December 13, 2018

"Shame is the opposite of art. When you live inside of your shame, everything you see is inadequate and embarrassing."

"A lifetime of traveling and having adventures and not being tethered to long-term commitments looks empty and pathetic and foolish, through the lens of shame. You haven’t found a partner. Your face is aging. Your body will only grow weaker. Your mind is less elastic. Your time is running out. Shame turns every emotion into the manifestation of some personality flaw, every casual choice into a giant mistake, every small blunder into a moral failure. Shame means that you’re damned and you’ve accomplished nothing and it’s all downhill from here. You need to discard some of this shame you’re carrying around all the time. But even if you can’t cast off your shame that quickly, through the lens of art, shame becomes valuable. When you’re curious about your shame instead of afraid of it, you can see the true texture of the day and the richness of the moment, with all of its flaws.... Shame creates imaginary worlds inside your head. This haunted house you’re creating is forged from your shame. No one else can see it, so you keep trying to describe it to them. You find ways to say, 'You don’t want any part of this mess. I’m mediocre, aging rapidly, and poor. Do yourself a favor and leave me behind.' You want to be left behind, though. That way, no one bears witness to what you’ve become. It’s time to come out of hiding. It’s time to step into the light and be seen, shame and wrinkles and failures and fears and all.... What if you simply experimented with being who you are, out in the open, even as that feels difficult and awkward and sad? What if you just decided that you’re an artist, today, right now? You’re sensitive and erratic, maybe. You’re maudlin and also expansive. What would it look like to own that identity, as a means of making art, sure, but also as a means of owning your FULL SELF? You wouldn’t feel as angry at other artists. You would recognize them as kindred spirits...."

Heather Havrilesky gives a great answer to a great question at The Cut. Really, the question is also very well written and interesting. I was going to quote the question for this post, because I predicted the answer would be much less interesting than the question. But when I got to "Shame is the opposite of art," I changed my mind.


rhhardin said...

Villainy would combine both art and shame.

Ralph L said...

Shame creates imaginary worlds inside your head

Here, I thought that was art.

Sydney said...

A different point of view of that letter and response.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

The sour old lemon suckers around here will doubtless find crabby things to say because that sounds very female, but I think that is a wonderful passage. Heather Havrilesky is a treasure. I enjoyed her book. On phone so no fiddle link but it’s entitled How To Be a Person in the World.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

*fiddly link

Ralph L said...

But your concept of yourself makes no sense. You got it from a rom-com. Age 35 is not an expiration date on your beauty or your worth.

Took her a long time to get to that. Schumer made a hash of it.

traditionalguy said...

Being yourself without fear of rejection is a good approach to living with peace of mind. After a long life she finally found out that most people did not reject her. That was all in her mind that was using high standards to judge herself. In reality about 80% of the people will like you for being yourself. The other 20% are just there to make you appreciate the normal 80%. But with those odds, the plan would have be to meet as many people socially as possible.

Ralph L said...

Sydney's Unfiddly link

Angle-Dyne, Samurai Buzzard said...

"A lifetime of traveling and having adventures and not being tethered to long-term commitments looks empty and pathetic and foolish, through the lens of shame....

True, but that's not the only lens through which such a life would look empty and pathetic and foolish.

When you’re curious about your shame instead of afraid of it, you can see the true texture of the day and the richness of the moment, with all of its flaws....

Being a dispassionate observer of your own negative emotions is indeed a more productive way of dealing with them than repressing them in fear and denial. I'm pretty sure there are traditions in which this sort of thing has been taught for millenia. (We win sometimes, we mostly lose, and suffer, and then we weaken and die. Who knew?) I don't think the goal is to just come up with another self-bamboozling narrative to deal with the sorrows and failures of your life, though.

Ralph L said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sydney said...

Sorry about my bad link. Thank you for correcting it, Ralph L.

SayAahh said...

How, in the end when the lights go off, does it make any difference?

Ann Althouse said...

"Here, I thought that was art."

I think art is something that is produced in a tangible form outside of your head. You may have the raw material in your head, and it can very likely be shame, but if you keep it in, you're not doing the art.

