I have my life just about perfect, just about how I would want it. How can I make it better in 2017?
Ways which I have imagined would improve it may not. An example: yesterday I went to Mind, the mental health charity. There we were doing a positive psychology craft task, with little difficulty and maximum gentle affirmation, and one of we service users said how sad she was at the change in meaning of the word “gay”. It used to mean joyous or colourful. It has been twisted.
I am quite clear that such a remark should be challenged. It is homophobic. An exact analogy is a racist remark, like, “I hate to walk down that street. It’s as if I am in a foreign country, I’m the only white person there and they’re all speaking foreign.” I understand the distress; yet that is saying to people- you should not be here. To the gay person- You should pretend to be straight. You should act normal. You should not be you.
I deflected. “Yes,” I said. “‘Gay’ now means mediocre or third rate, which is a horrible meaning.” I am pretty sure she meant she disliked ‘gay’ meaning ‘homosexual’. And- they did not challenge her, even though I was there, obviously queer, and the manager is gay, and he was there. The third sector should promote diversity and challenge homophobia, because I should not have to pretend to be someone else so that other people can be comfortable.
Perhaps they did not want to drive away a service user. Stats means Funding, which really matters. So, either she is more important to them than I am, or they think I can cope with homophobia better than she can cope with challenge. The manager was sitting beside me and his underlings fawned on him a bit and none of them said anything. He’s Gay! What were they thinking?
What bothers me in this incident is not that the woman’s homophobia frightens or hurts me, but that
That’s not supposed to happen!
I know the rules! I know how these mental health workers are supposed to respond in these situations, and they just didn’t! Everything’s going along just fine, and then out of the blue- something unexpected happens. And therefore unwelcome.
I might say, how can I improve my life? A little more variety, more human contact, is what I am supposed to want. So says the culture; most people would agree; it makes sense to me; yet when I go somewhere which should be supportive and non-threatening, where I know what to expect, something I did not expect happens!
My life is just as I want it. I have control. A little more money would be nice. I would have the heating on more. But I am not cold, I wrap up in a sleeping bag. Pride, shame and amour propre might have a role here. I am a pig satisfied, and the alternative is not Socrates dissatisfied, but someone houseproud and concerned with appearances dissatisfied. I want to understand, and I continue using my analytical mind to consider whether homophobia should be challenged or what makes my life good.
I am houseproud only vestigially. Sometimes I act, because it seems possible I could make things better. I take pleasure, yesterday, in having bought a sink plunger and unblocked my bathroom basin, clogged with soap and used toothpaste, with it. The basin now drains quickly. It might stay clean longer after I clean it, so I may muster the motivation to clean it. I have been thinking about this for ages, resenting how it was blocked, and messing about with boiling water. Will a plunger not just shift a blockage further down the pipes, causing worse problems later?
I like analysis. I have spent a happy hour pacing the floor, agonising over all this, before starting to write. I am happy now, writing. I knew sink plungers unblock sinks, yet analysed and cogitated for weeks.
So I might say,
Taking action is the solution!
But what if something went wrong, or what I expected did not happen?
Letting go of control is the solution!
But why, if that can make me so unhappy?
I have seen worse, in home visits, or in student flats- one had half full coffee cups, which after a week developed a mouldy scum- but those are the kind of home visits we use for stories. There were fish and chip wrappers left on the floor!
My house is not that bad, but-
I have control! I feel some boredom and frustration, but little anger or fear. I have limited human contact, little motivation. If I tidy my house it will only get untidy again.
I am dissatisfied because I am thinking about it, and in that sense I am closer to Socrates than the pig- and Socrates had Diotima and slaves to do the housework.
Never mind how or why that homophobic incident upsets me, it does. It is an example of so much human interaction, from the rare to the quotidian, from my oral hearing before the Social Security Commissioner to those who-shall-give-way dances as we walk along the street. So- retreat! Avoid those interactions, and you avoid distress!
I will not go out because the culture tells me, or I imagine, that I ought to want to. You see! I did what I was supposed to want to do, and it was Awful! I met a homophobe! And yet, I am frustrated and bored. Something better may be possible.
Two more thoughts on pleasure and desire. I ate a plum just now. I gave it my attention, and it was beautiful; yet I do not want to be eating all the time. And, I had a vaginoplasty because it was what I wanted, more than anything else in the world. Now I regret it, thinking a penis might have its uses. Desire is not a reliable guide to satisfaction.
My life is as I have made it, and it is good, right now. It pleases me. And my mind is at work: could it please me better?