The Piano Incident

When I was eight, my mother wanted to show off my piano playing skills to her friend. She wanted me to play the grade 2 exam piece I had just learned. I did not feel entirely sure of it, so wanted to play the grade 1 exam piece I knew well. I insisted, and ended up weeping uncontrollably and humiliated for it.

In September 2009, having told this story to selected hearers with all the emotion of the shamed, weeping eight year old, ending with “She didn’t understand!” I suddenly realised, oh, right. She didn’t understand. She did not get the depth of my objection. It seemed all the pain of the memory left me, and I forgave my mother, or better, accepted her. She had done her best. She had not been superhuman.

On Saturday 25th, I saw it differently. The child was not particularly heroic- my mother wanted me to take a risk of getting the notes wrong, and I did not- but I knew my desire and insisted on it, and I felt my feelings and expressed them. These are things I have great difficulty with now. I remembered the piece I wanted to play. I still have it, though not the other one. It is by Thomas Dunhill, who wrote a great deal of educational piano music at different levels. It is grade 1, and I see the tricky bits- a chord staccato pianissimo? I have the muscle memory, though I have not played it for decades- I have to pull my hands in, as they were not full grown and I automatically stretch further than I would now, to play a sixth.

What if I could be like that child- knowing my desire and feelings, insisting, now?

On Friday night, I awoke in a panic. Normally waking in the night I am bored. I have taught myself to think of familiar, boring things, but I was thinking of the media anti-trans onslaught and of my recovery from M- after brief hatred, and making her words bless me, I hate the fact that I am thinking of her so much. On Saturday morning, I had a panic attack. Normally my anxiety is unconscious, but I felt it. I tried to hold it down: that is what causes the panic attack. If I am to be conscious, I will have to bear the anxiety. The alternative is numbing out.

Eye contact exercise. I am with someone I liked last week, and I wonder if I am merely a mirror to others’ feelings, echoing them to keep myself safe and invisible. My judgment is harsh: I am just a whore, having no self. Then the idea that could make me a “permission slip”, letting others be who they are. Another says that is her way to avoid her own feelings. Three interpretations- how could I know? Perhaps all are true. I want to put others at ease and connect with them.

We share on a topic, and as Jamie says my creative self can just come up with the words. I am surprised at my creativity. What I say sounds prepared to me, with beginning, middle, and end, and it was spontaneous. It is easier to create like that than to create for a purpose or to speak from the heart to communicate what I need to another human, but this playfulness pleases me. I contain playfulness and anxiety and will judge neither.

My intention when I refused to play the more difficult piece on the piano was to keep myself safe, and now that desire has taken over my life.

I would like not to be judging and fighting myself. And now I am sitting with and accepting my pain, exhaustion and perplexity. There is no need to think, or find a solution.

Two thoughts at once

Content: suicide, though I hope with a faint light in the darkness.

I have been chronically suicidal since the 1990s. I want to die- not all the time, but the idea of “blessed release” appeals. Life is painful. I have argued myself out of it. For example, I thought, I must not hurt anyone- so to avoid hurting relatives it must appear like an accident, but I could not just crash a car into someone coming the other way, as that might be murder. I want it quick, efficient and relatively painless, and I can’t think of a method that meets all these criteria.

But now, I don’t want to argue myself out of the desire and the feeling, but to accept them. On Sunday morning I woke wanting to die. The pain is too great. Very well, I want to die. I have not actually acted on it so far. The criteria still apply. I want to sit with the desire.

I wanted to talk this through, and had my opening line to the Samaritans ready.

-I want to tell someone I want to die, who won’t tell me that’s a bad thing, try to persuade me against it, or work out techniques to stop me.
-OK, he says. Why do you want to die?
-This isn’t a prank call, but I don’t want to talk to you.

I always prefer to talk to a woman. The second time, I say something like “I want to talk about what that feels like and accept the feeling”. I want to accept my desire, which may not be for death itself but for release from something. I want to accept my feelings of pain rather than seek to deny or suppress them. Maureen tells me if ever I am frightened of the supermarket I could phone the Samaritans and chat to them as I walk round it. I don’t need that service but am glad it could be available. In the call, I affirm myself: I don’t feel I have reached my potential but do feel I am progressing as best I can.

