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Emotional Work Politics

Day 768 and Memory

I’ve not ever read Proust in its entirety because what am I an eternal being who exists outside of linear time? But, thanks to Wikipedia and university survey courses, I am familiar with its basic themes of memory and it’s frustrating insufficiency.

Anyways, when not pondering madeleines, I am often confronted by how resilient the mind is in protecting us from the horrors of the world. Memory is a very funny thing. As good a reason as any to maintain diaries or personal hagiography is that you’d be surprised at what you forget.

A doctor asked me to get a pelvic ultrasound. I surprised myself by saying absolutely not unless it’s an emergency life or death situation I am not doing that. And she, in sincere surprise, asked me why not.

And, because I guess therapy works, I recalled a pelvic ultrasound from maybe 10-12 years ago. I’d been referred in to a specialist as there was concern about a uterine cyst. This doctor, a gentleman over 50 in the kindly white gentleman archetype, who I did not know know, proceeds to tell me this won’t hurt.

But it does hurt. I am screaming bloody murder. It hurts so much I cannot stop. He tells me he will call security unless I quiet down. I cannot and I am in tears hysterically trying to convey the pain. I pass out.

I had utterly suppressed the memory till today. It happened to coincide with my husband mentioning a think piece in New York Magazine about women who empathized with the Clare Danes character from Fleishman Is In Trouble. There is a profoundly violating scene around reproductive health and consent.

And of course, because it’s happening to a striving insecure aspirant white bitch it totally doesn’t count right? Fucking Karens. It’s super cringe to consider where the system hurts you, because you dumb bitch, you benefit more than anyone else.

So I guess I am not surprised I had banished the experience of something bad but you know not so bad you are allowed to complain about it. And that is how the patriarchy perpetuates itself.

What I’m saying is that maybe you need to remember who it is that benefits from you not remembering the pain. Who benefits from forgetting? And trust me they are very scared when you realize that you remember.

Categories
Emotional Work Travel

Day 746 and Control

When I feel afraid I seek control. I have rituals and rhythms that help sooth the fears of my inner child.

This morning I was in my least favorite fear control pattern. I had to leave a temporary hotel for a new Airbnb as a mold issue destabilized my first week. Hives and prednisone and such. I hate packing and I hate the logistics of it. It reminds me of my childhood nightmares.

I set my alarm early enough to get breakfast and packing in before the slightly too early checkout. I was racked with anxiety I couldn’t repack everything as I’d acquired new items meant for an apartment stay and my suitcase overflowed.

I had vitamins and medicine to take but I couldn’t do more than choke down a croissant. I ordered fruit and cheese and than was too worked up to eat it. I hate wasting food so I wasn’t thrilled. I beat myself up for being a bad person who can’t take care of herself.

As soon as realized how had it was getting I took an Ativan. Joke all you want about benzodiazepines but occasionally they are the barrier between a traumatized woman and the history of her fears. Probably why it’s such a cliche. Just the sort of thing you learn as you are alone in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language.

I felt so rushed by the need to be out at a certain time. Each knock on the door a reminder of my failures. Each internal call to calm down a criticism I recalled from my father, my coaches, my bosses and my lovers. A hysterical woman is a shameful thing.

Each “hurry up” a reminder that I am someone who is policed and polite and controlled for other people’s convenience. I am not allowed to be scared or cry or reactive. A hysterical woman woman is, again, a shameful thing.

Finally after the tension and anger and shame bubbled up, I threw the first thing I could get my hands on to release the tension. Better than hurting myself a dim quiet voice said. I cracked my watch face. And immediately felt better. And so embarrassed I’d boiled over.

I’d only needed five more minutes to get myself together. Just a moment. Give me a second. Please just let me be. And each time my preferences had to accommodate someone else I lost more of myself.

I was able to exert the seamless self control over my emotions eventually. I checked out. I tipped. I’m swanned over to my new digs. I executed exactly what I needed and got on with my workday. But the shame stung and the control soothed it like a cold aloe gel.

Categories
Politics

Day 740 and Immigration Failed Us Again

My second attempt at a securing a tourist visa for a friend failed this morning. If you’d have asked me a few years ago if I thought the American immigration basically worked, I would have agreed that, sure I thought it probably worked ok. No reason to think otherwise right? Phew I was wrong.

