5 Things on High Sensitivity #6

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In this edition:  The highly sensitive people in charts and graphs, the inevitable backlash, someone hates a HSP (can you believe it?), a celebrity HSP?, and my favorite highly sensitive person, Ane Axford.


 

  1. I love information relayed in chart form and this collection by Shannon Rosenberg at Buzzfeed about HSP is funny and pretty accurate. A few of my favorites:

hspmakingamistake hsphavingdifficultconversations hsppriorites hspmakingdecisions

Check out the rest of Shannon’s charts here.

2.  It’s great that sites like Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post are increasing the exposure and understanding of high sensitivity. But with more exposure, especially on these general interest sites that are more interested in clicks than complexity, there’s a possibility that people won’t understand. Or don’t want to. Or are opportunistic.

Case in point: this article at Thought Catalog “7 Struggles of Having a Straightforward Personality in a World of Highly Sensitive People” by Heidi Priebe. “In a world of highly sensitive people”? Seriously?

I read it three times. I don’t understand what she’s trying to say. Hordes of HSP are stopping her from being awesome? She says what she means, she assumes problems don’t exist if not raised, she has a one track mind, refuses to feed into passive aggressiveness, and doesn’t feel sorry for taking what’s hers. How are you struggling with highly sensitive people? Seems like Heidi does what she wants whether the people around her are sensitive or not. And I advocate doing what you want. Some people (probably like two) make you feel self-conscious about being so straightforwardly, awesomely yourself? Welcome to the human race.

3.  I wrote a post last year titled “Why Do You Hate Sensitive People?” in which I wondered why people hate sensitive people so much? This sums up my theory:

Feelings and emotions scare them or are a foreign language to them and sensitive people remind them of their deficiency. Aren’t the haters of sensitive people really saying with their hate:  “Your feelings, reactions, and lack of toughness BOTHER ME”? Doesn’t that mean they’re the sensitive ones?

A guy named Mike left this comment on the post a few days ago:

HSP can also be very self-centered and difficult to deal with. When someone googles I hate HSP it is mostly likely the sheer frustration of years of trying to tip toe around them and make them happy. It kinda sucks.

My response:

PEOPLE can be self-centered and difficult to deal with. I don’t know if it’s her/his sensitivity that’s the problem.
Maybe the problem is she isn’t getting what she needs. Maybe you’re not either. Maybe hating HSP doesn’t help. Maybe stop tiptoeing around her and see what happens.

I’ve tiptoed around people in my life who aren’t sensitive. I think tiptoeing happens when you’re close to people, living in close quarters. My point is the problem isn’t high sensitivity and it’s so easy and a mistake to blame sensitivity for why a relationship is fraught. And as I said earlier about Heidi, I believe in people doing what they want without tiptoeing. But sometimes tiptoeing can be the most caring thing you can do. Relationships are complicated. Life is complicated. Hating that person’s sensitivity will not help the situation. Asking her what she needs might.

Heidi thinks HSP have problems with her straightforward personality. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jerks? Major problems.

4. Is Sia Furler, singer/songwriter of songs like “Breathe Me” and a ton of other hits, highly sensitive? I was scrolling through Twitter and this photo popped up in my feed:

siablondebob

I thought it was weird. Then I wondered why? Went back to so, so weird. Why is she hiding? Whenever I see or read about an artist who is hiding (or what looks like hiding), I immediately think “highly sensitive”. More proof: Sia is unbelievably creative with an ability to get deep and close with people. She also has an addictive personality. I gained all of this knowledge from a profile of her in the New York Times “Sia Furler, the Socially Phobic Pop Star”. How is she socially phobic? She’s described in the article arranging a pizza party at her home. Do social phobics throw parties? I don’t know. The wig, the fact that she doesn’t want her photo taken is not social phobia but a statement about fame and protecting something dear to her: her sanity.

I might be wrong. Or not: “Furler’s defensiveness or anti-fameness, however omnipresent, belies the fact that she is reflexively intimate.”

