Okay, well, hello and good morning. It’s Thursday, and so it’s time for my weekly blog post. I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for it on tenterhooks.
It’s the first day of July, and in the U.S., we’ll have our founding holiday this weekend—Independence Day, popularly referred to merely by its date, The Fourth of July. I prefer the more formal term, myself, since it reminds us of what we’re supposedly celebrating. It’s a nice day to reread the Declaration of Independence, if you’ve not read it in a while, or have never read it. It’s not very long, and it’s okay to skip the list of grievances if you want. Actually, it’s okay if you skip the whole thing and just spend the day with your family (if that’s an option for you) and maybe watch and/or set off some fireworks. It’s not as though any of it really matters.
Of course, if you’re outside of the United States, you probably will just have an ordinary Sunday.
I’ve continued to edit In the Shade, being fairly draconian in my word trimming, and I think it’s having a good effect. Of course, I don’t know how others will perceive the outcome. For one thing, no one is going to be able to read it in its first draft form and then compare it to the final draft to see which they like better. Then again, it’s unlikely that anyone will ever read it but me, anyway. And if they do, it’s unlikely that I’ll get any feedback about it. So, again, it’s not as though any of it really matters.
A rather peculiar, or disturbing, or enlightening sequence of events happened to me over the course of this last week, some of the details of which I’m not quite ready to get into, but the general shape of which I’m prepared to share.
As happens sometimes, the YouTube algorithm—drawing from its vast, mindless database of patterns of videos people have watched and “liked” after watching others—presented me with a video on a subject that I’d not seen before. Not to say I wasn’t aware of the subject, I’d just never watched or sought out any such videos, nor read any but very general information about it. It’s one I was aware of, as a medical doctor (by training and degree, though no longer in practice), but I was far from an expert in the subject. Something about the video’s thumbnail intrigued me, so I watched it, and one or two others by the same person. I was truly flabbergasted by how familiar many of the things this person was saying were to me.
So, I decided to take an online test (it’s created and provided by a legitimate scientific source, not some click-bait website), and I got a surprisingly high result. Higher than this video-maker had scored when he took the test, and higher than that of some other people who do videos on the same subject.
I assumed that I must have been exaggerating, overestimating, and misinterpreting the test questions, and so the next day I took it again, trying to control for such overstatement. It came back with a higher score. So, being me, I watched more videos and bought a book or two* and looked up some research papers and less formal writings, and I’m sneaking myself toward the suspicion that this test may actually be correct. I’ve even retaken it again since, trying harder not to be melodramatic, and my score went up more.
(I only once took a related, subsequent test, created by the same scientist/group that had created the first; on this one the lower the score is, the more “positive”, and my score was so surprisingly, remarkably low that I think it has to be an error or a fluke of the way I took the test, or a product of my bias, or something like that. I haven’t taken that one again. I’m frankly afraid of the result.)
I know I’m being terribly vague about all this, but please try to bear with me. I don’t like jumping to conclusions, and I’m quite hesitant about my ability to be objective about myself. I’ve only told one person (my employer) about the results with full information about what it was, partly because of the understanding way he’s always responded to my weirdness. He was only generally familiar with the subject but seemed almost congratulatory about the result, which caught me by surprise. I don’t quite know what to make of that.
I also don’t know what to do about all this; at first it seemed like a possible boon, a useful discovery, but now I fear that it really doesn’t change anything or, again, really matter at all. There are links provided, after one takes the test and gets a high score, to possible people to “speak” to, to find out more, or get “help”, or whatever, but frankly, the thought of interacting with such people, or even of seeking out others who have scored highly on such tests is about as pleasant as being told that, to achieve some moderately desirable result, I need to eat a large bowl of fried eggplant. That may not sound bad to many of you—you may happen to like eggplant—but even the smell of cooking eggplant makes me physically prone to throw up**.
I can’t even bring myself to seek out a new therapist regarding my dysthymia/depression, which is a confirmed and often dangerous problem for me; I’ve been through it all so often and in so many ways, and I have actual, clinical, expert level understanding of the problem—I’ve literally helped treat people for it, as a medical doctor.
It’s not out of arrogance that I avoid getting the therapy (though I think I am arrogant sometimes); I’m quite sure there are many people out there who could provide useful feedback and input for me, even if there’s no greater explanatory insight involved. I’ve had therapists I liked, and who helped me, and if I could go to one of them again, I probably would, but none of those is close enough and I have no interest in trying to meet and develop a relationship with a new one. The prospect is such a huge and daunting chore as to make me feel more depressed (see above about the eggplant).
So, anyway, for right now, I’m caught in a conundrum, with all the force vectors pushing against each other and holding me, pierced like a dissection specimen, in the center of their arrows. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a psychologist (not about me, this was in a professional context) who said that in family therapy, in a severely dysfunctional setting, sometimes the only thing they could do would be the equivalent of setting off a stick of dynamite in the family dynamic, and hoping that after the explosion, things would settle back into at least a less dysfunctional pattern. It sounded awful. But sometimes I fear that it will require similar metaphorical dynamite for anything to change for me. I’ve been through such explosions, more than once, and I don’t think the new patterns are better. I don’t like my odds.
So, anyway, I’m knowingly being nonspecific, partly out of embarrassment, partly out of honest confusion about what, if anything, to do. I guess it might be nice to find a kindred spirit of some sort, but I honestly doubt whether such a person exists, and the notion of hoping they might be possible and then finding they are not, or failing in some other fashion, is worse than not knowing. Tennyson was an idiot, frankly, and similarly, Sisyphus would have been far better served just to stop pushing that stupid boulder. He wasn’t going to get anywhere with it, no matter what he did. He’d have been better served just to use it as a chair or a back rest and go to sleep.
That’s enough of all that for now. I hope you’re all well, and that you have a terrific month of July, holidays or not.
*Academic in character—the “personal” ones seemed entirely too subjective and anecdotal, which is probably unfair of me, especially given the nature of this blog post, but I’m trying to learn objective things, as much as possible, and most stories of and by real people, in written form, tend just to spin my head around, or bore me, and aren’t useful for insights.
**I’m not exaggerating. It’s worse than mildew, worse than the smell of a dead skunk on the highway, and far more nauseating than walking into a camp latrine that hasn’t been cleaned in years. It’s a physical response, not a value judgement. I’m honestly envious of people who like eggplant, as with other foods I find intolerable. They get so much pleasure from them, and it’s pleasure I can never have.
Testing holds a fascination for me. I have taken several legitimate tests and not so, with results that go from interesting to laughable. I tend to use the legitimate to understand and grow, the other is a nice laugh. As for not be able to tolerate smells, my mother cannot smell skunk. Which I envy greatly.
I likewise envy your mother!
Yes, me too after some of the encounters I’ve had with them.
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