An anchor of stability

If I were to write to her, to express desire or resentment
the best I could expect would be indifference
the worst, mockery and disdain.
I still think of it-

I fear for S., starting work again. I fear she will find the idiocies and vilenesses of the situation- no respect for her professionalism, no care for the good of the pupils, as far as she can see- too much to bear. She may do it for the money, which makes a certain amount of sense. I beg her, look after yourself. Healthy children test boundaries, so you should be expert by now- push them as hard as you can, without overstepping. After months off work, she is only just now relaxed. She fears being stressed within five minutes, and counts the weeks until Summer.

She gave me a copy of an article on Quaker membership from the Friends Quarterly. For some, membership is a life-line, a connection that provides an anchor of stability in times and situations of personal challenge or isolation. So it was for me. It gave me the sense of support, and so the courage, I needed to transition. I needed somewhere to belong. We have our usual conversation about membership. She finds it divisive, I a necessity.

It comes to me that because I needed the life-line, I was prevented from seeing the Society as it actually is. I needed rose-tinted spectacles, because I needed a sense of safety. I was like that with HAI, come to think of it.

I still think of it, but I would be better to phone J. I could write to her, but my main need is more reassurance, someone else for my Support Network, and J offered.

S’s Sufi group, by contrast, refuses entry to people who need a life-line. They are there for spiritual- something, and the Spiritual cannot be emotional. Here I disagree. I am intensely emotional, so my spiritual experience is emotional. I get the point, I see the value, it is not for me.

I am only just relaxing into my quiet lifestyle, two years on.

Am I projecting when I say Quakers locally do too much work for too little value added, too little joy in service? Is it just me? S reassures me, I am intuiting not projecting. She also finds me extremely feminine. I fought and denied that for so long, and it created my every action though I did not see it.

S says we have to be able to trust. I think, but do not say,

NO.
I need to KNOW.

Then S mentions the parable of the talents, which I use to beat myself up, I weep.

I feel drained after that. I could just cycle home, but I decide to face the supermarket.

It is not she I should write to, but he.

van Gogh, corridor in the asylum

It is good to care for myself

van Gogh, Marguerite Gachet at the pianoIt is your true self.
When the World is destroyed
It will not be destroyed.

-Zen saying quoted on In Our Time.

Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t really you so that you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.

-facebook meme. I would delete the maybes.

Know the place for the first time- this is everywhere. And I really want to make sure it is true, because it frightens me.

Someone asked, “Why are you a recluse?” Oh, I had a bad experience at work, then I had a bad experience at work, then I had a really bad experience at work, then I had a bad experience at work and a bad experience socially, then I had a traumatic experience socially-

Later, I said to her, I really would like to show you that that work thing was not my fault, and she said something like, what’s past is past. She said more than that, which I would like to report, but not remembering it completely I will say my more: that I was not right. The commonality in my fights with CABx and Quakers is me. That things can be said for my position does not change that. In 2006 my analysis of the situation was correct, my approach to my colleagues was not.

And I have been a recluse because I have not felt motivated otherwise. I want to blog. Beyond that-

Come from Love-

I don’t know anything I want to do.

I want to know that “I am soft, gentle, peaceful” is the Real Me, because I feel I need manly qualities to Get On, and-

You know, I do? I knew it from 1999, that evening when I had such a strong consciousness of being two souls I knew it. I knew it when I finally withdrew here.

———————

What do I want? I am worthy of Life, I affirm.

I have wanted this- control of my space, strictly limited social contact, even more limited obligation to others. I want less than I had, as I find some of my wants were still from my want to Achieve something Worthwhile to justify my existence, paltry as those achievements were. I am worthy of Life, I affirm, and let that fall away.

I want to care for myself, and this is how I know how to do that, limiting my social contact to people I know are safe, limiting my obligations. OK. Let it percolate.

I am worthy of Life…..

Protection II

Essence process day 2

van Gogh, Adeline Ravoux 1Written Thursday 27th:

What is my game? What is my protection?

