Monthly Archives: May 2014

Og farvel igen

I am going away for more than a week and I do not intend to post. When I return to Maringouin I will say:

Even here, you do not have to suffer. Suffering is a Reeducated requirement, and a requirement in this local culture, but the people who wanted or want you to suffer are either dead, or out of your life, or irrelevant.

Reeducation wanted more emotional pain and also turmoil, and required suffering and self-mutilation as a way to create it. This, it said, was the reality from which one was shielding oneself by leading a good life.

That, however, does not mean Reeducation, or the Devil, must rule in this land — even if they rule many people here. But every time I come back to Maringouin I am either terrified that Reeducation will be waiting, and I thus attract it to myself, or I am convinced it will not, and I let my guard down.

When I get back I will rule, and if I cannot I will fight, but I will do this in a bored way.

I will also remember that my B.A. is real even though my aunt paid the fees and even though I went to a school the family thought was too good for me. I am so tired of struggling with my memories of the accusations around this:  I had not “really done it,” had not “done it myself,” and so on.

At some level I got the impression that everyone had been told I was not really enrolled, but was just being allowed to pretend, and that the world had believed this. The degree was real, but only I and the university knew that, I felt.

Finally, I will only try to extirpate one dark thought like this per day — if that. I will cause these ideas to dissipate.

And it is summer, and there will be sun and water and leafy shade at least some days, and we can stretch and run and breathe, and read our books. And I am no longer required to engage in self-harm so as to prove loyalty or worth. And Reeducation replaced books with itself but I can take them back.

I have not felt so relaxed in a long time, or in such direct contact with things.



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On getting back to what needs to be done

Now everything is beautiful again and it has to do with pleasure. Or the self-love I lost in Reeducation and have difficulty summoning here.

It is not this town that is terrible, although it does not suit me; and it is not academia, although I wish I could have done something more interesting. It is this university having been, and being such a space of trauma.

The idea of “getting back to what needs to be done” is so freeing in so many senses. In Reeducation, doing what needed to be done would have been considered “being in denial” and “having control.”


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Como con el dentista

I don’t think I will ever know how to untangle these questions, on whether or not I could have liked academia or really did like it … or really did not, yet did not know that tolerating something was not the same as liking it.

On living here, however, I do note one thing: part of the reason I get so depressed when I come in from elsewhere is that I fear the pain of being here, the way one gets nervous before going to the dentist, thus making the visit worse.

And in general, in life you have to treat yourself well and you must not be afraid. In Reeducation we were not allowed this.

I am always afraid of what a torturer will do and I learned that if I self-mutilated before they started, I could often head a whole session off.


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On autonomy and peace

I almost never feel autonomous, but I sometimes feel peaceful.  Sometimes I can see what autonomy and peace would be like together; they look good.

As a younger person I knew neither was meant for me, but I admired them and I was surprised one day long ago when it seemed I had them on firm loan. If you surrounded yourself with people who liked themselves and allowed themselves to enjoy life, you would find that they lent you autonomy and peace, I learned.

Later as professors, and then in Reeducation, we had to renounce both. We were now flawed clients seeking favor and without right to autonomy or peace–or reason or joy, of course. I used to have to leave the country to come into contact with these things, but I wonder whether I can conjure them, create them, here, now.

I also wonder whether, when my friend said I clearly did not like academia and I said I just did not like my job, I actually meant I did not mind academia. Perhaps it was that I did not yet know what it was to like something.


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On enthusiasm

Someone is President of an organization called Restore Louisiana Now and I am envious — that is the kind of job I want. I think of my law degree and work on globalization and prison industrial complex, or my Near Eastern Studies degree and the active job I would have found in a large, international organization, and the tension flows away. My headache eases, and my claustrophobia, and my general uneasiness. I do not have to goad my mind into focus.

I had motivation for graduate school because it was supporting an interesting life in a beautiful place, and it gave me an opportunity to heal myself. But professordom means renouncing beautiful places and interesting things, and engaging in self-harm.

Dame Eleanor Hull says I am describing the jobs I have had, not the profession. That is what I used to say to a perceptive, nonacademic friend who would watch me work and say I should quit because I did not like it, and I had talents I could use for many things.

I disagree with Dame Eleanor Hull now and agree with my other friend, but it is late. I was animating one of my also suffering colleagues the other night, about how we have to simply take over and do things in a pleasant and responsible way whether the university likes it or not. A friend of mine was animating me along the same lines.

We will decide we are right. We will take no discussion, and do as we see fit. I have never done that in an academic job before. I have always tried to fit in, tried to become less interesting and less challenging so I could survive. And I wish I had left as soon as I found out what academia really was, but I have determined it is too late. And we have been rendered unemployable elsewhere by working here too long.

But we will become ourselves again nonetheless, and we will take over even if this only means taking the kind of control over our jobs that professors have elsewhere as a matter of course.

And when I could afford to think more clearly, and I heard people say things like what I am saying now, I would think: “The fact that they have to try so hard to get themselves going is actually indicative of a serious problem.”  I still think so, although the serious problem is how we have been treated and what that has done to us more than it is a question of where our interests lie.




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I will make a T shirt

It will say:

1. My father can drive.
2. He can shop, and has always done.
3. He can cook, and has always done.
4. He eats three meals a day more religiously than you or I.
5. No, he does not need “24 hour care.” That was what he arranged for my mother, who was on her deathbed. He, however, is not on his. He was walking and talking before my mother died, and he walks and talks now. No, he did not catch cancer from her. No, it is not contagious.
6. No, I am not upset that my mother was cremated.
7. No, I am not upset that there is no funeral, because I saw her before she died.
8. No, I am not upset that there is no obituary.
9. Yes, these were her wishes, and no, it is not difficult to honor these wishes.
10. No, I am not in denial about any of the above.

I will make a voice recording of these points and put it on the answering machine, and it will cover most of what people want to know when they make condolence calls.



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“I hope you can get back to what needs to be done”

Someone said this, and it is the correct attitude.

In Reeducation it would have been “denial” and inappropriate generally. One should be felled by everything, call in sick, take leave from work, retire.

Reeducation believed in opening veins and draining life out slowly.

That is NOT health. But there was so much discussion about self-care, which meant:

(a) the renunciation of exercise, recreation and general free time in favor of lamentation, and

(b) the renunciation of work, accomplishment, achievement, and financial stability on the theory that these were mere illusions.

“I hope you can get back to what needs to be done” is SO much saner.


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Topic modeling and literary studies

Check it out.


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People were so stressed yesterday. My dentist was blocked into his house by a flood and did not meet his appointments.

I conversed with one who is concerned he will not be allowed to teach his course with the same textbook a second time, one who does not realize she is going to pass her defense, and one who is getting divorced. The one getting divorced was the least stressed, and the one concerned he will only be allowed to use a particular text once was the most.

Then I assuaged the anxieties of two who are very concerned about my father and about me because of my mother. In all catastrophes the largest task is comforting the sympathetic.

I am considered coldhearted but it is really just the ability to be objective, or to be emphatic yet not histrionic.



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You have to be ruthless

You have to be ruthless.


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