courageous. I feared he had a poor impression of me, based on three things he said.

He asked what inspires me, and I felt inadequate, because I have got nowhere with what I love: writing, speaking on a stage. We walked into the Green Room, not guarded yet as the festival had not opened, and they gave him a meal ticket and a copy of the programme. I asked him to get me a copy, and he asked if he could. They told him he could not. “It’s on sale, right?” I did not say I cannot afford one- or can, but money is that tight. He handed it to me, and I carried it as we walked out into occasional light spits of rain. Then he said, quietly as if not expecting, or not wanting to hear an answer, “I gave that to you to look at. Oh, never mind.” I carried it back to the Quaker tent.

Next evening I came up to him after his last evening talk, not wanting to go off together just to talk for a moment- to the other speaker, or someone, about Evangelical ideas of Love, actually- or- and he said he had to go, he would see me tomorrow. As if he felt the need to escape me, I thought.

That hardened into my own depressive view of myself as grasping and boring. And, of course, inadequate, always inadequate. Probably, the viral infection worked with the depression, making me feel greater lassitude than usual. Days after the festival, two weeks ago, I called Samaritans.

What could I do? I could read, I suppose. Queer Virtue by Elizabeth Edman, perhaps, on how authentic Christianity and Queerness alike rupture and sustain us, of how the queer people she knows are in touch with their moral centre, of how Queer theory, Queerness and Queering disrupt binary thinking to get closer to reality.

That sounds heavy, he said. It may be the most accessible book I have in my reading pile- introductions to epistemology and existentialism, a Hannah Arendt reader. I have thought, trying to know myself, that I can work very hard at something; now it seems that though I do almost nothing, when I do something I am working hard. This is a good thing- I appreciate culture because I have spent time seeking that appreciation- but essentially I have two speeds:

Captain! The engines cannae take much more o’ this! and
Dead stop.

All this struggling people do! All the struggling we demand of each other.

Catching the intensity

Around 1.45 am, I cycle over the railway bridge. It’s one lane, at the top of a hill, so the car behind can’t pass me, but just over the bridge I am going down a little and it still isn’t passing me. Rather, it pulls up alongside, which is frightening. Then I notice it is a police car. The female passenger says nothing but the male driver says, “If you’re going to be cycling at this time you might consider investing in a crash helmet and a reflective jacket, because the drivers at this time are not always driving well”.

I looked at him and thought, I really do not want this to escalate, so said, “Thank you”. He has nothing to say to that, and drives on. I had LED lights, not technically legal but bright enough, the law has not been adapted from the time of Edison bulbs. Next day I thought, he was irked that I had slowed him up for ten seconds going over the bridge, and so he frightened a lone woman late at night. That just might have been enough to abash him if I’d said it.

When I was being weaned-

this will all come together in the end, I promise you-

my mother made something for me and I sang to her. She thought it delighted me, and was delighted by my reaction. Then she chopped some cooked chicken really small and forced it through a sieve, which must have been very hard work. “And you spat it at me,” she told me. I don’t know whether she told me that story more than once, but she told it to me when I was a child and it made an impression.

She was working very hard to look after me, and my sister who is two years older, and (in the way of babies) doing what one does unaffectedly and unashamedly and responding in the moment I spat it at her. I don’t know why, because I don’t remember the incident, only the story, but something had irked me or I didn’t like it or I wasn’t hungry. What I take from the story is that I flummoxed her when her hard work did not pay off. She was stressed.

However stressed you are, you have your Backlog to deal with. In the Quaker meeting I was thinking of my mother’s distress, and my distress at being burdened with that, and her fear and certainty that we must not be Seen which I took on from her. I felt that distress fully, and held it, bore it, perhaps healed it. Perhaps in part.

You are bold and brave and honest and open

On Friday I went to the Trump demonstration in London, and on Thursday I did not want to go out. I had to go to the Tesco Express a mile away, and also the GP. I have this online system to order repeat prescriptions and appointments, but it had broken down, so I had gone in to the surgery to sort it, that had not worked, and I had to go again. When I eventually went, the receptionist pressed me to accept the solution which had not worked the first time. Had I accepted it, I would have gone away- a win for her- so I had to insist. Right now it appears the something different I insisted on has not worked either. Anyway.

I did not want to go out.

