Again, Isolated


12th November 2016

T. —

Question two: What’s one thing that’s happened to you in your life that has made you feel weak?

I have to put this out there: I hate the interview question about weaknesses. “What’s your biggest weakness?” I hate it mostly for the sake of the way we have to contort our answers to make us look somewhat positive in spite of talking about perceived weaknesses. Which means that our weaknesses are never actually honest.

“Oh, you know. I care too much.”

“I work too hard.”

*

Just like the only thing we fear is fear itself, the only things that can make me feel weak are not acknowledging the honesty of my perceived weaknesses. 

When I tend towards stress, I forget to eat. That’s a carryover from my relationship with food in high school. Every time stress approaches, I forget. I honestly don’t see it coming. Until I’m in the middle of the situation, and eating consistent meals takes tremendous effort and attention.

I see a lot of patterns that others don’t see. Which means that I often anticipate work that needs to get done, or things that need to be picked up, assignments that need to be completed. Trends between things that need to be stitched together. I always end up thinking: Because I’m the one who sees it, I’m the one who will have to do it.

I do other people’s work before my own.

I have a weakness in my own awareness of my body. I forget I am a physical being. I am a thinking being, always. Sometimes it eclipses my physical experience.

I get distracted by my own interests. I want to grow skills in so many areas that it can be an immense challenge to rein myself in. To focus.

I get impatient and frustrated when people don’t listen properly. To myself, to other people, to things they’re saying. That all-too-easily moves over into judgment, and I don’t want to do that. I just want to encourage and teach people how to have better conversations. Which means I often have to bypass the frustration and impatience.

I lose myself in books. I sell my heart to books. I escape the world through books. This is often my greatest strength, but the balance of life is in its shadow side. And this absolutely, hands down, has a shadow side. A removal. A denial. An isolation. 

I forget that weaknesses eventually strengthen, that new cracks form, that growth begets entirely different obstacles. I forget to stay vigilant. I forget to change the style of my observations and self-reflections. I forget. I forget the patterns. I forget to recognise things, and I forget to question. 

Which sounds insane to anyone who knows me. Because clearly I pattern, I reflect, and I question during most waking hours of my life.

I have a weakness for creative partnerships. Feeling like I don’t have an active participation in that kind of partnership makes me feel… antsy. Jealous. 

Again, isolated. When alone, that kind of lonely, my mind runs circles around me. And it’s not good for anyone.

I have a strong weakness that tends towards isolation and independence. It has taken me decades to work out how to befriend, how to develop relationships, how to deepen them, how to grow them, how to give them space and let them live.

The juggling of all of these weaknesses, predilections, desires — over the years, these have grown into the roots of all paths I take.

More soon,

M

How to Bend, Not Break

Victoria Eriksson


11 November 2016

T. –

Question one: What’s one thing that has happened to you that has made you a stronger person?

It’s no one thing. It’s one fierce ride.

It’s three divorces, two countries, airplanes and suitcases. It’s knowledge of multiple local places, homes that keep shifting and changing until the idea of home doesn’t actually have the same boundaries to the container anymore.

It’s the juxtaposition of age and memory. It’s the flux of interpretation, meaning, and experience. It’s sequential memory, and blocked-out memory. It’s the things I’ll never forget, and the details that evolve and grow up to become more than themselves.

The best part of the question is: what does it mean to have something happen to me? Is it a position I’ve put myself in? Is it the journey of a million deliberate steps? Heidegger has this amazing phrase called “thrownness”. But the only things we are thrown into, against our will, is the relationship with the circumstances surrounding our birth and our death. We don’t control where we are born, and to whom, and where, and what surrounds us. Similarly, we rarely have control over the circumstances of our deaths.

Death has come up in multiple conversations I’ve had recently. Today: death as the only thing we can count on. Last week: the way I say “I’ll try not to die on my trip to the US” instead of “I’ll miss you, and things will happen to both of us while I’m gone. I’m joking, but my jokes are pointing to something deeper that I wish we had the time and space to talk about.”

When I was younger, I was so afraid I would die en route to something, that I wrote letters to my friends and family before every flight I took. New letters each time, to my crushes, to my family, to the people I would leave behind if I died. When the flight was successful, when the trip had finished, when I came back home, I got rid of the letters.

I think there’s only one letter in current existence to be given to someone in the event of my death. It’s in the bottom of someone else’s drawer.

What is one thing that has happened to me that has made me stronger? The confluence of events, in the order and manner in which they have happened. The moment I learned how to understand and articulate my own unique ways of being in the world. The day I found Philosophy. The first day I met failure, and decided it was temporary instead of fatal. The first time I admitted a serious mistake I was ashamed of. The night I stay up later to keep writing, to keep driving, to keep the momentum going, to strengthen the muscles that will collaborate and eventually get me closer to where I’m heading.

The first time I walked out on stage and realised that I was no longer shaking, that I had shaken off all of the stage fright, all of the nerves, set all the butterflies free.

The first time I tried on a new view of my life and it fit like a warm coat.

The moment I realised all of us are more than one thing.

The practice of learning how to bend, not break.

The practice of how to come back from the brink, how to be brought back, how to ask someone else to grab my hand and hold the ground until I can re-gravitate myself back into orbit.

More soon,

M