I count the spiders on the wall

26 02 2019

So, being middle-aged apparently means I don’t sleep well and even thinking about food makes me gain weight.

I do not like this. I like sleep and not-gaining weight.

I’m pretty much right in the middle of what counts as “normal” or healthy for my height, but clothes that had been loose are snug and there is a roundness that I can no longer ignore.

I’m not terribly vain, but, goddammit, I do not like how this looks or feels.

So I decided to lose a bit of weight—literally, just a bit. I’m a small person, so while even small gains are noticeable, it won’t take much for my clothes to stop hugging me.

Still, I want something a bit more precise than my jeans to keep track, which means that I have, for the first time in my life, purchased a scale.

Now, I’ve certainly weighed myself before. We had a scale when I was a kid, which I used regularly, and I’d weigh myself weekly on a magnificent old scale in the locker room at the U of Minnesota’s rec center.

Kinda like this.

But after I left Minnesota my weight-measuring days dwindled to not-quite-yearly doctor’s visits. My weight has been mostly stable, and I figured that my clothes would tell me when I’d gained a few.

Well, them clothes be yellin’, and I thought, Goddammit, if I really want to keep track of my weight, I’m gonna have to, y’know, keep track of my weight.

So I bought a goddamned scale, weighed myself, and have decided that weekly weigh-ins were the way to go.

Now, all of this is the prelude bait to the actual switch: this is less about the weight than the scale, and what it does.

It measures.

Shocking, I know, but in the past decade (or. . . two?) I’ve become rather anti-measurement. For example, I used to track my running times, and then at some point I thought, This is just stressing me out, so I stopped wearing a watch.

I used to balance my checkbook, but at some point I thought, Geez, I can get the balance at the ATM or online, so what’s the point?

I have a list of all of my cds and I still maintain a database of my books, but for a shit-ton of other matters, personal and professional, I just let it all go.

That wasn’t the worst strategy, honestly, but it has had the unintended effect of making me shy away from all kinds of non-work-required measurements and tracking, and increase my anxiety over said measurements and tracking.

Which is ridiculous, especially since the results, when I finally do check them, are usually fine.

Thus, my decision to purchase a scale was one small blow against denial, one small step for self-accountability, and one small way for me to calm the fuck down about myself.

It’s ridiculous, I know, but it just might work. A bit.





I press Execute

15 02 2017

What a pain in the ass.

Buying a new computer, that is, or, more directly, trying to figure out which computer to buy.

I’m going low-end full-on laptop (non-gaming), meaning something in the $500-700 range. I thought I’d found a month or so ago what I wanted to buy, but tonight as I was clicking around, I got caught up in this review and that and ohmymotherpuppinggoddess by the end I was convinced that no matter what I’d choose, I’d choose wrong.

Fuuuuuuuuck.

Anyway, I think I’m going to go with what I’d originally settled on. It seems to have the combination of features I want, it’s at the lower end of the price range, and, y’know, given that this baby is 8 1/2 years old, anything I get will be better and faster than what I’m used to.

So tomorrow (payday!), or Friday, I’ll finally hit BUY. Then I’ll worry. Then it’ll arrive. Then I’ll instantly love/hate it. Then I’ll get used to it and it’ll be fine.

All of this agita for . . . and it’ll be fine. Shees.





Let’s get it wrong

6 02 2017

November 8, I snapped: something fundamental in me, something I thought I knew, I did not.

Now, the consequences for the country—and, perhaps, the world—of electing a poorly-informed, thin-skinned, D-list celebrity are dire: ‘malevolence’ and ‘incompetence’ are fighting for descriptive supremacy of this GOP-administration-on-meth.

Just in case it wasn’t clear what I thought about all of this.

But there’s also the personal, intellectual side, and here the unpredictability is more promising.

As I’ve mentioned, I followed respected Americanists in understanding the 2016 elections, in particularly, their understanding of historic trends and of the polls. It was reasonable to do so, and for that reason, I don’t regret it. They, and by extension I, got it wrong, and that sucks—hard—but they were wrong on the margins in one of those exceptions in which the margins matter. Such error requires reconsideration, not the wrecking of an entire model (although how much reconsideration is for them, not me, to decide).

No, what I regret is that I only followed those respected Americanists, and discounted my own abilities as a theorist.

I’m not a great theorist—too much the syncretist to toss out something truly original—and goddess knows I’m not a great academic (haven’t published anything in years). But I am a pretty good theorist, and I let my failings as an academic blind me not only to my own skills as a theorist, but also to the insights that political theory and the humanities can bring to political phenomena.

