Category Archives: Journal

Scared shitless

I need to get an operation. I have cataract in one eye and they need to replace the lens. And little old, very rational me is scared shitless. So I thought I’d write something to distract myself. Well, with that beginning, not a great way to start, is it?

Okay, soldiering on.

The last few days I’ve been wondering, while kind of standing beside myself and looking at me, why I’m so uncontrollable scared for this operation. I am not scared of hospitals, I don’t mind having an injection, I don’t even mind having to have some skin cut out under local anesthetic, having to get stitches, none of that.

The rational explanation, or at least the logical one, is that I am dealing with some unresolved trauma. (Is trauma ever not unresolved?) – As a young boy I was in and out the hospital a lot with ear infections. At that time they had a simple solution: prick a whole in the eardrum and let the muck come out.

As a child with, at that time, undiagnosed Aperger’s Syndrome, I didn’t deal well with the whole forcing me down on an operating table, forcefully putting the mask with the anesthesia on me, doing something to my head, well, inside my head, and then having to wake up confused, looking for my parents. These are still vivid memories. (Maybe I’ll explore this some more in a future post, but right now it’s a bit too much for me to further go into all of that.)

Furthermore, the anesthesia they used back then, gave me terrible nightmares. Not that I made that particular connection back then, but later on wondering about it and doing some research, I managed to figure it one out by myself. To this day I remember the horrible dreams I was having.

That’s the logic, the rationale, for my current state of mental disarray.

But it doesn’t help me.

Because this fear, this gut-wrenching terror does not subside by knowing all this. And right now, I think that has to do with it not being about being realistic about it at all.

Realistically I know, I have to have this operation, I’ll be under completely (I made sure I’ll get a general anesthetic), the operation itself is so simple and short, it is being performed so often, it’s routine for the surgeon and everyone involved. I know all this. I know, that my wife is coming with me. I trust her completely and I love her dearly. I so appreciate her support in all of this. I want nothing more right now than for her to be with me for this. And I want to be strong for her.

And yet.

I have no control over this feeling (emotion?). I am just really terribly upset and scared. Nothing to do with knowledge. And me really wanting to be strong does not even put a dent in it.

Pfff…. At least I managed to write this down.

I just need to get through this week.

Out There

Why I’ve Started Writing Naked – I think Robert Cormack needs to pay his energy bill — he keeps coming back to being cold when he is naked and how that is supposed to help him write better.

Haruki Murakami’s Five Favorite Books – According to Alfred Birnbaum, one of Haruki Murakami’s English translators, Haruki Murakami is “an American writer who happens to write in Japanese.” If I were Haruki Murakami, I would fire Birnbaum on the spot. Anyway, apparently these are some books that inspired Haruki Murakami.

The Presence Prison – How to work asynchronously and how presence can fuck up your flow. You can’t stay ‘Away’ for too long, now can you?

Your attention didn’t collapse. It was stolen – We are losing the ability to be present. Of course it depends on who you hang out with, but I definitely see it around me.

Holding my Breath – Jonathan Becket is struggling with not blogging — and blogging about it.

Out There

Read some stuff today.

The antidote to social media is being more social
David Heinemeier Hansson rediscovering the face-to-face and conversations after the pandemic.

Reframing it
You can bitch about a (financial) loss and the person who caused it, or you can reframe it for yourself in such a way you get a new, less negative perspective.

Why Are So Many Men Still Resistant to Reading Women?
I was immediately teed off at the title but decided to push through and read it anyway, if only to challenge myself… Yeah, no. I should have left it at that.

Nota bene: why do people insist on victimizing themselves or the group they perceive themselves to be a part of, even to the point of blindly only looking for proof of their assumptions – instead of just rightfully claiming their own existence and brilliance? ‘Kay, I think I already kind of answered my own question. Onward.

it is not fair flat
I like poetry that makes me think and Jim’s always does.

Senyawa

How to describe the music that Senyawa makes? Some have tried. But beyond mentioning the basics I am not going to: “Senyawa is an experimental band from Java, Indonesia, consisting of Rully Shabara and Wukir Suryadi.” There, that’s it.

Do you want to know more? Well, Google and/or others can probably help you out. Me, I suggest you just listen and watch this video of a recording of Senyawa at the Jazzhouse in Copenhagen, uploaded in 2016. And you will understand that Senyawa is Senyawa.

Useen Recordings: Senyawa

Unlock

Where is my mind and is this what writer’s block is like?

Unlock (Photo by Twan van Elk)

I posted this piece on my newsletter yesterday, even though I wasn’t sure if should put it there, or on my blog. But then I got an idea (finally) of what I wanted to do with these two – blog and newsletter – so then I moved it here anyway. Stay tuned for more updates/changes…

Okay, so this is what I wrote:

My mind is locked today. Unreachable, access unattainable, wholly out of order. Work was a struggle, my poetry was just… bleh. Work at the very least is something I can do, I know how to do. And poetry is usually something that helps me, resets me, takes my mind off of things and opens it up.

Not today though. Nothing worked, thoughts didn’t come. And I needed thoughts. Ideas to kick around, to balance on my toes, to bump off my admittedly rather large (and getting increasingly larger, until there’s nothing but) forehead, to heel skillfully into the net, until their deflated leftovers were the only proof that some work had actually been done.

So, I just took that as my starting point for this post. Genius, ain’t it? I thought so. Too bad I can’t take credit for this course of action, because so many writers before me (hah, see what I did there?) have already said that that is the way to go if one is at where I am at today. Yes. Like somebody, somewhere, once, sort of said (okay, it was Charles Bukowski and this is apparently an actual quote): “Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”

And there we are. Or, here I am (trying to not be too presumptuous). I thought I’d have a go at saying what I think about the infamous ‘writer’s block’.

