Songs from these albums make me think of walking around the neighborhood next to Lakeside Village, pushing Liron in his stroller, loving the quiet streets with weird flowers and stop sign graffiti. Fall 2010.
I frequently find myself thinking of things that I should tell a therapist or psychologist, if at some point I’m ever able to get an official diagnosis, things that seem to be examples of whatever the condition is that I need diagnosed. Because one of the hallmarks of my anxiety is that I can never just be my own thoughts—I am always simultaneously my audience as well. As I think something, I am thinking about the fact that I am thinking about that thing, what that might mean or say about me, and what that would make someone think about me if they knew it. One of the reasons I am so insecure is that I can never be unobserved in my life. No matter how safe the environment is, even if I am completely alone in my own house, I can’t stop watching my own every move in real time, seeing it from the perspective of an audience. Pausing to think about this just now, I realize that even if I had the superpower of invisibility, I could never be completely, one hundred percent comfortable—because think about it—the thing that happens in nearly every movie in the world is that no matter how impossible something is, it happens in the first twenty minutes, and now that’s what this movie is going to be about. Picture it: you’re the Invisible Person, unseen by the entire planet until one day, someone sees you. Because my brain has seen that scenario enacted, because the possibility exists in my memory, I would know that was going to be me.
I’m reading a lot to try and figure out why the world is the way it is. I can’t say it makes me feel much better, but it does help—if you can’t fix what’s wrong, at least being able to name it allows you to stay sane. The last book I finished was The Age of American Unreason, by Susan Jacoby, about why irrational thinking and anti-intellectualism have shaped the U.S. so strongly in the past few decades. She says this, which I think summarizes the most important issue we’re facing now:
As the astronomer Carl Sagan notes, real science differs from pseudoscience in that the former “thrives on errors, cutting them away one by one,” while the latter involves theories “often framed precisely so that they are invulnerable to any experiment that offers a prospect of disproof, so even in principle they cannot be invalidated.” Then, when real scientists refuse to accept a pseudoscientific premise, “conspiracies to suppress it are deduced.”
It almost sounds like a non sequitur, but I think science—more particularly, scientific thinking—is the only thing that can save us now. Because if we can’t even agree on what reality is, there is no hope for anything. I will never be able to understand how people can use their resources to hurt others, whether intentionally or through willful self-delusion. But they do it, and if we allow even the concept of reality to be up for debate, we just pave the way for them. We can’t stop people from being terrible. But we can refuse to help them do it.
Most of us don’t have much power beyond our own lives, but the power we do have depends on our ability to think, question our beliefs, understand evidence, and discuss things with a shared vocabulary that is based on acknowledgement of the actual world around us. We have made a lot of progress as a species, even if half of us are doing everything they can to undo it. I think objectively there must be hope, even if I genuinely cannot find it most of the time. We can become better. It won’t fix the thousands of years of damage we’ve already done, the unnecessary suffering and cruelty and oppression that have ruined the lives of most of the people who’ve ever lived. Becoming better won’t fix any of that—but we can stop adding to it. Right now, I think that’s the best we can do.
There are second-graders touring the library today, and my first thought is how cute they are; they’re just a few months older than my niece, and it makes me happy to see kids her age. There’s a little girl scratching another girl’s back, almost maternally, which kills me. One little blonde girl is holding her teacher’s hand.
Then I remember, suddenly, what I can’t see from the outside—that these sweet-looking children have their own hierarchy, a social structure that probably makes some of them dread going to school. I remember what elementary school was like for me, and I realize that although I can’t tell who is who, some of these kids are bullies; some are taking their place as the “cool” ones; and some of these adorable, tiny children have already learned how arbitrarily cruel people are.
I started this post a while ago and left it sitting as a draft, and now I can’t remember why I named it “Bubble Girl.” Maybe I was thinking that I need a bubble, only to keep out feelings instead of germs.
While cataloging a cart of religious fiction:
If you use an axe with a dull edge, the energy you expend and the power you apply will be spread out and dissipated over a dull edge. The axe becomes ineffecient and ineffective. You need to put in more time, energy, or force to accomplish the same amount of work . . .
“I’ll remember that,” I said, “when I cut down my next tree.”
“You won’t cut down trees,” he said. “But you’ll still need to remember it.”
“Because it can change the way you live.”
“Replace the word “axe” with the words “your life.” If your life is dull, and you don’t sharpen its edge, then more strength must be exerted. A dull edge is one that is less focused. It doesn’t converge to a single point. The same with your life. If your life isn’t focused, if your life doesn’t have a single focus, if it’s spread out in many directions or with unclear purpose, then it will have a dull edge.