I want to face the darkness.

On Friday a book in Magazine Heaven so moved me I was nearly crying, and thought, I can’t get emotional in public like that. The Monster will get me. And it won’t, because the Monster no longer exists. I can get emotional like that, even when people can see me. The world does not end.

The hiding increases the hurt and the hiding is all I can do and in the hiding I began to heal by facing and acknowledging the hurt I could not acknowledge when out in the world. I want to die, and hold some slight hope that sometime in the future I might no longer want to die.

I want to die.
Facing, recognising, accepting that I might pass through it.

I want to die, and that is OK because I am not going to kill myself. I also want to live.

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The weirdos inside me

“It’s lovely to be sharing space with you again,” says L, and I am confused.

-He’s just saying that to manage me.
-How lovely of him to say that.

Your thoughts are headfuck FM, the endless talk radio, anger and delusion. Be the wise, kind adult watching your thoughts. Actually, it does not feel like headfuck. The thoughts are me, now. I am feeling my feelings, even in my body, wise and kind enough. I feel anger at M, and want J to acknowledge it is right, and it is too hard to get him to. Then she joins the zoom, and I am absorbed in her. I study her background, judging. I go to the gallery to see if anyone is reacting to her. In a small group would I tell her I hate her?

Someone says you look so calm and present, and inside it is a cacophony. J says if someone winds you up that is good data. Someone talks of letting go of someone close, and I want to let go of M.

Everyone has an inner critic and slave driver. Mine says, You can’t say that, when I speak from the heart, and “Harder, faster, harder, faster”. It tells me I know what I need to do: keep the house clean and tidy, apply for jobs, write for publication. It says, Come on, get up. It does not feel my anxiety, but then, I don’t either, usually.

Then what it says and what some “I” separate from it says merge. I am so alone! Zoom is not enough, I can’t bear it. I am afraid. I must control every aspect of my environment- for safety. I want to be safe. Help me I want to be safe. The monster will get me. This is horrible, I can’t bear it.

Sometimes I speak from the heart, and in two conversations with Quakers last week I felt the need to speak to correct the way of this conversation. Get that word in and speak the truth everyone should acknowledge. Then conversation becomes a conflict, I do not hear others, and speak from less than myself.

My desires are in conflict. I want to hide away, and I want to be seen. I want to say, “Everything is alright,” and I do not believe it. I am scared, anxious, watchful, anticipating the future: what if I am in a group with M? What if I am not?

J says once you know what the inner critic says, you can argue against the limiting beliefs, but you need to make them conscious first. I share on the dialogue of the critic and protector. I would have, anyway, but make it about M by referring to not hitting myself with a riding crop and saying sometimes “You can’t say that” is what I need to hear. Later I notice she is gone and wonder if I drove her away. She accused me of being fixated on her. Well, possibly, but it is a problem I am trying to get over. “Lovely, vulnerable share,” say people.

Sometimes I need to hear “Harder, faster, harder, faster” and the inner critic says it reflexively, all the time, so is no more use than a stopped clock. And, I have a hack: if I just give up and do nothing, it stops nagging. I needed it to survive, and now it just hurts me.

I don’t know. I want to hide away. I want to be seen. Or, I do know, I want to be seen, but don’t know how. I am hiding away. It is what I do. And, I talk on zoom. Right now, I am in a prison of my own creation, which I created in order to survive, and it is killing me. I will listen to these people, to hear what they have to say.

That slave driver/inner critic helped me avoid pain and strong emotion I was incapable of handling- rejection, abandonment, and disappointment. Children nurtured, heard and seen don’t need to do that. Hold it like a baby. Rock and console it. Eventually you feel it relax and go to sleep.

In dialogue with it, writing with the non-dominant hand, it may have revealed puzzlement. It knows its ways are not working for me. It wants to feel safe, to be hugged, not to feel alone. It tells me it thought I was a threat. Now it considers me too trusting, needing balanced by threat-perception. It wants to stop fighting, come together and be one with me.

M grows desire like a tender plant, and it gives her power. I need to hate her to free myself. Then I might let my hatred go and wish her well. I tried telling J I wanted him to see me as her victim, and he said I am not. She had a right to act as she did.

