2008-07-18

What is the fiction of your life?

Let’s write a story about yourself.

What’s its introduction? Where does your story take place?

How can you, as a character, be revealed? How does one get to know you? By your physical appearance? By what you say, think, feel, dream, do and don’t do? Or by what others say about you? Describe it.

What kind of conflicts have you faced/are you facing? A struggle against external forces, or against your own self? A struggle against another person, against circumstances, ideas, or against your choices, against your feelings or limitations? Elaborate.

How will the turning point be? Will the conflict be resolved or not? What do you think? Do you want it to be resolved?

How do you expect the untangling of the events to be?

Does self-help actually work?

An aunt of mine told me that, when she feels someone is willing to cause her damage, she imagines a glass cage around her: all the evil will hit the cage and go back to the person who sent it. Is it true?

Who knows? For some, it may not be. Others believe in the propagation of all kinds of energy and don't think it's nonsense. The only truth is that it makes her feel stronger and better. Good for her, and I myself wouldn´t mind trying, too. Trying to imagine the cage, I mean... not to send her some evil thoughts to see if they will indeed come back to me.

Such things don´t need scientific evidence… if it works for you, who cares about science?

2008-07-12

Everybody's looking for something

Love. Friendship. Hate. Aggression. Guilt. Punishment. Hugs. Money. Sex. Home. Food. A house. A job. A blowjob. Social status. A car. A ship. A plane. Plans. Courage. Family. Drugs. Drinks. Self. Help. Self-help. A ride. Some understanding. A masterpiece. Knowledge. A cure.

But I, I would only like to find my glasses, left on the coffee table, right beside that apple. Has someone eaten them instead?

2008-07-11

The switch

At one time, I worked as if on a switch. On. If a friend crossed me, my feelings flipped, almost immediately and without any notice. Off. Appeals were frustrating and completely useless. If you wronged me in a serious way, stole a boyfriend, humiliated me, showed a lack of respect, you were dead to me and without reprieve.
From here.
We all probably have switches like that. Some may work well, others not. In real life, it’s probably more useful to have a malfunctioning switch, and we sometimes don’t get it. I don’t, at least. Life asks us to do our best: we learn to speak, we’d better speak well, or we won’t be understood; we learn to write, we’d better write well, or we don’t get good grades. We’d better make sense. Follow the rules. Then we meet someone who, as she says, wrongs us, humiliates us, steals our boyfriend, shows a lack of respect or so. What to do? Punish? “Go learn how to be a friend,” we say, with madness, anger or indifference. Sadly, many people will never learn what we want to teach them. Even us, our own heroes wannabes, we often haven’t learned many lessons, either because we didn’t want to, or because we didn’t realize it, or because we weren’t prepared to. That’s why I forgive. Not forgiving wasn’t being useful: it was only serving me up bitter pills as time went by.
But it hasn’t solved all my problems. Forgiving seems to work only for close friends. People you know well enough to compare 99% of ons to 1% of offs, or something like that. You have a huge universe of events that leads that 99% to make a big difference, too. What if you’ve just met a person and had to switch off a couple of times? What will you think of that person? Will you ever give him/her a chance to offer you a huge universe of events so as to really test if he/she was an “on” or an “off”? Not likely.
Yes, there’s probability, I know. But there’s also hazard. Then, what to do? Perhaps the solution is not ignoring the switch, but setting it to a higher threshold. It’s not easy, I know. But I’m willing to give it a try. I haven’t had much success so far, if I may confess.

2008-07-09

How bad can it be when you just don't get it?

