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bear by san

March 2017

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bear by san

The heart rebels against the mind / I swear to God I'll win this time

I am thinking about joy. Specifically, I am thinking about how joy is something I've learned, something I've had to train myself to. This week's bout with chemically-induced generalized anxiety disorder has brought home something I'd forgotten--how it felt to be viscerally miserable all the time, tense and unhappy and physically ill and unable to stop fretting over and over and over all of life's myriad little problems, like a mouse running on a wheel.

I've somehow found a way out of that, and the revisitation was unwelcome. Being stressed and anxious doesn't feel good.

What was odd and new was how clearheaded I was about it. I knew it was stress, and it was physical, and it wasn't my true emotional state, but a chemical reaction, but I couldn't set it aside. It was distracting, a nagging presence that didn't want me doing anything else--except watching the hamsters run on the wheel. Whirr whirr whirr.

Once upon a time, I thought I wanted serenity, unflappability. I worked very hard to get that, to bring myself to a level keel.

Last night, when the anxiety broke, and I felt myself again, I realized something. What I wanted wasn't serenity. It was comfort, physical and emotional comfort. Not to feel awful and sick and stressed. I wanted joy, where joy is defined as, taking pleasure in what there is to take pleasure in, and dealing with the rest as best as possible.

It was a very practical revelation, and it made me feel much better. But I'm not sure I can claim to be a Buddhist any more, even a bad one (Erisianism is a form of Zen. No, really.) because I'm no longer all that interested in getting off the wheel. Mitigating suffering, however--that, I can get behind. Choosing joy. Because it is a choice. The chemicals can make me feel awful, but I'm also smart enough to know it's the chemicals doing it, and endure and mitigate it, the way I would a head cold or a sprained ankle.

I'm back to feeling a little stressed this morning, but not the twisting weasel of anxiety in my chest. I think I'll go do some yoga and see how that helps.

***

The New York Times's Literary Map of Manhattan

***

kristine_smith is evil

***

John Scalzi and wild_irises present differing and detailed views on the fine art of panel moderation: where there's a whip, there's a way. (I suspect I'm the "fairly new writer of military SF" mentioned. Which is more than fair, I suppose, although I don't really think of those books as military SF, unless that means "they have people in them who are in the military." I'm not sure where the "admittedly hasn't thought much about women and the draft" comment came from, though, but charging to the defense of my slightly bruised ego is outside the scope of discussion over there--so I'll do it over here! Bwa ha ha!)

ob. peanut gallery: I've never seen scalzi moderate. I suspect, from watching him manage large groups of people, he'd be good at it. wild_irises, however, was one of the two best panel moderators I dealt with this last convention.

***

The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this notion rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn't require any
.
--Russell Baker

Oh, if only. Clever, but for me, and for most writers I know, patently untrue. I mean, writing is fun. I love it. Even when it's kicking my ass, it's the best job in the world.

But it's harder work than anything else I've ever done, and the best part is, your mistakes never go away! Ever!

Comments

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Sorry to hear that you've been in a crap place emotionally. Glad to hear you talked yourself out of it.

"... real work, and that writing didn't require any."

I can say nothing to that except. W. T. F?

Well, it's not so much a crap place emotionally, as a crap place physically, brought on by stress. Emotionally, I wasn't bad--I just felt awful and couldn't concentrate.

And thank you, and copy that WTF.
I also had to train myself to joy and happiness. For a long time I defaulted to negativity. Which was not necessarily my fault, I suppose, but still -- I had to make the decision to change my attitude. I know my anxiety disorder and OCD and post traumatic stress are all things that I have to consciously work against. And take my meds, of course. *g*
*nod*

So much of it is choosing. It's downright creepy.
Good luck dealing with the feelings. They really creep up on you.

Russell Baker has an interesting way of looking at the world. I'm not certain he buys the writing isn't work idea.

Catherine
*g* I'm not sure he buys it either. It's sort of a running gag with a lot of writers, though...
kristine_smith is evil

I prefer to think of it as sharing the wealth. Or in this case, the distraction.
kaygo is evil

I would agree if I weren't so busy trying to adjust for wind velocity....
"How can you shoot women and children like that?"

"It's easy. You just don't lead them as much."
*hugs*
*hugback*
I wanted joy, where joy is defned as, taking pleasure in what there is to take pleasure in, and dealing with the rest as best as possible.

I find, for whatever reason, that too much stoicism is a path to depression for me. I don't know if it's a fundamental restlessness or what, but wanting joy rather than calm control makes a lot of sense to me.

And yeah, I've always felt like I like it on the wheel. I want things to be better here sometimes, to improve on the internal and external landscape both, but not to transcend it.
You are welcome to share my primitive level of spiritual development. At least there's good tea.

And lemon cookies.
I've somehow found a way out of that, and the revisitation was unwelcome. Being stressed and anxious doesn't feel good.

I'm a natural born Eeyore. The glass is always half-empty, bad things lie in wait around the corner, and that shoe is teetering on the brink. It comes in handy while plotting protagonist torture because what is plot anyway but torturing your protagonist?

At least, what are *my* plots anyway...?