She said, “I feel free to love”. I thought that a manipulative lie, but what if she were telling the truth?

In four days since, I have built something of worth on that thought. Other people see things vastly differently from me. I believe there is something so wonderful in each human that calling it “the inner light” or even “That of God” is not hyperbole. But as an atheist materialist, I believe my inner God is a manifestation of my own neurons. Therefore it is not all powerful or all seeing by itself. To be powerful it needs united with God in others. I need to listen to others of widely different perspectives and views to mine, and find the truth in what they say.

In the midst of my powerlessness and lack of perfection, I still find some pleasure.


Our mutual friend asked about the possibility of reconciliation. Is that possible? I fear the obstacles to each trusting the other are too great. I don’t know each values the other enough to make the necessary effort.

Neither accepts the other’s understanding of the wrong done to them. Both, being hurt, might not dissociate the other from the cause of that hurt. The obstacles are lack of trust, lack of commitment to the process, and focus on past hurt.

It might be a relatively less risky start for each to state what they like, value or admire in the other. Even that might become a power struggle. And if I held back my resentment, in order to state only positive things, might it burst out of me?

Is care for the other possible, and can it coexist with the necessary minimum of self-love?

It could not be going back to a previous way of being together, and I don’t know what another way of being together could look like. That would be an ever tempting cul-de-sac, to escape the bitterness and frustration of the moment into a fantasy of idealised past. Then the reality of its ending would break through.

Another barrier is sexual attraction. I don’t know that I could get over or past that: resenting my own attraction to the other, wanting to reduce it. I would feel it, now, and that would bring back my hurt and misery.

I do not see the person at all clearly. I saw the mask. I could imagine a different person behind that mask- unsure, hurting, vulnerable- based on the clues I have. With such an imagined person, I could coexist if I had to: the human is near me and I perceive my image of her. But that would not be reconciliation.

What I strive for, here, is complete self-revelation. I don’t recommend it to anyone. I do it because my own ego-mask was inimical to my real self, and I still retain an inner critic shouting out in rage and fear that what I know is my real self is a lie, it is weak and disgusting, I am not like that. I have to pass through what I most fear in order to become what I might be.

We live in society- people who do not know ourselves trying to show a mask to others who see us imperfectly, with a thick layer of group or individual false understandings getting in the way of seeing. If you do what I expect most of the time, if your act mostly fits my understanding of you, then, perhaps I see you as you are. For you are what you do.

Then the expectations diverge wildly and both are angry and upset. Could we be truthful with one another? Could we stop conflict and the desire to dominate or control the other? Could we even imagine what that would look like?

For humans to be together there has to be a way both want it to work. Negotiating that is usually subconscious, a curious dance of minds hearts and souls. But, having given away all my power, I now want at least equal power in the relationship. I do not understand power, or my relationship to it- how I accumulate or surrender it.

In order to grow spiritually, I need spaces which hold me in supportive love, so that I can speak from my heart. Experience is knowing directly, but now I weave a framework of words as a safety harness or support: I feel safer with an understanding of the world expressed in words. The real human is fluid and unknowable, but I can form a better image of myself than the one my ego created.

If others hold me in love I can weave that web of words, and love them in return. Sometimes I find myself in potentially spiritual situations where people talk over each other, and am desperate to get my words in- which makes the situation worse. Noticing that desire, and how it is self-defeating, I might let it go: if I have loving spaces where I can be wholly myself without a mask.

What I desire

It is lovely to be told “You are such a treasure and your beauty is endless”, and admitting to myself it was merely manipulative is a pain.

When I was younger, I read that “men only want one thing.” “Of course I’ll still love you in the morning” was a cliché lie. More recently in drama, notably The Bridge, there are women who only want a fuckbuddy, and are disturbed when the man develops feelings for her. For me, desire is for relationship, not mere coitus, and there is a term for this: “demisexual romantic”, as if it were remarkable. Perhaps it depends, perhaps anyone can be like that sometimes, and I want a word for the opposite: “physicosexual”, perhaps, someone who only wants the genitals, not caring about the human. Freud wrote of the “physischsexualem Akt”, by which he meant copulation. “Heartbreaker” is also a possibility. (I asked, and someone said “aromantic”.)

