Said and read – February 2019

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What is it about options that is so difficult for us? Why do we feel compelled to keep as many doors open as possible, even at great expense? Why can’t we simply commit ourselves?” – Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our DecisionsDan Ariely

Once more I have not managed to read as much as in previous years, and this makes me a bit sad. I hope to pick up more books starting in March.

Previous Said and read blog posts: 2019 – January. 2018 – NovemberOctober, SeptemberAugust, July, June, May, April, March, February and January.

Thoughts on reading for February:

What holds true for a conversation holds equally true for reading, which is—or should be—a conversation between the author and the reader. Of course, in reading (as well as in a personal conversation) whom I read from (or talk with) is important. Reading an artless, cheap novel is a form of daydreaming.” –Fascism, Power, and Individual Rights: Escape from FreedomErich Fromm

Highly recommended

*Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our DecisionsDan Ariely

I was surprised to find that a book I stumbled on accidentally as a part of my psychology studies was quite engaging. Essentially Ariely explores decision-making, and how we think we are being perfectly rational as we make decisions. Many influences come into play, often largely invisible, unconscious forces, and Ariely and colleagues have run a number of experiments to examine some of these influences and the irrational conclusions of our decisions. It’s fascinating stuff looking at how, for example, something is framed, changes our perception of its value or importance, whether it is negative or positive.

Most of all I enjoyed the parts about how humans love to collect more and more options, leaving all options open, but forego in many cases, the truly important or most valuable outcomes, in an effort to never have to make a choice or let go of the endless options before us (stuff like online/app-driven dating presents this dilemma with great immediacy). Strangely, Ariely cites Erich Fromm, the only other thing of significance I finished reading in February, on the topic of too many options, too much opportunity.

Good – really good

*Fascism, Power, and Individual Rights: Escape from FreedomErich Fromm
*To Have or To Be? – Erich Fromm
*The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness – Erich Fromm

On some level, I am disappointed in myself for reading so few books in February, but I do try to remind myself that the Erich Fromm volume I’ve just finished reading is actually several books within one volume.

Fromm has been coming up in my readings on psychology, philosophy and some other more New Age type reading I did over two years ago when I started my mission to read more (I started by reading some books a friend had asked me to read to her and record a very long time ago, which included these “New Age” type books). These antecedents coupled with my own curiosity and the relevance of these theories given the current political and social climate gave me a reason to get through these books, which weren’t always easy. I found it best to read these when I was a captive audience and basically had nothing else to do but focus, i.e. on plane journeys. Most recently I was flying between Frankfurt and Glasgow, and a flight attendant scared the shit out of me by standing very close behind me, staring over my shoulder (without my realizing it) and almost whispering in my ear, “That’s the smallest font! You must have excellent eyes.” But apart from that strange interruption, I was able to read these books in peace.

It was perhaps most interesting to see Fromm’s assertion in Escape from Freedom: “The United States has shown itself resistant against all totalitarian attempts to gain influence.” Perhaps so, at the time of writing. Fromm was not blind enough to think the situation static: “Yet all these reassuring facts must not deceive us into thinking that the dangers of “escape from freedom” are not as great, or even greater today than they were when this book was first published. Does this prove that theoretical insights of social psychology are useless, as far as their effect on human development is concerned? It is hard to answer this question convincingly, and the writer in this field may be unduly optimistic about the social value of his own and his colleagues’ work. But with all due respect to this possibility, my belief in the importance of awareness of individual and social reality has, if anything, grown.

As Fromm examines the societal shifts that came about as a result of the shift from economic systems of the medieval era to what is now capitalism, we see echoes of the kinds of questions being raised in how we live (and in many cases suffer) today:

In one word, capitalism not only freed man from traditional bonds, but it also contributed tremendously to the increasing of positive freedom, to the growth of an active, critical, responsible self. However, while this was one effect capitalism had on the process of growing freedom, at the same time it made the individual more alone and isolated and imbued him with a feeling of insignificance and powerlessness.

