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Letters to a friend

March 25, 2014

{I’ve been off Twitter for 62 hours. The twitchy part of the withdrawal, I think, is fading. Musing on what I would resume if I went back, I started a conversation in my head — ostensibly directed at certain groups of people — only to realize that the advice I was giving them applied to me. Was about me.

And yet, if I think about what my advice for myself would be, I’m stumped.}

Dear Friend,

Why is it so important to you to “catch up to” levels of “achievement”, or maybe just levels of privilege, in a system that everyone agrees is not just badly flawed, but corrupt and inhumane? Why are your models for what’s possible people who reached the top of this system?

Friend, think of the rich and powerful people we have met. (Not many, but we have met some.) They tend to be not just completely conventional in their tastes, but understated. I don’t think I’ve ever met a rich person that was flamboyant, rambunctious, or could be described as having panache. (I’m sure there are rich people like that; I’ve just never met them.)

Rich people have . . . more resources at their disposal than any reasonable person could ever use. What marvels of art, design, invention, do they themselves create?

Aha! See, generally, rich people don’t create. They hire other people to create for them. And what is created may become a status symbol, and an entire industry may grow up around providing those status symbols for rich people. But the rich people themselves usually don’t know enough about the created things to even understand why they are marvels. And they don’t care either.

It’s like trying to talk to Smaug about the craftsmanship and artistry of particular golden goblets in his hoard. He doesn’t care.

==== begin Digression 1 ===

When I was a kid, if my parents asked me a question about something, they didn’t like it when I said I didn’t know (because they wanted me to scour the earth finding the answer for them), but they didn’t allow me to say I didn’t care — if they cared about it, then self-evidently, it was worth my time and energy!

Naturally, it didn’t work going the other way. I care/d passionately about art, design, and science, for starters. My mother liked art, and maybe design (although not the way I wanted to do them); my father didn’t like any of them. Because they did not care for these topics, I should not care. But if I had to care — you know, because I was ornery like that — their contempt for my passions would demonstrate how little they valued me. I learned from them to devalue my own passions. And to devalue myself for having them.

=== end Digresson 1 ===

Friend, I keep reading about communities that form of like-minded people. And I feel torn, I really do. Wouldn’t it be great to have a community of people who actually wanted to help you?!? I can’t even really imagine how that could work; I can dimly sort of grok it by imagining the inverse of what generally happens for me: (instead of resources withheld, or tied up in things that are actively unhelpful,) receiving useful resources! Knowing people you could ask for help, and then having them actually help! People believing in your work, and wanting you to succeed! It’s like a fairy tale.

Friend, what elements of that fairy tale might have in common . . . what you’re doing/trying to do can be easily understood, easily explained. It’s comfortable, sensible. It makes people feel good about themselves, without needing to grow or change. It’s safe. And that’s why it’s supported — because it reinforces the status quo.

That’s not — in any way — what we’re trying to do, is it?

Friend, I don’t know if you’ve struggled with this same issue, but . . . *cue shame spiral*. . . I don’t really want to help other people. I want to help me.
My internalized parent voices, and of course Mrs. Nocerino, are screeching about what a selfish, unnatural, monster I am.

It’s true: I’m putting myself first, out loud, in public. Anybody might read this! (Oh, the horror!)

If I am putting myself first, do I really need other people to prioritize me? Um, no. Wait, what?

=== begin Digression 2 ===

There is a particular phenomenon that has happened on every social media platform I’ve tried (7 so far): I write something heartfelt about issues I’m struggling with, and feeling depressed or even despairing. I am seeking . . . validation, I guess . . . but on a deeper level, I want someone to acknowledge that I exist and that I matter. Unfortunately, what generally happens is, no one responds at all. Which validates for me what I already “knew” — that I don’t really exist and/or that I don’t matter to anyone. So I go looking for someone else who’s talking about their own issues/struggles/feelings, and I try to validate their experience, as a Plan B way of validating that yes, I do indeed exist. If I actually help the other person in some way, I receive Bonus I-Mattered-to-this-one-person-this-one-time/Good-thing-I-was-here!

This dynamic . . . is my relationship with my mother. I don’t exist unless I’m helping her with her problems, and her problems are endless. I’m the hammer that never gets a vacation from nails. Except, you know, I’m not actually a hammer. Being a hammer is a job, not an identity. And since I never . . . answered an ad in the newspaper? Talked to someone I knew at the company about applying? Like, if this were an actual job, you would still have to interview for it; explain your qualifications; tell them why you wanted it. But you would also be interviewing them, to determine if you wanted the job.

I don’t want this job. This job . . . fucking sucks.

The whole concept of a job? Is a four letter word to me. And always has been. Because it seems like not just a job, but the whole concept of jobs (as I’ve lived it anyway) is being born into a system that hurts everyone. But some people pretend that there’s a way to “win”, and they convince most other people that they, too, can “win” if they indoctrinate multitudes more. It’s a pyramid scheme. And in reality, I don’t think anyone actually gets what they need or want.

Everyone thinks they want to “achieve” being Smaug. Meanwhile, Smaug is a miserable curmudgeon.

Is “community” even a real concept? Or is it just a way to make Smaug-ness seem palatable to the masses?

=== end Digression 2 ===

In theory, a community of volunteers seems like a wonderful thing. But I’ve been a volunteer in maybe 8? different volunteering situations, and even though we were all there for ostensibly-similar purposes, somehow I still never fit in. I was enthusiastic about the wrong things. (Actually, no one else was enthusiastic about anything. So “low class”.) I cared about the nonhumans far more than the humans. I had a great deal of trouble even figuring out what the party line was; I certainly wouldn’t follow it.

What are the benefits that a community is supposed to offer?
• Pooled resources.
• People who are presumably going through the same kinds of things at +/- the same times as you, so you’ll have things in common to talk about.
• Shared goals.
• Shared worldview.

I’ve cycled in and out of depressive episodes since age 10. When other people are also in a depressive episode, they don’t have any bandwidth to spare for me, nor I for them. And plenty more people don’t even seem to realize they’re depressed — talking to them is worse than useless.

I don’t share goals with anyone I know.

My worldview . . . is similar, in parts, only to people I know from books — nobody I’ve ever met.

“Pooled resources” is the only one that makes any sense to me. But if I intend to use those pooled resources for purposes no one else approves of, they’re not going to let me. They’re going to obstruct me. And if they can, they’re going to try to make me believe I don’t “deserve” any resources, because I’m a Bad Person. Up until yesterday, that approach worked spectacularly well.


Friend, I should try to tie up loose ends, but my brain is full.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 25, 2014 12:58

    “See, generally, rich people don’t create. They hire other people to create for them.”

    “Is “community” even a real concept? Or is it just a way to make Smaug-ness seem palatable to the masses?”

    you’ve given me lots to ponder.
    also, yay for references to The Hobbit! 😀

  2. March 25, 2014 16:07


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