(I'm not quite as limp as I was after recapping Breaking Dawn, but then I somehow--seriously, in retrospect, I do not know how--did the whole 750-page book in a day, but spread 264 pages of Midnight Sun plus large chunks of Twilight over three. So basically, I decided that my ass was going to lie abed and read magazines today.)
By the way, I am yet again swamped with email and comment notifications--I've tried to go through and answer or link everything that I flagged in my inbox, but odds are that a few (or several) things slipped through the cracks. So, uh, if you sent me a link or asked something and I didn't get back to you, I didn't ignore you because I hate you or anything.
I promised akathorne some philosophical meeblings on getting over guilt--the pointless, irrational, depression-related kind, I mean. If you shot a man in Reno just to watch him die, you're just shit out of luck on this one, my friend--so: I told y'all about that epic dream I had, right? And how I got my grad student on and footnoted the hell out of it ("This has better foreshadowing than actual fiction I've written")? And how I ended up realizing that, if it's true that every character in your dream can represent a part of yourself, what the dream was really trying to tell me was that I was hiding behind the idea that my family "needs me" and holding myself back from growing up and moving on with my life?
Well, my psychiatrist (I see her four times a year for med checks) was talking about "doing work on the emotional gym," you know, the way that you can't expect medication to solve your problems, and I really, really did not want to end up in therapy again, if only because I spent years there after my parents' divorce and I just had begun to feel like there was nothing left for me to do there. I felt like I already knew what my deal was, regarding a lot of things; I just wasn't ready, willing, or brave enough to do anything about it. Which is hard to say to a therapist--"Um, I'm sorry, but we're not going to get any further because I just can't keep up my end of it." So I stopped going. Again, it's a terrible realization to have about yourself, but I figured, well, at least I know that I'm stuck in a rut I can't (won't?) get out of, so I can stop paying to spin my wheels on a monthly basis. And that was a few years ago.
So. Anyway. I wasn't sure how to "work out on the emotional gym" without someone to prompt me--you know, show me around the psychological weight room, as it were--so I had that dream shortly after the last time I saw my doctor, and it was SO INCREDIBLY NOT EVEN SUBTLE that I was like, okay! My personal trainer is here, and he's about to bang the door down. So I footnoted the shit out of that dream, and after pondering it for several days, I was able to boil the message of it down to this:
My default response to any given situation is to feel guilty about it.
I feel guilty that I'm stuck in an adolescent, dependent lifestyle. I feel guilty that I would actually say to myself, "I'm not brave enough to do anything about it." I feel guilty that I procrastinate, which I think I do in the first place because I feel like what I'm working on will never be good enough, so I procrastinate so I won't have to feel bad about that. Which makes me feel worse. I feel guilty when I hear that this or that friend is going through a really great milestone in their adult life (a new job, a wedding, a baby) because then I feel bad that I'm so far behind them in terms of what I want to accomplish as an adult--and then I feel guilty that I've turned their happiness into an excuse to make it all about me. I feel guilty that I'm overweight, I feel guilty that I'm not exercising enough, I feel guilty that I didn't exercise today, and then I feel so bad about it that I don't exercise tomorrow. In short, I feel guilty, and then I feel guilty that I feel guilty.
(And again: no, I'm not Catholic.)
The second thing is, feeling guilty makes me feel bad--it is, itself, a bad feeling. I mean, yes. Duh. But moreover, I shut down when I feel bad--I put my head in the sand rather than face what's making me feel bad. Which of course makes me feel worse, and makes me feel guilty for not being able to deal with feeling bad that I felt guilty. You begin to see the death spiral involved here, right?
This shit has got to end, y'all.
I think one of my problems with therapy was that my therapists were trying to change my behavior without figuring out the thought process behind that behavior--I mean, I'm sure they were trying, but for whatever reason, neither of us were able to get to the bottom of it. So they would say, "For next time, I want you to try to do [whatever thing that is really scary for me]," and I would be like, "BUT THAT IS A REALLY SCARY THING!" You know, rather than working on why that thing was scary for me (calling strangers, going on job interviews, meeting new people, trying to get my driver's license and not die in a ten-car pileup two blocks from the DMV), and how to change the thought process behind being so scared of it. But now I really feel like I have figured it out. This is the basic cellular makeup of my existence: carbon and guilt. So I've been going around and stopping, pretty much every time I feel the least bit negative, to ask myself, "Are you feeling guilty right now?" And you know what? I ALWAYS AM. It's actually become something of a running joke--"You're feeling guilty, aren't you? Yeah you are! YEAH YOU ARE!" My family has started wondering why I'll start laughing for no reason at all, and that's exactly it: I've realized that, once again, I'm feeling guilty about some stupid dumbass thing. It actually feels really liberating, because suddenly I understand what's going on up there in my head. And then I just go, "Okay, well, guess what? You don't get to feel guilty about that anymore. You have met your quota of feeling guilty about that for today, if not FOR LIFE. And now you get to feel good about not feeling guilty anymore. DEAL."
