Meeting the joy-part

Hey readers,

Blog time :). Blog time blog time blog time (little giddy, really).

This blog, as is true of so many of my blogs, will be a hodge-podge of unorganized thoughts. Here we go!

Going through what’s immediately on my mind: I got a new bed frame! My current bed frame is unstable, but I have high hopes for this one. It does, however, require assembly, and I quite don’t want to assemble it.

I was mentioning this to one of housemates—that I was dreading assembling this bed—and she told me that she finds furniture assembly fun. “What’s up?” she asked me. “Do you have an Ikea phobia? Or do you just not like making physical things in general?”

“Well, I definitely have an Ikea phobia,” I said, because we’ve talked about this previously. “But do I not like making things…? Hm… I guess. I mean, it’s fine, I can do it.”

(Which, I noted to myself, is not at all the same question of whether I like it or not. It’s satisfying when things are done, and it gives me a kind of “you did what you were supposed to do” satisfaction. So I don’t dislike it, usually, it’s just a task that takes time.)

“How about machines? Did you ever take machines apart as a kid? Did your parents ever stop you from doing that?”

I laugh, say no. She tells me her parents told her to stop, and she mostly did. I tell her I’ve never had the inclination.

“I mean, I think I’ve only really ever built like two things,” I tell her. “The main one—the one where I was really happy I knew how to use a drill from previous projects—was building a plastic headpiece for a cage, for research.”

It reminds me of one of my friends, who recently told me that she tried a drill for the first time: on an unconscious patient’s knee. This is my going-to-be-a-doctor friend. I’m always kind of astonished at how specific the skillsets people need are… like, I need the ability to give a presentation to 25-100 college students, write research proposals that can get funded, do a version of loose networking, drive a car, use a phone, do my job… and some of these are general skills, and some of these are not, and there are some skills that really I feel like probably everyone should have (in that they’re kind of basic properties of being human, like knowing how to grow food and stuff, or making things) that I do not.

“Even when we did dissections, in biology, I’d mostly supervise,” I tell her. “If someone needed me to do it, I’d do the dissection, and it was fine, but usually I just point at things.”

“So you’re the type of person who likes reading more, and philosophizing.”

I laugh again. “Well—I’m not really into philosophizing, but yeah. Abstract stuff. So when you were saying the other day, about how we should go back to the natural form of human learning, apprenticeship learning, learning physical skills—I was like ‘Okay, sure,’ but also ‘noooooo.

I like this housemate. Our perspectives differ to a weird degree on a LOT of things, but she’s very thoughtful and accommodating towards people, and never wants to argue about anything with me. She just wants to state her opinion, and she’ll listen to my opinion, and neither of us change our opinions, but I get to hear about someone else’s consistent-with-her-worldview perspective. For example, I asked her recently how her life was. She replied it was terrible. I was very confused, but after some discussion, it seems like she bases her answer to that question on the state of the entire world, as she perceives it and through news channels.

“Wow, that seems like it’s much harder to change,” I tell her, puzzled. “I like thinking about the quality of my life as pretty much restricted to me, so if I want to change something it’s usually possible. Seems like, if it’s based on the state of the world, you’re kind of stuck?”

She agreed that taking this perspective meant that she did, in fact, seem kind of stuck. We nodded to each other, I thanked her for her perspective, then we went back to sitting on the couch together. It’s so strange :).

A large part of what makes hanging out with this housemate fun and interesting for me is this quality of hers, of having strong opinions about things, of knowing what they are (no small feat, that), relating them with no expectation that they will be changed, and happily hearing the returning opinions with no expectation of changing theirs. This attitude is kind of… well, it’s certainly different from most of the people around me, who are here to change their opinions (towards TRUTH!), or don’t know their opinions (this one happens to me a fair amount), or want to argue about opinions (for better cooperation, or for the fun of it, or towards TRUTH!) I’m generally on the end of not wanting to talk about controversial opinions, and especially not wanting to argue about them. I’m willing to change mine, but I’m particularly conflict-averse on discussions / debates about politics, social justice, feminism, you name it…

I hesitate this days to call it “conflict aversion”, though, because that’s sort of what it is, but it’s not exactly what the connotations of “conflict aversion” entail, in my mind. To me, “conflict aversion” evokes ideas like “people-pleaser” and “social harmony oriented”—which I’ve been called, and the latter is obviously true, but I hate the “people pleaser” descriptor because it feels to me like I’m being told I don’t have a spine and am just going to let people walk all over me. (This is obviously not what the speaker meant, by the way, this is just the chain of thought I get. It’s also in my value system that “not having a spine” is associated with “not being independent” which is associated with BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD in my head. …Basically, if you want to reference the trait, “social harmony oriented” is going to require much less discussion with me than if you want to talk about “people pleaser” :P.)