I can speak English (hi there!), French (salut, tout le monde !), Spanish (hola ¿qué tal?), Portuguese (oi, tudo bem?), some Italian (ciao, come stai?), some words in German (alles gut, nichts, nein, das ist kalt, wie heiß Du?) - and I used to think that was ok. No problems in France, Switzerland, Italy and Germany. Actually, Germany was the toughest one: they seemed to be willing to speak only German to me, and I DON’T UNDERSTAND GERMAN. I know how to pray in German (ich bin klein, mein Herz ist rein…), I know how to sing in German (kommt ein Vogel geflogen…), I know how to ask “How are you?” (Wie geht’s?) and say that I drink milk in German (ich trinke Milch), but I DON’T SPEAK GERMAN. Well, at least I could always have an idea of what they were saying - providing they included one of the 50 German words in my internal German vocabulary, obviously.
This morning I came across a new comment on this blog. Actually, a linkback. A linkback to another blog, written in some mysterious language. It wasn’t as mysterious as Japanese or Chinese, what would make quiet and resilient: I would never understand Japanese or Chinese or any of its variants. It would be totally useless to even try. But this language… what could it be? Danish? Norwegian? Croatian? Hindi? As Google seems to present a solution for anything, I tried their Language Tools, inserting a couple of sentences extracted from this unknown blog. Most of the times, it would return no results. It could get to translate two or three words into some of the languages available. To mess with me, completely different translations.
I felt lost and non-existent on that weblog. The link back was there, “printedwords” was there, I was there. But it made no sense. I made no sense there. Then I thought of aphasia, the inability to speak or to understand language. I thought of depression, Ginger feeling that this world was not for her. I thought of autism. And, of course, it made a lot of sense. To play the game, you have to understand the rules. If you’re not able to get it by yourself or by Google, someone’s got to help you. Then I even thought of psychoanalysis, Lacan insisting on the importance of naming: the mother has to name the world to her son or daughter. She has to teach them the rules. What if, after knowing the rules, we just can’t play the game? Can it happen? Or, once we understand the rules, we can always play, some better and some worse, improving with practice? And what if we don’t want to play the game, the only game we have? Why would it be? Can it be changed?

2008-07-08

Depression

Ginger was a senior in high school the first time she wanted to kill herself. She didn’t try it, though: she just stared at her wrist, thinking that it would be very easy to put an end to her pain. She was a smart girl and she always felt she didn’t fit.

By that time, she even thought it was cool, since so many artists and writers used to describe the very same feeling in their lives. Truly, she didn’t want to be like the people around her. She wanted to be different, and not fitting in could still be seen as positive from her point of view.

As a teenager, she thought she’d still have some crisis to go through, and thinking of suicide was part of it. In the end, it would be just fine and she would find her place in the world.

Some years went by: she found and lost many lovers and friends, and it always seemed to hurt more in her than in others, any others. She didn’t notice it at first, since some exaggeration is expected in adolescence. But even after losing the sixth or seventh boyfriend, she would still feel devastated as it happened. She always recovered after some time, but as she experienced such situations over and over, it became more and more difficult to keep the faith and feel good again.

She was supposed to learn from life, but she couldn’t. Each failure would just make her feel more and more out of place. She started considering suicide again. She had no pleasure in anything anymore: blue skies, green trees, wavy sea, singing birds. No pleasure in working, no pleasure in talking, no pleasure in going out. Nothing seemed to make sense and she started wondering why she existed.

She thought of crying for help. Thought of her family, but didn’t think they were ready to face such a situation. She would be seen as a loser and her parents would blame themselves. Following a possibly hard treatment that maybe some people would have to find out about would be a burden and a shame for her parents. She always had everything she wanted; life gave her all the opportunities and she wasn’t supposed to be a loser. Something went very wrong and she didn’t know what it was, when, why.

Maybe she just had to keep herself busy, as dad her once said, years ago. “Maybe I deserve it all, dumb creature that never knew how to extract the best out of life,” concluded Ginger, opting for self-punishment. And she decided to keep pretending that she was fine, hoping someday she would be able to put her trust in someone who could help her and understand her. She would resist as long as she could, fighting alone the ghost of depression and the daily thoughts of suicide, that were her only friends now.

Why do we have so many Gingers around us?

Grumpiness

‘Cause students can be tough sometimes

Dear Professor F. I can forgive, but I am not a saint, you see. I woke up early this morning just to see you, just ’cause you insisted on talking to each one of your students personally. I don’t know why, truly. You didn’t actually care.

You insisted on seeing our handwriting, you insisted on reading a handwritten presentation of each one of us. We know it was just because you are curious and want to analyze our personalities, if not use it for your research. Well, if you want to use it for a research, I hope you know you need our consent, which I do think you know (see and enjoy how high a concept I have of you). As a consequence, I’m back to the “want to analyze” option, because when it comes to analyzing you have some ideas that, I’ve got to tell you, are not conventional nor accurate at all.

