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The way to write is to write 2.5 hours in the morning and do things that strengthen you the rest of the time.

But those are just practicalities. At a deeper level, you have to fill the project with yourself, as Proust might have said, and pull it onto your ground.

I find myself unable to work efficiently on Vallejo because I withdraw. I withdraw because I feel I am being crushed by the mountain of work on him that I am not interested in, but should theoretically control and address when I would much rather read him alongside other things. Outside as well are the shouting voices of various supervisors telling me to write more and faster (from an era when in fact I was writing more and faster than they, I must point out).

Now that I see the reason my mind seems to scramble is withdrawal, I may be able to improve the situation. The other thing I notice is that I do not seem to think Vallejo projects are my friends. Vallejo materials only seem friendly when I look at them as an amateur or fellow traveler. I find I must keep reminding myself that even at a professional level, they are my friends. This is somewhat odd, I find, but it is true.



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The mistreatment

It is like self-injury, or is self-injury. It has been happening since Reeducation said (or seemed to say, or communicated) I did not deserve to be enjoying life as I was, to be in as good health as I was or to have achieved the things I had.

I should stop following any Reeducated recommendations.

I should also give myself credit: I am working on something now that throws almost my whole life in my face. I could: give myself credit for this on the one hand, and on the other remember that objectively, it is just a little project.

I feel healed now.

But the mistreatment has a payoff, namely, that one gets to become ill, and to recover. (That is as though one only deserved a nice day as compensation for suffering. It also means one is convalescing instead of living well. The cycle is: self-injure, convalesce, repeat.)

That means it is a strategy for hobbling. And I would love to see what I would be like, and what my life would be like, unhobbled. But on the other hand: if I were only self-injuring moderately, I would not notice it and others would not, but I would still be undermining myself. It is almost as though I had magnified the phenomenon so as to be able to see what it is.

The destructive aspect of being ill and recovering: one does not get to do the things one could do if well.

The constructive aspect: one gets some time to think, time to see what underlies, and time off the straight and narrow (because otherwise one is doing what one should and what is correct and practical … since what one wants does not appear to available or attainable …).

The straight and narrow path I seem to be rejecting by engaging in self-harm: doing as one is told.

What I would like: not more obedience but rather, the vista of life unhobbled, life without self-harm.

My problem, still, is still about granting myself authority of any kind, and allowing myself to be at the center of my own life.

Why do I engage in self-harm? So that my mother will love me. Which I need her to do since I need her shelter.

But my mother is dead.

I must reoccupy good living. When I used to live well, treat myself well, enjoy life, be good to myself, do things during the day that advanced me, it was not because I was on the straight and narrow but because I was on the path of pleasure.

I would like to see what life is like without this. Not just a few days — I do manage that often enough — but months on end.

Yet it still feels as though Reeducation had killed the person who did so many beautiful things, the subject of those acts.

But one of my friends signs all correspondence, “Onward.”


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Terra estrangeira: a minha vida vai mudar

I am going to change my life. A goal is not to fall into destructive patterns of thought as much, so I do not have to spend as much time arguing against them on this weblog.

A thought on this: the problem with much US psychotherapy is that it makes certain erroneous assumptions, to wit:

a) you are here as a last resort: something terrible has just happened, whether you recognize it or not; or
b) you are massively “dysfunctioning” and need to be forced to recognize this, like a crime suspect forced to confess; or
c) you are having a major or minor crisis and are only interested in being “stabilized;” ord) you only want to vent, not to explore or change.

For me, of course, all of these options are traumatizing because the message is: I do not believe you, and I will not actually listen to you. That naturally drives someone who does not fit the four possible categories to a greater level of pain, as it, most likely, replicates precisely the events that led them to consult this industry in the first place. The slightly better, common assumption is

e) you are so frozen and encrusted in your neuroses that you can only progress very, very slowly and delicately. This may be true for some, but as a best option it is not good enough.

What do you think?



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I also think this

If I stop accusing myself of procrastination and avoidance and recognize that these things are not rooted laziness or adolescent-style “rebellion” but fear, and they are also misguided efforts at protection (against yet greater self-abuse, I might add), it might help.

What can I do for me today? Be gentle. I am so violent with myself, it is frightening. Just the thought of being gentle, the possibility of it, brings instant calm and clears my mind.

(It is true that after a certain point I did not lead the life I wanted but the life others chose. I am not going to torture myself about that, either. I will remember it is not my fault that, since earliest memory, my priority could not be choosing what I wanted and had to be compliance. I will remember that I knew this was a problem and sought help for it, and was sincere.)

I can achieve calm if I remember to be gentle. So that is what I can do tomorrow: not ask what I can do for ME today, or “be good to myself” since I do not entirely understand that, but just be gentle.


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That incredibly low self-esteem

This was what that psychotherapy got me in touch with and said was the real me, that I needed to come out of denial about being. It is true that as a small child I was very ashamed of being such a deficient and also inadvertently mean person. I was afraid of being thrown out on the street if I made any further errors at all, or if I did not manage to function entirely at the service and for the pleasure of my caregiver. I knew that nobody else would put up with me, and my death on the street would be long and painful. I was willing to give a great deal of myself in exchange for avoiding that.

All of this is true but in contradistinction to the views of my Reeducative therapist, it did not mean I could not grow out of it, or had not already grown out of a large part of it. It did not mean that all the things I had done in spite of this were illegitimate, illusory, or fake.

“Do you mean you are going to take more of a stand, rather than remain silent? I pride myself for being able to glimpse in a person that elusive quality of heightened awareness. YOU ARE TRULY BRILLIANT, GOD DAMNIT. Please just admit it.”

