Ceasing to pretend

Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. Between these two banks the river of my life flows.
– Nisargadatta Maharaj

Helen wants me to fix goals, ideally to get a job. My goal is to stay on benefits, because it is a lifestyle I can cope with, I am in control, and there is only just enough money. I tried to make a difference once, and it was too hard.

I tell Tina of Mark, the playwright. Helen’s powerpoint slide said she got divorced, but actually she only split up from someone she was cohabiting with. She changed it to “divorced” in case a religious person judged her. “Hallelujah,” said Mark, bitterly, imagining himself humorous. I challenged it, saying that I am very religious, and do not judge others. Mark says all religions are like a cult, brainwashing people. Harlan tells of his cousin, who was “a bit slow”

-do you mean he had learning difficulties? challenges Helen-

who converted to Islam and ended up in a mental asylum. We do not stick to the subject. Today Harlan, instead of referring coyly to “relaxants”, named his crime as if daring anyone to make something of it. He smokes weed. He used to smoke £100 a week, now since having his kids it’s £30, and as far as he is concerned that’s money in his pocket.

We go off the subject easily. It is diverting enough.

Do you want to change yourself? asks Tina. You said Mark, just like you, is “walled up behind a mask or persona, disappointed and resentful”. That’s heavy shit.

I want to stay on benefits because the uncertain generosity of whoever is filling Ian Duncan-Smith’s tiny shoes- David Gauke, Google tells me- is pleasanter and more reliable than any chance of earning money. Helen challenged us on Monday to think of what we would like to do, at the end of her course, and I wrote to be myself without the mask. And now I think I am lots of different acts, but always acts.

On Sunday, with her, what happened? Possibilities:
-she used me as waste disposal, and I liked it.
-It was nothing under the surface beyond what happened.
-we were playing a game together which both enjoyed. I hope that. It would be intimate. She holds me at arms length.

-What parts of you are there, meeting her?

It might be easier to say what parts are not. My resentment is under the surface, always balanced with fascination. My care, appreciation and playfulness are there. I am articulate, except when she asks why I thought we might be embarrassed to meet, and I could not answer her. Because she could always withhold her acceptance of my answer, and question each answer in recursion.

-What’s that feel like?
-Sad and powerless.

For which part are you sad? The lawyer or the romantic? The older or younger self?
-Possibly all of me.
And at that my inner critic explodes in triumph and derision. But I am just a set of different acts, I said. I am proved inconsistent and incomprehending.

There is sadness in me, and there are other feelings. I am sad about her, wanting union, partnership. Fascinated, resentful, I love to see her. What I get is wonderful, and I am held at arms’ length.

-What do you get? Unrequited love?
-Her presence, charisma, sparkle. I will keep coming back for that.

-Have you ever been loved?

Yes. A woman loves me, and I did not know, and now we cannot be together. My father let me down. My mother was too scared. H called me “Cariad”, and now I think of her with pity, despair, irritation. She always responded the wrong way to everything, I burst out. We betrayed each other repeatedly is an old line I am not sure is true.

-And what about yourself?
I like myself and I wish myself well. I despise myself. I am very beautiful.

Those voices, you despise yourself; you are beautiful. How opposite are they?
-I am opposites.
-We all are. I see them both, but they don’t talk to each other. The different parts of you pull you apart sometimes. We’ve got to get those parts talking to one another.

So we arrange to skype again.

Joy and terror

If you are insane, you might as well roll with it. There is beauty in my insanity. I will love it, not fear it.

Something good happened to me on Wednesday. I have been thinking of my friends- if I become homeless, which of them might let me use a spare room? It would be unsatisfactory, and possibly only one might, possibly not him; no, I could not ask her, and certainly not her…

if I become homeless-

and there has been a reprieve. I am less likely to be made homeless, at least for the moment, I will continue to be able to pay rent, I may even find a job I could do and support myself. The benefits system is not uniformly hostile, sticks not carrots, withdraw money on a whim, but might be a little, inefficiently, more concerned with appearance than reality but a little- supportive. And the support might be enough to get me supporting myself again.

I sobbed without weeping. I read that this is contemptible and hypocritical, they pretend to cry, these horrible people, but really, they produce no tears so they are OBVIOUSLY TRYING IT ON. Well, that was a politician who had been caught out, clearly a bad person who the journalist reasonably despised, but still. Sobbing without weeping is Bad. Except I was doing it when alone, so no-one to fool but myself. The pressure and terror had been too ghastly to face head on, and now it was slightly less, a reprieve but not a release.

It is not quite as bad as I had thought.