There's this idea that everyone has one book inside him. But not everyone is the author of a book. The trick is to get it out, and the amount of the shame inside can be a big motivator to get that stuff on the outside, to transform it into something that other people can relate to.

iowan2 said...

Spiritual faith is a cure for what ails you. Then you understand that there is something else bigger and more important than you.

FIDO said...

Mm. Don't know that I agree. Self loathing, demons and the concurrent substance abuse and sexual abuse that prior artists have self inflicted upon themselves certainly didn't hurt their art at all.

While I would not be so bold as to suggest shame feeds art, it certainly hasn't shown it to be any impediment.

But instead of just asserting fashionable zeitgeist pabullum that the non reflective 'smart set' gush over, I shall give an example.

Sarah Bernhardt.

She was an illegitimate (1), half culture Dutch/French? (2), fatherless (3) actress (4) born of a prostitute (5) in 19th century France (-1).

She failed in twice when sent to two different acting schools (5 and 6). Without recourse, she was forced to become a mistress of some Prince (7) and had her own little bastard (~).

And yet, she went on to be the most famous actress of her generation. Did her Art suffer?

Other examples are rife: gay men in Florence, hidden Jewish writers under Non Jewish pen names. Female writers writing as men.

But the best rebuttal is 'Art Through Adversity'. Which isn't exactly shame but certainly can be part of adversity.

John Christopher said...

I jumped to read this because a different blog had criticized Havrilesky for a recent answer. I was surprised it was the same one.

chuck said...

"The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons."

tcrosse said...

A post about casting off shame deserves the Hillary Goes Away tag.

Angle-Dyne, Samurai Buzzard said...

It's also interesting that Althouse doesn't notice that the hip-lifestyle con that "Haunted" fell for in the first place, and the con that "Polly" offers as an antidote to the first con, are both just more extensive versions of the travel brochures she mocks the rubes for falling for.

Ralph L said...

but if you keep it in, you're not doing the art.

So you can appreciate others' art, but it doesn't count if it's your own? It takes two to tango? Eponine would disagree, and she was in worse shape than Haunted. Of course, Hugo killed her off.

Then there's the collision of "A thing of beauty is a joy forever" and "the dry remnant of a garden flower."

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The one constant in all your failed relationships is you

Except in this case, it's not just relationships, it is every decision on every subject.

Shouting Thomas said...

The simple Catholic concept that we are all sinners is a far better statement.

No, this shouldn't be discarded.

The impetus to discard the notion that we are all sinners is an ugly, ignorant part of feminism.

No, you shouldn't celebrate yourself. I'm fed up with women celebrating themselves. Humility, service to others, accepting the burden of being a sinner... I'd like to hear that from women instead of all this Oprah shit.

Farmer said...

The sour old lemon suckers around here will doubtless find crabby things to say because that sounds very female,

You said it for me!

The opposite of art is not shame. The opposite of art is politics.

William said...

My browsing history is just that--a browsing history. It is not a reflection of who I truly am, nor any kind of gauge as to my true character, I am totally not ashamed of my browsing history.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The woman in the article says: I used to think I was the one who had it all figured out. Adventurous life in the city! Traveling the world! Making memories! Now I feel incredibly hollow. And foolish.

I feel very sorry for her.

She bought into the glittering dream that has been foisted upon young women and found out, too late....that is is a giant lie. The lie that you can have it all! That there is a fabulous, sparkling life somewhere, full of all the romance, sophistication, pleasure, riches that are shown in movies and TV..... and all you have to do is to just pick it up. You are owed this wonderful thing.

She threw away the things that she needed and the things that she secretly craved, because they were not part of the scripted "dream". Now she is damaged goods. Possibly irreparably. But....maybe not.

Her question and her summary of her life reeks of desperation. People who are desperate will repulse other people in the way that a sick animal will be squeezed out of the pack.

She needs to give up the glittering dream. That one is dead. It was a lie anyway. Work on her own dreams. She doesn't need to feel shame. Regret,yet. Shame not necessarily.

She needs to look forward and not backwards. You cannot undo the past. It is what it is. You can take control of your future and build upon the past. Recognize when you are falling into the trap and be aware of yourself.

