Tuesday, September 22, 2009

On Living: "Forward - into the past!"

Now where was I? Oh right:

Which brings us to the real question behind all this: if you know what you do to yourself, and what it does to you, then why do you keep doing it? Is it the way you’re wired? Or the way you re-wired yourself to patch over the crappy power cord you inherited from your parents?

As my friend Bernie points out, the way I phrase the final question there is a double cop-out. I'm blaming everything on either my inner electrician, or my parental electricians. "Not my fault; just the way I'm wired! There's nothing I can do about it." Which is like ordering prime rib in a restaurant and then saying, "Man, I really hate eating steak all the time. Why can't my mother cook something else?"

Now God knows I've been to therapy enough over the last few years to recognize my own line of bullshit when I start handing it out to myself. And yet, still, my unthinking, off-the-cuff response to the question, "Why do I do the things I do?" is to say the equivalent of, "Who, me?" and point somewhere else. This is tiresome, to say the least. Why do I do the things I do? Either because I like doing them, which means on some level I get pleasure out of the screw-ups, or because I do them without thinking, which means on some level I don't even think twice about doing them.

My output/input analogy in the last post falls into a combination of the two categories, I think. I have taught myself to do two things when I get involved in a creative project: I get obsessed with it, and when I'm working on it, my foot is always on the gas pedal, never the brake. The obsession is what happens when something goes from the back burner to the front burner, from simmer to broil, and like anything heated to that level, it will evaporate unless you keep putting more water into it. That's something I don't do, and I don't do it by choice. When you throw water in a boiling pot, it stops boiling. The process slows down. Me, I like to keep the process going at the same speed all the time, which is why I risk (and usually run up against) burn-out. So I do it because this is what I've taught myself to do, and it works for me in that it gets projects written and completed, even though it totally drains me afterwards. And I do it without thinking because it's become a habit, it's become like a set of muscles I know I can rely on, even though every time I use them, it's to run a marathon at a sprinter's pace. No way I can blame that one on my parents, or anybody else in my family. Hell, whenever I start talking about my writing to them? You could use the glaze that comes over their eyes to cook a twenty-pound Easter ham.

So instead of "is it the way I'm wired?" let's say "is it the way I like to do things?" Because that doesn't just make more sense, it also frames the question as a positive instead of a negative, which makes it easier for a habitual Negative Ned like me to to take responsibility for my actions.

It also makes the question rhetorical. Of course I'm doing it because I like to do it. Off the top of my head, I can think of only one thing I'm doing right now that I don't like.


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