I feel depressed, and I feel I lack energy. After doing a washing in the morning, often I want to do no more than just watch TV in the afternoon. Might the GP help? Well, having let me down badly twice from a combination of arrogance and ignorance, and in one exhibiting a lack of care which I felt indicated dislike, and possible contempt for me as a trans woman (nothing could ever be proved), my GP practice is the last place I would like to discuss depression and lack of energy. I feel all they could do is prescribe an antidepressant. I feel my depression arises from my difficult circumstances, and when I have been depressed before because of circumstances antidepressants have done no good. I feel my GP would be at best useless.

I sat in the Quaker meeting and felt my yielding softness. How hard it is to see it as a blessing, where Manliness and strength and decisiveness and leadership are praised, especially in men. It has felt that there is no room for my softness. I will give it space. This is what I need. I will give it to myself.

Three people ministered, well, I think, and at the end I had a sense of complete Joy and complete Terror, both at the same time. I have a strong will, high intelligence, and a heart full of Love, and the World I face is not as unremittingly hostile as it sometimes seems- it is beautiful, as well as implacable. Such strong, different emotions were hard to hold in, and I shook and gasped. And I had a strong sense of my loveableness and acceptableness- by God, by me- even possibly by the world. If I can accept myself, I can accept others.

I applied for a job, as usual screwing myself up to the sticking place to do it just before the closing date, and after feeling so het up I could not go to bed. It would be difficult. It might be possible, it might be the most wonderful thing in the World.

Celebrating femininity

Is there anything in femininity beyond oppression of women? Is there anything positive in it? Is there anything which might be real in an AMAB person, that she would use transition to express her true self, as we generally imagine we have done? I am still thinking of my sternest, least forgiving critic, whom I will never persuade, and her strong arguments, and trying to convince myself that there is, that I have gained something by transition to balance its costs.

I pick on a will to co-operate, and to support, and aversion from competition, which hurts feelings. People have observed women who are not feminine in this way: Eric Berne’s game “Let’s you and him fight” considered a woman provoking battle, as Helen did without counting the cost. And Jesus wanting to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings is feminine in this way. But I am talking of femininity, not how women are. I see it in me, as a thread throughout my life, and think it is beautiful. I have enjoyed court victories, but mainly when I felt I was fighting injustice, exercising an impulse to protect. And having blundered into litigation work twice in my life, I wanted to settle fairly rather than fight.

Arguably it comes from oppression. The NYT had a powerful argument for that: a man sexually assaulted Taylor Swift during a photo shoot, and after she thanked him for his participation. That automatic thank you, smoothing away conflict, at the cost of subservience, self-doubt, even self-flagellation, is instilled into girls and women. Her mother worried she had raised her to be too polite. Possibly it arose in me from caring for my mother’s feelings- yes, really, possibly my mother made me a pansy through wanting too much to make me a “proper boy”.

Also in NYT I read of Michel Foucault’s (or Theodor Adorno’s) term subjectivisation — a phenomenon in which individuals subject themselves to a set of behavioral regulations, and by doing so, acquire a sense of their own identities. My critic has studied and written on Foucault. This is the opposite of Richard Rohr, where today I read The True Self is consciousness itself. The false self lives in unconsciousness, and we do evil only when we are unconscious. Surely Foucault would see subjectivisation as a bad thing, a way of creating some sort of false self. For my critic, my “femininity” is an act, a pretense, a thing apart, though for me my whole existence.

So for her, my discomfort in the masculine conversation yesterday, my pleasure in the feminine, would arise from this is not how I am supposed to be; for me, this is not how I am. If I admit the possibility of her understanding being true, that could be a feminine socialised self doubt, where women keep smiling, swallow their feelings, will not rock the boat, are not assertive, are subservient. Seen that way, from the point of view of a woman not naturally subservient who has asserted her right and been repeatedly attacked for it, I get that “femininity” would be revolting. She might note my occasional anger and competitiveness, and see them as my true, manly self. I can be very angry. “I want to control you,” I said to her, forcefully. I feel I was provoked-

and she could wipe the floor with me, then blame me, I deserved it

This is an increasingly competitive world. Twentieth century principles of the good society, caring for all its members and ensuring that all share the benefits of that society, have given way to neoliberal ideals of funnelling all wealth to a tiny minority of capitalists. Having to compete yet being forced into that subservient role against ones natural character would be revolting. Yet if society is not to implode, some people have to salve feelings, and to work for reconciliation and co-operation. I felt that was the real me, so far from how I perceived I ought to be, as a man, that I transitioned. To be who I really am, that is a price worth paying.

Whisky, newly distilled

I drew myself as the Sun, shining. The words in my mind were Strength, Beauty, Right: I am right, righteous, I have rights, I am rightly made. This is the world I evolved in, and I fit it. Now I cannot understand the notes I took, but it was something about being the cat which low status people choose to kick: I imagine that poor transphobe thinking, “I may be going to prison but at least I’m not a pervert like that.” His attack comes from his own need, because he cannot see me as I am, only as he has been taught to see me, as a way of controlling any effeminacy in him. Because it is not about me, his attack need not affect me. I can let it go.