I wonder whether a lot of celebrities are highly sensitive not because I think they’re cool and want them to be like me or me like them. I write about it here because when the New York Times writes something about you, that’s what the story about you becomes. They are “the paper of record”. If someone searches “Sia Fuller” in 50 years (if the internet is the same) they might find my site telling a different story about her, having a different take.

Also, understanding Sia’s possible high sensitivity and the way she deals with it is a way of understanding my own. It’s an exercise in seeing through the weirdness and having compassion.

5. If you’re highly sensitive or moderately sensitive and want to understand the trait, please read the words of Ane Axford:

I have mixed feelings about the fact that this Marie Claire article that came out in 2010 is now included in WebMD. Talking about this trait is so tricky because of who you are talking to and from what perspective. Also, it depends on where they are in their own process of understanding their sensitivity.

When I tell people that I work with sensitivity, most have no idea what that means or what sensitivity is itself. THAT is why I do this work. This article describes “suffering” from the trait. And I used to get really irritated that from the hardy perspective, we are ALL suffering if we are highly sensitive. No account of the culture we live in as being aggressive or toxic in any way.

(…)

…perhaps this language of suffering with sensitivity is currently useful for the majority of people to start to understand this trait. And maybe that is useful, to even have any light on this as something we are born with. But, I also have concerns that it makes a disorder of the trait…and therefore a disorder of all sensitivity and all feeling. We all have nervous systems and hormones and all the things that make use adapt and react and respond to our environments.

(…)

If we reinforce the idea that it is possible to be “too sensitive” in general, then we are basically saying that you know too much…and that knowledge is bad. YIKES! That is the deepest mistrust of our bodies and the way we are set up. All of us, not just the highly sensitive.

(…)

I have learned that there are some situations in which I am too sensitive FOR THAT SITUATION, where I will break it with what I know or it will try to break me simply because I do not fit. That does not mean I am too sensitive for life. It means I am too sensitive to my self to be used in any way that asks me to be less than I am. I am here to be me, not a person. Not someone like me, but actually ME. And that means listening all the time and responding all the time because there is no other me to tell me how to be me. I am me in each moment being me.

Our culture needs to change. And I think our culture changes the more we strengthen our sensitivity. Being you can sometimes seem like an act of rebellion. Being kind can seem too selfish or like you’re doing something wrong. I have found, for my self, that sometimes I want things around me to break and that they do when I refuse to break.

I could copy the whole thing because it’s everything. I love that she mentions our toxic culture. None of these self-help-y, life coach-y articles that purport to want to help HSP thrive mention our toxic culture. All they see is the response, the irritation, the suffering. It’s easier (and more money can be made) to see the highly sensitive person as the problem than to acknowledge and change our stifling and unworkable culture. Everyone is suffering. Sensitive people just do it sooner.

If you read this whole post, thank you. Here’s a picture of a dog as a reward for reading to the end.

smilingdog

MM

Sensitive: The Untold Story Has Premiered

If you didn’t know already, Sensitive: The Untold Story premiered Thursday night and was available to be streamed for a fee of $20. I suspected the movie might not appeal to me and I’m not going to pay $20 for something I’m not excited about but I was curious. Luckily, a HSP I follow, Nicola, paid the fee and tweeted while watching it. Here are a few of her tweets about the movie:

I have searched the internet for more takes on the movie and I haven’t been able to find much besides a few comments on the Sensitive: The Untold Story Facebook page. The movie is available to stream until 9:30 pm PST on September 13. Go here for more information.

If you’re still on the fence about checking it out, read the rest of Nicola’s tweets here or check out the hashtag #sensitivemovie on Twitter.

The only part of the movie I’ve seen that made me want to check it out were the clips of the interview Elaine Aron did with Alanis Morissette in the trailer for the movie and the clip on Alanis’s Facebook page.

I had a conversation with Nicola after her live-tweet and I decided after that I didn’t need to watch the movie right away. I got the sense from her that it was probably interesting, informative for those unfamiliar with the trait, and well done, but not an urgent watch and not made for me.

If you do watch it, let me know what you think. If you’ve read someone else’s review of it, please leave a link in the comments.

