Part 1, Here
10) Natalie Goldberg says, “Get to know your obsessions…ask yourself, what monopolizes my mind?” It has always been the “big” topics which have monopolized my thinking since childhood. Death. Sex (not having it necessarily, but rather how twisted ideas and my twisted experience of it has affected me – see #14). God. Philosophy and Psychology. All of my lasting interests and obsessions fit into one of these categories. Unfortunately, I have not yet taken all that deep stuff and produced mounds and mounds of honest writing.
11) I don’t usually think of myself as a person with a lot of regrets, but sometimes I find myself not starting something in the present because I wish I would have done it in the past. For example, I just got Danny Gregory’s book Art Before Breakfast (which I like best of all his books) and one of the suggestions is to draw your children. If I started doing that, I know I would regret not having drawn my other children, so I might not even do it now because I don’t want to feel that regret. Of course, later I would regret it even more since I won’t have drawn any of them. One of the unhealthy manifestations of my life as a memoirist is this weird feeling that I should be chronicling my life more thoroughly and consistently than I do, which is, of course, one manifestation of my sometimes almost crippling perfectionism.
12) I am really trying to be less emotionally repressed. Even when I was a kid (my childhood life being the start of my emotional problems) I was emotionally reticent, but I still felt my feelings. As I have gotten older I feel things less, which I know is a protective mechanism of some kind. One thing I am doing to try to combat this is to listen to more music from my past, which I usually avoid because, well, it does bring up feelings. I’m not talking about the music from my young childhood, I can’t listen to that at all or I get an anxiety attack. But music from my young adulthood and the babyhood of my older children can be hard for me to listen to. I have also been watching some television shows that are about family life and all the varied emotions that brings up. I seem to be able to feel negative emotions more easily, and some of those are normal, like the frustration that is all too common when dealing with the never-ending demands of young children. I also feel anger a lot (not that I really fly into rages or anything) but I do believe that most of my anger is a cover-up for all the emotions of vulnerability and abandonment and stuff like that. I’m trying to look at my anger when it shows up and see if I am turning my pain outward. I heard a Tim Keller sermon where he talked about anger, and how to make it productive rather than destructive. He recommended we ask ourselves two questions about our anger: What am I defending? What am I attacking? It’s embarrassing how often what we are defending is some selfish desire for our own comfort or peace or relaxation or whatever, and how often what we are attacking are those people we see as getting in the way of that. But I see how those two questions can help me when what I feel seems to be anger, but on closer observation the real underlying emotion is probably some kind of grief. I am learning to recognize when the the anger is only a front, and trying to let myself just feel whatever emotion wells up when I look deeper.
13) I am absolutely not into nature. I mean, I like being outside on a nice day (which means way below possible sweating temperature) and the quiet of a natural place (sans kids) can be meaningful. But I don’t really enjoy outside activities (except walking while listening to podcasts) and I don’t get inspired by nature in a creative way. I am so bored by the journaling books I have purchased that are full of drawings of plants and animals. If I were to draw something, I would always go for some kind of man-made object in my house, rather than go outside to draw trees or flowers. If I were forced to draw outside, I would likely draw my mailbox or the barbeque. What I most appreciate about nature is listening to birds, which I can do quite well from inside with the windows open in the morning. If I could have any kind of experience in the natural world, I would love to be transported to a time when wild birds were everywhere.
14) Although I still don’t love it (meaning it doesn’t turn me on) I think that it has been a positive thing for me to see mild to moderately graphic sexual situations in television shows when they are not stylized depictions of impossibly beautiful people having impossibly perfect sex or are abusive in some way. I’m not making any moral pronouncements about whether or not we should see these things, so please don’t give me a hard time about it if you disapprove. Being exposed to a lot of pornography before puberty really messed up my idea of myself as a sexual being, and I pretty much grew up having the cognitively dissonant thoughts that 1) my worth was totally dependent on how sexy I was and 2) that I was inherently undesirable. So, as you can imagine, in my mind I was screwed (no pun intended). In the past, whenever I would see a sexual scene (I never really had this problem if it was a sex scene in a novel) , I would get high anxiety from this weird unarticulated feeling that sex was for other people, that somehow in the game of sex I would always be chosen last like the loser kids in P.E. Of course, I have been married for a long time and so have had a fair amount of licit sex, plus various pre-marriage illicit sexual experiences and people who have been attracted to me though we never had any kind of sexual contact. Seeing sex scenes in shows like Six Feet Under where even older people are having and enjoying sex, and some of the British shows where everyone is average looking has somehow helped me see that I’m entitled to my place in the normal human sexual experience, about which pornography lies.