So, as the title suggests, its been a while. But tonight I felt the urge to let some crap out. I've been ruminating again. Like that old cow that sits chewing the cud in a field. I sure been chewing the cud. The cud being the realization that I am fundamentally pointless. As in, I am doing sweet F.A. with my life, and as such, whats the point. I don't wish to alarm anyone but there have been, what are clinically termed, 'suicidal thoughts'. But lets not get ahead of ourselves. Yes I have considered killing myself at some point in the future, but not from any hatred of myself. Its because I believe that with all that I have been given I should do something with it. Also because I feel that that is what humans should do. All animals have their place and function in Gaia (and yes, I am a Gaia believer) and humans should do the same, in whatever culture they find themselves in. I find myself in an industrial, capitalist society that thrives on the 'Protestant ethic'. Doing what you can to at least assuage your, and yours, idea of what constitutes uselfulness. I am not doing that. My parents have worked their socks off to achieve the life that I now enjoy. Both came from working class or upper working class families that did not necessarily encourage free thinking and tolerance and yet my parents are both posterchilds of just that. And thank God for them. Yet, I still find myself languishing in cut rate jobs that have little to do with the (many) top grade educations I have received. Even being a mother would please me no end. Luckily, this society has just about clung on to the acknowledgement that having children and raising them to be good people is a valued choice. But (and I hate those buts) I don't even have the hope that I can be the person who finds someone with whom having children is not something that appals. So what the fuck am I going to do? I'm too damn lazy to ever get my ass in gear to bloody do something (so far anyway) and yet I do not want to just 'exist' in this halfway house of an existence. And if I can't at least be a mother to someone then whats the point? And that is why the thought of suicide sometimes enters my head. But its not a bad thing. I hope you see what I mean by that, Why just exist? Why just keep on going for the sake of it, taking space and resources when you can't even pass it on?
So, back from France. Felt like I was never away. Straight back into work and straight back into avoiding my dissertation... Interestingly, my first plane out of Geneva got struck by lightning and we had to go back to the airport. I was sitting in the aisle near one of the engines when there was a big blue flash and the guy behind me jumped out of his seat. I thought it looked like lightning or maybe that an engine had gone squiffy but then nothing happened and no one said anything so I just thought 'nah, couldn't have been'. The woman next to me was looking pretty freaked but I just kept on reading because the more I thought about that blue flash the more panicky I felt. Then ten minutes later the captain gets on the intercom and says, in his lovely calm Swiss German accent, "You may have noticed that we were hit by lightning a little while back and we've decided to divert back to Geneva just to make sure everything is ok etc etc". But what was quite funny is how calm everyone was. I think we were all just a bit confused and trying hard not to entertain thoughts of a fiery death with a bunch of strangers. I know thats what I was thinking. The turbulence was shocking as well so that didn't help. Nor did it help that I've recently developed a bit of neurosis around flying. I've been flying all about the place my whole life and never had a problem but recently I've begun to get panicky at take off. It always hits me as we start ascending that there is sweet f-a between me and a very far away ground. It only really lasts during take off, once we're flying I'm fine. Its almost like a vertigo, the way I feel when I'm up high somewhere and no barrier, no matter how thick or sturdy, is good enough for me. Anyway, all fine obviously. Except waiting around for the next flight. They gave us a 5 france voucher, which buys you bugger all. In my case, half a beer. So I bought make up in duty free, just for the shits and kicks.
Another oddity from my time in the land of the French was my reaction to a novel my mother lent me. Trauma by Patrick McGrath, obviously perfect for me as the main character is a psychiatrist working with Vietnam vets before PTSD was even thought of. The guys a bit of an emotional wreck himself, alchoholic and depressed mother, asshole brother, absent father, failed marriage etc. His take on combat trauma was straight out of the work of an American psychiatrist, Jonathan Shay, who works with veterans with chronic PTSD. He wrote a wonderful book Achilles in Vietnam, that I would recommend to anyone interested in combat related traumatic illness. However this book did strike a few chords with me and I got very distressed when I finished it. There were some things about the main character's past that I very much identified with and won;t go into on a public blog, but it was just weird how desolate I felt after reading it. It threw up a lot of problems I've been having with my dissertation. Obviuosly I have no way of identifying with combat PTSD but all the reading I've been doing on trauma and memory has been digging up nasty little problems that I thought I'd dealt with and obviously haven't....