I don’t believe in that whole ‘just work through it’ attitude. I mean, I had one of those days today in which nothing went the way I wanted it to go. That goes for what I wanted to do for my day job (I am working on a proposal) as well as for my writing. My brain could just not reach the things I needed, even though I got up early, was ready, had my coffee, and there weren’t any distractions in the sense that there was other stuff I needed to deal with.

Ideal circumstances, I thought. Yet I had a really hard time producing anything that could form some sound foundation on which I could go further in days to come. Don’t get me wrong, I managed to put some words in, some beginnings are there, but not nearly as many as I had hoped.

So it is not so much writer’s block, but more like a thinking block. It affects my work as well as my writing. I want to go somewhere but, yes, there is a blockage there that prevents me from seeing the road ahead, let alone seeing my end goal. I know, there are some techniques that I can use in preparation for the actual work, but that is the point: I didn’t start yet with what what I needed to do, not really. And I don’t want to just put in words, that to me is not writing. It has to be purposeful, intentional and going somewhere.

In the end, I mean, right now, I feel I did accomplish something today after all. I found that little hook I needed to draw in some writing on. And that was what this was about for me anyway. Great. Tomorrow has to go swimmingly after a day like this. Right?

Some stuff I read today when I couldn’t get my brain jump-started.

Polly wants a cracker

Nirvana – Polly (Audio)

Somehow, these days, all my words seem to come out boxed in these concise, small containers. I call them poetry. You may call them ramblings. The words, they come to me, line up in front of me and make their presence known. I wrap them up, type them down, they get away from me and it is done.

So when that stream hit me, while the warm water was still running down my back, I knew I had to get out as quickly as I could. So I jumped, dried and ran, dangly bits dangling under the towel I draped around my clackity bones.

Now, here I am, trying to get these words on the screen – while my hazy gaze can still discern them (as long as I wear my reading glasses and I keep the laptop close enough I can do it) – as fast as I can, editing be damned (don’t worry, I’ll give it a once over before I’ll actually put this up on the blog).

And just as quickly as it started, it stopped. Halted. Lay dead. Became deceased. Like the parrot. No way to glue it back to its perch, no point. It would only fall down again.

Oh, but the rush. It felt nice. Really nice. I haven’t done this in a while. Is it like riding a bicycle, you think? Is it? Haven’t done that in a while either.

Maybe I should buy a bike.

Words, Meet Maker

If you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.

—Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

Sometimes I think I have these great insights (usually a side-effect of showering), that—as soon as I start to write the words down, and my mind is mulling them over, bending and stretching them to fit into these long doughy sentences that fit just perfectly onto the page—begin to deteriorate before my very eyes, until at the end there’s nothing left to do than to delete those god-awful words with an aching heart.

Life is never as simple as I can see in a flash of bright light. The light takes out most of the greys and the finer details that are hiding in the dark at the sides. But those matter, of course. And as I zoom out and gradually dim the light, those gradients and tidbits come into focus and start moving around, squirming like a colony of crazy ants—oftentimes confusing the heck out of me.

For every sentence that pops into my head and that I try and commit to this blank space waiting for me, I come up with tons of reasons to not write them. They are not witty, not smart, not beautiful, not dirty, not wise, not angry, not emotional enough. They are too long, too short, of the exact right length (are they though)? They are wrong, or the presumptions—or worse, assumptions—that precede them, make them tricky or possibly untrue and therefore unfit for use.

Or maybe my language skills fall short. Maybe my grasp of the English language is insufficient. It is, is after all, not my native language and a language I only really came into contact with at the start of my high school days when it was part of the curriculum. Whereas I picked up German naturally when I was still little—maybe about five or six years old?—because my dad liked to watch a lot of German tv, because, frankly, Dutch tv wasn’t all that great (it still isn’t).

—Wait.. where the hell am I going with this post? What am I doing here?

Ugh… See what I mean? I better delete this.

Poems twittereded

Posted some short poems straight to Twitter:

First day of quitting – live blog

Just to keep track of my thoughts, feelings, symptoms or whatever, during this first day of me quitting, I’ll try and keep a kind of ‘live blog’ here. More updates following! (Possibly.)

21:25 CET – Evening now. Had some snacks after dinner (…) to give my body and mind something to do. The craving is still there, but I found some distraction in Mo Amer’s recent Netflix show. Very funny guy. Go watch it!

15:15 CET – Heightened craving, definitely. I am trying to distract myself with work, crackers and tea. And speaking of distraction — focus just comes and goes. This is all just coming from my own mind, so I am reminding myself that I am the one in charge there.

12:50 CET – Oof… After lunch is another one of those moments that not smoking or vaping hits me extra hard. It’s not a physical thing, just that habit, the craving for that taste and sensation. Okay, onward.

11:00 CET I am now almost halfway through the first day, and I noticed in my mind I keep on reaching for my vape pen and thinking about inhaling smoke/vaping. That feeling of putting the pen in my mouth and getting the stuff into my lungs. It’s all about the cravings, because apparently after half a day, it can’t be withdrawal symptoms anymore. And my lungs (still?) hurt a little. I had two cups of black coffee already and I’m going to leave it at that. Coffee upsets my stomach a little (which I usually don’t mind) plus the caffeine will add to that feeling of anxiety… probably, I think. Soothing camomile tea and water coming up then.