But after years of being humiliated over and over again by the state department for “the crime” of wanting a family friend to come visit us for vacation, I’ve never felt more ashamed of myself and my country.

I’m ashamed I was such a sucker. I thought we would still do the basic work of being a functional state. I’m ashamed that America treats people who want to visit us this badly.

We have well off, interesting, curious guests that want to explore our culture and spend their time & money seeing our land. We spit on our guests by turning away anyone who isn’t on a Schengen or ESTA waiver. You probably think that includes most people. I did. But we are wrong.

Only 40 of the 195 countries on the planet are granted travel visas without going through the visa embassy approval process. Most people have bad passports. Latin America, Africa, the Balkans, the former Soviet blocks and most of Asia have “bad passports” that require a tourist visa that requires years of waiting for appointments and almost assured disapproval at the Embassy.

I’ve never met a system so broken I couldn’t find a workaround. But here I am at the of my workarounds in tears at how I’ve let down my family and friends. The visa I’ve been helping with was denied a second time today after waiting since March for a second chance to re-apply. That first meeting at which we were also denied also took years of waiting.

And it is getting better. This round after flying to Prague, we got two minutes instead of thirty seconds in Frankfurt. In those minutes they still didn’t look at any of the materials prepared. Just a generic we don’t like the look of your people rejection. We got some boilerplate language about strong ties or weak ties and no we won’t read the 200 pages of supporting documents you brought.

I was a mess yesterday about how afraid I was we’d get down turned down again. But I thought surely I was being too paranoid. The lawyers we paid thought we had a good chance. We’ve brought everything possible for paperwork from mortgages to W2 forms. I’d taken personal financial liability for our friend. I let the government have an invasive look at our finances. I gave the consular offices the deed to my house. I worked for months to get a Congressional letter asking for a fair review of the application. None of it was reviewed.

Now in the aftermath, I’m not even sure if it’s possible to get a consular officer to do a fair review. Our congressional representatives wrote the consular office and they send back boilerplate with no details. No one reads the applications I guess. We can apply again. And again. But would good would it do?

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Community Emotional Work

Day 731 and Starting Year Three

2022 was a good year for me, but it wasn’t without its losses. I have a tradition on New Year’s Eve with a very old and dear friend. We’d send each other a scene from a comedy show about hipsters in Brooklyn.

The show made a special new year’s episode. In it, the characters play a game where they do absolutely unthinkably cruel thing to their friends. But it all must be forgiven at midnight because “Auld Lang Syne motherfuckas!” Their tradition is you have to forgive each other no matter what has been done.

The Burg

In the real world forgiveness is trickier. Sending the “Auld Lang Syne motherfuckas” was a tradition that stretched some fifteen years. Going into 2023, if did not happen. I’d rather not get into the specifics but some things cannot be forgot even in the spirit of Auld Lang Syne. I hope some year down the road it can be restarted, but sometimes you don’t know what can be forgiven till you do. Fixes, remedies, and recovery take time to mend and set.

For old acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind
Should old acquaintance be forgot
In the days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne
We’ll drink a cup of kindness yet
For the sake of auld lang syne

Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788

I did however, begin the New Year with another respectable tradition. We managed to stay up till midnight thanks to the sparkling wit and hospitality of a new Montana friend’s dinner party. Champagne was toasted. Fireworks were set off.

It’s a strange way to ring in a new year by straddling the two years over midnight. Rare is the person for whom this isn’t a disruption to their schedule. I usually sleep by 10pm, but I found myself sleeping from 1:38pm to 10am on the first day of the year. And then still absolutely needing another nap that afternoon to recover. And I didn’t even drink except to toast.

And so a third year of this experiment begins with something lost and something gained. Auld Lang Syne motherfuckas. I still want more sleep. Revelry and late nights are harder the older you get. But I am excited for what this year will bring.

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Internet Culture

Day 716 and Slightly Embarrassed

I spent my entire day on Twitter. I’m not embarrassed by that to be clear. It felt like a vacation day. And even though I live in a majestic mountain paradise, I will spend my time off inside looking at my phone.