“Your beauty is endless.” It had a huge effect on me. I thought she loved me for my mind, when she merely sought to mould me into sexual submission. But she complained that someone else was physicosexual, and breaking feminine hearts, when she did that herself. That was typical of her manipulation. Then she chucked me, and I felt worthless. –

The experience gave me huge joy, and pain at its ending. Remembering how much it delighted me, I wonder if there was any good in it. Was it just a warning not to do that again? Another cliché: “There’s no fool like an old fool”. Two months ago I was hurt, and still emotionally involved. I had opened up to a connection that was merely deceptive, and needed to close off from her. Now, I might learn what I desire.

I want to be taken. I want to be overwhelmed, but I don’t want D/s games for themselves. I would play them for someone if that was what she wanted, to please her. What I want most of all is relationship.

I know I want touch. Touch is a tool in her armoury, a way of exerting control. I said I want to hold you and caress your hair, and she said that would be like stroking a leopard. I saw it as service, she refused what would have been her impossible surrender. She let her slave rub her feet. She might touch the kneeling slave lightly on the back of the neck with her crop, hinting at fulfilment. Withholding touch gave her power.

I wonder if there is anyone complementary to me, who might want me as a soft, supporting partner, want me physically, want my touch and relationship with me. Possibly someone who might have been like that now has decided that relationships are too much hard work, and wants flings instead.

I want relationship, touch, respect, commitment, physical desire and compatibility. I want someone with empathy and emotional intelligence, knowing and being herself authentically.

For the long term, I need someone truthful who values me and wants continuing relationship with me. I have sexual desire and I want to orgasm with another, but (not just from drama such as Conversations with Friends) I know it will be unfulfilling without relationship.

I wish I had learned this in my twenties- perhaps it is all too much to learn in teenage- but my need to make a man of myself was so great it was impossible then.

I hope it is not too late, and If it is, I will have to live with that. I am glad I know what I want, at least. As for my latest teacher, I can let go of her now almost as easily as she dropped me. I delight in the best of the experience without dwelling on the worst.

I learn from this NYT article and Conversations with Friends that marriage is difficult, yet possibly worth it.

Sitting with the mystery

Human beings are unknowable, even to ourselves.

In Meeting, I sit with my hurt, fear and lack of control as in a twelve-step programme. Some say that being present in the Now creates a feeling of joy, and sometimes it does for me. At other times, the pain is as much as I can bear, but shutting it out I blind myself. Suddenly perceiving the depth and complexity of feeling is like a symphony with too many instruments. I might surf it, if only I resist the temptation to understand it. But understanding has been the way I have sought safety for so long.

I take refuge in writing. Almost until I would have been too late for meeting, I was playing on the Guardian comment threads. I put a brilliant argument that people with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome, and the external genitalia of women, are called “women” by a social convention. There is no simple definition of “woman” that includes CAIS women but not trans women, and no moral reason to define the word that way. That comment disappeared when a comment up-thread, “Keir Starmer should dial back the woke nonsense”, was removed by a moderator. I wrote another comment and got a “Guardian Pick” which got hundreds of up-votes. I care about this stuff, so I give you the details.

Last week, I learned Richard Dawkins will be speaking at Greenbelt, and I started thinking about what I would say if I got the microphone from the floor during his session. A paragraph has repeated in my mind as I test variations. I judge myself: I should not be thinking about this so much.

Living in the present moment, or sitting in Meeting, should I not be thinking? Well, if I were jamming a twelve bar blues, I might be better to count the bars until I felt them. Thinking has its place. I do not want to shut down any part of myself.

I started this blog post a week ago, and it was all about her. We exchanged several texts a day for months and had hours of video calls, and she was going to come to my house- and then at the end of March she withdrew, and I was wondering, why? I thought she ceased contact because she had coldly and calculatingly sought to subjugate me, and when I baulked, she withdrew. So I shamed her publicly. Afterwards, I wondered if she had been scared of me. From an earlier draft:

So many people have feared violence from me. There’s the normalised phobia of “biological men”, and there have been claims I might personally be violent. I have so much anger in me, all directed inwards. I let it go, slowly. My violent acts have been self-destructive rather than aimed at others, and I have several times been the victim of violence I could not resist. That others might fear me is a threat to my safety, and it distances me from other people.

