At the gym, I was watching television while rowing. On the show, the daughter told her mother, “I am so tired of you always expecting the worst of me!” And I realized that was it. There are so many factors. I love two-year-olds because I was adored at that age as well, but when I became more independent I also came under suspicion. That is one of the things.

In graduate school, I did not understand why the more advanced we got the less we were trusted to be competent. A friend explained recently that it was because in fact people do reach the limits of their abilities in that trajectory, and the faculty was waiting to see who would next fall.

Other examples of expecting the worst are the exhortations to save time which assume one plans to waste it, and the demands to rush, which assume one is inefficient. (Tips on how to avoid drudgery are one thing, but the insistence on tight scheduling and on goading oneself with timers, for instance, are quite another.) One of my friends in graduate school used the ten minutes between classes to grade papers, but I would use them to look at the trees and hills. This did not delay me, and it gave me clear eyes.

Writing advice also appears to be driven by negative expectations. You are not capable of thought, interested in research, or good at writing, but you must produce something. This is where the love of timers and goads seems to come from. I have been collaborating with a colleague who lacks motivation and it is a revelation seeing how they work (that is, do not work). They are known and liked for their flexible affability and for not having an axe to grind, but the facts turn out to be that they lacks the information needed to form an opinion, and the motivation to get this information. They live in another world.

Today I will start with research where I left off Tuesday. I will touch and breathe life into the books I have not been touching, and that seem stagnant for that reason. In teaching as well I will take power and reduce drudgery. I will not say to myself the things I say without realizing it, that I say because they were said to me.

“We do not love you or trust you and you should not love or trust yourself.” “You are making things up.” “You are powerless against us, and no-one will believe you.” “Life should not be treated with love.”


One thought on “Insight

  1. Also: looking back through this blog I realize how energized I was before I got backed into this work on Peruvian poetry — which, interestingly, happened around the time my mother died. Things improved when she died, but this work has been a drag on me. I wonder whether it is outright unhealthy, or what I can do to make it not be so.

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