Anyhow, when someone wants to change my mind about something, I would much rather they just state their argument, with the parts that most convince them and why they care. If the reasons why they care are also true for me, and the logic of the rest of the argument makes sense to me, I’ll usually change my mind to match their point. If the reasons why they care aren’t true for me, then I’ll be happy to have heard the argument and will store it, because I like hearing about different perspectives when they’re directly hooked into what’s important for people. If they want to go back and forth with me, to find out what I care about and make arguments towards that front, I usually don’t think—and this is the key logic here—I usually don’t think it’s worth my time.

Discussions about abstract perspectives often just really don’t seem worth it to me. First, I don’t enjoy them, since I don’t like conflict, and I count any discussion where people are strongly disagreeing as creating a social cost and an emotional drain. So that’s the perspective we’re working from: I don’t want to discuss, and will only if I think something is “worth it”. (Other people seem to enjoy this process, for improving their minds, or engaging with others in a mentally stimulating fashion, or because they want their opinions to be heard… I often think people are really complicated and it’d be really, really hard to convince them of something, and if they wanted to be convinced they’d just read some articles, and I’m going to have to go to all of the work to find out what they care about, and they’re going to attack my opinions, and this is going to be uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing, and I’m just not going to do it.)

However, I do enjoy hearing about new perspectives, and especially hearing about ideas that people care about, and why they care about them, so I like listening to people talk about ideas in that form. I also like changing my mind to be more accurate to the world (TRUTH!), i.e. I like learning / knowing things, so I want to hear this stuff. I just don’t want the other person to start doing the process where they’re really invested in trying to figure out what I care about so they can change my mind, because then we’re going to argue, and if I cared about the topic then I’d care about the topic and look it up, I don’t want to care just because you care. This distinction is subtle, because if people care about a topic, and want to convince me to care about a topic, and are exploring my mindspace to figure out how I feel, and then offering suggestions or their opinions, that’s fine. It’s all about the atmosphere—I want them to not attack my point of view, I want them not to jump on me when I don’t know my point of view, I want them to not be adversarial—to be earnestly interested in what I’m thinking, and point out flaws in those arguments as they see them, but not to have “make person x have this opinion” as their primary objective in engaging with me, and not have “make person x realize why I have this opinion” also as their primary objective. I get it. I can listen to your point of view. I get that you care and I like it, and I’m happy to have learned it. Now the next step is to leave me alone: I don’t care about this topic enough to want to dig into all of the underlying values I have to get me to change my mind, let’s talk about something else that I care about or we both care about.

(So it’s about conflict aversion, and it isn’t. The conflict aversion part dictates a really strong bar on what I consider “worth it”, and I’ll pretty much only engage if the person isn’t going to be aggressive about it. Exceptions are if I think someone’s really out of line (that I’m right, they’re wrong) in which case I’ll say things, but usually it’s not worth it to me to state an opinion if someone’s being aggressive, and if someone’s being too aggressive I’ll back down mutinously.)

(I notice, also, that I’m really defensive about this. And I think the defensiveness comes from this idea that I have that I should really be arguing with people. Because arguing about truth, and I like truth, and wouldn’t one always want to be maximally truth-seeking all the bloody time? Answer for me: no, stop it. I don’t care about this topic, and besides this is not how I want to learn about it. And I feel really defensive about this position, because it’s in my head that people who argue are virtuous and truth-seeking, and people who are conflict-averse are people who get walked over, and I want to be the former and not the latter, and yet I just don’t want to fight with people.) (Where people will tell me “fight” is the wrong word, and I get that, it’s just totally the right word from my perspective.) (And I want my position to be fine. And right now, it’s only sort of fine, and I’m kind of hoping that if I talk to myself about it enough, over time, it will be fine.)