All my emotions are Right, or Appropriate. They are not always comfortable (here I am moving from appreciation to judgment- comfortable only for the ego, not the real self).

I trust what comes up in myself.
I trust what comes up in the World.
I do not have all the answers, but I have the ability to find them.

It is whisky, newly distilled, the first fire of it. Seeing my God-self is wonderful, and I need to learn to be comfortable in my new skin. I will reach a mature appreciation, different from this amazed delight. And it is True. I am Right, and I need merely appreciate that. That was two weeks ago, and I am building on it.

It was at Yearly Meeting Gathering, the Experiment with Light. I saw myself as God made me, beautiful and Right, without the ego-self which one creates to try to survive. Now, since then, I am seeing that ego-self more clearly, clutching its filthy rags about itself, and how poorly it serves me.

Also at YMG was a Singalong showing of Frozen. “How can she be seen as some sort of Feminist icon, with those big eyes and hair and princess dress?” she asked, and I thought, meet us half way. Those are not ideal, but seeing her characteristic which everyone else has seen as a curse, accepting it and rejecting their judgment, is strong and beautiful.

It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
I’m free!

“That perfect girl is gone”- how we are taught to idolise the ego-self, which is never “perfect”, but enslaving. She has some self-doubt, wanting to do the right thing, willing to self-sacrifice rather than hurt, so inhibited from fighting back. And (spoilers) the act of true love which saves the younger princess is not True Love’s Kiss by the Prince, who turns out to be a bad lot, but an act of bravely defending her sister.

I love Top of the Lake- China Girl. Episode 4 shows how Puss, the egocentric, psychotic parasite, has enslaved Mary. She loves him, completely. He has first charmed and flattered her, fooling her into seeing him as an intellectual with an understanding of her parents’ hypocrisies by mocking them; he has convinced her that the prostitutes are somehow in the “Real World” which her parents avoid, so appealing to her teenage idealism. With mature adults he can only be a disgusting jester, his pretensions seen through, so he preys on a teenager. He rewards her servility with kindness or kisses, a facsimile of Love, and as he has reeled her in he gives less and she, desperately, gives more.

I believe in his power to degrade her. She feels he is wise, teaching her about life, and so tolerates being more and more humiliated. He says “I am going to hit you in the face” and does so, and such is his power that she almost accepts even that. I hope with the failed blow job she has realised how poisonous he is; she needed to reach rock bottom before realising that, because she now thinks herself a fool for being reeled in by him, and few people could admit that to themselves easily.

How happy I felt when you said my song was “fantastic”! And after, when you dismissed my verses, I only recited more, desperate to be affirmed again. You are no psychopath. I love your bravery, intelligence, courage, fierceness, how you can feel such fear and do it anyway. Knowing you enriches me. I don’t think you reeled me in, or have wronged me in any way; it is my own response to you. I felt it when I first saw you, so I would have to control how you walk into a room if I thought you really had wronged me, and if I controlled you you would be nothing, rather than the glorious human being you are. You used me as a confidant, making me feel valued- it is an exchange, I like to feel my listening reduces pain. And you will never meet me half way. Trans men, “biological females,” are victims. How awful that she felt she had to cut off her breasts to escape the prison of femininity. Trans women, biological males, are perverted exhibitionists, getting a sexual thrill from fooling others into thinking we are women. So you say. I cannot be a victim, only a perpetrator, for you, as a biological male, even though you claim toxic masculinity oppresses all men. You loathe my performed femininity, that way I curve my hand, though none of this is conscious. To me, it seems it is just me. Still, I tried to please you.

I am continually surprised. How can you not appreciate me? Well, you don’t. The arrogance in me made me continually expect better, and my low self-esteem, the flip side of my arrogance, made me accept the taunts. Only seeing Mary weeping in her birth-mother’s arms, surely having finally realised how damaging Puss is for her and what a fool she has been, or what a human she has been, so different from her conception of herself-

She weeps and escapes. I must follow her example.

Not Cis; not a TERF

My friend loathes the word “cis”. She told me of going to University, where the young ladies had a curfew of 11pm imposed on them, and had to wear a dress for the evening meal on Sundays. Male guests were not permitted after 7pm. She rebelled.

She was amazed and repelled by how compliant the others were. This was in the ‘Seventies, not the ‘Forties. I love her strength and determination. She managed to get round some of the rules, and was part of the pressure for their relaxation. There was no curfew when I went to Uni in the ‘Eighties, though one lad asked when “Lights Out” was, and we got the impression he would have liked one.

