Saturday, December 11, 2010

#reverb10 - Day 11: a very messy set of answers

December 11 – 11 Things What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life? (Author: Sam Davidson)

You can see by now that I can be awfully lax about these prompts when I choose to be. I'm not sure I can write the answers that I want to this one, but I can start.

1. Crushing self-doubt: I'm increasingly conscious of the fact that part of me has given up on myself. At the same time, I'm aware that this view is distorted -- and I can think of instances, in the very recent past, that prove to me that it's wrong. But there are also times when I'm surprised at myself; at my mere ability to focus. Friday I worked all day long on an editing project, moving steadily through 70 pages of text; and at the end of the day, I was both delighted and surprised, because I realize that I'd concluded from the start that I was wholly incapable of that level of focus.

2. A deep-seated fear that the work I do doesn't contribute to the rest of the world, or rather, isn't the contribution that the world needs most. With everything I see happening, from the hunger of people on the streets, to an increasing inability to use analytical reasoning, or willingness to display compassion, why does the world need me to dig up perspectives on economic development in 18th and 19th century Britain? It sounds, I know, as though I've read too many of those "the humanities are worthless" articles in the mainstream media. It also sounds as though I'm beating myself up for not being capable of being Christ himself on the cross, right here and right now. Not really a valid thing to beat myself up about, honestly, or even a good one, because that bit of scripture in Matthew (25:40, I think) about "even what you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me") can be interpreted, I think, as being also applicable in that even the least good things are still important.

I need to keep on exploring this one. Part of it is clearly just depression, but part of it *is* about my own engagement with the question, "What do the humanities have to offer the world today?" and I do have an answer to that. I'm just terrified to explore it, or not sure I'm capable of doing so (see item #1 above).

3. Less clutter. I think that the Christmas present I give myself should be an entire day for sorting through old papers, and getting rid of stuff I don't need. I've gotten better about not acquiring more junk, but I need to get better at divesting myself of old junk that remains.

4. Too much work at the wrong time, or not enough of the right sort of social activities. This is a complex one, all tangled up with the first two parts of this list, but also with my own shyness, and the problem of not feeling especially at home in this city. I've felt out of place here for years. This doesn't mean that I don't appreciate the marvels of living in a town with good options for gluten-free groceries, farmers' markets almost every day of the week (if you know where to look), and a poetry bookstore. But I'm conscious, especially now that I'm back from a quick trip to London, of how much I miss not only the SEL, but also the city itself.

I have friends here, who I like spending time with. I am lucky to have them close by, and I should take advantage of that fact. Setting up social activities is not procrastination by default.

That's four things. Supposedly, I need seven more. I'm not sure that I'm quite self-aware enough to identify the other seven.

5. Too much internet at the wrong time (or, maybe one of the things I don't need is a SmartPhone). I first started using the internet as a wake-up tool during my senior year of undergrad, when I would wake up, and crawl from one end of the bed to the other, where my desktop computer was, and dial up the internet to read Slate first thing in the a.m. Now I check my email, a couple of blog listings, and a friendslist on LJ, and Facebook, and Twitter. I'm embarrassed to admit that there's a bit of voyeurism in this: I want, quietly, to see the world bustling about. But doing this tends to start off the day with distraction, with an attempt to escape myself. It might be better if I started off the day by allowing myself to read a chapter of a book in order to wake up. That's still a form of escapism, but it's escapism where I feel more present, and not less. I think that I should try doing that for a week, starting tomorrow.

6. Cripes. I have no idea. I think I'll stop here, because the five things above are things that I *can* begin to deal with; and I suspect that as I deal with them, other things will become more clear.


7. New Kid's post for today mentions jettisoning distance from family. Like her, I don't have a magic way of just choosing to end the distance between Seattle and London and the SEL, so I don't know how to do this. But I'd like to find a way, so I'm putting it here, for the record.


  1. Numbers 1, 3, and 5, and to a certain extent 4, were on my list too, with slight variations (my wrong internet time is late at night, and I'm trying to aim for socializing that isn't superficial). And I get 2 as well.

  2. I guess I look at your scholarly life as a calling. I respect it. Humanity gains so much from the people who help us understand context and history; where would we be without you and other serious scholars?