He also writes at length about something that is one of my personal annoyances – boredom (or “insufficient inner productivity”). He argues that this belongs to the kind of society we live in, the creation of the need for constant stimulation and the disintegration of man’s place in society (having a role and knowing what he should be doing):

“Chronic boredom—compensated or uncompensated—constitutes one of the major psychopathological phenomena in contemporary technotronic society, although it is only recently that it has found some recognition. Before entering into the discussion of depressive boredom (in the dynamic sense), some remarks on boredom in a behavioral sense seem to be in order. The persons who are capable of responding productively to “activating stimuli” are virtually never bored—but they are the exception in cybernetic society. The vast majority, while not suffering from a grave illness, can be nevertheless considered suffering from a milder form of pathology: insufficient inner productivity. They are bored unless they can provide themselves with ever changing, simple—not activating—stimuli.”

On so many levels, the readings are deep and difficult and range across so many different subjects from history to linguistics, from philosophy to the nature of love or collective versus individual identity; it is hard to summarize here (and is probably not even necessary – if you’re interested in these kinds of things you will seek this out).

Entertaining/informative/thoughtful or some combination thereof

*Half-Blood BluesEsi Edugyan

It took a long time to get into this book, but once I did I enjoyed it and was able to reassess the style that made it hard to “crack”. It does not immediately come across as linear and is hard to insert oneself into, but once you do it’s got quite rich language and a wholly new perspective. It is possible one I will need to read a second time to appreciate fully.

Coincidences

No great coincidences this time.

Biggest disappointment (or hated/disliked)

I don’t think I really read anything disappointing… boring textbooks don’t really count since they are useful and required, even if they don’t ignite creativity or excitement in the way that fiction or poetry might.

Lost causes

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“There are chapters in every life which are seldom read, and certainly not aloud.” The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields

Each day I rise only to spend countless hours trying to reassure someone that there is a chapter in life waiting for him that is not all just monotony. He spills out his desperation at being bored, at having no life, at being “used up” and tired, and I try to ‘cheerlead’ him out of these doldrums. Trouble is, they are much more than doldrums, and he cannot see his life the way I see it. He cannot see life, as a concept, the way I see it. He and I both know the deception of this cheerleading: it is a lost cause to believe that life is anything more than monotony. I know and accept that this is mostly what life is – we wake, we eat, we go to work, we sleep, we pepper nice things in between. If we are lucky, we find a way of being that delivers contentment, and we can cultivate it. And amidst all of that, there may even be flashes of happiness.

But it’s mostly the monotonous grind, not the fun stuff, that makes up life. This man seems to believe that life should mostly be an endless carnival of the fun stuff (not to be confused with the funhouse, which is something quite different) and that he alone endures this life without constant stimulation and joy. There is no point telling him that this is how everyone’s life is; he viciously retorts, “I’m not fucking talking about anyone else. This is my life. And there’s nothing in it.” As though that nothingness is unique.

But no, in fact…

“Nothing happens while you live. The scenery changes, people come in and go out, that’s all. There are no beginnings. Days are tacked on to days without rhyme or reason, an interminable, monotonous addition.” Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre

“Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness and dies by chance.” Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre

To feel alive in that interminable in-between space, so often devoid of any inspiration, people flail, and look for ways – without even knowing it – to drag others into their misery, demanding from them the swaddling of misplaced comfort.

“People are always looking for consolation and accepting it too readily. They find clever ways to invert their humiliations, little tricks of self-deception, a form of artistry.” –The Republic of Love, Carol Shields

This man will deceive himself and others for the purpose of gaining attention – even negative attention is not being alone, which for him is the worst possible outcome.

“Solitude is the playfield of Satan. I cannot describe the depths of my loneliness and distress.” Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov

(One wonders how it is that someone who is so needy and so craves social attention and affection has fixed himself like a barnacle to one of the most antisocial people alive.) He needs above all else to be seen and heard… but even this will never be enough.

“Life is an endless recruiting of witnesses. It seems we need to be observed in our postures of extravagance or shame, we need attention paid to us. Our own memory is altogether too cherishing, which is the kindest thing I can say for it. Other accounts are required, other perspectives, but even so our most important ceremonies—birth, love, and death—are secured by whomever and whatever is available. What chance, what caprice!” –The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields

There are days, though, when he is perfectly fine. In fact, long stretches pass in which he conforms to something like a routine.