When the plot machine kicks over into everyday life is when things become not fun. I've just scheduled the first in my series of slightly overdue annual physical things, and the self-torture is already kicking in. I wish I could get off the 'no good mood ever goes unpunished' unmerry-go-round, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet and I'm not sure if I ever will. Maybe it's part of spending so much time in my own head.

But it's harder work than anything else I've ever done, and the best part is, your mistakes never go away! Ever!

Although they can go OOP/OOS, which means that the only way the mistakes go away is when an even worse thing happens.

I'll go finish my lunch now...
I always like to say that you lose nothing through pessimism, because an optimist can never be pleasantly surprised, but a pessimist can always still be rudely awakened.
*g*
I thought you self-defined on the panel as a writer of military SF. Was I wrong?

I also thought we all said we had some ideas about women and the draft, but none of us had gone too deeply into the topic. Sorry for the bruised ego; I thought you were a terrific panelist, and I simply thought the panel topic was too limited for the time allowed.
There were waggly finger air quotes around "military SF." Which would be my bad, entirely, because there I go expecting people to inhabit my mental lexicon again.

I certainly don't consider myself an *expert* on the topic. But I don't actually consider myself an expert on anything, except maybe the craft of fiction writing--and I'm a lower-echelon specialist at best in this field.

I was expecting the focus to be more literary and less real-world, but with a resource like David on hand (and there's an honest to God expert--the man was amazing, and I think I want to be him when I grow up.) it's kind of run with the ball time.

Thank you for the complement. I was scared out of my socks up there. *g* and you did a really, really good job as moderator. I hope I'll have the pleasure of empaneling with you again.
where joy is defned as, taking pleasure in what there is to take pleasure in, and dealing with the rest as best as possible.

I call myself a zen sufi - when I don't call myself a Discordian, or something else. Your definition of joy works for me, but I'd add something about chocolate. :)
mmm. chocolate.
I think choosing joy is something that comes either after having passed through some really difficult times - or with maturity. I put the caveat in there because, when I was younger, I chose joy after having been through some horrid stuff. Then I forgot that joy was a choice...and wandered away from that concept. When I was a bit more mature, I once again found the option, and again chose joy.

I cannot conceive of a life without goals, plans, dreams...and joy. The rest is much like your hamster on the wheel analogy - spinning round and round and getting more and more anxious and frustrated. That, to me, is such a waste of time.

Thanks for putting it so eloquently.
Thank *you* for putting it so eloquently yourself!
I'm still trying to condition myself to choose joy. Joy, unfortunately, is *work,* and if I've gone a while without any, I tend to forget that it's worth the effort.
I am thinking about how joy is something I've learned, something I've had to train myself to. This week's bout with chemically-induced generalized anxiety disorder has brought home something I'd forgotten--how it felt to be viscerally miserable all the time [...] What was odd and new was how clearheaded I was about it. I knew it was stress, and it was physical, and it wasn't my true emotional state, but a chemical reaction, but I couldn't set it aside.

I discovered a similar kind of chemically-induced depression/anxiety ten years ago, when I started using contraceptive pills. My body clearly didn't like the hormone imbalance and I became a melodramatic humourless snark for two years -- at which point I stopped taking the pills and promptly started laughing properly again.

Because of that experience I'm able now, like you, to tell myself that a severe mood swing is more likely to be a chemical imbalance rather than a reasonable emotional state. These days, if I'm feeling upset, I'm more likely to eat a banana than freak out.

Last night, when the anxiety broke, and I felt myself again

The weird thing is that when I was depressed I was convinced that I was right, and that I'd been lying to myself whenever I thought I was happy. It's like in C.S.Lewis's "The Silver Chair" where the prince believes he's only sane when he's walking around with no personality (under the spell), and is out of his mind when he's strapped to the chair (free of the spell). Although when he's strapped to the chair he realises that the truth is the other way around -- which I suppose is how this is. When you're (general 'you') depressed you think it's the only way to be, and when you're not depressed you realise that this is how it should be. The two states of mind can't seem to accept each other at the same time.

[/ramble]
Thanks for the links about moderation; given that my first moderation experiences will be three panels at Worldcon this summer (in at the deep end? Heaven forbid...), it's something I've been thinking about a fair bit recently. The conclusion I've come to so far is that I agree with Scalzi far, far more than I agree with wild_irises. I go to panels to hear panellists who (I generously assume) are (a) informed and (b) prepared. If there are other people in the room who are also knowledgeable on the topic, great--they can continue the conversation in the bar afterwards. But with possible very rare exceptions, I don't think they should be given equal weight to the panellists, if only because one of the points of panels is to have focus, and you can't have that if twenty-five people want to make their views known.

Gotta say I'm a little nervous now, though; all the panels I've been in the audience for have been very civilised and verging on the deferential. None of this rowdiness. I'll clearly have to work on my Voice of Command. :)
Caveats: no one approach works for all panels, panellists need to be moderated too, etc etc. And in addition, the audiences I'm familiar with are less pro-heavy by the sounds of things. Although I remember one cyberpunk panel at an Eastercon a couple of years back where Richard Morgan was in the audience and made a point so obviously insightful and true (which I now can't remember, of course) that the panellists invited him to join them. :)
The effect you get from the chemicals, I get from corn syrup. I TOTALLY get every aspect of what you were saying - including wanting joy over serenity.
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