Reverse Chronology

This blog is unwieldy to explore, notes ShamanGal.   She can’t find notes directly addressing what she is facing today.

She’s right, of course.  This is post 1279, all of them posted over six and a half years, a few of them prequels, essays from before that time that I salted in.

And they are organized like a blog; reverse chronological order.

Today, Matt from Automattic wants WordPress to be the operating system of the web, and you can use it to create great sites, but back then blogging was just blogging.  Today bloggers start with tags and categories that allow people to find their posts in the blogosphere, but everytime I have have tried to go back and sort my posts, I find it challenging to imagine a taxonomy that can easily be retrofitted in.

I know that this doesn’t make the blog useful as product, but it does make it very much my history.

Every now and then, someone hits the blog and somehow peeks at some old posts.  I tend to look at those posts, just to see what interested them.

That happened yesterday.    And when I looked back, I was reminded how much this blog has been full of rage and frustration.

Taking care of my parents for the last decade was bloody difficult work, especially emotionally.

My sister forced me to go to Kripalu, to a course I told her was wrong for me, but I do tend to commit to the process in front of me.   One of the bits was trying to give new Kripalu teachers the experience of being in an Ashram.  To that end, the clocks were covered, we slept on the floor, and ate simply — rice and beans and salads, though all beautifully prepared.

The point was to break through the ego of people who liked having their life just so, getting what they wanted in every moment.   Fussy eaters, people who were picky about sleeping, those who were used to being demanding in the details of their lives were being taught to let go of the luxury of apparent control, to drop the controlling ego and be conscious.

To me, though, this simplicity was not the hardship.  I just slept on a pallet and ate beans.   Heck, there were many times I slept on the concrete floor here in this house, and beans have always been fine.  Renouncing control, breaking the ego, having no assumption of entitlement, well, that was just habit to me.

Doors are broken around me, knock off or out of true that they don’t close all that well. They are artifacts of the frustration and rage I had, slammed hard after having to endure the lack of empathy and understanding and compassion I got from my family while having to give them empathy and understanding and compassion while taking care of them.   It’s the “target patient” who doesn’t run, but who instead serves.

That difficult, stressful and painful experience is threaded all through the last seven years documented on this blog, threaded all through my experience of being me.   I see that when I dip into the reverse chronology of my life.  That experience will probably turn up if you just look at a random post from this blog.

Mary Catherine Bateson has written about the strategies we use when we compose a life.  How do we turn our experience into narrative that informs and structures our choices?   Do we move forward through the story, looking at twists and turns, or do we move backward through the story, choosing experiences that support our theme?   And how do we create those themes anyway?  Where are we taught what we should focus on and what can be ignored?  Do our themes hange over time, with each chapter of our life, for example?

Some quotes from her Peripheral Visions:

“Increasingly, we will cease to focus on learning as preliminary and see it threaded through other layers of experience, offering one of life’s great pleasures.”

“The capacity to enjoy, to value one experience over another, is the precondition of the capacity to learn.”

“Looking, listening and learning offer the modern equivalent of moving through life as a pilgrimage.”

“It is hard to think of learning more fundamental to the shape of society than learning whether to trust or distrust others.”

“Human beings construct meaning as spiders make webs.”

“The solution is to take responsibility for the choice of metaphors, to savor them and ponder their suggestions, above all to live with many and take no one metaphor as absolute.”

“School casts a shadow on all subsequent learning. Trying to understand learning by studying schooling is rather like trying to understand sexuality by studying bordellos.”

“Not only don’t we know what we know, we don’t know what we teach.”

“Most of the learning of a lifetime, including much of what is learned in school, never shows up in a curriculum.”

This blog is a reverse chronological series of moments in my life.   This being my life, it is a series of essays, filled with thought, informed by feeling and pop culture.

ShamanGal wonders how she can make sense of this torrent.  The best she can do, I suspect, is read what she reads and see what resonates with her.

In my experience, what you get out of any particular entry depends on where you are in your own journey.  Come back and read it again and something different will pop out at you.  Few people read to understand the meaning I put in the message, read to learn about me.  Instead, they read to learn about themselves, looking for words that inform or express what they hold in this moment.    I may read other narratives for challenge, for views I don’t understand, views that expose ideas I haven’t considered, but I don’t find that to be the habit of most people.

Making sense out of this torrent is my job.   I need to use it to construct a narrative that takes me into the next chapter of my life, a narrative that honours my struggle but is not limited by it.

In other words, I have to take this reverse chronology and use it as the basis of a forward chronology, making new story rather than capturing the old.

Can I be the star in my own movie?  Or have I surrendered too much of my ego already?

Tomorrow will tell, eh?