I’ve tried to hold the line for political science and the social sciences generally as sciences, that is, as forms of inquiry into the human subject and human systems, but I’ve never considered political theory scientific. I (and not a few other theorists, I’d guess) cede the contemporary empirical observations to the quants and to those who follow closely Congress or the parties or the policy process, and let their regressions and outlines guide me in my judgements of the course of modern American politics.

Okay, this sounds snarky, but I don’t mean it to be: instead, I’m telling on myself for not having the courage of my own disciplinary convictions. I think quantitative analysis is useful, and limited, and that past is often, although not always, prologue, but when it came time to taking seriously what theory—what an analysis of rhetoric, of what may be animating partisan declarations, how various actions may be interpreted, how this fits, or doesn’t, with what Americanists were saying—I. . . didn’t.

I don’t know why. This may be due to the distance so many (although not all) political theorists have traditionally held themselves from contemporary politics, to the low esteem for theory everyone not a theorist has for the field, to the fact that I’m currently engaged in a project which has my head in centuries past—and I think all of that’s true.

But it’s also the case that I had inklings, anxieties, about this election that I dismissed. Now, the main reason for that dismissal is that I have anxieties about everything, so I work (to varying degrees of effectiveness) to dial it all down so I don’t find myself curled up under my bed with gin and the cats. But I also knew our social fractures were not just figments of my neurosis—see my various entries regarding ‘loaded dice’—and I didn’t collect those fractures into any kind of coherent skepticism of the ‘this is fine’ narrative.

Why not? Maybe because it’s all too impressionistic, reeks too much of Peggy Noonan’s ‘vibrations’ or comes off as political woo: the quants, after all, have the sharpness of their predictions (even as the best of them warn us of the fuzziness on the margins) and offer beguilingly ‘scientific’ understandings—proof! evidence! facts!—of electoral politics. Abashed by my own field’s meager offerings of ‘interpretations’, I was suckered into forgetting that ‘voting behavior’ and ‘party politics’ are themselves not the whole of politics.

Again, I don’t blame them for my willingness to follow and, again, I won’t stop listening to them. But I will return to what political theory can do, what I can do, and try to make sense from here. It will be, of necessity, more tentative, smaller, and much messier, but may offer the kind of clarity one can only find amidst the tumult.





High anxiety

18 09 2016

Anxiety sucks.

It’s been a bad week. I mismanaged something which I thought had under control and, having chewed through my tuchus, has now commenced on my spinal cord.

It’s about money, jesus, it’s about money (which I can’t even discuss because, jesus, it’s about money and being bad with money in a capitalist economy is shameful), and while I should be able to right this all in the short-term I’m worried about the medium-term and can. not. about the long-term.

Fucking hell.

I shouldn’t be anxious: as I said, by next Thursday the immediate problem should be resolved. But in between now—well, actually, starting last week—and next Thursday I am walking around with a live wire jammed into my sternum.

And in between last week and next week I will continue to berate my errors, consider the hash made of my career, gnaw over concerns re: a) my long-term financial insecurity, b) general underachievement, and c) the fact that I’ve trashed my life. When I die I will die alone and within a short time after that I will be forgotten.

Not that I’m spiraling or anything.

So, yeah: anxiety sucks.





Wait wait wait

20 05 2015

Two things:

1. The reasons I want to be on Twitter are the reasons I shouldn’t be on Twitter.

2. Want to make something relatively small relatively big, and then small again?

Easy: Don’t do that small thing, day after day after day, until it looms so large that you can’t not do it, after which it shrinks back to smallness.

Bonus thing! Delay checking enrollment on your summer session-I course, and then, upon finding out it’s so low it likely will be cancelled, think, Huh, guess I should put up a freelancing ad, and then not do it.

You know, on the off chance that in the next 10 days enough students will sign up and everything will be all right.

Because nothing like doing nothing to make sure everything will be all right.





And I said, nothing

11 05 2015

So this is what happens.

I have ideas, my thoughts scatter, I write nothing.

Next day, maybe I have thoughts, maybe I’m tired, I write nothing.

Then I’m busy, then maybe crabby, then maybe with the ideas; but: nothing.

This is how it goes for blogging, but it could be anything: The following days are some combination of plans, fatigue, and moodiness, mixed in with active avoidance of the thing I’ve been avoiding, thus creating anxiety about both the thing and the avoiding of the thing.

Nothing nothing (I should be doing something) nothing (something!) nothing (do it now!) nothing nothing nothing.

Oh, fuck it, I gotta do something, just to get over the not-doing-anything.

So, yes, substantively a bullshit blog entry, but as a tactic, it should get me movin’ again.