Another branch that my mind is heading right now is that of “what I want people to tell me when I relate one of my perspectives”. Sometimes people will ask me how I feel about something (in the good way where they’re curious and actually want to know) and I’ll explain it, and they’ll ask questions where something seems off to them, and it’ll go on for a while, and in the end they’ll say: “That makes sense.” And I get this crazy sense of disappointment/anti-climax… which I’ve been noticing because it surprises me all the time. Apparently I don’t want my perspective to “make sense”. I think because it obviously makes sense in my head, and them saying it “makes sense” means that they also think it’s logically sound, and I don’t want it to be logically sound because then I can’t change it. It’s much easier to change my mind when someone points out a logical leap that I’m like: oh, you’re right, that doesn’t make sense, let me just adjust this point of view to one that feels better. You could ask: why am I trying to change my mind all the time? Answer: …I don’t know. I think I’d need a more specific example to figure this one out, and something in my head is like: nope, we’re not doing this, I don’t want to go into… (why we need to change ourselves constantly to be like the people around us, why our positions are not defensible, all of this vulnerability crap that’s going to require a gentle touch and lots of time, nope)… ah, okay, so I’m listening to that part and not going into it :). There lie dragons, which I’m working on from sideways perspectives and incrementally :). (Incidentally, I don’t fully feel the opinions that part put forward. I do feel them, but I also feel the opposite in other parts.)

Another part of the disappointment definitely comes from not learning something. I like learning stuff, and when someone says “that makes sense”, then they’ve learned something, but I haven’t learned anything, since the logic already made sense in my head. (I usually do end up learning something from the process of trying to explicate the thing, but it’s not as good as when someone has an opinion or can change the thought.) I seem to be very oriented by growth.

Ooooh, speaking of… I was introspecting yesterday, and that session was building on an introspection session the week before, and I have some awesome parts hanging around. Here’s one, one of my favorites :).

This part is currently tagged with “joy”. It’s mostly non-verbal, and very core. This is me, me me me me me (it also tends to repeat itself), and it likes GROWTH and LEARNING and DISCOVERY WHEEEEEE!!! And people people people: aren’t people the BEST when they care about each other and are kind and love-care and JOY and ooooh, also STRIVING oooooooh striving so good everyone should strive and succeed sometimes oooh wanting and striving and achieving ooooooh. Also, acccceeeeeppppptttannnnceee and love (in abstract form) and (ANGRY) people should be KIND and LOVE ME and NOOOOOO people are scary no people 😦 protect-me people no… but joy. Joy joy joy joy joy wanting-striving-achieving-people-joy-growth :).

I like the joy part :). It feels really like “core-Monica”, and… well, I’ll get to that in a second. In general, though, I made a list of what it likes by just coming up with things that are REALLY GOOD, and then saw if it was also the part of me that got hurt and scared by things and needed protection, because I felt like it was probably that kind of part and should have some negatives in it. (Ha, I read that last sentence and think: there are likely some problematic parts in there, this is in progress :)). This is also definitely in progress—I’ve recently started really internalizing the idea that “models are useful, and not full truth”, and this joy part feels like a currently-useful and not at all permanent distinction I’m making.

There’s also this other part which feels core-Monica, which I’ve been really enjoying. It’s really annoyed at everything, and is quite verbal. It swears a whole lot and tells people to fuck off pretty constantly, and one of its jobs is definitely protecting the joy-part. The joy-part also tells this part to shut up though occasionally, by sending angry eyebrow emojis, and the joy-part also pats this part on the back occasionally because this part has a hard job of being the strong purple/blue part that is resentful at everything but only because it’s been pushed down all the time, and it thinks it’s ABOUT TIME TO TAKE A FUCKING STAND, EHHH???? EHHH??!?!?!?