Yes it was absolutely gorgeous day in Montana. I marveled at the playful pinks of the sunrise over the mountains in our backyard while drinking coffee. And then I got back in bed and on my phone. And you better believe I fucking doomacrolled.

I just gorged myself on cheap attention calories. Gimme that dopamine drip. I did not even try to modulate my consumption pattern or prevent myself from going into fight or flight. It was goblin mode. I’m still not embarrassed.

But Twitter is a fucking mess. Watching people go tribal on Elon Musk is worse than people going tribal on the president somehow. Maybe because it feels more personal to me? Don’t get me wrong Trump felt existential, but Elon Musk is personal.

And it’s fucking embarrassing watching people react to him and his decision making. Here it is my industry’s moment in the spotlight. The technology industry showing itself as a keeper of common goods and open discourse right? Absolutely fucking not. We’ve shat the bed. Old management was incompetent sure. But new management is not an improvement.

I went into Twitter being purchased by Elon Musk modestly optimistic. He’s our guy right? He’s one of us. He likes startups and capital and technology. He reads the same science fiction as me. We’ve got friends in common. This is what it’s like to be a fan of the home team right?

Well fuck me sideways it has been going poorly. The site is pretty broken but I’m over that. It’s just the constant mayhem. Dave Kellog termed it adhocracy. Some random bullshit happens and the whole website has to lurch around conspiracy theories and rationalization.

It has frankly not been a fine showing for techno-libertarians. Not sure about showing up for a monarch executive now that you’ve seen your civil rights up for terms-of-service revisions by fiat huh? I’ve always thought the neo-monarchists to be dickriders but that’s a sentence that’s only comprehensible to the terminally online. And yes I should go outside and touch snow. I’ll do that now.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 715 and Hide Under The Covers

I don’t like having people in my house for non-social reasons. I’m easily overwhelmed by social situations when I expect to be left to my myself. I find myself getting anxious any time a service provider comes down the drive away. And yes, we have a cool home automation that sends me an alert.

I’d call it social anxiety except I’m reasonably good at social graces when it’s an obligation. I can hype myself to socialize when it’s me necessary. But sometimes, people are just in your space because it’s their job.

I can often hide away downstairs to avoid interactions. We’ve got workers coming in and out regularly for bigger outdoor projects like our solar panel installation. That’s not too bad as I can keep out of their way except for a polite hello and offers of water and snacks.

But sometimes I’ve got to bite the bullet and spend hours with people around me and there is no simple way to exchange social niceties and hide. I find this especially anxiety inducing for house cleaning. I can’t easily hide under the covers when it’s their job to change the sheets.

I am also the sort of person who cleans up for the cleaners. Not deep clean stuff but pick it up and put it away tasks. Hence my little organizing obsession with the cosmetics cabinet yesterday. Maybe that was just an early sign I self anxious about having people in my most intimate spaces.

I managed just find in this most embarrassingly privileged situation. I moved from room to room getting my work done for the day. If anything I had a very productive day as I kept running to the safety of my email inbox to create some distance. I did however take a nap once the house was empty this afternoon. Too many hours of hyper vigilance sure tired out my inner autist.

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Internet Culture

Day 702 and Fight or Flight

Being extremely online is physically quite taxing these days. We’ve got these amazing dopamine casinos that are constantly rolling out the exact animal attention our novelty wired brains crave.

And absolutely the entire world of causes is out there competing for your attention. Everything from sugar water to white nationalism is being sold on social media. And we are just click clicking away not even being concerned about how we are getting radicalized into redder or blacker pills. We are riding all kinds of unhygienic dick and I fear we’ve got some kind of STD that affects common sense.

And while I just made up an entire disease for comedic effect, I do think being steeped in a reactionary culture is bad for our bodies. We can’t always be in fight or flight. We cannot constantly pump the stress hormones. Too much cortisol is at the root of a thousand different inflammatory diseases. And trust me you don’t want one of those. It’s quite literally a pain.

Information warfare is being waged and your eyeballs are boots on the ground. And just like every other grunt in any other Great War, the powers that be think you are expendable.

And you’ve got to ask yourself if you think it’s worth dying for some other man’s culture war. Has he done something heroic for your life? Given you anything? Or is it just all a story being sold to you and from which, sadly, you profit little.