 





Take a chance

11 01 2015

Have I mentioned I’m lazy? I think I’ve mentioned I’m lazy.

Not in every aspect of my life, but certainly in too many. One of the more benign, yet highly irritating, forms is my middle-aged-onset laziness with regard to t.v. and movies: I don’t want to watch something in which I don’t know what happens.

This goes beyond not minding spoiler alerts into not wanting to endure uncertainty. I know something’s going to happen, and it about kills me not knowing the what and the when and the how.

I think that’s why I like procedurals: there’s such an established pattern with the plot that any anxiety over what-next is smoothed into mere waiting by the predictability of the genre: in Criminal Minds, for example, there’s the initial crime, then a second crime, then either the nabbing of a third victim (during which clock-ticking the team discovers something from the past) or a failed attempt that gives the team crucial information to identify the guy. Then they find the victim.

Bones had (has) its own pattern, as did Numbers, but they all had/have a pattern. I might roll my eyes at the predictability, but you betcha I rely on it.

That bothers me. Not that I like procedurals—who am I hurting?—but that I’m unwilling to try something else that I might like, might miss a movie which could move me, all because I get so wrapped up in not knowing the what-next that I can’t sit still for the what-is. And even when I am willing to try a new show—Flashpoint, Bletchley Circle, Lie to Me—what are they?

Prcedurals.

Pitiful. I used to watch so many different types of movies, read so many different types of novels, and while I might still read fiction, it’s not as much as I’d like. I used to enjoy, if not not-knowing, then at least, the getting-to-know or the finding-out. Not knowing was a chance, not a threat.

A little predictability isn’t the worst thing, but so much, too much, makes me feel small. I don’t always need to be big, but I miss the chance.





While my guitar gently weeps

3 08 2014

I need to play my guitar every day.

I do not play my guitar every day.

To be clear: “need” is not about need or desire in an of itself, but in terms of getting better; if I want to get better, I need to play every day.

Which I don’t. Play, I mean. The desire is there; the follow-thru, not so much.

I do play every other day, and if I miss my every or other day, I do get a bit anxious and feel that I’m missing something (i.e., experience a “need” more akin to the first definition); it would help if that anxiety kicked in a bit earlier.

Anyway, if I want to get better, why don’t I play more?

For starters, I suck. I don’t hold down the strings hard enough, my chords fuzz out, and too damn often I nick the A or G string when I’m aiming for D. And because I don’t look at either my right or left hand while playing—that discipline at least has held from those yay-old lessons—I too often reach for the wrong fret.

It’s a mess.

Now, when I do practice, and especially when I practice every day, all of those problems are lessened (tho’, alas, not eliminated)—which brings me back to the question: why don’t I play more?

And here’s the thing: I think too much when I play.

I hate HATE when anyone tells me I think too much: NO SUCH THING! But there is something about letting one’s mind drift which may work better than focusing. When I read, I focus, and when I learn something new, I focus, but I don’t focus when I write, my best runs happen when my mind wanders, and I only got over the hump in pot-throwing when I stopped trying so hard.

I think I have to stop trying so hard with the guitar.

The pot-throwing is instructive: I took a class at Minnesota, and went in periodically during the course to work on my pots (small, uneven, terrible), and I can’t say I enjoyed it all that much. I was continually frustrated—the more I wedged the clay the more air bubbles appeared, the more careful I was in centering the chunk on the wheel the more off-center it became, and raising the sides? Pfft, forget it. I don’t think I’m misremembering when I state that one lesson-night resulted in tears.

And then I got it. I was never great or even truly good, but I got enough that I thought, Hey, I can do this, and so I was more willing to put more time in at the studio. I was also, crucially, more willing to roll with the vagaries of clay and pot-throwing: some days every pot I threw turned out, some days none did, and I was okay with that.

I’m not zen, but I got pretty zen about throwing pots.

I can’t figure out what exactly led to that switch. Something allowed me to hang back from my own throwing, and thus to go more deeply into it; detachment allowed for enjoyment, which led me back into the studio.

I’m not sufficiently detached from the guitar-playing, it seems. I have noticed that when I’m thinking of something other than the notes, I tend to play them much better, that when I bore into the bars I clench up trying to avoid mistakes with these notes and worrying about the notes to come. And I don’t enjoy that.

So: I need to find some reliable way to zone out and let my fingers do their walking. Were that to happen, I might find myself wanting more to hear what they play.





Though the dawn may be coming soon

29 09 2013

Second-sleep dreams are nightmares.

It is entirely possible, of course, that my main sleep dreams are nightmares as well, but when I’ve been woken from an unbroken sleep, it’s usually out of dreams or nothing at all.