“And I’ve figured it out. Routine is liberating, It makes you feel in control. A paradox, isn’t it? You think your routines are controlling you, but in fact you’re using the routine to give you power.” –The Republic of Love, Carol Shields

Most people bristle at the idea of a routine but fail to realize that the routine and its structure is often all that keeps them in line, and in fact is one of the strictures that affords the occasional moments of happiness and staves off the occasional “emptiness creep” that sneaks in. When he starts to come undone, though, the first thing to go is the routine. And sometimes the universe seems to conspire against him, derailing him from his routine. Recently, he lost his mother, which is sad enough, but because she was at the center of many of his routines, he lost this anchor. Beyond that, the other parts of his routine, and indeed the foundation of his health and mental well-being, were interrupted by the recent winter blast. Every place he would normally go was closed due to weather, leaving him shut in his flat alone for too many days.

Sometimes maintaining a routine is all that will get you through. Yet, no one imagines that a collapsed routine will kill you.

五大 – Zen boredom

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“Everything feels remote and random from afar.”
“Yeah, I have also had my a-ha moment: This is fucking boring.”

Dear “Hideo”,

My friend Emi and I once gave her abusive boyfriend Ed the nickname “Yuki” (after the yuki daruma, or snowman. Why? Because in tough situations, he melted and/or ran away. Same difference, right?). I will call you “Hideo”; first because bestowing fictional names is hard. Second because there is something about the hesitant nature of your cowardice, how your self-esteem and your desires bounce wildly, up and down, like a rubber ball uncontrollably hitting the walls in an empty room, that reminds me of an actual Hideo I once knew. He was easily scared, a bundle of nerves but driven by supposed feelings and strong urges that he regretted almost as soon as he admitted or gave in to them. I recall how, as the hours ticked on, spending non-stop, sleepless days and nights wandering through Tokyo with him, we got into minor disasters that led onward to other seemingly endless obligations. He, distracted while driving his Mazda Miata in bumper-to-bumper city traffic (the standard for Tokyo), rear ended another car, setting into motion days of events related to this minor fender-bender. He was high-strung, hung up on the rightness, procedure, protocol, etiquette of how to handle every post-collision step.

My tiredness and jet lag during those interminable days made me grow calmer and more docile than normal – I may as well have been catatonic. On balance I became increasingly bored until I was more interested in how air conditioning blowing full-blast in a hotel room could not remove the stifling humidity of the clinging, wet September air; it merely made us shiver in sticky frigidity as we awkwardly attempted to have sex, which made him into a fumbling, nervous wreck, both before and after. I became even more tuned-out and bored, but felt a tingling of interest about the background story as to how Sanrio characters ended up being used on the packaging of condoms, like those he’d found at the local 7-11. Badtz Maru the penguin is Japanese sexy time for me forever after.

It is this same kind of disengaged, but intellectual and detail-oriented “let’s see how this turns out” interest that remains when I think of you. It is with dwindling, and possibly non-existent, interest that I write, isolated from whatever excitement or warmth I had once perceived or felt. The feeling, as I have tried to say a million times before – but have stopped myself for one reason or another – departed a long time ago. Today, interaction (if it could be called that) is rote, checking in because checking in is what you do at some point – expected, de rigueur. It’s passionless and entirely devoid of heartfelt curiosity and certainly of urgency or magic, maybe even devoid of real concern. It’s exactly the daily life I never wanted, going through the motions, saying hello during brief windows of available time, running through the dull (and duller) lists of daily activities and a gloss-over mood check. A few platitudes, meant to be reassuring. Each interval feels compartmentalized, and in no compartment is there any fever, flurry, fury or impulse to do, to act, to entwine, to overlap, simply to be together. The lack (of all these things) should not feel personal but does. And probably is. I kept making an effort but was the only one wandering in that compartment, either because I really was the only one who was genuinely interested or because you really are that self-involved, selfish, blind and thoughtless, or as your ex-wife had hissed repeatedly: “unfeeling”. I am a small part of a nebulous problem, one fine, almost invisible, strand in the tangled web of which I occasionally get a glimpse, but into which I am not interwoven.

I knew I would be stepping into an unpredictable tempest of an entanglement – received fair and early warning. Not quite the all-caps screaming, lights flashing warning, which, upon reflection, might have been more appropriate: UNKNOWN TERRITORY. I did not know that that “unknown territory” would be so boring, and that the ‘agony’ of it would be so humdrum. Wishing for small signs, never seeing any because signs don’t exist in uncharted territory, but interpreting the smallest things as much bigger than they are because they are the only perceptible signs of any kind. Every ‘sign’ is either my imagination and/or something that keeps me on the hook (probably not done maliciously or consciously but done nevertheless). Realizing that the two of us are, actually, ridiculously self-centered, both cut from cloth but in completely different patterns, we aren’t going to be sewn together. I already know I will never be – and never was going to be – one of those women who, godforbid, marries a Boeing machinist named Rick, Scott or Bill who drives a fully loaded Ford F350 Power Stroke Diesel, and who spends the rest of her life doing laundry, trying to match up stray socks while lamenting this stupid, stupid mistake of a life, so it is not as though I have been waiting around for some standard, prescriptive finality or entrapment.