This purple/blue part is really fun to hang out with because it’s so fucking strong. It’s going to defend us until the end of time, or until something else takes care of it, because it’s our bulwark, it’s going to listen to the tiny parts, it’s going to be our protector. We’ve got OPINIONS now, DON’T WE, and we’ve got a RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT, or NOT SILENT, or WHATEVER, we can do WHATEVER THE FUCK WE WANT, don’t let them push us down like that, we’re going to DO THE THING, DAMMIT, LET’S GOOOOOO!!! YOU WANNA FIGHT, HUH?? YOU WANNA FIGHT?!

(The joy-part definitely needs to comfort the blue/purple part sometimes because the poor thing exerts lots of energy, like, 24-7, and definitely occasionally needs taking care of since it’s fighting for the whole system. But they like each other a lot, it’s very caring all the way through. The blue/purple part feels super protective of its smaller pieces.)

The last member of last-week’s session was my cognitive-monitoring-internal-voice part—that’d be the one who’s talking right now—which doesn’t even really feel like a part most of the time because it’s my default. It’s just how I speak. I’m not really sure how this part relates to the other two, though I was trying to sculpt it such that they were all friendly with each other, because I don’t like when internal parts aren’t listening to each other or are in conflict. In the end, it seemed kind of like: huh, I’ve got these two parts, and they’re very opinionated, and I like you two, and especially need to engage with the purple/blue part because it’s yelling all the time and is verbal and is awesome, and yeah, let’s incorporate this into our daily self/life, yeah? Now that I super know that you exist and are cool? It’s a little parental, really, because this cognitive part has got all of the “now let’s make this work in real life” pragmatism and knowledge.

All of the parts are very thoughtful though, and willing to listen and do back-and-forths with each other, though, which I appreciated a lot. (I would have, in fact, rejected the system if this were not the case.) I was noticing the other day when I was reading someone else’s writing that they had this sentence which was: “he’d rather live out of his suitcase, with strategically disgorged piles around it,” and I thought: that’s a beautifully evocative sentence and I understand exactly what you mean, and also: I would never use that sentence because I don’t like the way the word “disgorged” feels. Isn’t it weird that I’m hugely restricting the sentences I use because I don’t like them aesthetically? Isn’t it weird that I’m hugely restricting the thoughts I have because I don’t like them aesthetically? (I do in fact hugely restrict my parts and thoughts based on how I want the whole system to feel.)

Anyhow, at this most recent introspective session I was thinking about lots of things, but I had a really big breakthrough at the end about “boundaries”. I’m labeling it “boundaries” because this is what other people seem to mean when they’re talking about boundaries, though this term did not at all show up in my head until I was thinking about how I was going to present this discovery to other people.

Here’s the main idea: I get really anxious about saying no to people in some cases. Specifically, the thing I seem to be worried about as a consequence of saying no is that I’m going to be thrown out of this/my community. Also that things will be awkward and emotionally taxing, which I don’t like.

I’ve asked other people for help on this, and… ug, I REALLY DON’T HAVE ENOUGH EVIDENCE TO ATTRIBUTE THIS TO GENDER, but sometimes it seems like people are just like “yep, that’s a hard problem” and I’m like… wait, you also didn’t solve this? Then I talk to other people, whose opinions I want to have, and they’re like: “Set boundaries, Monica! Do it!” and I’m like: yes, that, how do I do that without being doomed?

It turns out, that with a tiny twist in phrasing, I have zero problems doing this. I don’t even know how I got to this solution, but I arrived at it, and just kind of stared at it, and was like: …what? How did this even… I’m still kind of boggling at it, really (I arrived at it last night, so it’s still new, but the set of assumptions underlying it, and how different it feels, is pretty astonishing.)

Here’s the difference. Normally, this is how I read a request for my time: “Give me your time and energy, I don’t care if you have to fake it and in fact I’d rather you would fake it so I don’t get hurt.” Which, admittedly, is an interesting reading of a request that really is usually along the lines of: “do you feel like hanging out?”. Here’s what I learned I CAN interpret a request for my time as: “Give me your joy-part.”

So so so—okay, first of all, I admit that both interpretations are strange, but they HAVE TO HAVE been strange given how much anxiety turning people down was producing. Let me walk you through my normal response.

