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Dream, sort of, Part 3: 7.13.2016

July 13, 2016

What started when I was seven?

Trying to make my mother happy.

No wait, I was already trying to make my mother happy. But at 7, after my brother was born, it began to feel like it was my job to make my mother happy.

That is, it was no longer a thing I (perhaps) picked for my own reasons, because I wanted to do it (which is likely how early-childhood-narcissist me had previously thought of it). It had become a thing other people expected me to do, counted on me to do. A thing I owed other people.

A thing through which I earned a place in the family.

Having it as a job meant… I could be fired from it.

In the working class culture I was raised to think I was part of, people often die working (rather than live long enough to retire). If you’re not working, if you can’t work, you’re worthless. You don’t deserve the resources that are being wasted on keeping you alive.

= = =

If my job in my family of origin was to “make my mother happy”, that job remains extant as long as my mother is alive. It has nothing to do with me, as an individual: my skill set; what I actually like doing; whether I need a vacation to avoid burnout… whether I want a career change.

I’ve been reading Christopher Bollas’s Cracking Up: The Work of Unconscious Experience.

(This was one I didn’t take notes for because it was so dense, I had to just float on top as I read and hope I was getting it, so my paraphrases may be a little rough.)

People who fear being smothered by other people (the patient in his example of this was actually a woman who feared being smothered by her mother) pre-populate a region of their unconscious with some other concern. Make an internal object out of some other thing (not the mother). And then maybe they find themselves obsessively interested in this other object, so that they’re not developing their self as much as they are stuck in a holding pattern.

While I was working, I think I can safely say now I was obsessed with the idea that there was a career out there for me that would be a good fit. I read every book I could find the subject of careers. I took every test you could take. I spent $600 on a daylong series of tests of my aptitudes. Spouse and I saw career counselors. I worked in a variety of jobs, but I was always thinking ahead to the “career” part — what career does this make me eligible for? How can I fit this job into a career?

I never could. I was a job hopper, which I thought of as a Gen X thing (and now it’s another reason I feel kinship with Millennials).

If I just find a career that fits me, my life will be worthy…

My life will be worthy of having given up on making managing my mother’s emotions my career. Although if you look at it like that, obviously my mother would never ever agree a paid employment career should displace me taking care of her. She should always come first!

Actually I think my mother would say, I should do both. And I should do both well. Even though that’s impossible. You can’t actually manage someone else’s emotions for them. But certainly if you’re trying to do that, you’re going to have very little emotional energy left over for a paid-employment job. And if you’re undiagnosed autistic, as I was, keeping a job long term is going to be a struggle anyway.

The whole enterprise is doomed.


What enterprise have I been obsessively interested in for the last several years? Joining the poetry community as a published poet.

I like writing poetry. I like reading poetry. I like reading about writing poetry.

I can do all of that and be anonymous.

It’s a hobby. It’s fun.

It’s solitary.

No one else can be impressed by something they don’t know I’m doing. But no one cares when I tell them. It must be I’m not trying hard enough. Hey, why don’t I try to make a career out of it? (Even though almost-nobody makes money at poetry, and I certainly don’t want to teach poetry, or anything else.)

Why do I need poetry to be a “career”?

Because if I don’t make it a career, then all the time I’ve spent since 2009 doing whatever I want, is a waste of time.

{I don’t think anyone in my family of origin even likes poetry. When I had a 4-year career as an environmental scientist, they could not possibly have cared less.}

If I give up on the idea of a career, what happens?

If I give up on the idea of “defining myself”, what happens?

If I give up on… trying hard enough, what happens?

I just live.


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