What an absurd assumption, that a person’s life should be as single-purpose as a tool for chopping wood.
This is what’s so ridiculous about believing that someone else is in charge. I would much rather have experiences just to have them, learn things just to learn them, go into the world asking every question I can think of instead of believing I already know the answers. That is one of the many things I hate about religion, the way it makes people fit their lives into a template.
I’m having such a hard time concentrating at work right now. Could be part of an upcoming migraine (hopefully not) but I don’t know how to fix it.
Maybe it’s because I have so many aborted thoughts lately—comments I start to make on Facebook, or elsewhere, then delete without posting because it seems pointless to say the words. It was happening already before The Walking Disaster, but it’s so much worse now. Like every time I see a news story, and there isn’t even the need for an actual thoughtful response anymore because there’s nothing to dissect, no questions raised—just another occasion of garbage human beings being garbage and hurting everyone they can. I should just have a stock post prepared, the same words to be shared with each new example—something like, “You are all awful, shit people and what you’re doing is absolutely unacceptable. I genuinely wish I believed in hell so you could rot there.”
The United States political system has been officially taken over by the cruelest, stupidest, most self-serving elements of humanity. I think it must only be a matter of time before violence comes along behind, open rather than camouflaged the way it is now, government-inflicted rather than just government-enabled. Calling people Nazis doesn’t even mean anything anymore, because they are (a) too stupid to see that’s what they are and (b) too callous to care even if they did. So there’s no reason to think we won’t continue heading down that path. Who would have believed we learned nothing from the Third Reich?
You have to be a real moron to think we can cut $9 billion from our already subpar education system and still beat your chest about this being “the greatest country in the world.” You have to be kind of a moron to think that anyway, or to care about such a designation, but cutting education? This isn’t rocket science.
Which is good, because pretty soon there won’t be any Americans who can understand rocket science.
A show where people watch The Joy of Painting and try to do what Bob Ross does. They should probably be drinking; in fact, the source material lends itself perfectly to a drinking game. Take a drink anytime he paints the indication of something, creates the illusion of something, or tells the audience they get to choose what lives in their world. Take a shot when he beats the devil out of his brush, or adds a giant tree in the forefront of what you thought was a finished painting. If he shows a baby animal in the studio, chug. Everyone is sincere in this game, because Bob Ross is objectively the best human being ever to live.
I think it’s clear this show needs to exist. Please someone make it happen.
I feel like I’m imploding in slow motion. Like for the first 25 years of my life, I had this exoskeleton, a shell that forced me into an unnatural shape but was somehow propping me up as well. And then I blew it up, and the explosion gave me momentum for a few years, but now I’m collapsing in on myself. I have no church inventing structure for my life, no social structures steering me toward certain paths, no safety net of family and friends to give me the Heimlich when I’m choking. I can’t even blog about it properly, because I’m almost physically incapable of opening up, my brain will not allow me to put it all in words. The inside of my head looks like a swirly, slow-moving galactic whirlpool, and the funnel that turns it into language is pinched shut so only the tiniest, most suffocated trickle can get through. There is just
too much to articulate,
too much to process,
too much to handle,
It feels like everything in the world is just wrong, like there are so many things wrong that I could never get to them all, a hundred thousand new leaks for every one we plug. I feel like my life has gone off script from the very beginning, like none of it was supposed to happen this way, I shouldn’t even have been born here, I shouldn’t have the family I have, shouldn’t have taken any of the paths I took. But you can’t go backward, obviously, and with every year the paths ahead dwindle, fading, overgrown by impenetrable forest so I know that even though other lives are only a few feet from me, I could never get through all the thorns. And now I’m Alice in Wonderland, looking down at that fucking dog erasing the path out from under her feet.
I just need so . . . so much. Desperation is the theme of my adult life. I’m an empath, I feel EVERYTHING, and I can’t get it out of me. I have permanent writer’s block—my entire life I’ve felt myself to be a writer, tried to write but just . . . nothing . . . comes . . . out. I’m actually an excellent writer when I have a prompt, and I have so many feelings and thoughts, all I ever fucking DO is think, but I can’t get out of my head, can’t do anything with it. I have so many thoughts, and so many needs, and one of the things I need is someone to reflect me back to myself so I can see who I am. I’m just realizing that this is why I feel so unfulfilled in my friendships, why I need so hard to find a friend who is exactly like me. It’s because . . . I have no fucking idea who I am. How much of me is the anxiety? How much of me is all the garbage bullshit I was taught growing up? Therapy, and probably medication, would help answer this question. I’m hoping to be able to do that someday soon. But in the meantime, fuck, I just don’t know what to do.