You told me of a time you might reasonably have feared that man, and you have to be cautious in your line of work. You were under great pressure at the time.

Was it because you feared that you sought to impose complete control? I must serve you, my will subsumed in yours. I was obsessed with you, thinking of you all the time. Then I said I would not do those things, and you dropped me. I did not imagine that you feared me. I thought you had consciously, calculatingly, made me obsessed with you in order to control and negate me. That seems cruel. I would rather imagine you frightened or cautious than cruel.

This omits that after she withdrew I lashed out, attempting to shame her before fifty people. I could say, well, that was exceptional. It is not who I am really. But it was who I was in the moment that matters. I cannot say “I lost control”- there was no part of me that stopped me acting, at the time. I am one human being. If “being pushed beyond endurance” is an excuse for me, it is for others too.

I thought of asking her, but it would be ridiculous. “Were you cold and calculating, or fearful, or cautious? Was there something else?” I could not answer a question like that. What narrative has she in her mind, or would she want in mine? There is a time to create a narrative, and sometimes I just have to let the mystery be.

There is something chilling about her. She is not a nice bourgeois woman who would do nothing objectionable. Neither am I. I miss the contact, but you can’t separate bits out of a human being, missing one part but not another. Each of us is one. I see her enthusiasm, energy and intelligence- these are perceptions, not narrative- and for her I may be just another sub. I thought I would rather think of her as frightened rather than cruel, but, why? I will do her the honour of believing she can be “mad, bad and dangerous to know”.

The thought crosses my mind- “I love ‘The Ancestor’s Tale’.” And I am back writing. I decide to spend the last ten minutes of Meeting with  these people, here. How are they? How is the worship? In meeting, it behoves me to foster order, reverence, harmony, and Love.

I shall spend some time this month ruminating about her- her and that man, her and her subs, her and me. Eventually I will stop, though for now I remain open to contact from her, however unlikely. The narrative I need is that I sought as best I could publicly to shame her.

I write blog posts and comments, rather than the more sustained work of publishable articles or even a book. Writing is my skill, which gives me pleasure. Confusion and desperation recede from consciousness as I do what I am good at. Then I obsessively check for views and upvotes, as a substitute for human contact.

My sexuality

I do not know my own desires, but I have been finding out some things.

Deeply repressed in my twenties, so ashamed of cross-dressing that I had aversion therapy, not knowing my own feelings, I wanted a girlfriend like a repressed gay man might- to make me normal, to make me appear normal. I believe a woman fell in love with me at University, saw the gentle soul below the layers of terror and arrogance, and took years to recover. I did not see it.

I thought of calling this “Towards a theory of my sexuality,” though I feel, as well as analysing. The working theory until this week was that my sexuality was like my father’s. He liked strong, controlling women, first my mother, then M. We had one honest conversation about this. I get the impression that some people think this is just kink, possibly kink in denial. (People I have talked to recently have referred to “kink” rather than “BDSM”.) I think it is different. My mother never even wore a high heeled boot. I like to be controlled, and being controlled has hurt me. And I want to open up like a flower.

U would have controlled me for her own purposes, just because she could. I did not see it, and F did: she told me of a man who had been gloriously dominant, and she had just accommodated to him. Now she had a man who appreciated her nature and helped her be herself.

I craved seeing D. I asked for a video call, and when I saw her, all my oxytocin went off. In that moment I felt my deep emotional need for connection. I had not realised its strength.

I talked about this with my friend who does twelve-steps. We agreed that humans kid ourselves all the time. The alcoholic will take just one drink, he thinks. She does not want me hurt, and said I should sever all contact. I picked another friend to talk to because they have poly relationships, not knowing they are into kink. I thought poly would teach them to be conscious about feelings, needs and illusions. They said, “You know I’m not going to judge you, right?” Of course, that’s why I picked you. I still could not speak clearly, just sat silent or said disconnected words, until they loved me back to coherence.

I still surprised them. “I think of mine as male sexuality,” I said. “Oh! OK,” they said. Well, like my father’s. I want to understand, so no concept is off limits- imagining that I am a man, a woman, or nonbinary helps me understand different things about myself. Though I don’t like it when others pigeon hole me. More than one has said, “Oh, I don’t think of you as man or woman, I think of you as Clare”. I resist “nonbinary”, because of my starkly binary transition.

