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Memores acti prudentes futuri

Shown to the place you fold
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A few words
"When we describe the Moon as dead, we are describing the deadness in ourselves. When we find space so hideously void, we are describing our own unbearable emptiness."
~ D.H. Lawrence

"Is the meaning of life defined by its duration? Or does life have a purpose so large that it doesn't have to be prolonged at any cost to preserve its meaning?"

"Living is not good, but living well. The wise man, therefore, lives as well as he should, not as long as he can... He will always think of life in terms of quality not quantity... Dying early or late is of no relevance, dying well or ill is... even if it is true that while there is life there is hope, life is not to be bought at any cost."
~ Seneca

"People will tell you nothing matters, the whole world's about to end soon anyway. Those people are looking at life the wrong way. I mean, things don't need to last forever to be perfect."
~ Daydream Nation

"All Bette's stories have happy endings. That's because she knows where to stop. She's realized the real problem with stories-- if you keep them going long enough, they always end in death."
~ The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes

"The road now stretched across open country, and it occurred to me - not by way of protest, not as a symbol, or anything like that, but merely as a novel experience - that since I had disregarded all laws of humanity, I might as well disregard the rules of traffic. So I crossed to the left side of the highway and checked the feeling, and the feeling was good. It was a pleasant diaphragmal melting, with elements of diffused tactility, all this enhanced by the thought that nothing could be nearer to the elimination of basic physical laws than deliberately driving on the wrong site of the road."
~ Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

"It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend."
~ William Blake
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The polyvagal ladder
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
In my trauma class we use the concept of the polyvagal ladder to talk about the progression of responses to stress and trauma. It's quite simple but very helpful as a model.

The basic idea is that there are three main states you can be in. You can be at the top of the ladder, where you're functioning optimally. A high enough level of stress (it's different for everyone) pushes you down the ladder and you go into fight-or-flight. Even more stress brings you down to the last state, which is shutting down or dissociating. People who have been repeatedly pushed onto the bottom of the ladder tend to skip fight-or-flight and just go straight to shut down after awhile.

When people have to deal with constant inescapable threat they tend to just stay at the bottom of the ladder and not move up anymore. This occurs in situations like having an abusive parent who lives in the home. The child, who cannot fend for him/herself, faces an impossible dilemma. The person upon whom he/she depends for survival is also actively harming him/her. What can a kid do in such a situation? Typically children "resolve" this by blaming themselves for the parent's abuse. They assume responsibility for what's happening and believe that there must be a reason the parent is acting as such in order to preserve the idea that the parent is, underneath it all, a good and competent caregiver. As my professor likes to put it, "it's better to believe that my parent is good and I am bad, because if my parent is bad and I depend on them for survival, I'm really fucked."

Now imagine that being said in a Chinese accent and you can kind of get the experience of being in my trauma class.

Anyway, I've been thinking about all this in relation to myself, as one does. I think I used to go primarily to the bottom of the ladder and dissociate or freeze in stressful situations. Now why that has been, I can only speculate, but it seems to be my pattern. In more recent years though it seems like I've been shifting somewhat and don't drop down there as quickly, if at all. There are certainly still plenty of situations in which I freeze, but I've been noticing that I sometimes just feel strong emotions that don't get washed away with a blanket of dissociation when under stress. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand it's probably healthier in some way for me but on the other hand it kind of sucks to have to feel everything unpleasant. I'm also not sure why the shift has occurred. Years of therapy have helped, I'm pretty sure, but I can't pinpoint what exactly in that process has had an effect.

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Total mood [4P]
Wednesday, November 8, 2019
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Descending into the depths once more [DP]
Saturday, November 2, 2019
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Even worse than the last time
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Is this... the longest I've gone without posting? D:

I feel like I don't know where all my time is going. Or well, that's not true. My schedule now is busier than it has been on any regular basis for a long time. Mondays should be better now, at least. For a bit over a month I had to be out of my house from 6:30am to 11pm for school. That's... 16.5 hours? Fairly exhausting days. Then the Tuesdays after, I'd be pretty much dead tired and would just want to rest all day and not do much else. Wednesdays and Thursdays I have work and various appointments, and Friday is another school day. I technically do have time on the weekends but I have to do schoolwork sometime, so there's not really much actual freedom.

Anyway, yeah, as you can see, I've been busy. Also have been having some weird chest pains recently which are as yet unexplained. I had a doctor's appointment today and she ordered a thyroid ultrasound and a fluoroscopy for me, but when I called the radiology department they told me that my insurance needs to approve the procedures first... so not sure when I'll be able to get those things done. Hopefully I don't die from the chest pains first. The doctor told me I could go to the ER next time it happens, which seems kind of extreme to me but I wonder if I'm taking this seriously enough.

