focus: looking forward
Dating back to when I was on Flickr (beginning in 2009), I’ve done a great many photographic portraits, usually of nonhumans. Some of Spouse, though, and some self-portraits.
I’d like to do word portraits, but I don’t even know what that means, never mind how to go about it.
(Although at least one of my poems is a word portrait of me. And one cento is, arguably, a word-portrait of FJG.)
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Seems to be an intrinsic quality of my character. One that is, unfortunately, often off-putting to others.
Can I find ways to put it to good use: Effectively? Appropriately? Surprisingly?
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Even more than anxiety, I think the emotional state I’m most often in is discomfort. Given that it’s the most familiar, there must be ways of better utilizing it. Experiments!
I often write letters from a place of discomfort. Additionally I struggle with how much data is too much data, given that (1) other people don’t seem to use data in their everyday lives the way I do, and (2) sharing data is, for me, an intimacy marker. Yet I’m often not sure how much intimacy I actually have (or can assume I have) with the person I’m writing to. In revisions, I tend to delete 80% or more of the data I had inserted with such hopefulness.
I’m working on a letter right now where the idea to write it came from a dream. I’ve written to this person twice before, but years apart. I don’t recall them responding either time. I was voluble in my first letter, thinking we might become friends; my second letter was brief.
If I only wrote to people I was sure were interested in me, I would almost never write letters.
For the first time, yesterday I wondered if… the discomfort at not knowing if the person is interested in me, is part of why I want to write to them.
Do I believe a letter can kindle interest? Seems unlikely.
Although… if the recipient of such a letter scored high in Openness to experience [part of psychology’s Big Five], their curiosity could be piqued. In theory.
Just last night I finished reading a 345-page memoir of a British playwright I’d never heard of [David Hare]. Luckily I’m familiar with a lot of British slang; less luckily, I understood almost none of his cultural and historical references. But I read the whole thing. And I enjoyed it.
Would I want to talk to him in person? Hard to say.
However, that reminds me… David Hare, like Alison Bechdel, wrote about his past actions towards other people in a way I found disconcerting. I sat down and puzzled through why, now that it appears to be a pattern.
Highly connected people, or perhaps people enmeshed in webs of relationships — I’m not sure how to characterize these people’s social situations, except to be clear that I’m not in similar ones — often write about their actions that affected other people as if the other people themselves were writing about it, and passing judgment on the first person. That is, these accounts read as if, for instance, I was telling my reader what the real Mrs. Nocerino would have said about my actions, but I was saying it as if Mrs. Nocerino’s opinions of me were my own opinions of me.
I think that was clear as mud.
Plenty of people, well writer people anyway, are self-aware enough to write about their past actions and be critical of what they did. Even when they explain their justifications at the time, they still realize they did things they aren’t proud of; that are hard to make sense of in the present, given the kind of person they want to be.
That’s not what I’m talking about here.
I reported her description to the referee one day, who looked back at me as if he had heard it all before. This contempt provided me with convenient cover for my own uselessness. (The Blue Touch Paper, p. 39)
Why contempt? Why uselessness? Why not disinterest (or boredom), and awkwardness?
What I’m trying to think through is these cases where people have seemingly internalized negative judgments from third parties, to the extent that they write about them as if they were their own beliefs. Yet the person writing doesn’t seem to realize the disconnect.
If you’re highly enmeshed, maybe it’s not relevant. Maybe you never have the perspective of looking at your situation from outside the web.
Even when I was enmeshed in a web of relationships, though, and even when I was still self-hating, I don’t think I would have written about my own actions in this manner. Because this manner requires that you know what specific judgment other people are passing on your actions.
When I was enmeshed (and self-hating), what I knew was… everything I do is Wrong. It doesn’t matter what it is; it doesn’t matter why I did it —it’s Wrong. I’m Wrong. Obviously.
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Maybe if you’re enmeshed, the number of the other voices (if not their volume) drowns out your own ideas about what matters and why.
But I can’t help wondering if maybe people who are enmeshed… don’t bother to have their own ideas about their behavior towards others? They wait to be judged? And perhaps if some actions are overlooked by the community, they don’t bother to assess whether they should’ve done them or not? They just assume they’re free and clear?
I’ve been watching movies about whistleblowers [Selma, Spotlight].
Martin Luther King, Jr., as portrayed in the movie, looks to his close advisors for encouragement and affirmation that he’s doing the right things for the right reasons. Receiving that encouragement and affirmation helps keep him steady on the (dangerous and emotionally-fraught) path he’s on.
The Spotlight team are pretty sure they are doing the right things for the right reasons, but plenty of people they talk to disagree. Want them to stop digging, and definitely not to write about what they’re finding. But the four of them agree, and their two bosses agree.
What about when no one around you agrees with you? With your principled stands?
This is the zone of discomfort I live in every day. Have always lived in.