If I write something like “he wants to get back”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that ‘getting back’ is something important for the individual I am writing about, even because it was me who wrote that, and not him. Let me clarify I didn’t take notes of every word he said and I am not very good at telepathy. Likewise, if a patient says it was “five or six years ago”, it doesn’t mean I have to obsess about it and pick on him because he’s not good at math or does not have a good memory.

But I don’t think you’ll take any of this into account: what you like is the pleasure of lecturing for yourself, reading for yourself, taking conclusions for yourself. It was in one of these selfish coups that you forced us to stay at your classes until the last minute, threatening you’d use any absences against us; it was in such selfish coups that you called each one of us separately for a ten-minute chat, that you made me take two buses this morning just to sit in front of you and your gigantic ego and listen to useless considerations.

How come you said I was a wonderful student? How come you said I was always there, interested and involved? I surely liked it, but - c’mon - don’t you know that wasn’t true? You’re fooling yourself.

Besides all that positive feedback, I would like to tell you that not having answered any e-mails and even so having insisted on pretending you were a dedicated teacher who loved your students was not very smart of you. If you receive so many e-mails that you can’t answer them, there is a polite way of letting us know about that, instead of complaining about stupid students who don’t know you’re too important to confirm the receipt of every message (and probably too lazy to learn there’s an automated solution for that… but forget it, you’re not able to create a Power Point presentation and you’re doing okay on Word already). Congratulations. After all, I was glad to meet you this morning: it meant I’m free of your unbearable classes.

2008-07-06

Forgiving

A definition of to forgive is, according to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to cease to feel resentment against (an offender). People usually say great things about forgiveness. The truth is Even if you change, the other person may not. Each person has free will, what makes forgiveness also an act of free will.

We usually think a lot about forgiveness before something that demands our forgiveness really happens. At least, that was my case. In theory, it seems easy and perfect. Then, one day, someone you love very much does something humiliating to another one you love very much. You’re not there at the moment, so there was nothing you could do. In your head, a hammer: “How could he do that? How could he ever do something like that to her?”

In theory, you should sit beside him and talk. Ask why, tell how you feel. But you decide you’d better not. It’s their business, not yours. What if the humiliated person feels even worse when she finds out you broke the secret and looked for, how to say, the humiliator? What if the humiliator gets mad at the person who told you the story? There’s no way. You’d better leave it like that. It doesn’t sound right, but when it comes to strategy and pragmatism, letting it be may count as an option. You understand the humiliator’s reasons and you believe he’ll not behave that way again. You understand but you do not agree. There comes resentment. You will never be able to look at that person the way you used to look. In your head and heart, outrageous thoughts and feelings persist: “How could he do that? How?”

He keeps emailing you regularly; after all, he doesn’t even know you were informed of that fact. His .pps files of friendship, love and faith are deliberately ignored. “It’ll never be the same”, you regret. He keeps greeting you effusively as you meet. Keeps recalling stories of your childhood, of a time he was like an older brother, like a second father to you. The nicknames you made up for each other, the trips to the beach and to the mountains… and all you do is curse him mentally: “You broke it all up.” Now you only have room to criticize his opinions, his political views, his way of life. You even wonder how you could ever like him.

One night, without noticing, you don’t delete one of his emails. Distracted, you catch yourself thinking of him the way you used to: as a dear friend, as a close relative, as someone important to your story, to your life. The memory of that incident comes to your mind, but you wipe it away. “No one is perfect,” you admit. And, even if you’re far from agreeing with what he did, you feel it’s time to forgiveness.

It’s a silent act, as silent as the breakup. You feel lighter and happier. It’s like meeting an old friend that traveled miles away years ago and whom you didn’t expect to come back. You realize that resentment is a punishment that did not bring any benefits. Forgiveness, on the other hand, is a gift you give to no one but yourself. And it feels easy and perfect. This time, not only in theory.

2008-07-05

Living by waiting: can perfection be attained - and maintained?

