Saturday, March 9, 2013

Unbalanced

You go along with one weekly routine for several months and then when it gets disrupted you realize just what a large part of your sense of security and well-being (not precise synonyms) are tied to feeling that solid repetitive rope pulling you on through days where you do stupid things and forget because you'll get another chance tomorrow.

I have written on an index card paperclipped to a string pushpinned to my wall: Fear complacency. Yet it's easy, all too easy to get used to one way of doing things and to think that you have an infinite number of chances to make things up.

A minor epiphany, or justification for my complaining general posts: I am developing coping mechanisms now, when my problems are small, that can carry over when I am older and have to worry about real things like rent and employment, so that I can deal with whatever is going on externally and attain the mental space needed to create art.

-> But I digress. I want to keep exploring what I was writing about last week - the idea of expunging the poison from your soul. Last week I was talking about how a creator must create, how any road to peace lies through catharsis. This week, I want to go at the problem from a different angle, only I'm not sure exactly what. I have twelve minutes to midnight at the moment. Let's see how far I get.

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On Wednesday I was very angry.

Without getting too psychoanalytical (after all, these are das Interwebz, not a therapist's couch)...all right, I'm going to extrapolate from myself to others. If you would be so kind, please refer to the post on impostor syndrome that I did two weeks ago, because it's related and all my thoughts have been going in a circle lately.

So. Based on my own experience and the little deep psychological talking I've done (not nearly enough) with people I'm close to, most people have an inferiority complex in some way. There's an ideal that we carry around, a graven image or idol sitting atop our shoulder, which we can never quite reach. Some people's parents provide this idol; others create it entirely on their own. Most people, I'd guess, acquire the idol through a conglomeration of social/cultural/personal expectations.

(Were I Justine Musk I would provide three books that relate secantally [if tangent can be made into an adverb, so can secant] to the topic. However, I am not half so well-read on contemporary psychology and must throw out only my observations and intuition.)

Much of the time we bear the idol silently; it is a burden with tenure, and we've gotten used to it. But sometimes, a careless comment or a trial where we fall just short reminds us of its presence and it shifts, as if a live thing, threatening to crush us with its weight.

Thus, Wednesday happened. What I did then:

Take out a piece of scratch paper.

Write across the top: EXPUNGE THE POISON IN YOUR SOUL.

Then: Ways I don't measure up.

And a list of the aforementioned. Total there were about fifteen items.

Let the list sit for a minute while your rage builds. Then, take a red pen and draw a line through the standards that don't really matter - the kind of stuff that a friend of yours would say is a ridiculous thing for you to worry about.

What is left: your legitimate shortcomings. Take a blue pen and next to each one write something you can do to...not to meet the standards of your idol, but to become a better person in that area. At the bottom of the page summarize these actions (for me: talk to my school's career center counselor, read more books of science and math, practice fencing).

Then, to the side: SEI STOLZ (Deutsch for be proud) and a short list of your concrete achievements.

I realize a big shortcoming of this system is that you are still comparing yourself to your idol. But ideally, as you cross off the frivolous standards you'll worry exclusively about actual areas of deficiency and so shift the character of your idol from something you can't or wouldn't really want to attain to a worthy goal, a Platonic form.

Two thoughts that have been running around in my head, which may be a downer ending:

1. I will never be completely satisfied and content with myself.
2. There is something fundamentally wrong with me and I will never function in the real world.

...until you realize that 1 means only that the quest for self-improvement is constant, while 2 is the impostor syndrome all over. I don't know if I ever will fully accept that there's nothing rotten at my center, but this quote helps:

"People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates."
-Thomas Szas, via Terri Windling

You're a work in progress, and if you haven't found balance that's only because you're still moving.

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Housekeeping note: yes, the blog redesign happened early. Che ne pensate?

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