Yet, I have been trapped by my own feelings, the certainty and level of them unprecedented for me – but also unreciprocated in their depth and truth. It was an illusion for you, a stepping stone out of an unhappy situation and the mania that followed. I don’t see why it makes sense to stand still to discover that no, after so much time, I really was just a well-equipped harbor in which a damaged ship could complete repairs, but not at all someone with whom a person could see him or herself ‘setting sail’, so to speak. I keep ending up in this situation – thinking that in the absence of something else (i.e., I would not be otherwise occupied with emotional entanglements and similar horse shit, so sitting on the periphery, waiting for the madness to abate or for the feelings to become clear, doesn’t hurt). Yet, even if it does not usually hurt (but sometimes does – I grew in very short order to feel shut out and isolated), and does not stand in the way of anything else I would not be pursuing anyway, I’m selfish with my time, and it’s being squandered – right now. Particularly because once again I’ve put myself in a situation where the terms are all dictated by someone else and their needs, their life’s circumstances. I am not sure it can easily – or ever – be otherwise because everyone else’s lives are so dramatic – or, better said, everyone else is so filled with anxiety, nerves, troubles to the point that they elevate everything into an all-caps BIG DEAL. And almost nothing is a big deal to me. I go with the flow, and you’re easily pulled into the undertow.

Another part of all this is the undercurrent of feeling foolish and suspicious – there are hidden things, activities, falsehoods and booby traps, all silently taking place in the background, behind all the doors and compartments (for whatever reason – to keep all options open, to not hurt anyone’s feelings, to avoid a ‘serious’ or uncomfortable discussion or make any choices). I was just left to wait, wonder, wait, wonder, wait, watching the clock, feeling the days creep by, knowing this was nowhere I wanted to be today, next Halloween or anytime in the foreseeable future. In the beginning, once beyond the skepticism, most barriers down, I am all or nothing – ready – open – ripe – for complete upheaval and transformation (even if it is fraught with uncertainty and uncomfortable change). But when that willingness is met with doubt, a lukewarm response, mania, avoidance, long periods of silence, masks … anything but what I would need to drop anchor, so to speak, all moves swiftly toward nothing.

At first there was sadness and pain (it comes with realizing that someone with whom you have haplessly fallen in love is not who you thought they were – and they don’t feel the way they proclaimed in some misguided, too-early frenzy), then there was uncertainty and resignation (this is the internal argument – you already know your feelings are all but dead, but you’re wondering if you should make a last-ditch attempt at CPR), then came the release of clarity with unfeeling and indifference (accepting that the feelings are gone – those feelings, anyway) peppered by a dash of the compassion I’d extend to anyone swept up in the whirlwind of personal crisis – not my personal crisis, even if I were a piece of the puzzle. And then, somewhat surprisingly, one nondescript day, came boredom. Deceit, dodging, shame, self-preservation, boredom, lack of feeling or whatever is actually going on behind the scenes might matter to me if I weren’t first annoyed-bored out of my mind, followed by the serenity of zen boredom, just like that September day in an icy-humid Tokyo hotel room. Zen boredom, by which I am overcome and to which I have completely succumbed.

In some, but not all, ways, this experience mirrored an entanglement from many, many years earlier (so long ago that it was another century). I met a smart, funny, seemingly stable guy, R, who had shown what seemed to be deep and genuine interest in me. Early on, in the interest of transparency and openness, not wanting to scare me away sometime in the future, he talked about the period in his life to which he referred as “The Dark Years”. It had been the late 1980s, early 1990s, when aimlessness, music and heroin flowed freely – but still well before the spotlight was shone on this ‘gritty underworld’ of Seattle, which eventually exploded into broader public consciousness. There were a number of local, high-profile overdose deaths at the time, and this R character had apparently been a part of this scene, had been friends with these departed people. This history that he dug up and shared felt totally incongruous to the life he projected by the late 1990s – professional, conscientious, tremendous follow-through, baseball enthusiast and whatever-other-stuff mainstream-seeming American dudes did then. Totally out of step with this personality, the goals, the drive I had seen. I could not reconcile the two. (I later learned, and still need to remember, that the ‘demon’ of the dark years – for everyone who experiences such things – is never really dead. It is always there to seize onto a thread of vulnerability and unravel everything, eventually weaving its way back into a position of influence, the loudest voice in the person’s head. The surface is, after all, just the surface.)