MM

Can’t Fix What Isn’t Broken

There’s a small part of me that hopes that high sensitivity isn’t real. Or, at the moments I am convinced it is I hope there’s some unknown cure for it. Like it turns out HSP are simply missing an enzyme and a few drops on the tongue of every morning wipes out all that thinking, processing and hyper awareness. I hope there’s an undiscovered plan we can follow that allows us to thrive in our own way, a protocol that allows us to always move forward no matter how overwhelmed we are.

After a month of physical and emotional upheaval, one hundred percent of me accepts that high sensitivity is real and can’t be fixed. It’s never going away. 

In June, Ane Axford released a video titled “Meet Your Needs” in which she says, “You will never fix your sensitivity. You will always be sensitive. And any fix you get is momentary.” Those lines echoed in my mind for days after hearing them. Part of me didn’t want them to be true and part of me knew they were and that accepting it was the real fix.

Inspired by Axford, I posted this on Tumblr:

hsyourenevergoingtofixit

I added the “You’re fine” even though I didn’t completely believe it. I need it to be true and I suspect other HSP needed it as well. Someone re-blogged it and added “This is terrifying”.

I couldn’t agree with her more. Because something feels WRONG and it feels like the wrong thing is our sensitivity and I know that I want to stop feeling like something is always wrong.

But, Axford goes on to say in that video:

You may be experiencing some weakness or disorder or hypersensitivity that has developed in relation to not getting your needs met. Not because of your sensitivity.

(…)

The sensitivity is not the disorder. The sensitivity is the mechanism through which you’re interacting and experiencing the world, the volume at which you’re experiencing life.

The next questions are: what needs aren’t getting met and how do I meet them? “What do I need?” is probably the hardest question to answer. But it does have an answer. Knowing what the real problem is and that it can be fixed helps. Writing this has helped.

MM

3 Phrases That Will End All War

horsesfightingPhoto by Melissa Farlow

Those three phrases (or some variation of) are:

  1. That hurt my feelings
  2. I’m terrified
  3. I don’t know.

Here’s my theory:

All wars are conflicts — between people or within yourself. Wars or conflicts begin when we suppress or deny:

  1. Pain
  2. Fear
  3. Ignorance.

Denying pain, fear, and/or ignorance means we are denying reality; we’re denying the truth.

Scan your life. Think about all the fights you’ve been in, the beefs, the misunderstandings, the areas where you’re stuck, your addictions and self-destructive patterns. Wouldn’t they be resolved or be resolved more quickly if you just admitted how much pain you’re in? How frightened you are? How you don’t know something or are confused or need more information?

What did you do instead? You probably denied your pain, fear and ignorance or uncertainty. You probably got defensive and attacked someone or yourself and created a bigger problem.

A lot of time and money spent on therapy and self-help products could be saved, grudges avoided, think pieces and op-eds and diary entries not written, holes not dug, and meaningless wars not waged if we all admitted the three things we’re all conditioned not to admit. So simple and so difficult at the same time.

It’s hard, which is why no one does it. But so is war. War is so wearying.

You don’t even have to say these things to another person, although I do recommend it. Say them to yourself. Sit with the discomfort. Start there and if you’re brave, say it to someone else. Notice their reaction.

At the very least, notice the wars other people are in. Read the subtext, the feelings, underneath what they say or write or do. Notice how the tension and heat of the situation ratchets up because they haven’t said one of those phrases. Notice how out of control it gets because of it. Imagine how different the situation would have played out if they had.

Case study: The Nicki Minaj/Taylor Swift “Twitter feud”. It’s so ridiculous and I care so little about it that I don’t want to waste too much space on it, but here’s a summary with subtext in italics:

Nicki Minaj:  My video should have been nominated for a video music award for various reasons! (That hurt my feelings.)

Taylor Swift: Whaat?? Why you gotta attack me? Girl Power! (I don’t have enough information but my feelings are hurt anyway.)

Thus begins TwitterWar2015. And not just between them. Between their fans, between races, between feminists. Read more here if you’re interested.

All wars, including this ridiculous one, can be avoided altogether by not saying anything at all.