Getting up, I thought “I want absolution”. I thought of my previous experience, of weeping then finding myself Open, feeling my emotion more clearly. At 9.50, in the workshop room, it seems that we are in cocktail party mode, with polite conversation, so I go out to connect with myself by connecting with sight and feeling. That velvet cushion. The trees outside. Then the pictures of the hotel’s wedding services- the restaurant seats have white covers like bridesmaid’s dresses!

It seems to me that one of us rebels against the exercises, and I really want her to participate: I am projecting again. On one, I note I hate you because I cannot play my usual comfortable games with you, but I am still playing games. Menis comments that people orientated on achievement choose people who would complete the task. Ah, that is me. Still achievement-orientated, after two years without any work. A great gift, to see oursels as ithers see us. I love my drama. If you play your game, you lose and everyone else wins. Give up your pride and you will be happy.

It seems that all I do is Game, whether I express emotion, perform as to an audience, whatever.

Ah.
My protection is,
I push people away.

Yes. Just about all of them. One said that something wound him up, and I treasured it: I can use it if needed. My needy self is like a helpless baby. It terrifies me- Menis says, so I terrify others.

I am ready to share. I have a new conscious awareness which I find intensely valuable. My protection is that I push people away. I request that when I push you away you will give me time to notice this. Menis suggests, hold my hand. He does. It feels good. Everybody needs a connection. I will continue using my protection, pushing people away, but I will be more aware and more at choice. They applaud me, and I stand at the front to drink it in.

van Gogh, Adeline RavouxAfter a break, we play-act our protection. How do I avoid intimacy and being real? I play-act, smile, do the useful thing, find the rules and obey them. It seems to me that performance, which I use to protect myself, is the real me, which I could use to be authentic before others. So I name my act- “Goody two-shoes” and mime her. One of us shares something in the small group which makes me fear and despise him and want him out.

In the evening, we did work on parents. I have done a lot of work on my parental relationships. I have had people play my parents before, and been held. However when told to tell them what I am proud of, my self-knowledge, acceptance and spiritual growth seems not enough. I am so ashamed. Then- after we imagine ourselves as babies, tucked up beneath my soft warm blanket, I write these words about myself: I am- beautiful, strong, loving, creative, resilient, nurturing, intuitive, intelligent, worthy, excellent, holy, vivacious, sweet, sensual, physical, exciting, perspicacious, supportive, musical, Good, loyal, witty, entertaining, a survivor, Open.

Or- not ashamed. I have climbed so far out of a pit. It has been such a great effort for me, and at the end of it I am alone and vulnerable. I have nothing.

Open.

Protection

Essence process day 1

Van Gogh, The little ArlésienneI was so frightened of this, and now, it seems I have had the born-again experience I had hoped for. To continue from the beginning- some of this is what I wrote then-

Here we are, doing this personal growth thing. Why would I do it? For the fun of it itself, perhaps, but not for any change, I am just too comfortable. K is. I have undertaken not to reveal what the exercises were, but

here I do, obviously, not detailed description but giving the idea. Delete.

Then I had time silently to think, and wanted to connect to another human being. We went for dinner, and Judgment and projection. My account has too much judgment, and I do not like it, now. I will leave in this bit of projection: Though he does all these courses, it seems to me that he does not change because he is just too comfortable as he is. Probably me, too. [I can recognise some projection.] I disliked him, by the end of it, but see no reason why my emollient manner should be any better than his abrasive one. It is a difference of taste.

In this course, we ask what we do by habit or to manipulate people rather than acting from the heart, and relating as our real selves (or something- I am not quite sure how he would put it). I have so many manipulations to choose from it is almost like heart opening. In sharing I got angry, and it feels like being authentic, but Menis says I am just pushing people away. He told me to say to the group, “Would you please be close to me and accept me?” Not easy to say. But they would, almost all of them.

“I feel I want to care for you, now,” said one woman, and I have probably succeeded in pushing her away. Not that I imagine I want to. But when I sought what gives me pleasure, doing something constructive/helpful was one of the top; and asking for something seemed Wrong, somehow, it was me seeking to be a parasite [that is such a violent word! I condemned myself so cruelly!] rather than be independent.

