Friday, October 11, 2013

Healing the division between body and mind

So here I am trying to do a Pilates exercise when all of a sudden I overwhelmingly want to burst into tears.

I don't know why.

In the loo afterwards, trying to recover myself, I find myself thinking " It's so dreadful the way Susie died".

(Susie being my late partner, the mother of our children, who died of a brain tumour in 2005. After 33 years together)

My dear teacher suggested I do the exercise at home. So there's me at the bus stop, pressing my bag between my knees, doing the exercise, tears running down my face.

And when I get home its the same. 

That night I dream of a huge old fashioned reel to reel tape recorder, one that records feelings instead of sounds, and I know I've pushed the playback button and don’t know how to find the one marked STOP.

That’s the question, I think: how we stop ourselves endlessly reliving emotions of the past. And re-learn to live the feelings of the present.

But the problem seems to be there's a whole load of trauma stored up in my body somewhere, and I keep walking in such a way as not to to feel it.

And now my legs are twisted and arthritic...because the pain goes right back into the past, long before the death of Susie, maybe even before the death of my mother, and seems somehow connected with the terror and the shame of being forced to live as a boy when deep down I knew I wasn’t a boy at all.

To avoid the shame I forced myself to walk “like a man”: and so my body, like my identity, got twisted out of its proper shape.

It amazes me, when I think about, how we in the West could ever have fallen for the collective delusion that the mind, or the soul, is somehow different and separate from the body.

And yet in my deep fear and distress that is somehow how I had to live.

I used to love performing in plays; and the rehearsal room was one place where I felt accepted and at home. And wasn’t shy any more.

But that was where I also learnt I would be so much happier living as a girl; and the shame and the terror of that tainted the theatre and completely blocked my capacity to perform.

It all became like an underground stream, dark and hidden and incredibly powerful, that somehow, years later,  carried me back to the theatre as a writer.

And so saved my life...

I had to learn to write fast in my early days as John Clifford the writer; and bit by bit I became aware that I was performing all my plays in my head. That as well as becoming the character, I was becoming the actor or actress playing them.

That my performer’s instinct was still at work, deep underground, and telling me what lines worked and what lines did not.

My creative work, the love of my partner, the love of my children: all these helped me recover from the trauma. And as I became slowly more and more able to reveal myself as transgendered, so, too, did this underground stream rise to the surface more and more.

And now.... For years I’ve had an agent as a writer (Lisa Foster at and now I have an agent as a performer (Triona Adams at and an entry in SPOTLIGHT, even. As a transgender actress.

And I celebrate all this today because I am packing my bags to spend a fortnight in London  to work at devising a new work with the extraordinary gifted and courageous Chris Goode (

To work on the creation of ALBEMARLE.... not as a writer, but as a company member: a performer and deviser.

So here’s me: with my bandy legs, my arthritic knees and my bus pass. About to start a new chapter. Stepping into the gorgeous unknown.

How wonderful...

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