You don’t have to write that email, text or tweet. You don’t have to have the confrontation. You don’t have to let someone know how you feel or what you think. You don’t have to defend yourself. You don’t even have to say anything to yourself.

Sometimes the best thing to do is be still and be silent. Sometimes knowing you have a choice is enough. Sometimes knowing that your peace and safety lie in your defencelessness is enough.

I know it’s hard. Believe me, I know. But,

“Making peace is harder than making war.” —  Adlai Stevenson

MM

 

 

 

Love thy enemy, “noise.”

I haven’t been writing much lately, but I have been thinking about writing. Does that count? (No).This week for the 10 000th time I was awakened by a loud noise coming from a vehicle outside my window at 6 am. For the 10 000th time, I started ranting about it, annoyed because I can’t understand noise. That’s right, I can’t understand making noise at 6 am. I wrote about being annoyed and being sick of being annoyed by noise in my morning pages and I remembered something Rachael, of the Aging Introvert blog, wrote about the futility of wanting people to shut up and about finding silence in her post “Love Thy Enemy, Noise”:

“I would like to live in absolute silence. But the only way I can do this is to take it inside. My silence needs to be deep and absolute. It has to have a purpose, a reason for existing that encompasses, embraces and accepts its opposite. To simply fight noise is futile. To fight other people is futile.

I need to build my own world that is inpenetrable and inviolate.”

Love that. I want to build an impenetrable and inviolate inner world. Rachael has a lot of insight on a lot of things introverts and sensitive people might relate to and I’m grateful for her blog. Check out the rest of her post.

MM

“The World is Made for People Who Aren’t Cursed with Self-Awareness”

IMG_0510
A shot of the path I walk.

I.

A conversation between Detectives Rust Cohle, played by Matthew McConaughey, and Martin Hart, played by Woody Harrelson on True Detective Season 1, Episode 1:

Rust Cohle: I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware. Nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself. We are creatures that should not exist by natural law.

Martin Hart:  That sounds God-fucking awful, Rust.

Cohle:  We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self. This secretion of sensory experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each some body. When in fact everybody is nobody.

Hart:  I wouldn’t go around spouting that shit if I were you. People around here don’t think that way. I don’t think that way.

Cohle: I think the honorable thing for our species to do is to deny our programming. Stop reproducing. Walk hand in hand into extinction. One last midnight, brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.

Hart: So, what’s the point of getting out of bed in the morning?

Cohle: I tell myself I bear witness. The real answer is that it is obviously my programming and I lack the constitution for suicide.

II.

I go on two-hour walks a few times a week. One hour and usually one podcast episode one way and an hour and another podcast episode back home. I walk on a mostly tree-lined path by the river. I always mentally chastise the residents of my city for not taking advantage of this respite from suburban existence and at the same time I wish no one knew about it but me.

On Monday’s walk, the weather was scorching: sunny and humid, but with a breeze I was grateful for. Soon I’ll be one of those women I see with over sized hats and sunglasses and an umbrella because there are only so many times I can almost get heat stroke. The trees along parts of the path provide some much-needed shade.

Thankfully, I brought water because by the time I got home, I was parched. The two-hour walk seemed like a four-hour walk in that sun and with only one new podcast episode to listen to. As Linda Holmes (host of one of my favorite podcasts, Pop Culture Happy Hour) tweeted, “Dear almost every podcast I listen to:  MAKE MORE FASTER.”

Probably because of too much sun, too much walking, not enough water, I had a headache by the time I arrived home. It felt like my brain was baked and it was about to explode. I drank a lot of icy water but the pressure didn’t abate.

The only cure would be sleep.

III.

I slept well. Fitfully at first and then I descended into deep sleep for nine hours. I didn’t want to wake up. I felt like I wasn’t allowed to wake up. Something was pulling me back into my dreams. It was like I didn’t need sleep but time to dream.

The headache was gone when I awoke. But, I had this feeling I wasn’t dreaming but being dreamt.

It felt like my consciousness was being used to dream. But used by whom?

IV.