The magic happens outside your comfort zone: I learned that in a personal growth workshop. I requested something else. “At one point Menis referred to me as ‘he’. If someone does that, will you challenge them?” They would. Some said they felt queasy when he said it. I want to survive, and Menis thought this a good thing, but I should do it in Love.

Seeking to be Real, I will dust off my old compliments. I am a joyful, playful child, said Hazel. I am interested in Life, said Angela. I am like a deer in the woods, peeking out, wondering who will come and play with me, said someone- all more than ten years ago. I liked those, and have remembered them. Perhaps there is something about Being Authentic in them. But it is so Vulnerable! Actually, I quite like that. I was beginning to get it.

Us, them and stuff

van Gogh, thatched cottages at CordevilleWhat does a Quaker meeting need to function, and what are our highest priorities? We want a Meeting every Sunday morning, so we need to open the building and have tea or coffee after. Either we have a rota, or agree on the day. Someone brings milk.

We have a building, so we need to pay for its upkeep. We could use up our reserves, but it makes sense to make some revenue by renting out rooms for meetings. One person has to organise this, but all of us could do a bit of selling. If we have business meetings, it makes sense for one person to clerk them, keep the papers and send them out, but that is an admin job, and should not involve making the decisions or necessarily doing work in between.

The heart of the Quaker meeting is our worship together. We need to share the experience of the gathered meeting. We need to help newcomers find the meaning in the silence. We need pastoral care: to share our joys and woes, and sometimes in particularly stressful situations we need access on demand to that, and the hearer may need to offload on someone else, while preserving confidentiality. These are the difficult responsible roles that other churches pay pastors to do.

In one AM, the whole membership takes responsibility for pastoral care. Imagining people in a circle, each member is responsible for those on either side of them in the circle. This mutual oversight, like co-counselling, binds friendships. Attenders and less regular members are spokes on the circle, with oversight but not overseeing. What do the people want? What are the relationships really? There are three monthly mutual oversight meetings.

We need to work on the depth of silence. Come, we say, even when you feel tired or spiritually cold. It can be like sitting in a waiting room. It can be like the Lord gathered us all, as in a net. Speech should deepen the silence and togetherness. Elders are responsible for this. We could all take the responsibility. We say we have not abolished the clergy, but the laity.

We have our relationship with the other meetings in our area meeting, and elders, overseers and trustees work together. These meetings support the work. I want to build relationships across the AM, so that the whole AM is the community. We build relationships by working together, but what are these meetings like? Spirit-led and inspiring, enlivening, or routine and enervating? Is the work delightful, giving people pleasure as they see what they achieve, or burdensome?

Forgiving the World II

starry night moon“Goals” said Yvonne, insistently, for the umpteenth time. At last I said “Yes”, hands folded in lap, imagining them both behind my back with the fingers crossed. Yeah, right, I did not say- “In five years’ time I want to have some sort of a job”. It’s like chess, innit, I explain to myself. While there are strategies, and you have to see three moves ahead, in each situation there is one best move. Rather than having goals, I will look out for Opportunities.

-How do you see yourself?
– A dancer. A poet. A beautiful, evanescent thing. I can be rational too, I suppose, it is good though not the only good. I no longer wear the leaden cloak of Dante’s hypocrites.

You have given yourself the nurturing self-love you need to become an adult, she said. Gosh, she is being encouraging, though a sting in the tail. Adult. Um. S’pose. Well, yes of course, but it’s difficult.

I think it has been of some use. Acknowledging being on the floor, curled up like a baby or a traumatised soul blocking out the World; and sitting on the floor, looking up, engaging but not taking on adult responsibility. I am a Benefit scrounger, I say happily. starry night starsPlans include approaching Dr Lorimer if my ESA gets reassessed. I was in a state when I just procrastinated. Deadlines had no effect. Anything I do would fail and make me look bad and feel bad, so I did not do it. Had I been sacked, it would have been fair. The bullying had ended by then, I had been under a different line management for 30 months.