It is difficult to do that because it would be to say I am not like the others. Yet I notice that many others are as imperfect as I and they still allow themselves things. I also note that not only am I not unintelligent. I am also not all that unhealthy, or all that cruel. It is not mean to say you are an individual, or to disagree with others, or to have high standards, or to experience joy. These are things people have said, but they are not necessarily true.

Sleeping the sleep of the guilty. Waking up in the morning already screaming at myself. Spending most of each day trying to stop, trying to talk myself out of that point of view. How to limit this phenomenon by some measure that does not appear to be a disciplinary measure?

How to be kind? (For many years I woke up happy and sprang up, and slept an innocent sleep.)


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And two or three post-points, or, “I just wanted to bask in your brilliant mind,” as my friend said

The other thing the academic advisors do not understand is that quality of life does matter and should in fact come first. Any philosopher would tell you that. If there actually are people who only care about publishing certain books and teaching at the tertiary level and can do this well in any circumstances and at any personal price, then that is well and good, but it does not follow that people who are interested in the life of the mind more broadly, and who do want some quality of life, are “not serious enough” or “not interested enough” or are seeking great rewards beyond the interesting nature of the work itself. The moralistic finger-shaking of the academic advisors assumes and recommends masochism if not outright self-hatred, and I discern that it is where I get some of the self-hatred I do not enjoy.

And the problem I have been having with this paper is that I have not been following my own advice, which is to write a page a day, and read after going to the pool. This has always worked for me for everything, since the sixth grade. It was when psychotherapy asked me to use that writing time to write endless confessions and workbook entries that I stopped — not just because of the time it took but because what I was writing was the systematic dismantling of myself as a person.

Also, people refuse to recognize that I suffer because of these years of dismantling and the result, which is a very difficult life, and not because of a mysterious genetic disease to be corrected with pills. “If left untreated, symptoms of clinical or major depression may worsen and last for years. They can cause untold suffering and possibly lead to suicide,” says one source I am reading now. I would say, if not treated in a competent enough way. I would like to get through to somebody on this.

I seem to be impossible to comprehend since I am in worse pain than people recognize yet not as neurotic or deluded as they appear to expect. I keep saying that living well and getting to the root of things is the answer, whereas they seem to be more used to people who only want to ease suffering and accept limitations. It is as though one had only two choices: (a) be  unhappy, yet functional and (b) be disabled to one degree or another. I may be yelping more than the people in either group, but I do not think I am ultimately in as bad shape.

But I am also just out of practice, and I keep forgetting. I always slept, and I always went to the pool, and I always wrote a page each morning and read each afternoon. I always had a clean house with groceries in it, and I always had recreation. The idea that these habits were mere “coping mechanisms” that were helping me to “remain in denial,” and that I should lose them so as to be able to “feel my true feelings” is so ludicrous … and if it had been presented to me directly instead of insinuated slowly, I would have laughed.

There were other things that happened in that psychotherapy as well, and that were similarly ludicrous, but that I absorbed because I wanted to stand up to standard academic advice and did not dare. So the idea that I was working on Vallejo for really dark reasons (darker than my actual ones, which are dark enough in their way) became something I considered because in fact I wanted to do something different with the project than what I had been told I must, and I did not quite dare to take my own academic advice.

And the issue has always been the lack of kindred spirits, and that is why it is important to be where there are some, and not to back down on this. People hated Rebecca Schumann for saying that but I think that is a sign of poor mental health on their part, not on hers.

So I will allow myself to be a grown-up and take my own advice, and write a page every day, and read after going to the pool, and sleep, and have recreation. I will live as I did before, yet even moreso. This is what it means, in the immediate term at least, to be good to oneself – even if the question what can I do for ME today? inspires the spontaneous answer of putting the house on the market, packing up and driving to the Santa Monica Pier, and even if my most successful colleague recently did just that without a job to go to, saying “Anyplace I could live would be better than here, including under a bridge.”

Also, every time I write about the past I say it is the last time, but it keeps coming up in different ways. That is why I wanted to move to a different life; contemplating that darkness is not always useful although the darkness of the dark needs to be combatted. What I would like ideally is a time during the day or week to think about that, and to live well and in the present the rest of the time.

It is as though I were refusing that, living well in the present, because it is only a first step. I will not be satisfied with the results of the first step and I will be asked to be satisfied. Perhaps I can go ahead and take that first step if I also do not require myself to think it is enough.



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And simplifying

“Working here is like working in a coffin or a tomb,” said my colleague. So part of my issue is, wanting to be somewhere more lively. Wanting to do this work but needing to be somewhere more lively to do it. Is that a crime? (My colleagues making six figures are in lively places often, but I am not.)

The other thing I wanted, and that I do not think is a crime or an indication of lack of interest, was license to do research, time to think about things. The prospect of writing desperately without having time or peace to read or think or evolve or let your ideas evolve, this is what I did not like. I did not like it in graduate seminars done on the quarter system, either.

But by now, it is I who think one must work like that. This is part of my problem. The other part is that when I try to work in my way, in the way that works for me where I am happy, I find that it is not enough: I still need a place with a landscape and kindred souls.

And I know we should just keep on writing and pray for the deliverance that is promised to come one day, but this career strategy and life plan always seemed all too passive to me. I also say one needs the landscape and the kindred souls now, and not just as potential.

Part of why I went on strike for so long was that I wanted to say these things. I do understand that one is to find the landscape and the kindred souls in books.



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