I encounter a lot of animals on my walks. Both alive and dead. I see so many dead animals. I see a lot of chipmunks. And all kinds of birds. Every time I encounter a bird I say silently to myself and to the bird “I’m OK. You don’t have to be afraid and fly away.” But the bird always flies away.

I envy birds (and all animals) because they don’t wonder who they are. What they do is defined by who they are and there’s no questioning who they are so what they do is clear. They’re too busy doing bird stuff to be aware of being a bird. Unlike human beings.

V.

Self-awareness does feel like a curse sometimes. Endlessly asking “Who are we?” We don’t have an answer to this fundamental question. Birds do. Maybe questioning who we are is who we are?

VI.

More and more often I’m waking up from dreams confused about what’s real. Did I say or think this in a dream or when I was awake? Are we always dreaming?

VII.

I don’t know if I agree with Rust Cohle but I identified with him for thinking that way. Sometimes I want to be one of those people who don’t think that way.

Annie from Bull Durham: “The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness.”

VIII.

Maybe I think too much.

MM

INFJ Feels Guilty About Liking Themselves

Someone found my blog by Googling “INFJ feel guilty for liking myself”.

So many thoughts about INFJs and personality types, about guilt, and about liking yourself. So many thoughts about all three things together and who would Google this and why. But, I’m going to keep it brief like some jerk suggested I do in a comment.

Do you think Beyoncé:

  1. Knows or cares what her personality type is?
  2. Feels guilty about liking herself? Feels guilty about anything?
  3. Considers her high self-esteem such a problem that she goes to Google for answers?

The answer to all three is very likely Hell. No. She’s too busy capitalizing on her belief in herself.

We should all take her lead.

I am curious if she uses Google and what her search history looks like though. I’m going to Google it.

Enjoy this photo of Beyoncé and enjoy yourselves without guilt.

A Reminder: Listen to Your Intuition

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by Tracey Emin

The only real valuable thing is intuition.
The only real valuable thing is intuition.
The only real valuable thing is intuition.

— Albert Einstein.*

This week a confused young woman’s letter asking for clarity about her relationship went viral. At least it was shared and discussed by many of the people I follow, on more than one social media platform. It was shared so much I got sick of seeing it.

But, I was also grateful it was shared often. Every time I read a new shocked response, my reaction intensified and forced me to write this.

I’m going to sum it up: a 23-year-old woman wrote a letter asking for help from Ask Metafilter users. She wondered if she was crazy or was her long-distance boyfriend married. She found very realistic pictures of him and his ex at what looked like his wedding. You can read the whole story here.

I didn’t read very closely after these few details. I skimmed the rest. I read the comments. I read the tweets that linked to the story and the responses to it. I read a couple of takes on this woman’s story at Jezebel and Raw Story.

Surprisingly, no one had the reaction I had.

There are three topics I’ve written about more than once and will probably revisit. One is on feeling and letting yourself feel everything. The other is on loneliness and the necessity of learning to do solitude well. Those two topics are linked to the third topic I’ve written about twice and I need to write about again: intuition.

Not one comment (that I read; there are a lot) mentioned her broken down, IMG_0110seemingly non-existent intuition. That’s all I thought about after reading two lines of her story. “Is my boyfriend married?” Listen your intuition. What would strangers know?

It can help to ask uninvested outsiders for perspective. I’m not blaming her for possibly falling prey to a lying, cheating, sicko, fucked up asshole. But..

All of us, especially women, already know the answers to questions like the one she posted. The answer is “listen your intuition.”

Most people were kind and direct and confirmed that her boyfriend is trash, she’s not crazy and he’s married. The writer at Jezebel, Ellie Shechet, suggested that this woman’s desire to be “chill” is the reason she is so confused. Amanda Marcotte at Raw Story agreed and also blamed the boyfriend for “gaslighting” her, which is “a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.” Marcotte ended her piece with “These are extreme examples, but a good learning tool to see what the pattern (of gaslighting) looks like.” That’s her takeaway?

When I read this woman’s story, I thought “she knows what’s happening”. Yeah, it’s possibly the “chill” phenomenon and being gaslighted contributed to her confusion, but these things are only problems when you aren’t listening to yourself.