I have done the work. I no longer see myself as worthless and bad. So I can see things differently. That claim where the Respondent forged documents: the claimant got her money in the end. She was capable of more than I had thought. The system worked, and the scoundrel got his just desserts. I did my job well. It is a matter of reframing. When I was worthless, I took in the wickedness of the employer’s lies, so the nastiness of the world; the suffering of the client; and the great difficulty I felt in proving it- by luck, eventually. So evidence of everything being utterly ghastly becomes evidence that the world is sort-of-OK, or OK enough; and I am OK.

If I see myself as OK, and my parents as OK, having done their best under difficult circumstances- losing your dad in 1934 aged 9 and moving in with your grandfather just as he gets sacked is traumatic- and just take all my rage terror and resentment at my Worthlessness and turn it against the world-

 
BLEEEEUURRGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

starry night swirl-then the World becomes shit-coloured, unrelievedly, irremediably Bad. So I hide in my living room because it is too horrible to go out. However, increasingly I can see my past differently. I had achievements. I had opportunities. I had even breaks. When Kerry from the jobcentre checked my capital, on Monday- the letter threatened I may need to suspend your claim to benefit- she was OK.

Seeing yourself as OK, you can walk along with your head held high, Yvonne counselled. Mmm. Yes, possibly. I wanted to be in a dress, and here is everyone in trousers, and my dress is still OK.

I was late, and on Station Road a man asked directions to Station Road. “It’s one of these side-roads on the left”, I said, in complete certainty. “If you drive me along I will look out for it”. So he drove me through Marsby to where I wanted to go, and I realised Station Road was not where I had thought. This does not make me Completely Utterly Bad. I will not be punished for it.

the town

Counselling V

van Gogh, thatched cottages at CordevilleI had thought I would sit on the floor, symbolising being a teenager. If I sat in the chair, I would be the sulky teenager, dragged along with the adults to silently suffer their polite conversation. Actually I sit in the chair, but feel different- playful and child-like rather than -ish.

Here am I in the “world in a grain of sand” moment. My sensations feel heightened. I notice the grain on that table or that speck of dust by the skirting-board. It still feels vulnerable but bearable. I meditate so can get like this easily, such as when washing my hands.

-When is your benefit reassessed? Early next year?
Oh, these irritating questions. Must you just be brute Reality? I don’t say that.

I am irritated about that coffee invitation. My friend does not have time. So I ask once, then a few days later ask again, then see her and yes having coffee together is a lovely idea. Well, suggest a time, I say, and she doesn’t. So it goes from a desire to a velleity. One would not say (though there are exceptions) “I do not on any account want to spend time with you” but lets down gently with that “Let’s do it- sometime-” I was glad later to find this was my own silly misunderstanding, and failure to listen to phone messages, but it was useful for the session this morning to think this way.

I fantasise that you are bored, just enduring the tedious hour as we only have one more appointment- but alternatively you might be giving me my head.

I despair. Yes, I could look for work, or do voluntary work, but I don’t want to open up to yet more of the endless, painful rejection. That woman and that Quaker meeting. Not having the funding decision for April in March, with a sincere belief it might be withdrawn.

I feel too intense, as if I scare people- HERE I AM ready to take on the world and other people want conventional, trite, unreal interactions. So I hold myself in check and am trivial. Though such Power would be useful for cross-examination, and I never managed it there.

I had wondered if I would play the Empty Chair with my mother, or visit her deathbed again- but I have nothing to say, and no purpose in saying it. Whether I express rage, or love and care, so what? The bed spins away, receding to a point on the right, and vanishing. I can’t put my head in the sand, now, so I spend most of the rest of the time with my eyes closed. It is defensive.

Yet I feel more open, like the grass which bends in the wind, not the tree which falls. The paradox is that the more defended I am, the more vulnerable. Yes, let’s meet again, it has not been entirely useless. Oh, Thank you, she says- it was a litotes!