Back in the Eighties, feminists talked of “Consciousness raising”. If you could explain to women how oppressed they were by patriarchy, they would become feminists, fighting it. No-one talks of that now. No amount of consciousness raising will drive the soft pink floral sweater from the nation’s wardrobes. Some women see the oppression and fight it, some women love femininity and work with it. I don’t know whether James Damore, formerly of Google, is right that women are generally more co-operative, interested in people rather than things, or whether that is from socialisation or predisposition, but some women are.

Why should she be called “cis”? She rejects the feminine gender stereotype, because she does not fit it. She is a radical feminist: women share reproductive organs, and femininity is merely cultural, merely oppressive. She is a woman, but that does not make her a particular gender, and her gendered expression sometimes fits and sometimes fights the gender stereotype.

I wish she would meet me half way. I would love co-operation between her gender non-conformity and my own, because the gender stereotype, the Patriarchy, oppresses both equally and because I am more interested in people than things, and in co-operation. She called Trans a conservative movement. Tell that to the conservatives, who hate us! I suppose her argument is that we go along with the idea that my co-operativeness, etc, makes me feminine so I should express myself as female. Feminine = Female is a conservative idea. However, I have sought out the way society permits me to be my extremely feminine self- it is transition, which allows me to escape the masculine expectations forced on me. I love floral blouses and dresses, so want women to wear men’s shirts, jackets and ties if they wish; and if they wear dresses I do not imagine that says anything about their levels of co-operativeness or interest in people.

So, she is not Cis, because she does not conform to gender. Not only trans people reject the gender enforced on them. I could argue that it makes a useful shorthand to distinguish those who call ourselves trans or non-binary from everyone else, but she is not having that. She even rejects the idea that we might be particularly distant from the stereotypes, thinking gender oppresses everyone, apart from a few “alpha” males.

I would not presume to state her argument against the word TERF, but she is not hostile she says to trans women, only supportive of the rights of- she would say “biological women”. Calling us “women” sticks in her craw, but it is our way in to freedom.

The lesson I draw from this is that it is a disaster for both trans folk and her kind of feminist that we should be ranged against each other; that the oppression we suffer from Patriarchy, or whatever, is very similar, as is our interest in attacking that oppression. I feel in some cases her side’s objection to us is rooted in revulsion from femininity, falsely enforced on them. Femininity freely chosen is beautiful.

Other people III

The argument that it is likely we are in a computer simulation is that they would be so useful. There is one real existence, and perhaps billions of life forms creating simulations to test how things would work out in particular situations. Our chance of being in reality is slim. We might be in a simulation, in a simulation, like the central Matryoshka doll.

How can I emerge into reality? asked H determinedly, delighting me. But the simulation might be better: imagine if the Big Crunch will be in less than a thousand years, bringing all to an end, but in our simulation time goes more quickly and this universe has billions of years to go. Our simulation feels real: why should living a life or affecting others’ lives be more meaningful, outside it?

Maybe it’s just that I forgot my pill last night and took it this morning, but feelings are heightened today. I wanted to go into the garden and read, but instead am arrested by the beauty of the leaves on that tree. I am in Presence, which I decided was not a “spiritual state”– but it is, you know. It is not Enlightenment, but it is Heavenly. I find the garden-bird, and the squirrel, entrancing. As I left the Meeting house, a woman arrived on an electric scooter. “Oh, hello” I said as I walked out. Now the scooter turns, and she scoots away. Someone chases after her: “Do you want me to open [the other door with the ramp]?” she asks. No, apparently. “But I would like to talk to you!” I feel a pang. Did I insult her by not attending to her need to enter by a ramp? How horrible that would be! Even though I am a visitor and did not consider I might be needed to let her in, I feel worried remorse.

Then I notice a plastic toy on the bench, a brightly-coloured rotor on a launcher with a spring. There is a loop to go round a tiny wrist. I try it. I try it again. It is delightful!

In the meeting I am in delight looking at the other people here. I love them for what I know of them, and their complexities and wonders I do not know. And I am abashed at how I do not know them. One ministers on “Post-truth”. I minister:

I was glad when they said unto me, let us go unto the house of the Lord. There is a streak of reckless generosity in our religion, heedless of the future or common sense: when the woman poured perfume on Jesus, someone said “it could have been sold, and the money given to the poor”. In the gospel those words are placed in the mouth of Judas, because he wanted to steal it. I am delighted being with these people, and Mr Trump tells people what they want to hear, reassuring them they are good, and the Outsiders are bad.

Another ministers all truth is provisional- scientific theories are the best explanation.