Briefly, I had had considerable joy with him. We could put ourselves into garlic comas at the local Mediterranean joint; we could geek out over baseball players, strategy, terminology and stats; I could mesmerize him with my eyes, until he said stupid things like, “You are so beautiful” over cliche flickers of candlelight. We could end up bruised and carpet-burned on every surface of our bodies, pierced by punishing, raw physicality. None of it really mattered, which was the point. Because life was not at all the same then as it is now. I am much older, less patient with nonsense (even if a whole lot more compassionate). At the time of the Dark Years R affair, I actually lived with my boyfriend – a boyfriend who was not R. R was someone on the side, about whom my boyfriend knew. It had been his idea to ‘structure’ the relationship this way. Open. Mostly for his benefit, even if he did not benefit from it very often. I was young and figured I should take advantage. The danger, of course, is that you can get swept up in the intensity of the non-official, non-sanctioned affair. Because the affair has no stakes, you can actually lose yourself in it much more easily.

In fact, I look back and think that, unlike in more traditional situations, where one person meets and likes and is shy/nervous/in the throes of a crush on another person, the fact that I was already spoken for, in some way, was like a safety net. It erased all the inhibitions and hang-ups that come with fumbling-meeting-dating idiocy generally. I was free to be exactly who I was without any kind of self-doubt because I didn’t care what any person I subsequently met thought or felt. In meeting R, in greeting his wide-eyed amazement at the balance between my love for baseball and my intellect, my academic interests and out-of-control sexual appetites (or whatever – these are things he said, true or not) and everything else (possibly even the fact that I was not available), I could just enjoy the situation and then walk away.

But because it was so easy, and I felt no attachment, it morphed into, as I wrote, “getting swept up in the intensity”, which emerged without even realizing it. A strange attachment did start to form, during which he declared a whole lot of feelings, started making plans about the future, asked me to consider leaving the boyfriend, moving to a new city, and for a split second it almost sounded reasonable. You see, danger.

Before I ever had to decide anything, or even give it any real thought, though, he started to withdraw. I can never really know what precipitated it, despite what he said, the little seeds he planted – his excuses. The last time I saw him was intense and physical – but also totally disconnected. I felt nothing but the inevitable ending, and I knew it would be the last time I would see or talk to him. In bed in semi-darkness, not saying a word, his face betrayed regret, written thinly over a deeper layer of detachment – both emotional and chemically induced distance.

“I think the Dark Years are returning,” he announced, as he turned over and away from me. I knew what this meant – regardless of whether the actual darkness and its accompanying past activities and addictions had really returned or not, this was his escape route. I understood that there was a huge part of his life that I did not and could not understand. Only problem was that he did not need to make flimsy or unnecessary excuses – he could have walked away without a word any time – he had always been the one to insist that there was a ‘future’ to be had together, but that idea mostly left me silent – and bored. Despite the intensity, I had never asked for or wanted that. I did not want anything, and if I had, it would not have been that.

That last time was an early morning in late winter, maybe early spring, grey as all Seattle mornings are in my memory, and R crawled out of bed, and started dressing to go to work. I did not bother to get dressed. I was anxious just to be rid of him, pressing him toward the door, feeling a sense of relief that this was just a few minutes and a few meters away from being a part of the past.

“It’s been fun,” I said in a flat tone, standing in the doorway, watching as he walked out onto the landing. He kept looking back at me as he walked away, repeating, falsely reassuring, “Don’t worry — I’ll call.” With sardonic smile, I said, “Okay.” I shut the door knowing I would never see or hear from that guy again. (No suspense: I never did.) I turned on the tv to see another relic of “the dark years” (otherwise known as the 1980s), the film White Nights, with its dismal Lionel Richie theme. Another smirk. I made coffee, and chalked this whole thing up to experience – the experimental years I would later refer to, as now, as my own dark years.