If I were on £72.40 JSA, £1 for a cup of tea in the caff would be an extravagance to consider carefully, but on ESA, which is more, I can manage it. I sit outside in the cool breeze and watch the passers-by. I find the loo surprisingly decorated with quotes: The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart, said Helen Keller.

It is never too late to be what you might have been

said George Eliot. Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate brownie in one hand, latte in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming WOO HOO what a ride!” They may have amended that last one.

Ranting

Van Gogh, the Raising of Lazarus 1Van Gogh, the Raising of Lazarus 2My ministry this morning was as close to the Ranters as I have come. They imagined that anything they did was led by the inward spirit of God.

It began for me with thinking of a paedophile who came to my Quaker meeting. He had served his time, and professed that he did not want to offend again. My sensible, Quakerly position was clear. He had committed a crime, but human beings have to be capable of repentance and correction; we took sufficient precautions to protect our children from him; subject to those precautions we should welcome him into our community. Yet when I spoke to him I did so in a stiff and formal manner. I was conflicted, knowing the reasonable response and fighting it. My real sympathy for him- he has to be able to make some sort of life, I can imagine his suffering- was not enough.

Call it what you will- my id, or inner child is where the energy comes from.

I said that one is supposed to consider whether ministry is for the whole meeting, or for me alone, but this is for me. I described the man, and how I could not talk to him authentically. Van Gogh, the Raising of Lazarus 3And now I can be sensible, or I can be that inner child, but all that inner child is able to say is

 

NO.

There has to be more than my NO. (By this time, I am crying.)

After, G was delighted at my energy- he needs that energy, he has been in three mental hospitals and had ECT which he hates. I need that energy, but it frightens me, and so I have screwed the lid right down on it. I am still frightened, but pleased with my clear rule-breaking here. Generally, Quaker inspired ministry appears to come from a superego sort of place. I have taken a risk with my ministry, if not in others’ eyes in my own. I imagine those Ranters letting their Ids play and calling it Spirit. Some balance might be possible.

Previously I have had the experience of weeping, and thereafter being more in touch with feeling, more able to sense and express it, and perhaps this is similar- expressing anger, then being more able to use that energy. This is something to practice. I judge my revolt, or exploration, or whatever it is, harshly- I grope blindly and move poorly- but it really is the best I can do. Something to celebrate then.

J ministered on how she had permitted an artist to make a cast of her body, so lay on the woman’s kitchen table having wet plaster bandages applied. The artist was lovely, but as this proceeded, especially over J’s face, she retreated into herself. We have these public and private selves. I have support here, to grow as I may.

Van Gogh, the Raising of Lazarus 4

Van Gogh, the Raising of Lazarus

Dilation

Orchard in bloom with poplars, detail (2)For someone who moves as often as I do, I have a great deal of junk- especially as “De-cluttering” is fashionable. I have a spare bedroom filled with junk, stuff I might use again and stuff I certainly won’t, and there is a bag in it which gives me painful memories when I see it in the pile, though I cannot quite bring myself to throw it away. It contains four plastic dilators, some outdated lubricant, and tools for douching myself.

I went to Thailand for my op, having heard that Dr. Suporn Watanyusakul produced particularly deep neovaginas, did not require pre-operative electrolysis to remove hair from the scrotum, and preserved the glans to produce a clitoris. Rather than lining the neovagina with penile skin, he used the scrotum, and I understand much of my seven hours under anaesthetic was occupied removing those hairs. Scrotal skin does not stretch like penile skin does, but there was no need to stretch with the 7″ of depth he generally achieved. Immediately after, I would have to “dilate” by inserting a plastic dildo into myself for two hours each morning and two hours each evening. I would hold a water-bottle between my legs to prevent the dilator from coming out.

I found this painful. The pain was in the opening to my vagina, and was constant while I dilated. Initially I was supposed to put in the medium dilator at first and replace it with the larger one, and then use the larger one only. I found this difficult. I used to get up at five, insert the dilator, and lie in bed trying to rest, but though I was supine I found it exhausting rather than restful. I crashed my car, writing it off and damaging another which I shunted, driving home in order to dilate after work. I hated it.