I’m face-to-face with that girl again. She smiles, entering my room quietly. “May I…?
“Sure.”
“I need to tell you something.”
“Go ahead.”
She one more time cries. One more time plays the victim. One more time overreacts when things go out of control.
“I didn’t intend to… I said I was sorry, but he said he wouldn’t forgive me.”
“What can you do about it?”
“I don’t know. I feel guilty. I don’t like it when people feel bad about me.”
“Are you guilty?”
“No.”
“Then why do you feel guilty?”
“Because he hasn’t forgiven me.”
The conversation could go on in circles still for a long time. Such is the life of an obsessive person. She’s not guilty, but so she feels. She’s always the victim of an injustice that randomly happened to her. She always does things right, so why do such injustices keep happening to her and only to her, always to her? She needs me to tell her she isn’t guilty. She asks for a proof of her value. She needs me to recognize her efforts. That’s where she rejoices.
But I can’t tell her that, in that way. Instead, I choose to recall our last meeting and the way she feels and reacts when changing a situation seems to be out of her reach. When talking about how negative (and impossible) it is to try to keep everything in place, she says: “It’s good to be prepared for everything.”
“What for?”
“To relax.”
“Are you relaxed now?”
“No… but I will be.”
“When?”
“When I fix this situation.”
“… until something else happens and makes you feel miserable…”
“… yes.”
“How much of the time are you happy?”
Silence is her answer.
“Is it worth it?”
By the expression in her face, one can tell she doesn’t think so.
Is it worth to worry about every tiny detail? Is it worth to try fixing everything that seems to be out of place? She seems to agree it isn’t. Sometimes, the best strategy is forgetting and letting it be. The next time she meets him, she’ll pretend nothing ever happened. She finally understands she doesn’t need to fix anything at all. If she knows she’s not guilty, then everything is “in place” to her standards - the only standards she’s responsible for, by the way. “But,” she says, “if he keeps insisting that I am guilty, I will talk to him. If it doesn’t solve the problem, I’ll go to higher instances, even to the newspapers. I try to show her that there is an infinite number of “ifs” and most of them won’t ever happen. She loses an absurd amount of time considering such possibilities, possibilities that won’t happen, except in her mind, because she gives them birth, life, energy. Here we have something she could really concentrate in fixing! She probably won’t, though: that’s how she is and how she’ll keep being. I just hope she puts an end to those endless considerations before they ruin her life by not letting her do anything but thinking and considering. I hope that she keeps thinking and considering, but knowing where to stop.
It’s not my role to be her therapist right now. We’ve already talked about how important it would be for her to look for a therapist. She agreed, but it’s up to her and not me to make the next move. That’s where I ought to stop, and I admit it’s not easy. It’s very difficult to deal with limitations of any kind, but we must accept them. It’s how grown-ups are expected to behave, isn’t it? It’s very beautiful and romantic to read things like “the impossible is something that has never been tried”. But it’s not completely true nor possible, in the name of health and sanity. We should, indeed, try - but we also have to know where to stop, frustrating as it may be. Dealing with frustrations is one of the most useful and most difficult lessons to learn. For her, for me - and probably for you, if I may guess.

2008-07-04

Reading and writing

Reading: Digital suspenseDigital Fortress is the book I’m currently reading. It’s challenging: I sometimes just can’t stop before reading the next chapter. There are many people and many plots happening at the same time, all of them connected to the main plot, although the reader does not know what kind of involvement each character truly has. So each chapter talks about one of these characters, and if we want to find out the next step, we have to wait (read) until that character’s plot is mentioned again. Besides, for lovers of the computers’ world like me, everything seems to make sense and stimulate our imagination. Stimulating our imagination, according to readers, is one of the things that makes a good book.Writing: StubbornnessOn the other hand, what makes a writer a good writer, so as to write a good book? Patrick Neate ’s testimonial, that I’ve randomly found at Google, contains an answer:I think lots of people tell me they want to write novels, but they don’t actually have the stubbornness, you know bloody-mindedness to actually make it happen. Sometimes it’s very difficult to be creative. I have days, weeks of really, really struggling and just sort of sitting in front of a computer, drinking far too much coffee, buying things on eBay, but it comes back in the end and if you keep pushing it I think it will come. And the more you practise the easier it gets. So I think there’s an idea about the creative process that it’s somehow freeform, whereas I think you only get that freedom by being very disciplined. So I work very hard. I have rules for myself - I make sure I’m at my desk at nine, I work through to lunch, I do my eight-hour day like I would if I was in an office. The truth is there’s no right or wrong way to do it, so you need to practice until you’ve found a voice or sound with which you’re totally confident.