And yet this experience has not saved me from letting the same kind of misguided forces pull me toward and through unwarranted intensity and misplaced feeling. Or imagining there is a future when there isn’t. Or finally reaching that place where I know what’s coming – no matter the reasons and their antecedents – and I just smirk, perfectly zen, and say, “Okay, I was bored anyway.”

Bored, but sincere.

Photo (c) 2011 Antony Mayfield

Speedboat

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I always listen to Lloyd Cole in the summer.”

I feel the chill of it – the words, actions and interactions feel like the movement of a speedboat, racing effortlessly over just the glistening surface of the water. I am watching from the firm ground of the shore – he waves as he becomes a remote speck. The interaction is one-sided and fragmented, much like the speedboat’s glide, interrupted by occasional bumps, as it flies across the water.

What feels like a purposeful distance is created, preserved and extended, the boat traveling further out of reach by the second. What is it that makes this so? The not knowing where to take a deeper discussion? Avoiding having an unpleasant conversation? An inability to know where to plunge your anchor? Too many things going on at once? From the edge of the water, I can only wave back meekly, knowing I won’t actually be seen, and anything I could say or ask cannot be heard. And for some time, seemingly forever, standing stock still in the bitterly cold wind, which isn’t much time at all really, I wait and wonder.

Pierced by this whole experience, shockingly brief as it is – I am changed and restored to a better version of my truest self, but this imparts no magical wizardry – I am unable to make anyone else feel the same way as I do or to feel anything at all, really. And am likewise unable to know exactly what it is that another feels because I doubt he even knows with any clarity, or if he does, he’s sailed so far away that he can’t convey it to me. Which is part of why he is out on the lake skimming lightly across the water, possibly going so far out that there’s fishing to be done and lures to cast.

It’s strange how the more, and more deeply, you feel you love someone (and consequently want to be with them), the harder it is to tell them that – or tell them directly exactly what you feel – or talk about it in any way. Especially when you feel certain you bear your feelings alone – there is nothing mutual or shared about it.

In response, I embody a second, separately functioning person from myself, involuntarily splitting into two parts – the one I allow to feel, be open, be vulnerable and to question, and then the one I preserve for logic and analysis. Maybe this is an astrological trait (dual roles), maybe this is, as the New Age book I read cautioned, the “Loyal Soldier” who went to war for me in immature ways to foster self-preservation as a child (and whose tactics continue to drive emotional life in an immature way now that the “war is over”, as the book put it*).

Either way, both identities are paralyzed and don’t say one direct word about real feelings because revealing comes with not only the possibility of being destroyed but also feels like an imposition. Saying things aloud makes them not only real (and unerasable) but starts to force an agenda on the other person, influences them unduly, may pressure or oblige them to take on something they don’t want, are not ready for or even inveigle them into a conversation they don’t want to have. I have no desire to set a trap or inadvertently create an environment in which it’s possible to feel trapped.Thus the whole matter becomes a blizzard in the brain and heart, obscuring the words and actions that should be realized, or becomes something that is haphazardly regurgitated in circuitous, erratic, piecemeal blog posts here or there.

…And yet after some time feeling as though a part of a curious speedboat détente, he, rapidly speeding away from me and disappearing into the horizon, and my daily life returning to normal, one of the parts of the split identity, the non-feeling split, begins to dominate. It becomes a lot like the time I advised a dear Australian friend that if she wanted her American boyfriend to show more interest, she had to pretend she wasn’t interested. To which she replied, “But by acting less interested, won’t I just actually lose interest?” To which I enthusiastically exclaimed, “Well, yes! That’s the beauty and the whole point of it!“At least for the emotionally stunted! You do it initially, ostensibly, on the surface, hoping to be seen, acknowledged and missed (knowing this will not be the yield), but the real underlying and long-term aim is to lose interest yourself so that any outcome is a manageable outcome. Or it will be an outcome that does not hurt, at least not the part of the personality that pursued this savage, self-sacrificing strategy.

The analytical part that remembers and looks at all the words that have been said, all the clues and hints dropped (even if there weren’t really clues or hints – all words once spoken are now being processed and interpreted that way in this part of the brain) ascribes a unilateral verdict to the situation and moves on accordingly. Move on. It feels logical, familiar and comfortable because it pre-empts most possible pain. Move on. It soothes the mind with the casual way it gives birth to an indifference that grows day by day, so that I no longer even look to the water to see the speedboat buzzing, making its rounds, or perhaps no longer even walk to the shore at all. Move on.