After six months, I was supposed to be able to reduce this to one session of two hours each day. However, when I did so, I found I could only use the medium dilator. On two hours a day, the opening was shrinking. So I gave up. I consulted a plastic surgeon and a gynaecologist, but rather than looking for a solution I was really seeking absolution for giving up. I could not celebrate my determination in sticking out six months, as I had failed. Eventually, I absolved myself.

I thought the orifice would heal up, and it does, but very slowly: ten years later I still have a neovagina, suitable for intercourse if my partner’s penis is no longer or thicker than my thumb. (People sometimes comment on my beautiful, feminine hands.) I had one try at what we jokingly referred to as “organic dilation”- using something organic rather than plastic- but it did nothing for me. My friend said her partner, after, complained of being sore, as our organ is not as stretchy as real ones. I have little sexual sensation in my clitoris, though this may be psychological rather than physical.

Some years after a trans woman gave me a dilator as thick as my thumb, to use in order to build up to thicker ones. Worth a try, perhaps, though I have never used it. Yet I cannot bring myself to throw that bag away.

No need for panic

My dream- beach with people walking and boatsCounselling again, a year on. Am I making progress? Well, tortoise steps…

One way into it is this problem. A year ago, local Quakers gave a Romanian family permission to use part of our meeting house as a temporary home. At the time, we thought they would be out by now. Five years after accession, Romanians have the same rights as other EU citizens. They could get social housing, benefits, and he could get a job.

It has not worked out that way. The father’s English remains poor. He is apparently getting some help with benefits from the Sunlight centre and a benefits advice service, and a Quaker, M, is helping with bids for social housing. On Sunday, she mentioned the dread words “local connection”, an allusion to a rule which I don’t understand but which might get in the way of them getting social housing. Housing issues are part of her job, but M. doesn’t understand either.

The Government’s great scheme to prevent Europeans from getting Housing Benefit might stymie them too. M. has sent me the circular the Government sent to local HB offices, and I learn the great scheme, or part of it, is the Social Security (Habitual Residence) Amendment Regulations. That should be OK. I got my new Welfare Benefits Handbook on Friday, and all I have to do is get my head round the circular, the regs and what the WBH says about them, and I can give an answer. We should be able to argue a right to reside, from which entitlement should flow.

Since January, he should have been entitled to about £116 a week child tax credit. We don’t know if he is getting it, or whether a claim has been made. In theory, one claims with a phone call.

As for Quakers, there is no great harm leaving the family where they are, or even individual members spending money and effort if they wish trying to help the family. Possibly, if he can’t sort himself out here, he would be better in a country where he speaks the language, which is a nicer way of saying “send him back where he came from”.

I have no motivation at all in this. It seems there is a goal only a few yards away, and a firm, metalled path leading straight there, and as soon as I step on it I find a bottomless pit. The goal of the family being housed securely with a secure income, and the goal of getting a clear opinion on HB entitlement, appear alike impossible.

My dream 3Here I got upset. Possibly Charing Cross will help me sort my feelings out, I will see the psych next week.

I know I have good qualities- intellect, love, creativity- which ought to get me through these problems, and I know that others respect me more than it feels they do. The paranoid thoughts are not true. Feelings of my own worthlessness are also not true. There is that in me, call it inner child or whatever, that I have to convince. I am respected by others- and the terrified child self does not see that, either.

So with Yvonne again I got upset, to the stage of being unable to speak, nearly crying, in probably the safest environment I could be in. I feel incapable of achieving anything. I stay at home doing almost nothing to avoid feeling that way.

Walking home in the sunshine, I was still a bit emotional

and it feels that this emotional, feeling state is the only way to
move forward
the only way to be not shut off

my dream 2yet I see that it is so painful, and I have good reason to avoid it. So- If I were living with someone, I would need panic attacks- being unable to breathe, getting visibly terrified, being exhausted after- to convince her that I Needed Help. Having no-one to convince but myself, there is no need for panic.