writing, distressing, resenting, and respecting

"Writing on the wood is prohibited."...

“Writing on the wood is prohibited.” DSC07600 (Photo credit: Nicolas Karim)

I write. Right now, I am writing this. What is the purpose and value of writing?

Writing is quite different from talking. Talking around other people- even if only talking out loud to myself- I may have an immediate concern with someone else’s experience of the communication, plus the possibility of dialogue. There is certainly unique value in talking like that. However, with writing, I can organize a sequence of thoughts without any interruption. There is also unique value in this.

Sometimes, I have been on the phone with someone and one of the two people (them or me) has talked for several minutes without any dialogue. Talking in person, there are more signals of interest and attention than when talking on the phone. During classroom lectures and long church sermons, people may have so little engagement that they fall asleep and start snoring. Have you ever been on a phone call in which one of the people actually fell asleep?


think (Photo credit: the|G|™)

On the phone, one long-winded speaker can go for several minutes before realizing that there has been no interest or attention for quite a while. Maybe the transmitting of the voice on the phone call has been inactive for a while and then a dial tone suddenly interrupts an entirely one-sided conversation. That can be quite disappointing.

When writing, I can explore my interests without concern for anyone else’s interests. I write about what interests me, even if what interests me is connecting to one or more people in particular ways, as in influencing them.

If I write something and share it, then if it is interesting to someone else in particular, they can read some or all of something I wrote. They can read it all at once or read it in sections or even read it twice.

If someone is not interested in something I wrote, I might not ever find out. If they find something frightening or otherwise unappealing, again, I might not ever know.

A student practices writing Chinese characters

A student practices writing Chinese characters (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can write something for myself, then revise it for someone else. Maybe I research a subject thoroughly and organize all of my notes in to a file of many folders, but from all of that material then I make very brief outline for a proposal to submit to a publisher. Or, maybe I write a simplified summary piece for children, focusing on dramatic highlights and leaving out any obscure references or complex themes. Or, maybe I write a private correspondene to someone that I know has certain interests and familiarity with certain details.

All of those variations of writing are informed by the original private process of making all of my notes and organizing them. After writing (or during a long writing process), I may have several conversations with people, perhaps as part of researching the content or perhaps to get some feedback as to how various people respond to the content of interest to me.


Writing (Photo credit: jjpacres)

Writing, I can actually invent an audience, as in one that may not even currently exist. I can certainly imagine things about an audience when talking as well, but any actual people may interrupt and present a different audience than the one I had been imagining.

I can write a letter to myself at a different age (decades older or decades younger). I can write a letter to someone who has been dead for a while- maybe centuries. I can imagine writing to a group of people who have not been born yet.

I can also invent a new character to be the author. I can write as if I were someone else other than who I am- someone real or imaginary.


Matej-writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Originally, when I first sat down to write a while ago, I was thinking of writing something to my mom. So far, most of what I have written has probably been most interesting for people who are themselves writers (and I presume that my mom probably would not label herself a writer).

On average, writers may be some of the most introspective people. I am writing this for sharing with and connecting with people who are not afraid of introspection and honesty- who may even value it and seek out introspective honesty. Anyone else who started reading this probably has not kept reading up to this point, right? The prior content might be considered a filter, a barrier, a hook, a gimmick, a test, and all of the above.

So, my first thought before writing this was that I began to explore writing as a way to explore conversations that were not happening in person in my life. When I was very young, I wanted to interact with people, but my sister went to school and my mom did many things besides interact with me. One of the ways that I tried to get her attention was throwing tantrums. Another way was to do something that would predictably make her mad. Those methods worked well enough for me to repeat them for a while.

There were also many times when I did not want to interact with my mom, as in because of fear of her and her response. I wanted things like acceptance and interest and connection and mutual respect and affection, not rejection and dismissal and outbursts of distress. At various times, I got all of those things with my mom and I began to cultivate certain dynamics and avoid certain others.

English: Man in Distress

English: Man in Distress (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everyone has sometime been around other people who were in some amount of distress. As a child, other people’s distress can be frightening. People in distress can be negligent or even abusive.

It is a very predictable thing that children or even adults would withdraw from someone experiencing a certain level of distress. People in intense distress may be drugged to subdue them or isolated in to jails and mental institutions, or simply killed to prevent them from injuring other people.

My mom was sometimes upset when I was a teenager that I did not talk with her more. I might spend a lot of time playing guitar and writing songs and talking on the phone. She might ask me a few questions and I might or might not even respond to her questions. I might go out of my way to avoid her.

I watched a TV episode yesterday with the words “guilt trip” in the title. I thought of my mom immediately when I read those words.