Her story is a cautionary tale, but not about psychopathic boyfriends. It’s not about him or men or anyone else but her. It’s about me and every woman reading it. It’s about being so estranged from feeling, so afraid to be alone, that you shut down the one thing that cares about you, protects you, loves you.

The following excerpt is long, but so perfectly makes my point about women and intuition and how necessary it is. It’s from an article in Psychology Today by Sandra Brown that breaks down what happens when you don’t listen to your intuition. Instead of “violence”, substitute the words “danger” or “abuse” or “some ill-advised choice”.

“We get a signal prior to violence,” Gavin (De Becker, author of The Gift of Fear) says. “There are preincident indicators. Things that happen before violence occurs.” Gavin says that unlike any other living creature, humans will sense danger, yet still walk right into it.

“You’re in a hallway waiting for an elevator late at night. The elevator door opens, and there’s a guy inside, and he makes you afraid. You don’t know why, you don’t know what it is. And many women will stand there and look at that guy and say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to think like that. I don’t want to be the kind of person who lets the door close in his face. I’ve got to be nice. I don’t want him to think I’m not nice.’

And so human beings will get into a steel soundproof chamber with someone they’re afraid of, and there’s not another animal in nature that would even consider it.”

Gavin says that “eerie feelings” are exactly what he wants women to IMG_0111pay attention to. “We’re trying to analyze the warning signs,” he says. “And what I really want to teach today and forever is the feeling of the warning sign. All the other stuff is our explanation for the feeling. Why it was this, why it was that. The feeling itself IS the warning sign.”

What happens over and over again is that women dismantle their OWN internal safety system by ignoring it. The longer she ignores it, the more ‘over rides’ it receives and retrains the brain to ignore the fear signal. Once rewired women are at tremendous risks of all kinds…risks of picking the wrong men, of squelching fear signals of impending violence, shutting off alarms about potential sexual assaults, shutting down red flags about financial rip offs, squeeking out hints about poor character in other people…and the list goes on. What is left after your whole entire safety system is dismantled? Not much….

Women, subconsciously sensing they need to have ‘something’ to fall back on, swap out true and profoundly accurate fear signals with the miserly counterfeit and highly unproductive feeling of worry/anxiety.

LADIES– WRONG FEELING!

Then they end up in counseling for their 4th dangerous relationship and wonder if they have a target sign on their forehead. No they don’t. They have learned to dismantle, rename, minimize, justify, or deny the fear signals they get or got in the relationship. As if their ability to ‘take it’ or ‘not be afraid’ of very dangerous behavior is some sort of win for them. As if their ability to look danger in the face and STAY means they are as tough or competitive as he is…

Then later, or another day or week passes and she has mounting anxiety–over what she wonders? She has a chronic low-grade worry, whisps of anxiety that waife thru her life. She can’t put 2+2 together to figure out that ignoring true fear will demand to be recognized by her subconscious in some way—an illegitimate way through worry and anxiety that does nothing to save her from real danger. Her real ally (her true fear) has been squelched and banished.

When coming to us for counseling she wants us to help her ‘feel safe again’ when actually, we can’t do any of that. It’s all in her internal system as it’s always been. Her safety is inside her and her future healing is too.

She will sit in the counselor’s office denying true fear and begging for relief from the mounting anxiety she is experiencing. She doesn’t trust herself, her intuition, her judgments–all she can feel is anxiety. And with good reason! True fear is her true intuition…not anxiety. But she’s already canned what can save her and now on some level she must know she has nothing left that can help her feel and react.

The best line in the article is “You don’t see animals ‘stuck’ in abusive mating environments.” Hmmm…

Our culture perpetuates this myth that women are clueless, powerless victims of charming, evil masterminds (See Dexter or The Fall on Netflix). Or it encourages us to be emotionless, unaffected, living-in-our-heads robots like it gives you power to be dead on the inside.

Facts: There are psychopaths. There are narcissistic, abusive boyfriends. Women don’t have to be victims of either. 