Because you know what? Feeling guilty isn't helping anyone. It's not making anything better. If I make an asshole of myself, then I should go apologize and make some kind of (de)finite amends for it. And then move on. On the other hand, if the only person I've really "wronged" is myself, then--what the hell am I feeling guilty for? IT'S NOT HELPING ANYTHING!
But how did I start thinking this way? Well, after some more navel-gazing, I have put it down to two things:
One: When I was in grade school, I was one of those teacher's pet types. Basically, the only thing I was good at was school, and the other kids used to make me feel bad about it. (One boy's idea of a taunt was, "You LIKE getting compliments, don't you?!" And there I am, cornered, whimpering, "No! No! They make me feel terrible!") My father actually had some weird rivalry going on with a friend of his, and they were always comparing us, their daughters, to each other. My father did it to me, and Stacy's father (let's call her Stacy) did it to her, too. So one day in fifth grade, I hear that Stacy's crying in the bathroom with... well, pretty much all of the other girls in the class except me, sobbing that she got a B on her report card, and she hates me because I got an A, and her father's mad now because she didn't do better than I did. So pretty much I go through all of grade school trying to keep my head down and my back covered, feeling that no one likes me except the teachers, having maybe one or two friends, tops, and continuing to do the best I can in class because it's the only thing I've got going for me. Oh, and feeling bad about it.
Two: So I have this huge depression-related flameout my senior year of college that it takes me way too long to recover from. (I think in a lot of ways I'm still recovering from it--and from the guilt I feel over having it in the first place.) I still live at home with my family. I feel bad about it. I go to grad school. I burn out on academic lit crit papers. I don't finish. I feel bad about it. I publish a book. It does okay; it doesn't set the world on fire. I feel bad about it, because I keep thinking that if I had written better, maybe it would sold better. I've been working on a novel for five years. It's still not done. I worry that I'll never be a good enough writer to finish it. I feel bad about it (of course I do). I feel like I either fail at everything or can't finish anything. And I realize now that I slipped into this thought process of, The least I can do is feel guilty about it.
That's how I'm going to pay for all this? By feeling guilty about it? By feeling too guilty to make any kind of amends, repairs, or forward movement? Oh, okay, I'll just suffer in a pointless emo way that nobody knows about and doesn't help anyone? I'll just keep making the same mistakes over and over, but by God, I'll feel REALLY, REALLY BAD about it? Oh, that's TOTALLY a fair trade.
So it's like I've confused feeling guilty with being a good person--with being modest or grateful or appreciative, I don't know. Because, I mean, if people are going to be so patient or understanding with my bipolar late-bloomer bullshit, clearly, "the least I can do is feel guilty about it." Not to get too twee here, but I think I confused humility with humiliation. (Humility and Humiliation: the most depressing Jane Austen book ever. Or maybe the kinkiest, who knows.)
And yes, it is dangerous to say, okay, I refuse to feel guilty about anything anymore. Because you do want to have a conscience, you know? You don't want to turn into a complete asshole. But I think, deep inside, I know the difference; I know when it's self-sabotage guilt. Because, you know, in a way, feeling guilty is an easy way out. Yeah, it's "suffering," it's "penance," but it's suffering that takes the place of doing anything positive. And obviously, yes, there are things you should probably feel guilty about for the rest of your life, and there will never be any comfort for you. You know, if you kill a man just to watch him die, etc. Missing a deadline or cheating on your diet? Probably not one of those things. So my daily workout at the emotional gym, to return to that metaphor, is to do a mood check as often as necessary, mentally slap myself with trout (mmm... trouuuut...) as needed, and see how much more productive I can be on the no-guilt diet. So far it's working pretty well, although it's not necessarily getting easier. It is getting funnier, if only because my own predictability is getting hilarious. But generally, I'm feeling better about myself these days. Mostly because there's no point in feeling bad.
Hey! Hey! You know what else I'm not going to feel bad about? MOAR TWILIGHT LINKSPAM! (No, seriously, I feel bad about posting so much of it so frequently. HEY AT LEAST THIS WAY YOU CAN SKIP IT IF YOU'RE TIRED OF IT. Real linkspam will resume tomorrow.)
This is so great that I'm just going to link it again. I seriously want to print out the first Edward panel (which also has a spectacularly... expressive Bella) and tape it to my desk.
'Twilight' reshoots: Why is Catherine Hardwicke filming again? Short answer: MOAR SPARKLE MEADOW! Also, a flashback with ye olde miniskirted Quileutes of... the '30s? (More set pics, including from the vampire prom reshoot; The Hair is on High Fangirl Alert; HEY COULD YOU DAZZLE US WHILE YOU'RE TRYING TO GET COFFEE?; what do you mean, we have to have golf clubs to
And now, I'm going back to dreamland for a little while.