English: 1944 SOS telegram reporting airmen in...

English: 1944 SOS telegram reporting airmen in distress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When a person in distress is frustrated with other people’s lack of response to them, they can experience resentment and then blame others for withdrawing from them. To blame others for withdrawing is one form of what is called a guilt trip. Again, it is entirely predictable that someone in distress might blame other people for withdrawing from them. It would be unpredictable that someone currently in distress would suddenly speak of themselves as responsible for “driving people away.”

I have been blamed by many people for withdrawing from them. I have also sometimes been sudden and abrupt in my withdrawing. Sometimes, withdrawing is very disappointing to others, violating expectations and hopes, disrupting plans, even leaving complicated messes, revealing old distress or creating new triggers for distress and tantrums and resentment and revenge and guilt tripping.

When in high school, I withdrew from my first steady girlfriend when I realized that I was focusing on moving away to college and losing interest in the relationship. I withdrew gradually rather than crisply and cleanly and clearly.

Later, I withdrew from my son’s mom. In that case, I may have thought that my withdrawing might result in her affectionately chasing me. Sometimes, withdrawing produces a renewal of interest and sometimes withdrawing produces tantrums.

Eventually, instead of her gently chasing me, she crisply and clearly withdrew from me (or pushed me away), but one time in particular was quite messy and stayed messy for quite a while, not clean at all. Over the years since then, however, she and I have repeatedly chased each other affectionately, repeatedly withdrawn, repeatedly resented the other, and so on.

A button I once made

A button I once made (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, I admit withdrawing from her. I admit my experience of distress, sometimes intense, as well as resenting her (which is a form of fearing her, pushing her away).

I admit that she has also withdrawn from me and blamed me. We’ve had an enduring and powerful personal attraction, as well as several sudden and intense repulsions.

I have occasionally referenced proudly the fact that she has repeatedly “chased me affectionately” within the decade since she and I first stopped living together, as well as responding to me when I “chased her affectionately.”

I have defensively pointed to her recurring affection for me, like her affection would somehow cancel the validity of her past withdrawing and distress and blame. What was I defending? I was defending my guilt at her not being a lasting priority in my life.

I accept responsibility that she (and my son) have been huge active priorities in my life, though only sometimes. There have been other active priorities for me, too, such as earlier in July when late at night my neighbor has banged on my wall in distress. She was scared of her teenage son injuring her. I assisted her in promoting safety for her and her younger son. That also promoted tranquility in my environment so that I could sleep later that night without disturbance.

No one has a monopoly on distress- not my neighbor, not me, not my mom, and not my son’s mother. Sometimes, my sense is that certain people are craving for my attention, such as by throwing tantrums or “laying guilt trips” dramatically. I have done those kinds of things as well.

Show Some Respect

Show Some Respect (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I accept responsibility that my son’s mom and I experienced both attraction and distress, both connection and repulsion, both resentment and appreciation, and so on. In fact, all of those aspects of life arise in almost all relationships in my life- eventually.

Do I expect that distress will ever permanently cease? That might be very disappointing! Have I been habitually responding to any experience of distress by blaming someone for triggering distress in me?

Sometimes, when I experience distress, I may withdraw or blame or repel or… write. Some people eat excessively in response to distress. Some drink excessively. Some talk excessively, especially after drinking excessively. Some read excessively. Some excessively write.

What does “excessively” mean? There is no specific boundary between excessive and anything else, is there?

I may have been excessively focused on my son’s mom at times. I may have been naive about what results would arise from my focus on her (or on anyone else).

Respect Yourself (album)

Respect Yourself (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Or, maybe the word “excessively” is optional. More simply stated, I have been focused on my son’s mom as much as I have and as often as I have.

I have had a variety of experiences result from my focus on her: intrigue, delight, resentment, rage, apprecation, learning, repulsion, despair, guilt, distress, courage, joy, pride, grief, and boredom. In fact, this reminds of the time I was writing about her and I eventually got so bored that I woke up and realized that I had fallen asleep.

Respect is possible. I can respect distress. I can respect contempt. I can respect animosity and boredom and fascination and lust and hunger and danger and safety and anything that I can respect. I can respect life.

I can respect certain aspects of life more than others. I can avoid certain things and focus on certain priorities, then the priorities and the focus can change.

I can respect that the priority for some people at some time may eventually be whatever they actually are doing in the particular moment. They may lay a guilt trip on me (or on themselves: “I should have done what I wish now that I had already done!”) Or, they may congratulate me on my brilliant writing and share my blog. They may bang on my wall in distress. They may completely and utterly ignore me.

I can respect that other people can respect whatever they respect. I can respect that struggling to attract the respect of other people is one of the most common results of distress.


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