Even if she never accomplishes her dream it doesn't mean that her affect on others has been nothing. Just looking at what her life has become, could be in inspiration to others to NOT follow an enticing dream into oblivion.

Plus there is this regret

William said...

She claims to get looking for inspiration by reading the diaries of Anais Ann. That's a big part of her problem right there......I'm Irish Catholic. Shame is a big part of my make up, but the upside is that the shame is mostly localized to sex. I'm pretty sure my sexual transgressions are pretty far down on the things that will validate my admission to hell.

Henry said...

Shame -- and guilt, to name it's nighttime companion -- is an exercise in ego. It is a great temptation to be the person who suffers most, even by one's own mind, because that puts you at the center of the drama.

The great truth is this: Life is suffering. The problem is this: if life is suffering and it is ego that suffers, how do you break that cycle?

Every memory that we stick to devastates our life,

writes Charlotte Joko Beck. And thus:

The process of atonement goes on for a lifetime. That’s what human life is: endless atonement. In contrast, feeling guilty is an expression of the ego: we can feel sorry for ourselves (and a bit noble) if we get lost in our guilt.


True transformation implies that even the ... “I” that wants to be happy is transformed.

Sebastian said...

"You are 95 years old, looking back at your 35-year-old self, and this is what you see: a young woman, so young, so disappointed, even though everything is about to get really good. She doesn’t see how much she’s accomplished, how much she’s learned, how many new joys await her. She doesn’t know how strong she is. She is blindfolded, sitting on a mountain of glittering gems. She is beautiful, but she feels ugly. She has a rich imagination and a colorful past, but she feels poor. She thinks she deserves to be berated because she has nothing. She has everything she needs."

For many people, including the questioner, this is simply false. They are not particularly accomplished or strong, and don't have a rich imagination or everything they need.

"All you have to be is a human being."

No. All you have to be is loved.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The advice given by "Polly" in the article linked is excellent! I just wish that she hadn't called it 'shame'.

Polly said............ my mistakes and experiences and choices brought me to this moment. They might make me sad or embarrassed or regretful, but they’re precious because they give this day its unique mood. When I drag them into the light, I feel better. This is where I can begin. Today, I have countless chances to reinvent and rework and reorder myself and my experience. You do, too.

Regret and introspection about those regrets and about the behaviours that brought you to this point. Not shame.

Reinvent. Reorder. Go forward.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

The corollary is that shamelessness is the equivalent of art, that is what has destroyed art.

pdug said...

No this is terrible advice. Shame is a great indicator that there IS a problem even if you can't solve the problem with shame.

Shame means you need atonement: the substitution of another's life and success for your own. That would be Good News. We all do that when confronted with shame "that wasn't the REAL ME"

Yes it was. But you don't want it to be. If only atonement were possible. If only someone could take my place in the great assize of life

Shouting Thomas said...

Any artist who managed to impoverish himself/herself during my lifetime was an idiot.

This little thing called multimedia on computers happened. It created jobs, well paying jobs, for any artist with the sense to study and learn some computer literacy skills.

I made a good living writing and composing music for multimedia presentations of all kinds... corporate, convention, art, short movies, etc. All that was required of me was that I learn the basics of programming and the door was wide open.

Likewise, opportunities abounded for those with graphic arts and animation skills, if only they learned basic computer competence and low level scripting skills.

I was able to finance my own music projects. I didn't have to go to somebody else to beg for money.

I regard any artist who failed to take advantage of these opportunities over the past 35 years as a lazy fool.

Shouting Thomas said...

I've got nothing against whoring. I've loved some magnificent whores during my life.

This woman needs to come to grips with her whoring and stop pretending it's something other than whoring. Honest whoring, without all the feminist platitudes, is glorious.

Her life would take an enormous turn for the better if she stopped rationalizing her whoring.

Fernandistein said...

Figured out what you're going to do with your LIFE yet?