The gist of my problem? How to put this without sounding like a complete self obsessed neurotic...What I'm looking at is how memory is used in a culture like ours is as a form of identity. We have come to see ourselves as defined by what we remember, and in the case of traumatic memeory, what we forget or repress/suppress/ignore. The goal is to have a coherent narrative of our lives, a storybook that describes who we are and how we came to be. The problem being that memory is not that simple. It isn't coherent, or even that tied to time and place. Ian Hacking has described the medicalization of memory as a 'rewriting of the soul', an attempt to take what is beyond medicine and science, the soul (however you understand that) and make it scientific, and that was done through the memory. Such that what could be argued to be culturally defined responses to stress are medicalized and pathologized and interventions are deemed necessary. From this we get illnesses like Dissociative Identity Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as the old school hysteria. The intervention consists of putting the traumatic memory(ies) into their alloted place and creating a narrative that generally ends up making a victim of the interventionee. I'll not go in to all the problems I have with this approach. Suffice it to say that what is said about memory and the way that it is seen as a medical problem and not a social one is close to me. A big upheaval that I had recently was a trauma of a sort. It wasn;t huge and it didn't physically invade me but it did destroy the life I'd lived up to that point. Everything I trusted and believed in, and importantly, the grounds that I'd built my sense of self upon were gone, very suddenly. With that went my memories, everything I remembered about my past, the story I told about myself in other words, contained this person and they had gone suddenly sour. I couldn't think about them as it hurt. At the same time, the thought of a life without this person was horrific. So I was stuck. I couldn't look back or forward and I was in pain. And I didn't know how to explain it, I couldn't find the words to describe what they had done and what it meant to me. Eventually I realized that those around me didn;t really care and they didn;t really want to know so I 'made my peace'. Supposedly. Now, getting to the point finally. Everything I described above are the classic symptoms of traumatic illnesses. First thing, I don;t think I'm traumatized, I know I'm not. What happened to me is tiny from the outside but it was a personal trauma, I suppose. A mini earthquake inside me I suppose you could say. Anyway, it made me see that I never made my peace I just pushed it under and every now and then it bubbles up in odd ways. Like breaking down because of a novel. or just suddenly crying and not knowing why etc etc. BUT! Another received wisdom of trauma is its contagiousness. Those who work with the traumatized often come to identify so closely that they begin to display signs of trauma themsleves. So am I actually needing to deal with something I thought I'd dealt with, or have I caught the 'trauma bug' as it were, from my work with the veterans, which didn;t go too well itself?
More importantly, have I made any sense, or has this just been a case of navel gazing par excellence? Am I just a bit of a neurotic? For those of you still reading, god bless you and I salute your patience and fortitude!
Right, I've just spent the best part of two hours flopping ineffectually about on my parents deck chair. Sometimes reading, mostly just bemoaning my existence. I cannot figure out why it is that I find writing things like dissertations so difficult. Part of me is just too scared to start as I have a horrible feeling that I'll start writing and then realize that all my ideas and arguments and 'insights' amount to a few thousand words and I'll be left with a choice of padding it out to the tune of 10,000 words or running away to a nunnery (as my Dad helpfully suggested today, as I lay groaning on the deck chair). Running away is always a seductive idea, especially when one has spent four years studying anthopology, with an emphasis on French thinkers. After all, if its the case that there is no true reality, and that all our systems, institutions, codes, morals, ethics and such like are cultural constructions of power and authority, then me running away is not actually running away its claiming my freedom from repressive systems of education whose demands for concrete proof of my learning is no more than an attempt to mould me into an acceptable subject. Yes? Oh if only...Thats the problem with too much theory. It reads superbly, and is great to talk and think about but not for living in. I'm a good little subject at heart, following along the correct path and all that. Ok I think thats about enough whingeing for today.
After much bullying and brow beating from my friends I have finally arrived here in this...place. Unfortunately I've set this up from a computer in France, so everything is in French, and my French is only so good, or so bad. It can't quite cope with instructions on blog set up, my English can barely cope. My father has just entered the room and glared at me. Bless him. I think he wants the computer. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I don't really know what I'm doing, and am just trying to put off doing work on my dissertation. Trauma and memory be damned, I'm blogging! I think...