Sometimes there are nightmares, but these are “classic” nightmares, vivid and sharp-edges and with a storyline all their own. They can be terrifying, so much so the nightmares themselves wake me up, but they are clearly of the sleep-world, not that of the world awake.

Second-sleep dreams, though, they’re something else. Fuzzy and shot through with bits from real life, they are all anxiety, shifting and off-kilter. I don’t know if it’s because, in that second sleep, I don’t go fully under, such that the gears of the REM sleep slip and freeze up and tear, pinning me into a narrative which is neither fully here nor there.

These dreams tend to be of two types: One, I’m moving, and haven’t packed or haven’t ordered the truck, and possibly in the midst of this I think, Why am I moving? I don’t want to leave. The plot of the second type varies considerably (yesterday morning, I was in a high school classroom, and then at a party in the home of a bad ex-boss, and then it was as if I lived there and needed to pack to leave and, oh, yes, at some point I was naked, although a kind man—rabbi? priest?—tactfully turned away as I slid on a shirt), but at some point in the dream I am unable to see clearly and/or to walk without falling over. I keep rubbing my eyes, but everything is blurry or sliced into mis-aligned ribbons, a discombobulation magnified by a dizziness which sends me sideways. (Other, less-common recurring types: at the airport without a ticket/passport/luggage/time; having to take an exam after not attending class the entire semester; om stage and not knowing how to play my instrument/my lines/what play I’m in.)

Unpleasant, all around.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I tend to see dreams as a kind of venting off of whatever is going on in my life, perhaps mingled with bits from movies or t.v. (e.g., zombie nightmares); these second-sleep dreams, coming after a near-complete night’s sleep, seem to pull even more from immediate events. I had had a conversation about that bad boss, for example, on Friday, so her commandeering a portion of that dread-narrative is unsurprising.

Still, there are certain, ah, recurring themes in these second-sleep dreams. One concerns how well I fit into my life: Am I settled here? Can I make my life here, or will at some point will I have to go? Is there anyplace for me? The second is a kind of panic of loss of sight, of sense: I know I can see; why can’t I see? If I could just. . . get clear. And of the minor type dreams: timing and forgetting and performance. Anxieties, all.

I doubt I am unique in either the peculiarity of second-sleep dreams  or these anxieties, though I’d guess that the moving and blurred eyes bits are culled from my life: I have moved a lot, and I have problems with my eyes. A pianist or surgeon’s hands may go numb, a mechanic might forget how this moves with that, a father’s son might disappear, the ad exec’s computer crashes before the presentation—all what we rely upon and worry over refracted through a broken unconsciousness.





Snap that thin thread

29 03 2013

I used to be so good.

Not my character or morals, no: I used to be so good about staying on top of things.

“Things”, y’know, basic life-things. Bills, paperwork, returning calls—all of those miscellaneous and mostly mindless tasks which are a price of living in society.

Then, at some point, I wasn’t.

Don’t know exactly when it happened—I recall even well into my depressive cups I managed to deal with insurance and student loans and whatnot—but at some point I just gave up. It’s not that I suddenly stopped taking care of these tasks, but that I lost the sense that it made sense to stay ahead of them.

No, wait, that’s not right: I never lost the sense that it made sense. No, what I lost was. . . the will? the habit? of proper task management. It’s as if once that rubber band snapped, I no longer knew how to keep my shit together, and was reduced to denial, dread, and oh-shit last-minute scatter-shot toss-offs.

I get it done, but in the worst way possible.

This is no way to be an adult human being. It’d be one thing if the whirlwind approach didn’t bother me, but those small to-dos just grow and grow and grow in the middle of my chest* until they crack my ribs and leave me panting for air. I am so anxious about dealing with the things when they’re small that I can’t deal with them until they’re big, at which point my sleep is punctured and concentration swiss-cheesed.

You’d think that knowing how badly I react to stretching a task out I’d hop to it immediately, but it’s almost as if the anticipation of the late-anxiety rebounds backwards into a show-stopping early anxiety—which, because it’s early, I’m able to suppress, albeit with ever-decreasing success. By the end, the stress of the task is magnified by the looming deadline, and I’m left, well, sleep-deprived and wild-eyed.

No, it’s not everything: the more routine the task, the more habitual my response, but even there, I’m not as automatic as I used to be. I know what I have to do, but that knowledge is only sketchily linked to the doing.

And that, frankly, sucks. I know that there are things from the past which are gone, gone, gone daddy gone, but it would nice if I could get this particular mojo back.

~~~

*Yes, I finally did that thing. Not at the actual last-minute, but damned close.