I need an emotional connection, I said. “The word for that is ‘demisexual’,” they said, and I felt resistance. I feel it, it is real now, and I will not shut myself off from future experience by classifying My Precise Orientation too early.

Then Michelle Goldberg in the NYT hits me between the eyes. “Women are still embarrassed by their desires, particularly when they are emotional.” Women might put their partner’s needs above their own. One felt embarrassed wanting to stop her partner choking her during sex, even though she did not like it.

This brought me to tears. “I want to be a man,” I wept. It would make life so much easier! But I am not. I am a woman. I want to be hurt! Not in a masochistic sense, but because I want to open up to all experience, and it is only through being open to being hurt that I might find what I desire.

A desire

“They all adore you (rightly)” he said. I treasure such comments, I need to, as I hold myself in contempt. She suggested I speak from the part that is contemptuous, so I did. I want to lessen the contempt. I do not deserve it.

I played Romance sans paroles, Fauré, to them, and told the story. It is one of my myths. Aged about 16, I got this piece for my grade 7 exam, and went through it, playing parts hands separately, noting which bars were tricky, until I came to the end. I sketched out that chord progression, and it moved me to tears. I was an unpopular boy, withdrawn yet arrogant, immature for my age, sure boys did not cry and insecure about my masculinity (well, yeah). And they said the piece is beautiful and it seems well played, but the sound quality kept fading in and out.

I thought it was something about zoom’s mic settings, but zooming with Louise I changed the settings and she still said the sound was coming in and out. I pulled the piano away from the wall, to put the laptop mic close to the speakers, and it still did not work.

T suggested getting a microphone. But the headphone jack is just that, it won’t take a mic. Well, she said, they plug into USB ports. She started looking them up on Amazon. They can be as cheap as £3, but she got one for £17. I don’t want another cheap microphone, and I don’t want to spend £20 on playing the piano once to the LG.

This morning I realised I do. That Beethoven adagio is gorgeous. Getting it in performance level even informally for LG would be difficult. My muscles are rusty, my brain pathways overgrown. Trying my various bits of equipment- an ethernet cable, an amp, even headphones I could place directly over the microphone on the laptop- and various zoom settings to see what produced the best results, which involves getting a friend to listen, is complex.

And- this is something I really want to do, that seems difficult yet achievable. Now, I do what I want: I want to hide away, so I hide away; I want to blog, so my presence is visible around the world through my words- 202 countries and territories so far. I wanted new pyjamas, as my last pair had holes along the seams, so I got them. I want to do wordles and scroll facebook, and so I do, and all these desires fuel my self-contempt. Beside these, playing the adagio to the LG is something I do not find contemptible.

I am so conscious of this desire. I will work at it. (The inner gaslighter tells me I won’t, and if I do I won’t succeed, but I don’t entirely believe that.) It would not be a great thing, but it would be something. It is a thing I want to do that is clearly not contemptible. Realising that, I wept, suddenly conscious of my unbearable agony.


We’ve now been zoom bombed three times. The first time it was a short clip of a boxer, on repeat. We looked in surprise- what is it? What is the point? The second was a man masturbating on screen. Ew! I clicked to remove him. The third time, it was four people, probably young men. They came in an hour late. One put in the chat, “Yo. Anyone here play Minecraft?” I removed him. I waited until each revealed they were not here to discuss Quakers and Truth, then removed them. Their disruption seemed innocent to me: what did they expect?

After, people were keen to talk about the zoom bombing, and I wanted to talk about, well, Quakers and Truth. So I told the story of the monks. You know the one, surely. I typed “monk carr” into the search, and the first suggestion was “monk carrying woman across river”, which led me to Alpha Home. I had to tell the story, not well- I could not think why a monk would carry a woman across a river. Anyway, he does. And they said, they needed to process it. But that’s giving the bombers what they want! The group praised my care and respect, not judging the zoom bombers without clear evidence against each individually, and I wondered if I should have ejected the bombers sooner. They were clearly bombers. Attenders had the unpleasant feeling of lack of control: what will they do? Why does she not just exclude the bombers?