I will always believe our intuition is the ANSWER and the closest thing to the truth we can have. The point isn’t to always be right or for it to always be reliable. The point is to listen to it. It’s where our power lies.

I thank this confused woman for the reminder. I hope she, all of us, stop overriding who we are.

And I thank you for reading this very long post.

MM

*Repetition mine.

The Best Thing I Read This Week Is …

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The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. I’m half way through but it’s still the best thing I read this week.

I’m sure everyone waits to find out what I’ve decided is the best thing I read this week. Oh, wait … It’s just me. Just an aside, sometimes I think about not doing these posts because they’re not that popular but I do them really for myself and because I like to share. I hope someone is getting value out of these posts.

So, what makes this book worthy of The Best Thing I Read This Week designation? 

First of all, I’m actually reading a book. A book with soft pages. It’s so amazing to touch paper.

I always have a pile of books – regular books and e-books – I want to read that I never get to read. I’ll start it, read the first page, and then never read a page again.

But, I started The Argonauts. Put it down. Started it again, sought it out, because it’s the opposite of the regurgitated, boring, boring, boring crap I read everyday. It was an antidote to all the twittering (that I sometimes enjoy) and think pieces (that I sometimes enjoy) that just read like noise. Can something read like noise? I skim a lot and I was forced not to skim through this book and I enjoyed not being able to do that.

It’s a challenging, sometimes difficult read. Very academic, like Nelson’s writing to and for other professors and I wanted to stop reading. At times while reading I’ll think “Is this brilliant and over my head or just bad, uninteresting writing, and poorly edited?” Then she’ll write something intriguing and fascinating and I’ll want to know more, know everything.

What does she write about? Being in love with and marrying a transgender man, being a step parent, having a step parent, motherhood, being a professor, feminism, being a woman, woman artists, female sexuality, identity politics, and more. Again, I’m only half way through.

I think (Judith) Butler is generous to name the diffuse “commodification of identity” as the problem. Less generously, I’d say that the simple fact that she’s a lesbian is so blinding for some, that whatever words come out of her mouth — whatever words come out of the lesbian’s mouth, whatever ideas spout from her head — certain listeners hear only one thing: lesbian, lesbian, lesbian. It’s a quick step from there to discounting the lesbian — or, for that matter, anyone who refuses to slip quietly into a “postracial” future that resembles all too closely the racist past and present— as identitarian, when it’s actually the listener who cannot get beyond the identity that he has imputed to the speaker. Calling the speaker identitarian then serves as an efficient excuse not to listen to her, in which case the listener can resume his role as speaker. And then we can scamper off to yet another conference with a keynote by Jacques Rancière, Alain Badiou, Slavoj Zizek, at which we can meditate on Self and Other, grapple with radical difference, exalt the decisiveness of the Two, an shame the unsophisticated identitarians, all at the feet of yet another great white man pontificating from the podium, just as we’ve done for centuries.

Hmmm…

The length of the book is interesting. 143 pages. The way she gives attribution is interesting. By “interesting” I mean “I’m grateful she didn’t drone on for 300 pages and have a thousand notes.”

The book is part memoir, part intellectual inquiry, part journal. No chapters. I feel like if I ever wrote a book it’d be like this: thought to thought, scene to scene, moment to moment with no thread or no discernible thread.

I also want to point out how I discovered the book. I think Roxane Gay tweeted about it first and quoted a line from the first paragraph that was shockingly profane and ballsy to put in a first paragraph and I immediately wanted to know more.

Austin Kleon wrote about the book as well. Here’s the first thing he mentioned in his review: “The first thing I like about this book is the way she uses the margins and italicized text to weave other people’s writing into her own while still attributing the source.” That was cool, but who cares?

He also wrote about her take on motherhood. I enjoyed her thoughts/feelings on motherhood despite not being a mother or being interested in reading about it. But …

If I read only Kleon’s review, I would have never picked up this book. My point? Follow. Different. Types. Of. People. Or just follow Roxane Gay.

Would I recommend this book? Yes. If you’re bored, oh so bored with everything. It will challenge you out of that boredom. I’ll probably be done reading it by the time I publish this post.

MM