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  • Posted on January 4, 2014 at 10:18 pm

Sometimes (I wrote under a photo of a single swan) it is enough just to be.

That was over 30 years ago, a gift with love. Just a few years earlier, I gained a lifetime favourite song, ‘Be’ from the film Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. By now I was grown up, so the question of ‘What do you want to be?’ was getting a bit passée.

Being and doing

It’s interesting to think about the relationship between being and doing, Socrates thought so (to be is to do), as did Plato (to do is to be). And no, it’s not the Sinatra joke (do-be-do). Can you do anything without being? Can you be anything unless you express it by doing? I think the difference is that you can suppress actions that you feel would be natural, if only you felt free and accepted, and you can do things that aren’t natural in order to appear to be something you are not. And you can also make a show of doing something that expresses your being, as if it were exceptional, in order to seek permission to be.

I’ve read people who write about ‘doing’ trans* or queer, perhaps because they feel their sense of being is not resolved by pigeon-holing themselves, or because it is a stage in exploration: can they really be different? Can it really be that they are different?

I remember a quite distinct period of ‘doing’, of pushing the envelope, of seeing what fitted, what would happen, where it would lead. At first it was what I very much wanted to do, and felt very like expressing something I was, but felt a bit awkward simply because it was different. And there was also an element of wanting to be noticed. It was a real nuisance and disappointment after a day of ‘doing’ female to remove the nail varnish, but it was also a good reason to leave it on so it would be noticed. If it had really felt out of place with my being, I would have wanted to remove it. I didn’t. I wanted what I was to be seen by what I did. And I started to make more and more things noticeable, because I was desperate to be known for what I was, by having to explain things I was doing. I think it is a very common thing.

Doing and permission

But it isn’t just about being trans* or queer, or anything do do with sex or gender. It’s about our freedoms do be ourselves, to make life something of being, not of doing.

I remember ten years ago and more screaming out inside because I was in constant demand, but only for what I could do, not simply for what I was (as a whole person). And that was before I even began to understand my gender struggles. I wrote a poem at the time that expressed my life as being like a cairn, a way-marker. Everyone passing by was placing another small stone, making me useful, adding to my layers, my reason to be there for them. Whereas what I wanted most of all was to have bits of me taken, loved, valued, to add to their lives, their sense of being. It was a very powerful period in my life, and, looking back, a beginning of inner change that enable me eventually to find the freedom to not have to do, but to be.

Sometimes it is enough just to be? No. It is always enough just to be.

Doing as a free expression of being is not conscious doing, it is what others see as a result of you simply being. You don’t make it up, you don’t have to make it visible in order to gain permission to be yourself.

Tied in knots

Last night I was talking with a friend who had had one of those difficult family Christmases. Physically, she was literally tied in knots as a result. Unable simply to be in that company, she had done as much as she could to accommodate herself in the situation, and had come away with needing to do the right things to release herself from the knots: ‘I’ve got to get rid of all this contraction first!’ – and she had a method in mind, difficult, but sure to be effective.

I remembered this time last year, writing several times about letting go of a marriage, a love, something deeply attached. I was an orang-utan mother carrying a dead baby, being mother when mother was no longer the reality. And in the end, after too long, I realised it wasn’t just grieving, it wasn’t difficult in itself, I just had to know I was allowed to let go. No special technique, no esoteric method, no effort or strength – just to put down what I didn’t have to carry. If I didn’t want to.

I reminded myself and my friend that a simple fact of life is that we don’t owe anyone anything, and no-one owes us anything. We are born to parents because that is the only way in. We mostly grow up in a family, because mostly parents or carers feel our nurture is the right thing to do. But it doesn’t put us in debt, it just teaches us to do likewise or better. There is no debt system hanging over us. If we choose to be kind, to love, to be generous, to be free, then we can be. Can you think of anything better? Not out of indebtedness, but out of an expression of self.

This is doing as an expression of being. Not doing to see if we can be ourselves, or dare to be ourselves, or are acceptable as ourselves.

What helps us best to express our being? If we want to do that, the rest follows.

It isn’t a resolution for 2014, it’s a revolution.

Just be. Oh, and let others be who they are, not what you want or need them to be. Love them as they are. Some may love you as you are too, especially if all your doing is a free expression of your being.