21 March 2007

Black Shirts and the Hydra Head

"In order for the wheel to turn, for life to be lived, impurities are needed, and the impurities of impurities in the soil, too, as is known, if it is to be fertile. Dissension, diversity, the grain of salt and mustard are deeded: Fascism does not want them, forbids them, and that's why you're not a Fascist; it wants everybody to be the same, and you are not. But immaculate virtue does not exist, either, or if it exists it is detestable." ~ Primo Levi

Last Friday, my therapist and I took a longer look back than I have in quite some time. Breast cancer severely limits the energy and interest one can summon to think about one's history. I've had a lot of trouble with my Inner Fascist lately and she became the focus of our delicate probing.

I've been pushing myself physically a bit because I don't wish my co-workers to think I'm a slacker. "Who has ever thought you were a slacker?" My therapist wanted to know. There are many heads to the Inner Fascist Hydra, notably my parents. By the time I was 13, I'd developed my own early version of her and she was already quite a taskmaster.

The only person who ever thought I wasn't working up to my level of capability was my college prep English teacher in my junior year of high school. She was more than that, though. Her name was Mrs. N. She was the first person who ever saw who I really was, not the product of a truly degenerate (I use that word advisedly) living situation, not a young person who was on her way to teen pregnancy and the streets. She saw how hard I tried, how much I kept hidden in order to gain approval from someone, anyone.

Though I placed out of lower division English classes in college and made A's in upper division classes, Mrs. N. never ever gave me an "A". She always told me that I wasn't working hard enough, that I was skating by on inherent smarts instead of applied focus. Oh. I had no idea what she even meant by "working hard." I actually thought I had been giving it my best.

Therein lies the development of one of the Hydra heads. Am I working hard or am I coasting? I can't ever tell. I never could. If I have to try too much, I have a tendency to get bored and move on. If I'm interested, there isn't enough time in the day for me to indulge my intellectual passion. I become obsessed. Some of those obsessions wax and wane repeatedly over the years.

"So what?" my therapist wanted to know. I didn't have much of an answer for that. I suppose the answer is that if I'm not living up to my capabilities, I'm unhappy with myself. I'm unhappy with myself a lot. The Inner Fascist would like to know whose business it is of hers, anyway. IF is perfectly capable of setting the agenda for me. And she looks fabulous in black. She has some mighty impressive boots, too.

Therapist suggests that the Inner Fascist take a hike and that I come to recognize there's no need to push so hard so much of the time. I've been trying to get the IF to take a less active role in my life, but she's pretty dedicated to getting me right. I suppose it's helpful to know how one of the Hydra heads developed, that love has always been the motivation for feeling myself somehow less than I might be.

I would have done anything to please Mrs. N. She saved my life, both figuratively and literally. She died when I was in my early 20's, so I have no way to measure my accomplishments by that touchstone. Would she be pleased? I don't know. I hope so. But the Inner Fascist doesn't think she'd be pleased at all.

Bushism of the day:

"And there is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I'm sorry it's the case, and I'll work hard to try to elevate it." ~ George W. Bush, interview on National Public Radio, Jan. 29, 2007

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