So I get an ask for hanging out, and I internally hear: “Give me your time and energy, I don’t care if you have to fake it and in fact I’d rather you would fake it so I don’t get hurt.” I then get presented with two choices: 1) I grant the request, or 2) I get thrown out of the community. These seem to be almost literally the choices I present myself with (with doom feelings flexible depending on my perceived status of that person in the community). Purple/blue-Monica is then chiming in with the following, though it’s usually crushed pretty quickly. “WHY WOULD YOU GIVE ME THESE TERRIBLE CHOICES. I HAVE TWO CHOICES NOW, AND THEY ARE TERRIBLE, AND WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME DO YOU HATE ME WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU WTF ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE JUST LEAVE ME ALONE WHAT’S WRONGGGGGG WWWWIIIIITTTTHHHH YOUUUUUUU” and I’ve got this seething resentment that gets cloaked over with a lot of anxiety and worry about rejecting people (I do simulations of rejection and how it will feel, and my simulations are based on my personal reactions, which are often disproportionate to the situation and overblown compared to most people, and there’s some part of me that actually has a model of the other person and is like: “hey, Monica, it’s not going to be that bad”, and the part of my that’s simulating is like “BUT IT COULD BE THAT BAD, THEY’RE GOING TO EXPLODE AT YOU IF THEY’RE HURT: THAT’S WHAT PEOPLE DO WHEN THEY’RE HURT, THEY DON’T HAVE YOUR CONTROL THEY’RE GOING TO EXPLODE” and the other part is like: “hey, hey, they’re a) not going to be hurt as bad as you think they are, and b) low likelihood they will explode,” and the other part’s like: “But what if they do? Then what? Who’s dealing with the fallout, huh? Who’s going to deal with the fear and rejection and anger and self-recrimination and everything, huh? You? We are. We’re going to deal with it,” and the other part’s like: “…fair”.) And in the meantime, I’ve got this constant ping which is like: “You have to reply to them. You have to answer any and all questions. You have to be truthful and give some of yourself to them. Answer them. Answer them now.” (…haven’t worked on this set of assumptions, but it’s also admittedly weird. The “must answer every question asked out of genuine curiosity” is one that’s come up a lot recently and feels related.)

It’s not a great circuit to be in. It took me a while to lay out that this was what was happening, and then I was just kind of looking at it, written out on a whole bunch of mismatched post-it notes, kind of scratching my head.

Because, looking at it, it seems like that circuit of thoughts really isn’t good for anyone. It’s obviously not good for me, but I’m willing to tolerate lots of if it’s not good for me but is saving other people a ton of emotional pain. (Problem 1: I’m allocating disproportionate amount of pain to other people in this situation. But still, there seem to be a bunch of situations where I’m much more willing to hurt myself than other people in the moment, because I can “handle it”. I’ve recently, with the purple/blue part roaring into existence, become much less willing to “handle it”.) It’s also not good for the other person (and this is idea that I tried really hard to use to convince myself), because they probably… well, it’s been put to me this way. If someone asks me if I want to hang out, there are people who are probably literally asking if I want to hang out with them. Like, they are literally asking the question. Do. I. Want. To. Hang. Out. They’re not asking my substitute question, they’re not asking what I think that question means, they’re asking if I have a preference to hang out, and if the answer is no, then the answer is no. I say this, but “do you want to hang out” is still super super super charged in my mind and does not actually mean the literal question, but I can accept the idea that sometimes, what people are doing is much closer to [wanting to know about my preferences], rather than the implicit request to a) deliver, or b) deliver a “no” well.

Or, as a friend I’d like to emulate put it: “Look, if I want to do something, then I’ll do it, and if I don’t want to do something, I won’t do it.”

(Me (wailing): “But the community…”)

In any case, that’s the system I was working with before, and I was pretty incentivized to change it because it was driving me crazy. (I don’t like disproportionate emotional reactions, at all. This is important to me.) And I was thinking: okay, so if I’m trying to grant requests only if I want to grant requests, then how in the world do I convince myself to… (because the “it’s not good for them” argument was the best one I had, and that wasn’t doing it).

And here’s the answer. Interpret the request as: “Give me the joy-part”.