Eventually feigning disinterest leads to the promised land of real disinterest and – bonus points – boredom. Moved on. At least the logical half of the self can buy into that, offering itself sterile congratulations for not getting its hands dirty while nevertheless doing the dirty work of crushing the feelings of the other half. It does not matter that it was early days; it does not matter that I knew what I was getting into and that this was always where it could lead or end.

The heart – the crushed part – has no response to this logic. It does not even speak this language, but the heart is not driving, so it has no say.

Ella Mi Fu Rapita! (She abandoned me) – Gavin Ewart
“Die Liebe dauert oder dauert nicht.” –Brecht

Her boredom took her away. So simple.
She just became bored with me. No other rival
experienced the entrancing smile with the dimple
or put down his drink in joy at her arrival
or loved her in taxis that stream like ants
through London, fingers under her pants

caressing her holy of holies. Oh, no,
it wasn’t someone younger, bigger or better.
She went because she had the urge to go,
Without a phone call, telegram or letter.
From our last meeting she just walked out –
a few pretexts perhaps. What were they about?

Nothing too serious. A red bow in her hair,
as she lay naked on the bed, knees-raising,
stays in my mind. I know I had my share.
Love is all programmed, it’s all phasing,
There’s a beginning, a middle and an end.
A lover’s life is not that of a friend,

who by and large is able to take it or leave it.
For love there’s a critical path – it goes on.
It can’t go backwards or sideways, believe it,
That’s all; a dream, a tremendous con,
And when it’s over, you’re out on your own.
Most life, they say, has to be lived alone.

And what can the lover do, when the time’s come,
when THE END goes up on the screen? Yelling,
rush into the street, lamenting her lovely bum?
Get friendly with men in bars, telling
how sweet she was, praising her statistics,
or admiring his own sexual ballistics?

No, that’s no good. Love lasts – or doesn’t last.
And all the pink intimacies and warm kisses
go into Proust’s remembrance of time past.
Lovers must never crumple up like cissies
Or break down and cry about their wrongs
If girls are sugar, God holds the sugar tongs.

It may even feel somewhat comforting to let go of the idea of being in love (“it’s so hard to love when love was your great disappointment“) because I think we all know that when you are in love, no one wants to hear about it. They want your misery. Misery loves company.

Photo (c) Paul Costanich – not quite a speedboat, but it will suffice. (It’s a “ski jet” according to S. Haha)

*From Soulcraft – Bill Plotkin:

“Each of us has a Loyal Soldier sub-personality, a courageous, creative and stubborn entity formed when we needed somewhat drastic measures to survive the realities (sometimes dysfunctional) of childhood. This sub-personality’s primary task was to minimize the occurrence of further injury, whether emotional or physical. The Loyal Soldier’s approach to this task was – and continues to be – to make us small or invisible, to suppress much of our natural exuberance, emotions, desires and wildness so we might be sufficiently acceptable to our parents (and/or other guardians, siblings, teachers and authority figures). The Loyal Soldier learns to restrain another sub-personality we might call the Wild Child, our original, sensual, magical, untamed self that has an essential relationship to the soul and is not interested in limiting itself in any way.

Common Loyal Soldier survival strategies include harsh self-criticism (to make us – the ego – feel unworthy and thus ineligible for Wild Child actions that might bring further punishment, abandonment, or criticism); placing our personal agenda last (so as to not displease or arouse anger or envy); other codependent behaviors (e.g. caretaking, rescuing, enabling) to stave off abandonment; pleasing but immature and inauthentic personas; partial or complete social withdrawal (to minimize hurtful contacts); adopting an unpleasant or downtrodden appearance (to protect us from criticism); restricting our range of feeling by encouraging us to always be in charge, busy, angry, ruthless, withdrawn, and/or numb; and suppressing our intelligence, talent, enthusiasm, sensuality, and wildness by locking up these qualities in an inaccessible corner of our psyches. … The Loyal Soldier’s adamant and accurate understanding is this: it is better to be suppressed or inauthentic or small than socially isolated or emotionally crushed – or dead.”

“The Loyal Soldier did, in fact, keep us safe (enough) in childhood. The problem is that the Loyal Soldier’s strategies become bedrock to our survival and are defended to the death – even after the war is over.”