On manipulation and projection.
When coping, we all project to some degree or another. When we empathize, we project a little bit upon others and assume that we can get into their shoes and see things from their perspective. We need to project a little bit because, ultimately, we're all alone. We do our best to make community, but ultimately we're very alone.
A few months ago I came across this infographic while navigating Pinterest. It really bothered me to discover it. However, I've learned to do my best to pay special attention to things that seem to irk me, so here it is:
My issue is that I really don't want to be the manipulator. But I read through those "red flags" and can't help but feel like I've taken part in a good portion of those.
But I've gotten to a point where I second-guess my intentions so much that I can't help but feel like I must be a manipulator, that I must be a desperate, terrible person to have the desires that I do, to have said the things I have. And then I spiral downwards, unable to even fully come to grips with my own sense of reality. And I wonder if I'm just some projection machine, blasting everyone around me with my own ego.
That's the thing about being in relationship with people: friends, intimate partners, spouses, children, etc.: context really does make a difference. All. The. Time. And we hope that our relationships can share a common reality.
And when they don't seem to share that common reality, our shared projection gets blurry and out of focus. And then we realize just how alone we can be.
So I'm astoundingly grateful for those relationships with whom I seem to be able to share a common projection, with whom it seems like we can look at the same screen and perceive a clear image. I cherish shared a clear images of the world, even if the image itself is a little unseemly.
The other night, while I took Rosita for a walk, Brandi Carlile's "The Story" began to play on my headphones.
"The Story" is one of my ex's songs. For years, she loved it and adored it and sang along with it whenever she could. I remember it was one of the songs she wanted me to teach her on the guitar. It's a gorgeous song fleshed with loads of common imagery and Carlile's performance meshes perfectly with the content.
But I don't think it was one of "our songs." It was her song. So of course it sent me deep into the dregs of nostalgic reverie.
We walked down the aisle, just over ten years ago, to Pierce Pettis' "You Move Me."
Our first "date," if you could call it that, was a Pierce Pettis basement show in Delta, BC, back in January or so of 2006. It was only appropriate that we'd walk down the aisle to the song.
And it was appropriate because she did move me for a long time. I'd like to think that our relationship lived up to the ideals that the song promoted. I mean, read it:
But now I'm back on the couch, taking the therapy, heart hanging out. And I guess I'll never get to listen to the song the same again.
I've tried to write about the idea of "narcissism" before. For a while there, psychological diagnoses took up a significant amount of my thinking. For the last four months or so, however, I haven't been thinking about them much at all. After all my self-directed studies, the books I read, and the podcasts I listened to, I decided to focus on what's in the heart and to try to stay away from armchair amateur psychological diagnosis. I'm not a professional in that field; I shouldn't even begin to pretend to be one.
Over the last couple days, this letter by Allen Frances found its way onto The New York Times:
And then I got to hear this articulate and pithy interview with Frances on CBC's As It Happens:
I admit it: this backs up my current prejudice to let the professionals take care of this sort of thing. I admit that it's made me very uncomfortable to hear people throw the words around because I thought it was OK to throw the words around too, despite all the warnings like the one above.
I appreciate Frances' attitude here:
And I'd say this is a good attitude to have going forward: focus on behavior, focus on democracy, and focus on what really affects people about Trump's behavior. But don't try to diagnose him; it's too contentious and speculative to be worthwhile.
What did I have to say?
There's this photo of me on Facebook. My friend Peter, who's playing congas with me here, is playing with me. My guess is that the photo was taken in 2001, but it could have been taken a little earlier.
The thing is that I don't remember what I was singing about. I think I was playing at Felicita's at UVic, but I don't remember why. I have no idea what songs might have showed-up on that setlist hanging from the microphone—printed characteristically on a used piece of paper, a photocopied article. It was 2001 and I thought myself a musician of sorts... but what did I have to say? I have no fucking idea.
This is a problem as I try to find my way through all this separation stuff. In the vernacular, a psychological assessor said my "values are all over the place." And it seems like, as I listen to podcasts and read self-help and leadership books, it's highly encouraged to follow your vision. It seems as if happiness lies in one's ability to live out their singular purpose, to live out their message in such a way that lets them live a life where message and life are blurred and beautiful.
I have no idea what my message is, what I'd like to say to the world. I feel utterly lost in this. I don't think it's a matter of religious apostasy, but over the last few years my ability to access my "voice" has diminished until I don't know what to do with it.
And I don't have to go back to 2001 to figure it out. I wrote a personal weblog on a near-daily basis between 2001-2005; I made a CD of original songs in 2006; I wrote a CD's worth of as-yet-unreleased material over the few years that followed—but by 2013, my writing essentially stopped. I no longer played riffs and thought "I should use that" and built something around it. I had nothing to say.
And I could feel it happening. I tried a few things to fight it: I worked with a drummer and tried to write some songs using riffs; I would record mini-moments of inspiration on my phone and hope to make sense of them when I came back to them; I sat down and wrote journals; I tried to write semi-creative blog posts; I tried to attend open-mic nights and pub jams; I tried to record videos of cover songs, secretly hoping that they'd turn into something of my own. I'd sit down and try to learn proper riffs, hoping they'd lead to new flashes of inspiration. But they never did. And I still feel like I have nothing to say.
There are ironies here: I know people want to hear what I have to say; I know people care about me and think I have worthwhile ideas; I know people can see that I have a vision for things. And I'm anxious to get it out, myself.
I imagine a good portion of it is separation-based. This whole marriage-falling-apart thing has been a pretty enormous blow to my ego, and it's been a long process that continues to take up an inordinate amount of brainspace in any given moment. So perhaps, as I learn how to be myself again, maybe I'll find a way to articulate my vision again, whatever it is.
But it's not there yet. My vision simmers at best.
But I could sure use some of that overflowing confidence to express myself again.
And using "simmers" reminded me of this special moment from last summer:
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