I love you being you. I love it when you show what you call, unselfconsciously, merely truthfully, your radiance. It is very beautiful. We agreed that if I controlled you, you would be nothing: less than human, merely a figment of my imagination. Still I want to control. My whole life is about seeking control. You said you had had a headache, and I felt one, briefly. Is it my extreme sensitivity, or am I attuned to you?

We talked of my fundamental inner conflict: I reflexively hold all my actions and characteristics in contempt. I carry this huge burden of contempt. No wonder I hide away and do so little. As you suggested, I talked from the contemptuous part. Well, the other is contemptible! She does Nothing, proving it.

I know my softness is beautiful, and that increases my frustration. Oh well. My physical life is almost inert, but my spiritual life is intense. I do not forgive myself, but barely tolerate my inactivity and contemptibility because it seems unavoidable.

Another has no partner right now, and is fantasising about Jodie Comer- perhaps Jodie Comer in role as Villanelle. Wow. Well, I can see the attraction. Sexy, effortlessly effective- just a bit frightening. Oh, yeah! And she feels guilty about it. It is objectifying. It is using another person. I feel she is too harsh on herself. It hardly affects Jodie Comer, and she is probably not the only one fantasising about Villanelle- being her, or being with her. You can work out in fantasy all sorts of things- if they are impossible, you process your desire, and might see other possibilities. I see her guilt, and want to assuage it. I have mercy on everyone but myself.

My fbfnd is a staunch ally, and her profile picture is the words “Trans people belong here!” Being right on, she added a Ukrainian flag. I love both sentiments, but they don’t really go together: Britain is enough of a war zone for trans people, for me.

People are using the invasion of Ukraine to make all sorts of points. Why care about Ukrainians, but not Yemenis or Ethiopians? Ooh. Normally I would want to analyse and understand, but perhaps even Anthony Blinken with all his analysts does not know what it might mean for the world. The details will only shock me without doing any good at all, so I wish to avoid reading or arguing about it, and simply pray for Ukraine and its people.

The Ten thousand doors of January

I read it because a copy was in a photograph. The subject of the photograph was so fascinating I fear others would think me weird for noticing it or caring, but I notice details. There is no Wikipedia page for it, no reviews in The Guardian or the New York Times.

I feel I should have grown out of fantasy adventure novels, now I am middle-aged- I felt similarly when I went to University- and imagined I despised it. I condescended to reading it. And, any book worth publishing contains off-cuts of the wisdom of the author:

“I wondered how long it would take before I stopped discovering these petty little laws that’d governed my life, and whether I would only reveal them by breaking them.”

This week I took a brick from the great edifice of my self-contempt and used it in the fragile construction of my self-respect. Numbing out is not ridiculous and disgusting, it is self-protection the best way I know. Numbing out was breaking the rules in a permissible way, one of my hacks to get round the rules. If numbing out is admirable rather than grudgingly acceptable it may cease to be necessary.

Knowing that, I said to Quakers that I had a joy I could hardly articulate, and days later one told me my words had stuck with her. She had translated them, to mean the joy she feels when she enters nonduality, and I am happy that my words have meaning I did not intend. Someone admired my imagery, of the brick transferred from contempt to acceptance, and a retired builder told me of his career, the possibilities in the merchants’ neat parcels of bricks and timber.

In the novel, I love the way the women are stronger than the men- the bad and the good. Some of the danger comes from men’s weakness, and some from their evil, which arises from their desire to control. I love the idea of making things happen by writing them: “wordworking” is magic. Of course it is: we change the world by imagining and articulating how it might be better.

There are doors between worlds, through which magic and danger come. The attempt to make the world ordered and reasonable, against the anarchy of the doors, is the source of threat in the drama, through which great wrong comes, but is made relatable even if I cannot condone it.

I know I should be reasonable and controlled, and this winsome story of the blessings of freedom tempts me. The darkness and wonder of the world is beyond my comprehension and I could not control it, and my control of myself is breaking down. Thank God. The author Alix E. Harrow becomes yet another blessing on me.

I love the words “you both”, and fear them, for you might be embarrassed. I imagine you drily correcting a misapprehension. I would be sad you were put to the trouble. But you said that, and people noticed my confused delight. And you told me to say “I love you”, in a roundabout, deniable way- read a poem, so I read that one.