Over lunch, I want to show off the issue of Quaker Voices, with the photograph I took on its cover. I want to show off, and be petted, rather than to see others and know them better. And I showed it to Peter, then forgot that he wanted to show me how well he could park, such a small distance from the barrier! Oh well. It is how I am.

In Area Meeting, the Men’s Refuge comes up. The need for a Women’s refuge is far greater, she says. I wonder how we might make this not a zero sum game, men v women, two sides in the Meeting. The voices here are for a Men’s refuge. We will proceed with it. What if there is no call for a men’s refuge, and it falls through? Will those who have given money be happy to have a house for some undefined charitable purpose, and do they want a voice in deciding that purpose? If residents can claim housing benefit or Universal Credit, or if they can’t, do we want an income from Women’s Aid managing it? So much unresolved- yet we will go ahead with it.

This friendship delights me. After, in the sunshine, we hug; before, she touched my bare arm, making me shiver.

Being controlled

As we wander through the town centre to the café-pub, she notices a bright-yellow, “Spring-like” coat in a charity-shop window. She says it would look good on me. I go to investigate, and take it from the window display, undoing all its buttons, unwrapping the very long belt. A worker dashes over and pulls the mannequin from the display, then feels the need to explain and apologise- “We’re not allowed to have them in the window without something on them”. I apologise in turn- I am sorry for dismantling the display. “I like it, but it is up to you,” she says. Are the arms a little short- I was descended from gorillas- maybe a little, she thinks. She will not exert herself to persuade me at all.

I buy the coat, and wear it to the pub. I enjoy lunch with her, then cycle home, still wearing the coat.

I am not certain she would think of this, but I analyse obsessively, and decided- she told me what to wear, and I wore it. She took control, and I assented. I really really like that. I could give pathological explanations. My mother was extremely controlling, and it is because of that. I am not behaving like a fully mature adult. I don’t know if any cis woman would feel this way about a man.

I really really like that. And it is shaming, humiliating, NOT HOW A MAN SHOULD BE!!!! RIDICULOUS DISGUSTING SHAMEFUL VILE

The inner critic does not like it. I have such strong internal barriers against this, it is more an internal policeman, with a taser to paralyse me if I stray from the Right Path. It comes from my controlling mother and soft father, who were terrified of anyone finding out.

I called the Samaritans. “I want to talk about sex”, I said. “This is not the phone line for that,” she said, and rang off. With the second, I was more circumspect. I do not want to perv on her, but to sort out my feelings. I have been frightened of my feelings and suppressed them, and want to accept them and feel them fully, for then I feel I pass through them. I need her presence as I do this. Shame, humiliation, resentment, complex unnamed feelings well up within me and I can bear them if I sit in silence, eyes closed, and allow their conflagration, their cacophony. Then such regret!

I told her of leaving the office to kill myself. It was the only thing I could do. I could not bear it, and had to get out immediately without thought for the consequences. The internal policeman does not accept such an excuse, for any human being with the slightest resource or resilience would have had no problem at all. I feel the pain of being in that situation, and then the pain at lost opportunities from never being able to accept that pain, so wanting to hide away, and wonder if some sort of forward movement is possible.

My lunch companion is a friend, not a potential partner. However, after years of trying to make a man of myself and so being unable to let a potential partner in, and loathing my attempts at sex because I did what I thought I should do rather than what I might like, these experiences might help me seek out something which could satisfy me at last. An oddity- as I spoke to the Samaritan woman I was using my female voice. Often, I speak below the break, but not then.

-What will you do next? she asks.

I will watch Call the Midwife on tv. Apart from one token character the men are all stupid, sometimes bumblingly well-intentioned but usually selfish, even violent. And the women take control and sort things out. Just my sort of programme!

berthe-morisot-in-the-dining-room

Truth and narrative

“True story” is an oxymoron.

I phoned the Tax Credits helpline for advisers, and got nowhere. “You’re being very condensating,” said the man I was referred to, and after half an hour my brain was so cabbaged that I knew he meant something else, but did not know the word for it. Thank you, you don’t need to say it now, I worked it out for myself later.

In the nineties I knew a man, still the most boring man I have ever met. I can’t remember his name, but it ended in an í sound, a contemptuous diminutive, Nicky or Ricky or Donny or something- anyway, he got very drunk on whisky, and ever thereafter could not drink it. He found a sip nauseating. Dismissively contemptuous, Neil said he probably had had no head for it anyway, he got drunk on a couple of glasses.

I associated those stories. “Condensating” was the moment I got nowhere with the benefits authorities, that I could not take any more. I cannot bear it. I could not bear another such conversation, it nauseates me.

Another myth. Margaret saw me as Clare for the first time, and said, “It’s as if you are acting when you’re Stephen, just you when you’re Clare”. Aha, I am a woman really, I am right to transition. The story becomes my conclusive evidence that I am right, the judgment of another person which I cling to, and take out for reassurance from time to time. It is my self-image: I know who I am, and “you’re just you when you’re Clare” is part of it.