Well, if you're still in your early twenties, you're probably okay, but if you've already kissed thirty goodbye you'd better get down to business. And this isn't about "financial security" or anything dumb like that. We're talking meaning here. Like doing something that doesn't leave you empty and weak, or used, or wasted. Like the feeling you used to get on Saturday morning when you were about twelve. Look back on any event that happened yesterday, or anything small, like something you said, of did, and imagine yourself fifty years from now, remembering that same event. It makes you feel sick, doesn't it? You bet it does. You've got just the same amount of time to "figure it out" as everyone else did, so you'd better get cracking. Think of how much is shot already. It's no joke. Also send for our catalog of new Motor-Driven Woodcraft Tools.

Apex Manufacturing * * * Chicago, Illinois.

Fernandistein said...


Comes Fully Equipped - Just What You Want

What everyone longs for.


Ignore sense of own worthlessness, completely invest self in another.

Feel reaily[sic] terrible when they are finally gone. You'll wonder what it was all about.

Our Choice .... $19.95

chickenlittle said...

Schamlippen means a pair o'lips in German. It's something unsaid.

Fernandistein said...

Uncomfortable Look of Disappointment, Defeat.

Wear it everywhere. People will wonder where they've seen it before. People will leave you alone.

One size fits all .... $1.98

chickenlittle said...

Althouse wrote; I think art is something that is produced in a tangible form outside of your head. You may have the raw material in your head, and it can very likely be shame, but if you keep it in, you're not doing the art.

This closely parallels the two-part legal meaning of invention in intellectual property law: "conception" followed by "reduction to practice."

Fernandistein said...

Then you understand that there is something else bigger and more important than you.

That's all fine and dandy until your older brother dies, the one Mom liked better because he was good at football.

Temujin said...

I often look at young women in this striving, driving world we live in, where they are told that that are the best, the tops, and get to have it all, and I wonder how they feel inside when they get tossed from the University out into the real streets of this world? We all go through it, but this generation of young women seem to have more on their plate because of what they and we have put on their plate. They HAVE to have it all. Or...or what?

They go through their day empty and unhappy. Talking to their cat. Wondering what happened?

I thought Haunted's letter was great and Polly's answers were...good. But no one can give you the answer to your life and how to deal with it. Of course, this is not limited to today's world and just young women. It's timeless. Joseph Heller wrote a great, if under-appreciated book called 'Something Happened' which chronicles the life of a typical man of the 50s & 60s. What was written in that book could apply to any of us today. In that book the overriding question was what happened? This is not how I though it was going to turn out.

But I do wonder about women's lives today. This is very much a transitional age for women and men- as women now do the graduating of high school in higher numbers, attend college in higher numbers, and get advanced degrees in higher numbers. We are in a new era, where young women will have to carry a burden that they were previously not asked to carry for an entire society. Just wait- give it 10 more years of men not finishing school and women with advanced degrees. See where it goes. And what happens to the men, now becoming less needed, and more dependent on those women? How do the young men view their lives?

Perhaps Polly can answer all of this. I cannot. I see it and comment on it, but I do not pretend to have the answers for it.

n.n said...

Shame is an emotion, which may be complementary to art, as in get out and learn a skill, a craft, a job.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

What she is feeling is not unique and is timeless. She should listen to this and realize that she is not alone.

Against the Wind

It seems like yesterday
But it was long ago
Janey was lovely, she was the queen of my nights
There in the darkness with the radio playing low

And the secrets that we shared
The mountains that we moved
Caught like a wildfire out of control
Till there was nothing left to burn and nothing left to prove

And I remember what she said to me
How she swore that it never would end
I remember how she held me oh so tight
Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then

Against the wind
We were runnin' against the wind
We were young and strong, we were runnin'
against the wind

And the years rolled slowly past
And I found myself alone
Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends
I found myself further and further from my home

And I guess I lost my way
There were oh so many roads
I was living to run and running to live
Never worried about paying or even how much I owed

Moving eight miles a minute for months at a time
Breaking all of the rules that would bend
I began to find myself searchin'
Searching for shelter again and again

Against the wind
A little something against the wind
I found myself seeking shelter against the wind

Well those drifters days are past me now
I've got so much more to think about
Deadlines and commitments
What to leave in, what to leave out

Against the wind
I'm still runnin' against the wind
Well I'm older now and still
Against the wind

Char Char Binks said...