The thing is, I like the joy-part a lot. As maybe THE “core-Monica” member, it’s what I like about myself and what drives me and what’s good about the world, when I feel best. It’s energy and excitement and love and happiness and fear and worry and pure sadness (none of this helplessness and anger stuff) and excitement again. It’s jumping up and down and it’s people and it’s warmth and welcoming. And I want to share it with people. I want to give it to people, I want them to have it, I want them to have my self, I want them to keep it and love it and enjoy it. But I really don’t want everyone to have it. I only want particular people to have it. I want to give it to people who will appreciate it, and who I love/enjoy back. (I’m using a loose definition of “love” here—there’s some concept of “abstract love” in my mind which is more like “appreciation and joy in people” than love-love.)

And (the blue/purple part’s back:) screw everyone who wants to take that part away from me without me wanting to give it. It’s my joy-part, it’s the best thing I have to give. I read “Give me your joy-part”, and I think: yes, or I think fuck you, because that’s a big ask, and that—the joy of wanting to be with you, to seek out your company, to give you all of me, the fact that if I’m giving you my joy part, I really truly have to be feeling all of this mess of emotion for you in that moment—that’s not really something I can give, if I’m not feeling it. It’s not really something I can fake. If you’re asking me to… you know, I think I’m framing this wrong. I think the request is not “Give me your joy-part”, I think it’s also something like “Can you give me your joy-part”… because maybe it’s not so much of a choice as everything else. Or maybe it is, like everything else. I’m not sure which phrasing is better, and I haven’t tried this out yet, but I think the overall question is: “would you want to give me everything you have, all of the delight and happiness and warmth—I’m not talking your time and attention, I’m talking to true parts of you…”

…hahaha, I just noticed a shift in myself, which is like: “You know what, this ‘Give me the joy-part’ thing doesn’t work anymore, because actually I think I can just give them the joy-part.’” FAIL, mind, I’m trying to make a point here :). But interestingly… if I think about what a reply from the joy-part would sound like, it also integrates the blue-purple part, and if I think about trying to access “true” self rather than social-modeling self, the reply comes out more… honest, than it would otherwise. So if someone says “Give me your joy-self”, it’d be more: “Hey, actually, there’s a part of me that’s not really feeling it right now, but…” And here’s the trouble, what you put in the “but”: what can I promise. Let’s see what the joy-self has to say, if I’m asking it what it can promise: “but… I think you’re a really interesting, cool person, and I appreciate that you care about me enough to ask. …I don’t think I’ll be feeling hanging out with you for a while, actually, but you seem great.”

…wtf. Joy-part, I can’t TELL THAT TO PEOPLE they’re going to be SO CONFUSED. That’s mixed messages like whoa.

Joy-part: It’s true though.

Cognitive voice: …that’s actually the really weird part, that it’s true. I… it’s weird to me that the people who I’m simulating writing this message to, it’s not even forced, the above stuff is definitely true when I’m speaking from that part. But… we can’t…

Cognitive voice #2: …what if we did, though…?

Cognitive voice #1: It’ll be SO UNCLEAR. People might send follow-up messages. People are going to send follow-up messages. They won’t leave us alone.

Cognitive voice #2: What if we’re really clear about not wanting to hang out?

Cognitive voice #1: Huh. Well. Or we could just adopt the position of screwing social modeling and responding from the joy-part and purple-blue part all the time, the true voices. I bet people will like that. (Specific people, obviously, as an aside to the blog readers.)

Cognitive voice #3: (lol that we’re talking to the blog readers also. What even is this system of conversation / monologing. Okay I’m out, this is too meta and will be confusing to keep me in.)

Cognitive voice #1: We could… try it? It’ll certainly work better than our current system. And… I think we need to…

Trust in the joy-part, and the purple-blue part. I think we just need to trust in them. I really don’t trust them with making sure we’ll be okay, with doing modeling, with anything that’s not self-stuff, any interacting with others stuff… but let’s try trusting in them for a bit, right? That’s what a lot of people want out of me anyway… (grossness feeling)… (but need to keep the concept…) (grossness feeling about the purpose being of giving to others)… but let’s try it. I bet it’ll be good. If it’s not good, we can always (ha) go back to what we had. I bet it’ll be better, worth trying.