My family is finally taking that trip to Israel we’ve spent literally our entire lives talking about. I don’t even want to go anymore—the shine came off the rose of Israel when I grew up and realized my family were Zionists—but on the other hand, the shine has not come off my need to take my first trip outside the godsdamnedfucking United States. And on top of that. We might go to London, too.
If there is a place in the entire world that I feel most perfectly represents all the everything about my life that is so completely wrong I can’t put it into words, it is the United Kingdom.
To me, the UK is all the things my life should have been. I used to fantasize about traveling constantly; I have so many notebooks full of plans and research, and not one of those trips has ever come into existence. I stopped doing it several years ago because god, I just couldn’t bear the intensity of that longing with no possibility anywhere in the remotely near future. But since there’s an actual real plan to go later this year, I thought it would be safe to start researching again. I spent a couple hours today online, looking up all the places I want to go.
It wasn’t safe. It broke the fucking dam, and now I am desperate again. I don’t know how to stand not being in London right. now. I don’t want to go there for five days and then leave. I want to be there, permanently, immediately. That might not be the place I want to stay for the rest of my life; I desperately want to see so many other places in the world, too, and maybe (though it sounds like idiocy to say it) I won’t end up fitting in the UK. But I need to have the chance.
I was desperate already, and I’m not handling this new wave well. For the past seven months I’ve been counting down the seconds until I find out whether or not I’ll get the job I’m hoping to get—the one job that is a small, small possibility of improvement in our current situation, the job that will maybe give us the stability we need to get out of the tractor beam that has been our suffocating life for the past ten years. My anxiety is constant and nearly overwhelming. I’ve never been suicidal and I don’t think I ever will be, but I can feel myself getting closer; like not sharing someone’s views, but being able to see their point. Before the past year or so, deep down, I always had a sort of naive Pollyanna optimism about my future. Now I realize how little reason I have to hope.
I’m turning 32 in a couple months. My twenties were already a waste, and really, so was everything before that. I’m not having children, so at least I don’t have a deadline on living life. But if my thirties are another eight years of this . . . I don’t think I’ll make it. I’ll collapse in on myself before then. The implosion is already happening.
It bothers me to hear the word “survivor” used as a compliment. I don’t understand why we talk about strength so much, in different variations. If you’re “a survivor,” it means things are trying to hurt you, but you’re able to withstand them. That is excellent, for obvious reasons. But if we’re praising strength, it means we’re disappointed by weakness. And I don’t understand why we can’t admire weakness, too. Why are we so in awe of the ability to not let things affect you? Why don’t we admire a person who experiences something hurtful and is hurt by it? This preference is so deeply ingrained that I can’t get to the bottom of it; I can see from my own instinctive response that I’m too much in it, can’t tell what the shape of it is. But in my head, with my words, I think there are many contexts in which strength is not objectively better than weakness. Somehow and for some reason we have decided that it’s better. But I think this is a social construct—
No, I’m wrong. It’s the other way around.
Because as far as evolution is concerned, survival is the ultimate objective good.
And that’s what the problem is. How funny that I didn’t see it immediately! The problem is that we are humans: we are mammals.
We like to think about how different we are from other animals, but we’re congratulating ourselves preemptively; we have many more centuries to go before we evolve into anything really different. Most of our problems arise from the animalness that is inherent in our nature. Territorialism—fear that other animals will invade our homes. Shunning members of the group that won’t conform. Glorifying strength and violence. Shaming or exploiting vulnerability. Fighting for dominance over competitors. We attempt to distinguish ourselves from animals with almost entirely superficial flourishes: smoothing and painting and decorating our bodies, collecting objects to surround ourselves with, creating industries to facilitate our decorating and collecting. And we focus so hard on those surface behaviors, we don’t notice the instinctiveness of it all, the way we operate on auto-pilot. Until we start questioning our behaviors, questioning our motivations and all the social structures we’ve built up arbitrarily, we’ll still just be another kind of animal.
People who oppose government regulation know that without it, the powerful will abuse everyone they can. It’s not that they’re naive about people’s cruelty; it’s that they’re also the kind of people who will abuse anyone they can, and they think that’s how the world should be. We’ve allowed abusers to co-opt the concept of freedom, to make it mean their freedom to abuse us. They talk about freedom from government regulation because they are the thing we need government regulation to protect us from.