Categories
Culture

Day 700 and Focus

I’m noticing a latent fear in the startup management classes. How do we know if people are focused? Maybe it started with work from home skepticism. But now it’s become an all encompassing yet amorphous fear that nobody is focused anymore. And I have a theory.

It’s all projection. The fear is coming from inside the house. The world is so chaotic everyone is struggling to stay focused. This includes your manager. This includes your manager’s manager. Even your CEO is struggling to shake off the clinging entropy that emerges from constant crisis. And because shit rolls downhill everyone is now flailing around attempting to show they are doing their jobs even as they know they are failing. Even though it remains unsaid because it’s impolite to tell your boss he can’t focus.

The constant chaos that is tugging on our collective capacity to focus is quickly eroding our entire social contract. Not because no one does their jobs anymore. But because we want to be set up to succeed. Because “doing your job” is a point of pride for most people. We like to reliable even if we know there are limits to what we can deliver. So collectively we are hyper vigilant for fraud even as we lack all accountability to each other because we’ve got to protect ourselves first. Self care right?

I don’t see how we get out of this state of fight or flight without a significant changes to culture. Surveillance capitalism isn’t very effective at driving value. It is very good at exacting any drops of it from people attempting to maintain their own dignity. See for instance the railroad workers who have no flexibility in their scheduling. Now with added Congressional oversight!

Categories
Culture

Day 698 and Looking Ahead

I’ve got the sense that people are writing off big chunks of time. The long now has so thoroughly burned out everyone that who cares about achieving anything in the medium term right? December is a wash. Heck I’m talking to folks who have wrote off all of 2023 and even into 2024. The now and the long term are all that matters.

And I’m actually quite amenable to this viewpoint. I’ve still got to get things done before the end of the year. I’ve got fundraising to do and deals to close. I’m excited for how 2023 will go as a down market is a builder’s market. But I understand the frustration with trying to plan ahead when everything feels like it is crumbling. The medium term feels like a sand trap sucking in your attention and emotional energy.

It takes a guts to walk through a dark valley of despair. And we’ve got a lot to feel despairing about at the moment. But just because it is all doom and gloom doesn’t mean we’ve got no reason for optimism. People are resourceful and humans as a species are shockingly good at problem solving.

So I guess what I’m saying is I’m feeling good about looking ahead. Maybe it all takes longer than I’d like. But maybe it stops me from engaging in brute force efforts that are going to burn me out. We all just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Categories
Culture

Day 690 and Status Games

Noblesse oblige. Literally translated from the French as nobility obligates. It’s commonly understood to mean that aristocracy has a responsibility to act graciously towards the civilization which has granted them status.

It’s a turn of phrase I’ve written about before, specifically how in our post modern times, we are challenged to understand who is pursuing a life of virtue and what their obligations may be to the rest of us.

No one is sure if they are nobility or peasantry. No one is noble or good. Which means nobody deserves anything they get. Which is about as close to the war of all against all as I can imagine. Hobbes would be pleased.

JFredrickson.com Day 45

Humanity has always been rather clever at inventing new classes. We need fresh blood from the bottom to keep revolutionary sentiment in church. Every century we are finding new ways to fight it out for new types of status and virtue.

Business values money. Old money values class. The intelligentsia values intellect. Hipsters value taste. The religious value faith. And around we go with status games as we trade social capital for actual capital just so we can get something to eat.

There is always an emerging new game that upsets the underlying order. The printing press destabilized the church and its priestly cast. The internet destabilized the media and it’s editor cast. You know the drill.

Right now there is a massive internecine fight over which order rules over Twitter. And depending on whose camp you fall into you are probably signaling different things. And that lack of shared cultural values is leading to some pretty silly reactions. A lot of dickriding is happening across every major faction.

Which if you take away the reactionary specifics, is totally understandable. If one class of person values money but the competing group values taste than you aren’t really fighting for the same things. Different values are different.

But you’ve got to be careful with your own reactions. Ask yourself if you are responding out of some shared cultural loyalty that is overshadowing your own common sense. Your attention is valuable and powerful people recognize your attention for the commodity that it has become.

Don’t buy into bullshit just because it’s your team. The chance that someone is making a buck off of your attention sure ain’t zero. And America being a free country and all means you shouldn’t be living enthralled to someone else’s priorities.