Sunday, 29 January 2017

and another thing, I've been wondering lately...

I'm enjoying my blog. It's serving a purpose. Lots of times over the interregnum I wanted to resume blogging, but you know what? I couldn't. It's interesting to think about why.* The theory that fits the facts best is that the identity shift I've experienced made it just not possible. How can you speak when you're disintegrating? The Cheshire cat is a great metaphor for the fragmented postmodern subject, but golly it sucked to find myself not much more than a shadowy grin crouched on the end of that branch, and rebuilding myself has been too long and strenuous a process for me to find any glamour in the idea of a multiplicity of selves, fluid identities etc.

Being able to write here underlines for me that I've rebuilt a self, though I am still getting to know who it is that I've become. In the fullness of time I think I'll write more about what happened and what it was like. I need to. There was a breakdown, a suicide attempt (it happens), a violent and bruising encounter with the mental health care system, an extended / interrupted / recurring psychosis, and eventually, there was help, there was the grim, dull lifeline of anti-psychotics and SSRIs, and then the beginning of psychoanalysis, upon which I am still very dependent but in a way that feels healthy - it serves different purposes when I'm feeling strong to when I'm not. Some parts of all that will be easy for me to write about but possibly very difficult for other people to read. Some parts of it will be hard to write about because I can hardly bear to remember them. The man on the beach who called me out of the water, and what he said. On the whole this was a time in my life that made me come over all Crocodile Dundee when I first read Elmo Keep's justly admired memoir of her experience with psychosis (i.e. 'that's not a knife, this is a knife' etc.) Well, now I understand that for me it's been worse than for some, easier than for others, and the whole meaning of these (not uncommon) experiences is that they are all unique. So that's one reason I couldn't write.

Other times, especially in the year after I walked out of academia, I was just too low to want to write. That happens too. It is very horrible being unemployed when you don't want to be. I was rejected over and over again, and mostly without even being able to properly blame the people who were knocking me back for their lack of discernment. You stop seeing any value in yourself. It's good that time is over, even though I would be lying if I said I felt 100% great about leaving the university behind. I miss it, often, but it's the kind of regret that evaporates when I pause, take time to scrutinise the pros and cons and especially to compare my overall health now with how it was in the last eighteen months of my academic career. The catch there is that I do need to go through that balance sheet afresh each time in order to reach the conclusion that the choice was the right one, and this sometimes takes a major effort of will to do.

I didn't sit down intending to write most of what I've just written. I wanted to think some more about the purpose the blog is serving. Or that I would like it to serve, and which I think it might be able to serve if I can keep it consistently in mind.

In Donald Winnicott's celebrated words:
the third part of the life of a human being, a part that we cannot ignore, is an intermediate area of experiencing, to which inner reality and external life both contribute. It is an area that is not challenged, because no claim is made on its behalf except that it shall exist as a resting-place for the individual engaged in the perpetual human task of keeping inner and outer reality separate yet interrelated.
It's a simple enough thing. It's for this to be a place where I can play, without goals and outcomes in view, with the relationship between what I'm doing, seeing, encountering (the reportable and shared external reality) and what's happening in the inner scene. There's often no other connection between those realms than that which I choose to make, and I like the idea of developing a form of writing which is capable of using a story about what happened today in the shared world, to convey what's going on in the other real world, invisible, intangible, inchoate, and yes, private. I find that I need to write as honestly as possible about what I'm feeling, but for aesthetic reasons as well as for considerations of discretion, I'm not going to attempt to do it directly.  Having said this as if there's an element of discovery or invention in this idea, of course I know perfectly well (much better than most people, actually) that there is very little competent literature, or art, or culture, even, which doesn't fit that description in some manner: it's 101 stuff, vehicle and tenor, the imaginary garden with the real toad in it etc. Nevertheless, it feels like a new horizon for me, in my hitherto rather undeliberated writing life, and now I'm all about doing the thousand-yard stare to new horizons, President Trump's new world order notwithstanding.

*Interesting to me, that is. Perhaps to other people, I don't know, and it's actually good not knowing. It's liberating to not feel like I'm writing for a crowded peanut gallery, or that having written something which goes a reasonable way towards pinning down things I want to try to articulate, but might not be quite there yet, I will have to play host to a feeble conversation about it, maybe defend it etc. That said, if you are a regular reader, then I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your interest and if you are getting something out of the time you invest with me, please feel most welcome to continue.


Elephant's Child said...

Thank you.
A powerful and poignant post.
I am always appalled at how fast and easy the slide to the bottom is, and just how hard it is to drag myself out again. And it is such an individual journey. Some facets are shared, but the route is our own.

jac said...

I'm not surprised you haven't wanted to write. And if now you do, you do. You can see my own psychoanalysis technique needs work. x