Then about a year ago, I took off my wig and put on my cycle helmet, appearing androgynous, but continued talking, and H said “You have this lovely male energy”. Her beliefs, her politics, or her individual judgment of me need have no bearing on me, but have had. I could if I wanted call that comment on Wednesday 2 March 2016 the decisive moment

where my lies came apart
where my truth was undermined

Several times I have picked on particular dates where all changed, changed utterly for me. H has changed my view of the world. I am not sure if I have ever been entirely sure that I am a woman- I joked “I don’t know, and neither does my psychiatrist”, and said “I’m both and neither and in between”. Her word “lovely” just makes the blade sharper.

Either it is liberating- yes, I am a man, I need no longer assert a falsehood that I am a woman- or terrifying and destructuring, and I try to piece together the shards of my framework, world map, understanding which lets me navigate the world. “I am a man, but transition was the best I could do,” I say. “Bad things happen to good people.”

Or I create a new narrative. “I am a trans woman”. I have the right to be this way.

Brexit and Trump, and possibly this year Fillon and AfD, change my comforting narrative, one which is probably yours too. It is a debased Whig version of history: just as the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 was a decisive moment of progress, which changed the way of doing politics in England from battles to individual murders, a clear improvement, so Obergefell v Hodges was a step into the light, which could not be reversed. A Tory version of history, that there are random events with no broader significance, is reasserted, so that Trump’s Muslim ban is not a pathetic attempt by the failing forces of reaction, but a random event of quite as much significance as Obergefell.

We need to change our stories. Since 2016, our stories have not been the Truth, but a comforting lie to help us get through the day without collapsing on the floor, screaming. The words “male energy” are a stake through their heart, as is the Muslim ban. “Do your duty, Republicans,” says the New York Times. “Prosecute him!” Trump meanwhile promises a new Muslim ban which will be less vulnerable to judicial scrutiny.

I have been reading of stories. Here’s Rachel Cusk in the NYT:

In psychoanalysis, events are reconstructed in the knowledge of their outcome: The therapeutic properties of narrative lie in its capacity to ascribe meaning to sufferings that at the time seemed to have no purpose. The liberal elite are in shock; they fall upon the notion of the victors’ regret as a palliative for their mental distress, but because the referendum result is irreversible, this narrative must adopt the form of tragedy.

And, writing of her mother

She didn’t care what she said, or rather, she exacted from words the licentious pleasures of misuse; in so doing, she took my weapon and broke it before my eyes. She made fun of me for the words I used, and I couldn’t respond by threatening her with death. I couldn’t say “I could kill you” because it wasn’t true, and in language I had staked everything on telling the truth. I have had that experience debating Creationists: I try to persuade, using truth, they simply assert their Beliefs. “It cannot be so, because of Genesis.” It was bad enough debating a blogger on the other side of the world- how much more terrifying, to face your own mother’s assertions?

Thus saith the LORD.

There is no answer to that. Tim built an impenetrable wall of language to shield him from- the truth? Or just, my understanding of the World? The defeated liberal is abashed, so less confidently assertive.

Anna Blundy, in a completely different essay- a short column not a hefty work like Rachel Cusk’s- also addressed making sense of truth with words. Language distances us from our real thoughts and feelings in an almost defensive way (the fact that it makes us feel better to have named something, perhaps is even indicative of that)… we’re trying to repackage something into a digestible form that will make the symptom of the sufferer more bearable.

Surely it is better to face the unvarnished truth? This essay says that news broadcasts and advertising alike end up telling stories… the mastery of danger, the satisfaction of desires and the ultimate restoration of morality. But here, an effort is made to lead people to believe that the story accurately depicts people and events. As a result, all end up profoundly falsifying what they portray, once again mixing faithful and manipulated images, and fact and fiction in seamless ways so that it can be hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. The attack is mitigated by the fact that the essay itself has a similarly comforting structure, where the restoration of morality is us all becoming more sceptical about the media.

It is not at all reassuring to say that I can’t bear another phone conversation with the benefits authorities. I could say, well I had hundreds before, many of them successful, or simply that I should eschew predictions of the future, which may just be paranoia, and concentrate on the actual task. I know what the task involves. Fear of what bad things will happen and how I will respond when I fail just get in the way.

This is my two thousandth post, on a blog about me, truth, trans, the world, and everything that interests me. I do it to be read, and achieve less of that than I would like. Joanna wrote a short post recommending one of mine, and I am grateful for the recommendation, because my post got more than three times the views from it, than 75% of my posts get from all sources. This is my least worthwhile goal, to see that I have had more views. Writing of Donald Trump stretches my writing, but gets fewer views, as most of my readers come from a Trans site, so I restrict my choice of subjects to get more views. Posting daily gets more views. I get a tiny dopamine hit when I see my page-view numbers have increased- nearly 198,000 views in five and a half years.

