Category: Affect

Post for tomorrow*

I feel anger in the face. It feels like a setting stone, very hard, very unmovable. It’s just below the skin, but it’s visible, like a face through a net curtain at the window. Below that, there’s frustration, and below that, fear. Fear, but not in being afraid of being hurt. When hurt happens, it never feels quite as bad as you expect (except if what hurts, you never expected). Rather, fear of being unable to change, fulfil potential, learn. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear that I don’t have the strength, that the life I want (‘want’—the certainty I want to be attached to, I suppose) is always just out of reach.

Yesterday (Tuesday) morning, I felt bereft.

Sunday had been a great day—running, socialising, drinking, not really caring. As Pema Chodron might have noted, if she had seen me, I was blunting the edge of the difficulties I was feeling with easiness, alcohol, escape.

Then Monday was hung-over, a day of little achievement, except a good hour or so at the allotment and a bit of editing on the novel (so, some achievement) and then in the evening leaving drinks for a good friend, at a performance of her boyfriend’s short play. Another friend was there. I felt out of place because of her—hardened, uncomfortable—even if I was able to chat, be friendly, ‘normal’. An explanation follows. That night, they carried on for drinks, I went home. It’s easy.

Then the next (Tuesday) morning I felt stiff (from the running, and the alcohol) but also hardened by an anger directed towards this person and the feelings she stirs up in me. I was doing my usual morning writing, putting down on paper why I felt so tired, figuring it out, admitting that it was not the day of drinking or the PhD or anything else that was leaving me weary. It was the incredibly draining anger I was feeling—targeted at her, I first thought—leaving me weary, and all of the concomitant acts that such anger/fear leads to, such as overworking, not listening to the body, drinking too much—although this is very rare these days—ruminating endlessly on bitter tastes. I was writing about this and trying to find a better way to live a life with less of this draining energy, of what to do about this person, of committing to a writerly life, when this popped out of me:   Continue reading

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Finding utopia in ordinary habits

homemade poemI am very angry this morning already—or rather, perhaps, over time I have built up a lot of free-floating anger that attaches itself to a number of objects (it’s how anxiety works). But what does come first? The object that makes me angry (neoliberal practices in the university; a three line whip to attend that lecture on ‘making the student experience better’; the bear bile farming and the fox cruelty images I saw this morning; the fact that ‘Natural England’ have been destroying protected buzzard eggs to safeguard the ‘sport’ of pheasant shooting; my sense of impotence of doing anything about this; the usual rhetoric surrounding the murder of the soldier on the streets of Woolwich about ‘terror’ and ‘resilience’ and no-one ever properly asking ‘why’ these people either a) decide to join the army and go to war and why our governments legitimate killing ‘other’ people, or b) why these ‘other’ people decide to act (retaliate?) in the way they did; about feeling ostracized from a friend in the running club, as if I’ve done something wrong when I know I haven’t?).

Nothing will get fixed. Nothing will render better until questions are asked of why and how we are living, and no questions will be asked while we, as Paul Kingsnorth put it yesterday, are complicit in the benefits that this imperialism brings us, domination over others and nonhuman others to benefit accrued from a comfortable life, and yet a comfortable life that makes less and less people happy, one where we are all more precarious, where deficits are made by tax cuts and then those deficits are used to justify austerity and the decimation of the working classes, where the fantasy of the ‘good life’ is held onto tighter and tighter even as it slips away, even as I seek out a comfortable café in the morning with a Motown soundtrack and regulars I know, including C from Angola off to do his last exam this morning, and good tasting decaf coffee and where the concerns of the staff are regarding the placement of the lemon cheesecake… (Note: judge less, my friend).

I’ve been reading a lot about affect, emotion, feeling and mood, especially Jonathan Flatley’s Affective Mapping, building on Heidegger’s work of being there, talking about the facts of our attunement to the world. In a very real way, says Flatley, we make the world through our mood (Stimmung, in Heidegger’s original) and that it is the moods we do not realise that are the most powerful of course. But also that we are always in some mood, we cannot be outside of a mood, and indeed, for things to change, we need to be in the mood… (for political change, cheesecake), and that it is usually when our moods become intense (joy, depression, mania, exuberance) that we notice at all that it is how we are attuned to the world that makes it this way and not that way. Continue reading