The emotional part of me is completely in control. If the emotional bit does not want to go out I don’t go out, and that manifests as depression and lassitude if I am not properly conscious of it. I used to suppress it and bully it but can’t any more, and I’m not taking cajoling, wheedling, persuading or the false kind of sympathy which says I’ll sympathise if you’ll do exactly what I want you to do- not taking them from myself, from my rational bit. God that’s weird. And real.

It said I didn’t want to go out, and I listened, and I respected it. It’s kind of like marriage guidance. I can’t divorce myself, and I can’t fight myself any more, I have fought myself to a standstill.

I need to hear this traumatised part of me. I said that to the Samaritans, I said it to Tina, and now I am saying it to you and immediately I said it to Tina I went off on a tangent because I could not go deeper. I can hear the emotional part, even speak from it, but not for long. I have to be Rational. I am going off on a tangent now.

A friend phoned me on Saturday night. She is feeling betrayed, and she was so angry with me she had to phone me. Did I have anything to do with That web page? No, I hadn’t. Next day she ministered, a long affecting story, but what I took from it was that she was feeling alienated from Quakers, betrayed, because of our departure from the Truth, and the Truth is important to her. I find her wonderful, brilliant, charismatic, powerful and beautiful.

I want my Love, intellect and creativity to heal your hurt-
the difficulty of it perplexes me
The unknowing of the result frustrates me
I will continue, doing all I can do.
Forgive me my Hunger and intensity!

Trust me to see it emotionally. She tells the truth, to stop vulnerable children and adolescents from being hurt. She wants the truth heard.

If our friendship might die under this strain, I want to give her a gift. I believe the truth is other than as she sees it, and wondered if we had anything we might agree on, and she said we are so far apart we do not even have the same concepts and cannot discuss it. She will keep on fighting for Right as she sees it, I hope she has a small number of Quakers who will back her, and who knows where the Spirit will lead? I wanted her to be Heard, and I don’t know how to accomplish that. And, she may well do what she needs for herself.

I am bigger than our dispute.

In the Quaker meeting, I am dealing with stuff now, and with my backlog of pain- from fifty years ago!

Another wonderful person. She is about twenty years younger than I, so she has wisdom and understanding and a different upbringing and ways of seeing that I want to get in touch with. I need to learn the lessons of the young people.

Tina said, there’s part of you that is very young, and you know it. With K there’s something about me being older but also about being younger in some ways. And I thought, no, it’s about being the less free, conscious, authentic one, but possibly she’s right.

Tina said, you’re still striving to parent yourself, going back to very young childhood, a part of yourself feeling profoundly distressed and disconnected and wanting your parents to be unconditional so you give yourself that now, you are unconditional to your emotional side. “I wasn’t heard, so I will hear me.”

Tina said,

That childishness that has got you into trouble a lot
but it also gives you a tremendous amount in terms of awe and wonder and appreciating beauty
you don’t want to stifle it and you don’t want it to lose its- sense of awe and wonder
It’s quite magnificent

And I changed the subject again. I have to be more adult with the Quakers.

-That’s your frustration with them. They’re supposed to be unconditional.

No, they’re not. They’re human beings. Clare and John Whitehead from Delph, whom I knew when I first joined, parented me quite a lot, inviting me over for dinner regularly then taking me to hear string quartets. I found out at Yearly Meeting that they had died, when I read the Testimonies to the grace of God in their lives. But now, my Quaker meeting do not have the energy to parent me and really should not have to. Not if I can parent myself.

I’ve been parenting myself. I have been sitting in Quaker meeting allowing the full weight of my feeling, allowing myself to be conscious of it, and catching the intensity. I have incredible intensity. I am not comfortable with it, but I am getting to know it better.

My mother messed me up very badly. Her lesson was Never, ever, show the intensity, because she was frightened and hurt and the most important thing was not to be seen. Part of me took that on, and part of me didn’t and has been breaking out and rebelling and causing trouble ever since, and the two will integrate eventually.

I read an elder or overseer, not from my area meeting, complain that s/he had to do so much work with the difficult or needy Friends that s/he did not have the time to get to know the others. In my last meeting someone had to do too much work with this needy Friend, and I am feeling regretful of that, for it broke our friendship. As a needy or difficult Friend it is incumbent on me to do all I can for myself.

I hope I can make a contribution sometimes.