the problem with setting goals for yourself...
The problem with setting goals for yourself is that you feel like shit if you don’t reach them.
After deciding that I was going to post here regularly — make a schedule and stick to it — every other post has been me being like, “fuckkkk thissss, dude.” So…apologies if that’s tiresome to read. But I made a pact with myself that I was going to be earnest here. I would only write about how I was really feeling. And how I feel now is: braindead.
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The problem isn’t that I lack things to post. In fact, the last two weeks, I’ve tapped out three different ~essays~ with the intent of sending them to you. But every time I began to transfer the words to Substack, I froze. Each topic seemed tired or boring or obvious when I thought about you reading them.
It doesn’t take a psychological wizard to figure out that the issue has nothing to do with creativity and everything to do with a fear of visibility.
The more people who sign up for this Substack — particularly the more of you angels who pay for this — the more resentful I become. Please forgive me. It’s not you, it’s me. I really mean that.
I’ve been trying to figure out why, despite the fact that it’s going (arguably) well, I retaliate against this growing platform.
One possible answer may have come from somatic therapist Luis Mojica.
Unlike basically everyone who’s ever known me, Mojica doesn’t believe there’s any such thing as self-destructive behavior. He believes that all we’re ever trying to do is return to a state of homeostasis. (Translation: we just want to feel safe.) He explains certain events as “high-sensation” or “high charge” (depending on your comfort with woo-woo terminology) and says that a body doesn’t distinguish between “good” or “bad” sensations. It only feels the intensity of the charge.
This makes sense to me on some level. Like…am I the only person who feels the same physical sensations falling in love as during a breakup? (It’s a total nausea that sends the room spinning and sometimes even sends me to a garbage can to vomit. Regardless of “good” or bad” labels.)
When an event — even a good one — makes us feel overloaded, our bodies do anything to return to safety. As fast as possible. What looks like self-destruction to an outsider is actually self-preservation.
If I follow this man’s logic, I would believe that building an audience here knocks me off balance: emotionally, mentally, physically.
Sometimes, that feels true. Sometimes, before I press “publish,” I reel with nausea.
And it’s not just with love and Substack. (All’s fair in love and substack, mate.)
Once, a few years back, the cashier at the corner bodega gave me a free seltzer; I came home and cried on my roommate’s bed about how I didn’t deserve a free seltzer.
She looked at me with confusion. “You’re fucking kidding, right? Seltzer literally costs a dollar.”
In my defense, at the time, I was raw about some other shit so the seltzer wasn’t just the seltzer but some grand, symbolic haunting. (I’m nothing if not haunted by symbolism. Thank you, literature professors.)
With this sort of bodily reaction to anything good, it feels like I’m crying about free seltzer again and again and again. And I often need friends to be like, “It’s literally one dollar” to remind me that…I tend to inflate life in my mind.
The somatic therapist says this is because my body has learned to associate growth with terror. This take is, sometimes, an effective self-soothing. But other times, I just think my body is a coward.
I do all sorts of things that other people think are brave — exploring abandoned buildings, eating insects, walking in Los Angeles — but the truth about bravery is that it’s not standardized. Other people’s opinions weigh very little next to your own. (Cue: that Joan Didion essay “On Self-Respect.”)
Of course, there’s an entirely different explanation to consider. One that has nothing to do with the body but the mind.
Last week, I read Annie Ernaux’s “Simple Passion” wherein she recounts an affair in wrought emotional detail. Within the book, Ernaux reflects on putting this all down for public consumption. She writes:
Naturally I feel no shame in writing these things because of the time which separates the moment from when they are written—when only I can see them—from the moment when they will be read by other people, a moment which I feel will never come. By then I could have had an accident or died; a war or a revolution could have broken out. This delay makes it possible for me to write today in the same way I used to lie in the scorching sun for days at sixteen, or make love without contraceptives at twenty: without thinking about the consequences.
(It is a mistake therefore to compare someone writing about his own life to an exhibitionist., since the later has only one desire: to show himself and to be seen at the same time.)
In writing online, this delay doesn’t exist. When I write about what I’m doing and some of you read it within five minutes: I guess that makes me an exhibitionist. Which isn’t as hot as it sounds. It makes me nauseous.
So although I may not feel very brave, at least I can say this: I met the goal. I wrote something and I sent it to you. Braindead exhibitionist that I am now.
TIME FOR LINKS
Let’s get into the round-up of what I’ve been imbibing across the internet.
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