Cool :). All right, well, I don’t currently have any messages that I need to respond to of this vein, but this “try to talk from the joy-part / blue-purple part” is something that can probably happen all the time, among a certain set of people. I know someone who tries to talk to me through this kind of voice, (it’s also the “circling” voice, if you’ve heard me talk about that phenomenon) and it seems useful to me to try sometimes, when I want to. Something fun about the blue-purple voice is that it’s much more cued into “when I want to” than any of my other parts, and it’s also WAY more cued into anger in a form that I can tolerate and endorse. Feels like progress was made, and also like this is a step in a long process that already has a lot behind it—I only got to thinking about the joy-part and the blue-purple part recently, and I feel like they’ve always been there, but have been buried for a long time, and it’s only in these gradual steps that I’m able to see them now.

All right, we’re almost out :). I did want to mention one other thing (…oh man, I didn’t even look at my blog-writing list, this was all just off the top of my head. I’m missing so much) which is a question that someone asked me that I feel I have to answer…

…you know, I’m kind of feeling like I don’t have to answer it right now. Interesting. It’s about reading, and time management and stuff. Feeling it out, feeling it out—okay, seems like I want to talk about it briefly.

This person was reading my previous posts (hmm :)), and especially liked the part where I was saying that I was surprised to learn that that gooey-feelings-hanging-out-with-people can be a substitute for a specific type of reading (this type of reading is a long-term habit of mine that I’ve been tentatively trying to decrease for forever). He said that he was surprised that I was surprised, because he thought it was mutually understood by the both of us that reading was a substitute for something in the real-life-warm-feelings-vein.

I am… not surprised that I was surprised? And am in fact still very much surprised that gooey-feelings-hanging-out-with-people works some of the time. I tried something similar out again this week (replacing reading with people), and it totally felt like I was exerting mental control rather than substituting. I just don’t… trust people enough to make this substitution work. Reading is reliably good for me, very, very, very consistently a positive stimulus, and people are much more variable and much more work. I also don’t think I quite think of people in the… um, right way to make this work? Like, my best friend from college uses as a description of me: “Monica’s very compassionate, but in an intellectual way.” I’m still trying to get my head around that one (I actually feel like I’m trying to bend my understanding around it, and getting stuck) but, like… in my current understanding of myself compared to other people, I think that reading, in some senses, always will be better than people at getting what I’m trying to get, even though I’m reading about imaginary people. I’ve been noticing that I seem to like a set of things much better in the abstract, in my mind, in my concepts of them (and I like it a LOT in my mind) than in real life, and that it’s not really “I haven’t found the best version in real life”, it’s that it’s always going to be better in the ideal, pure form, that’s distillated in people’s stories and not in how they live. That what’s in real life is also good, but separate from the ideas drawn through people’s minds, and that they interact and can sub-in for each other sometimes, but reading is not below, in any sense, what “real life” interactions can give me.

Very willing to change my mind on this one, but that’s my current understanding. (And obviously it’s even a change from one? two? weeks ago, when I learned it could substitute at all. But… that observation could still fit my point, I think, in that it kind of feels like the reading’s the ideal one and occasionally people are good enough to sub-in, rather than people are the ideal one and reading’s a poor substitute, which is the argument that’s more often made to me.)

Okay I’m done now :). Who hoo, more than 6000 words, this one’s a massive one, sorry all! I hear from people that it’s interesting to take a stream-of-consciousness meander through someone’s mental space, so I think I was optimizing for that in this post. (Oh, another amusing thought that occurred to me when I was introspecting yesterday. I asked myself: “okay, if we’re being joy-part with some people, what do we do with people we want to impress?” And the response was: “hmm, polished + some seems fine, that’s what we usually do. And that’s optimized for… uh, something.” It’s incredibly amusing that I don’t know what my polished self is optimized for. It seems to be a compromise between a lot of things, mostly because it’s aimed at trying to give people what they want from me (which varies hugely, and often includes “true self”, which is… confusing when you’re trying to give people what they want and what they want is for you not to try to give them what they want) and keep myself entertained (because I would think that my polished self is about others, only, but I’ve noticed that it’s actually not at all aimed fully at that, because a lot of the stuff I say is really weird and is just following my personal interests).

Hope you have great weeks, all :). This has been a really nice one for me—I feel like I’m happy with my work, and social, and teaching, and life :).

Monica

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