I might be better to write longer essays. I could develop an ability to analyse an idea in greater depth. This is not that: I have quoted undigested screeds from three essays and some of my own thoughts on truth, rather than explained the essays, created a satisfying narrative argument in my own words, and polished it. Writing around 500 words a day is good practice, but I want to edit and structure something more satisfying than these short pieces. I have published just one 2000 word article. I love Rachel Cusk’s essay- how I would love to write something like that!

I blog to tease out my understanding, as well. It is psychoanalysis for me, repackaging reality into that digestible form. So I have written how transition or surgery was the best thing I could have done, and the worst, in separate pieces, and wonder how to unite them.

St Clare

Acceptance LIX

I have the stubbornness to bash my head against the things I can’t change, the lassitude to tolerate the things I possibly could, and the idiocy not to see the difference.

I am pleased with that line. I said it in sardonic bitterness, but then thought, that’s close to what the twelve-steppers pray for. I even have the wisdom to tell the difference, just not as quickly as I might like.

I am sad. I am hurting. And this fills me with fear, in case I do something embarrassing because of it, like burst into tears, or behave like creepy stalker guy, which would be unbearable; contempt, because I should have recovered by now; and anger with myself for feeling this way, preventing me from useful action. I had two hours with the Samaritans bloke, which has enabled me to articulate that, and also to feel the depths of my sadness. I had a good cry. I would have denied it because the feeling was too unbearable, but no longer do that.

I showed courage. I went somewhere, facing my distress, fearing that I would do something embarrassing. I am rewarded: I see that I did not. Perhaps I could trust myself more. Perhaps I could trust others, not to hurt me, not to want to hurt me. Of course just because my suspicion is greater than it need be does not mean it is never appropriate; but too much self-protection just restricts me, as I protect myself by withdrawing, and that is tedious, dull and uncreative.

He did his thing. No, I am not suicidal. I don’t want to discuss options or goals. Society gives us so many conventional ways of having fun or advancing to useful goals, and sometimes we might even fool ourselves we are enjoying ourselves or being fulfilled; but I am utterly sick of that. I have these intense emotions which I find nearly unbearable- the sadness as well as the fear and anger; and I want to come to accept them. I am in a sulk, I have been for years, and growing acceptance and trust might make me more effectual, and happy; but even if it doesn’t, acceptance is what I am working on now.

What will you do now? he asked. I will cook. I have bacon, egg, spaghetti, onion, and will do a Carbonara. Then I will blog about this: two thousand people a month visit my blog. That at least is a useful question. And the session has been useful, it has moved me from overwhelm towards equanimity. I have these overwhelm moments; acceptance is a tool I can develop to make them less paralysing. My sadness is about much of my life, and one situation; symbols and reality, many things which do not really contradict each other, and all are important. It is about not accepting reality, even while acceptance is the way through it.

Some of the equanimity is about words: I move from AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH to “I feel sad”. The sadness wells up craving conscious attention, and naming it makes it bearable; and acknowledging it with him as my witness helps me accept it. And, I said that about lassitude and stubbornness through tears- I keep minimising my feelings.

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In other news: I cycled to K– meeting this morning. The clear blue sky, with a kite, flocks of birds, trees changing colour, open fields and majestic wind-turbines, it was all too beautiful not to. We are amazed at the horror of Trump’s election. I said I must take pleasure in the beauty- people here are beautiful- and in what I can do; that was my exercise in meeting. H wants collective action- but she was with the Women’s Equality Party yesterday, and that must be enough for the moment. We will not have a mass movement in an “if there is hope, it lies in the Proles” kind of way; exhilarating certainty that you are part of a great people, all working together for Right, is only for the Dark side- “Build that Wall!”

Yesterday was my last AM as clerk. We disagreed, and we took the time to express the disagreement, and consider all sides; and we found a minute we could unite behind. It is beautiful. We do this without a leader to defer to. It is work. It is worthwhile.  Then we watched the one-woman show about the life of Ada Salter, working in Bermondsey between 1909 and 1921 with young women who were rag pickers or collectors of dog mess for leather tanning. She emphasised the horror- sheets from death beds, bandages from wounds, all kinds of human excretion and infection, and possibly broken glass inmixed, painstakingly collected for a few coppers from the paper factory. Yet that was hopeful, too: people do what people must.