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Ouch, that delay [4P]
Wednesday, September 25, 2019
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The economy
Saturday, September 7, 2019
I have recently been reading What About Me?: The Struggle for Identity in a Market-Based Society by Paul Verhaeghe. I actually bought it over a year ago but hadn't opened it until recently. It seems like it might be timely for me to read it now, though. Surprisingly it aligns with some of the thought tracks I've been having lately-- about the privileging of economic concerns above all else, chiefly.
Not so long ago, our culture, and thus our identity, was determined by interaction between four key areas: politics, religion, the economy, and the arts, with politics and religion competing for dominance. These days, politicians are fodder for stand-up comedians; religion prompts associations with suicide bombers or sexual abuse; and everyone is an artist. The only thing that still counts is the economy, and here the neo-liberal economic narrative has taken over. (p. 112)

Obviously Verhaeghe makes some generalizations here about politics, religion, and the arts, but I think that the main point is still correct-- that as a society we tend to place economic interests above all else. (His writing style is also intended for a lay audience and as such is written in a conversational way, not meant to be taken overly literally).

How else to explain some of the recent developments and priorities that have manifested? There was that news story awhile back about a baker who denied service to a gay couple and wouldn't make them a wedding cake. As I recall there was plenty of outrage over it. How dare this baker discriminate against gay people? And for what, "religious beliefs"? Completely unacceptable!

It's a compelling argument if you:
1) Believe that people should not be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation
2) Believe religion has no place in business
3) Don't question either of the first two beliefs

I want to note that I don't think anybody should be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation. I am generally in favor of treating people in an equitable manner as long as nobody's getting hurt. At the same time, I question the utility of forcing someone to serve others in their own business. If it's a government institution or some larger corporation that has clear policies against discrimination, then of I think by being an employee there's implicit or explicit consent to follow institutional policies, but if it's an independent business? Something seems odd there. It seems like there's an implied message of "if I'm paying you, you do what I want, and you're not allowed to refuse" (within the scope of the business). Is it okay to force an independent business owner to work for someone they don't want to work for? This goes for both sides, not just with the baker. There will always be people who are more motivated by money than by other values they may hold, so I think it's unlikely that the discriminated-against potential patron would be unable to obtain services anywhere.

Of course, this isn't a novel idea in any way. I'm pretty sure there's constant acknowledgement of the influence that money and the economy have. Most edgy teenagers probably have some phase where they think money is evil, and goodness knows there are plenty of people who advocate for other systems because they think capitalism is the root of all the problems we have. I guess the difference for me personally, and why it's been sticking in my mind more recently, is that it seems nearly impossible to imagine alternate ways of living. We gripe about money ruling everything but also don't closely examine the pervasive influence it has in our lives. We get stuck just thinking about money and the economy and it becomes this false dichotomy of "MONEY GOOD" or "MONEY BAD"... But either way, it's still about money. There's a larger picture here, and it is theoretically possible to have a society where economic interests do not dominate everything else, isn't it? We are just so steeped in a particular way of thought here that the concept of a culture that doesn't put such an emphasis on the economy is ridiculous or unthinkable. Seems like in the mainstream discourse we mostly have people with different ideas about how to make different economic policies that will improve society along economic lines.

...Though, it's not as if I have any grand ideas about how we should change things. Mostly I'm just musing on the narratives that were invisible to me before.

"It's The Economy, Stupid" by John McCutcheon.

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Temporary, man made
Monday, August 19, 2019
Someone told me once that there was a theme in the photos I take-- that I take pictures of things that seem like they fit in when you're not looking too closely, but upon closer inspection they are odd and out of place.

I was reflecting on that today because I'm at a resort in Tahoe at the moment and had a few hours to myself today. I ended up staying inside, but I could have walked around outside, perhaps gone on a trail or wandered the grounds. Generally I enjoy taking my camera out for long walks, but that didn't appeal to me in this setting.

This might not be the whole reason, but I was thinking that maybe I like taking pictures in more urban environments because there is so much that is man-made, artificial, consciously intentional. In a constructed environment where things were planned, there will always be something out of place. There is chaos that breaks through the organization and the intentionality. It's like a reminder of the absurd.

On the other hand, in nature, in the wilderness, it feels almost like everything belongs there. Even the trash, even the debris of human civilization. Nature will take it in and slowly, patiently, wordlessly absorb it. Even plastic, which could take a thousand years or more to degrade, is still going to decay eventually and someday be plastic no more.

Humanity and all its buildings are just experiments in the grand scheme of things, aren't they? An attempt to resist forces far beyond our control, and extend the control we do have. We are trying, with our cities and our sidewalks and our tall glass windowed towers, to keep out something that will always get in, in the end. We are trying to separate ourselves from it, we pretend we have succeeded, but we are inseparable. Even though our experiment has lasted far longer than my lifetime and will probably extent beyond my death, I still find something enjoyable about witnessing what all seems so ultimately temporary.

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What am I doing
Sunday, August 11, 2019
Therapy school: Helping people is actually really complicated and there are like a million ways you're unknowingly hurting and oppressing people.
Also therapy school: Just have faith you're helping!

Me: wat

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