What I want VI

What counts as winning an employment tribunal? A lawyer who charged claimants directly might say, a decision that there was an unfair dismissal was a win. However, that can be made without compensation: the dismissal is technically unfair if certain procedures are not carried out, but the tribunal may award no damages if it considers the claimant would have been dismissed if there had been fair procedures. I would say you do not “win” unless your winnings cover your legal costs, and a reasonable amount for your time effort and stress in pursuing the claim. Claiming is effort, and if you don’t get money for that effort it is wasted. A decision that you were unfairly dismissed shows potential employers that you are a trouble-maker.

So there.

This has been running in my mind for a week. I could not persuade a particular claimant that their employment tribunal is ill-advised, and why would I want to? Because I would be doing her a good turn, perhaps. Caring for her. I won’t even tell her the argument, even though it is so clever and so clear. And yet, I think of it.

What do I want? I want to acclimatise myself to the slowly cooling weather so that I can spend less on heating but not be too uncomfortable. I want to scroll through facebook and check my blog stats. I want to watch television. What about a job? No. Really, really, No.

Whitman, for example, was the prophet of diversity. The point is not for all of us to approximate a single model or a fixed pattern of living. Instead, “the supreme goal of democracy is to promote the uniqueness of every individual” — for each person to be vibrantly distinct.

Democracy isn’t a political or legal bargain. It’s enchanted like romantic love, but on a larger scale. Each democratic citizen receives the love of her fellows as a gift to which the only appropriate response is gratitude and love in return. How might I find that vibrant distinctiveness in me? What I want, perhaps. I was groping for this quote- where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet– and my google attempt was where the worlds need and your heart’s deep hunger meet. Mmm. Gladness.

One thing that pleases me is to do something I consider generous or altruistic, and I like that characteristic in myself. It seems good for social bonding, and an appropriate characteristic in a social species. Then I read somewhere that it might arise from abuse- the beaten-down child tries to make the abuser happy, because that might make her safe for a moment. OMG!! My winsome characteristic just became a symptom?

Does that make it less winsome?

I sit here thinking, “What I want” does not seem to get me going, how can I coax myself into something better? Could I persuade myself to try small goals, to build belief in self-efficacy? Richard says that revulsion prompts him to tweet, blog, or sign and share petitions- that internet activism which anyone may dabble in- and a large proportion of people will vote for one Presidential candidate because they hate the other. That does not work for me. My basin is dirty. Yuck, I think, and turn away. Belief that it could be clean might attract me. Or, Reality. You have to get this clean- or this vagina dilated- and it takes as long as it takes as often as it takes. Get it clean or don’t, but don’t tell it that a particular amount of effort ought to be enough. “Sense of entitlement”.

Stop thinking, and do. Someone said law graduates with ordinary degrees were better, they got on with a task while the Honours grads sat and thought about it. Stop analysing in words and do what you want. Words might not get me from Who’ll be my role model? to angels in the architecture.

Work through the anger and grief and thereby come to Acceptance?

A stranger comes to the Quaker meeting and behaves suspiciously. You need not sit so close when there are so many empty seats- is he coming on to the older women, with that huge charm? Could he be preparing for a con? So we take reasonable precautions, recognising the possibility that he is bona fide and hoping precautions will not blind us to that, thinking it through. Sitting so close.

I hope that my slow thinking might make my fast thinking more useful.

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There’s so much that I love here. “Your deep gladness” even if I thought it your heart’s hunger; the idea of distinct individual vibrancy growing and maturing in love; finding fulfilment through desire. I went looking for a George Orwell quote, my idea of it too vague for Google to find it. Something about the vast majority of people finding scraping a living all they could manage in life so that they wanted no more. I found this by Jack London:

The great mass of the working people was separated from the land. The old system of labor was broken down. The working people were driven from their villages and herded into factory towns. The mothers and children were put to work at the new machines.

Looking for it I found two other Orwell quotes:

If you live for others, you must live for others, and not as a roundabout way of getting an advantage for yourself.

And there is another feeling that is a great consolation in poverty. I believe everyone who has been hard up has experienced it. It is a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs–and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.

Ann said my thinking and analysis get in the way. Just be. Are you a visual person? No. Not at all. I am a verbal person. Thinking and analysis is what I do.

Anne suggested I had “grown up” more than she, which surprised me- what she identified was not wanting things. Something like ambition ends, and there is acceptance. Finding “what I want” might be a good aim, but not a panacea. I want a panacea, I want it to be easy, I want to understand, I want to be comfortable and not feel unpleasant emotions, I want conflicting things, I am here, now.

perceptive-introvert

You are a perceptive introvert. You are a very thoughtful, reasonable, reliable and quiet person. You seek balance in life and you are very content being alone. You love reading books, learning new things, challenge yourself and have a good one-on-one conversation with an inspiring and knowledgeable person. People around you love your wise aura and enjoy seeking advice from you!