Fear is the opposite of love.

Fernandistein said...

How, in the end when the lights go off, does it make any difference?

"It's time to meet your maker - the Play-Doh Fun Factory!" -- Art Clokey

William said...

If I were a better person I would be more ashamed at my lack of shame. I realize this, and I'm working on it.

Otto said...

Old topic - read the bible for the best answer.
Very clever degree of difficulty to comment

FIDO said...

Envision a society without shame.

We've had a few of them. France during the Hundred's Year War; Haiti, certain towns during the Black Plague.

Do as though wilt without shame for ANYTHING. She is advocating the destruction of character.

No thanks.

paminwi said...

I know this question and answer was about a woman but men this age have the same issues.
My heart breaks for them as much as this woman.

robother said...

Modernism begins with the "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man." It turned into a sweet gig for Joyce, but he worked pretty hard at it with a pre-modern set of tools. Kerouac same, with lotsa alcohol to lubricate the works. (Sobriety may enhance the shame paralyzing this no longer young woman.)

Realistically, she can't go back home again to whatever spiritual tradition gave rise to her physical existence. Most women don't have time to wait for Godot, striking philosophical poses.

rightguy said...

My mom would tell this girl to join a church and attend an adult singles class. She might meet someone half decent, and, (who knows?) she might be spiritually enlightened.

narayanan said...

Is shame come from realizing one made a mistake
realizing one left one's mistake uncorrected and did not care but belatedly?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Shame and regret are two different things.

IMO. Shame is when you realize that your actions inadvertently may have caused harm to others or that you have deliberately and with malice done something to others.

Regret is when you realize the error of your ways and the consequences of your actions. Generally regret is for inadvertent or non purposeful actions that may have caused some pain to you. Actions that you did or did NOT do that have cause pain to yourself. The paths not taken. The job opportunities turned down. The too frequent moving and rootlessness. Relationships cut short. The children never born. Wasting your time and your life on frivolities.

You CAN have both shame and regret at the same time and perhaps you should. But they are not the same.

Smilin' Jack said...

But when I got to "Shame is the opposite of art," I changed my mind.

Most contemporary manifestations of "art" make shame look pretty good by comparison.

Kalli Davis said...

If shame is the opposite of art; then Art can be the lack of shame.

n.n said...

Shame can be an impetus to art.

Anthony said...

"It's not about you", it seems to me, is the eternal answer.

Sigivald said...

Man, I haven't thought of Heather Havrilesky in years, since she basically stopped blogging.

Good to see she's still Doing Things.

(Contra above, one can not wish to be ruled by shame without wishing to remove shame entirely, or guilt.

A shame-based culture has all kinds of negative effects - a guilt culture is far better, and we still mostly have one, for now.

Shame means "you are a bad person". Guilt means "you did a bad thing".

It is vitally important to not confuse them.

The problem with e.g. the French Revolution was not a lack of shame, but a lack of even guilt - the belief that their actions were obviously justified.)

Howard said...

Lack of shame is blasphemy

John Lynch said...

It's easy for middle-aged people to make a big deal out of rejecting the striving of their earlier self.

I suspect in this writer's case that we wouldn't know who she is if she hadn't spent her early life busting her ass getting into the best schools and working hard to get the best jobs.

NOW that she is benefitting from her earlier striving she can go on about shame. If she had had this outlook in her 20s, she'd be a nobody. It's easy to tell other people that it's OK, you shouldn't care, but SHE did.

Brene Brown has this schtick down. It's nonsense. One of the best Star Trek TNG episodes, "Tapestry," eviscerates this trope. Picard gets a second chance to travel back in time to live out his youth with his middle-aged wisdom. When he returns to the present, he is appalled to find his middle-aged choices led to mediocrity. He begs to be able to go back and make "bad" choices again.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I was a theater major and had friends who went on to make their permanent livings in theater, dance, or music. I remember how many thought what a shame it would be to waste their lives getting married, settling down, and having children, rather than the obviously more exalted life in ART. So condescending. It was an extension of the general Ivy-wannabee college's attitude toward careers in general, both males and females.

Shame is not the opposite of art. That's just rationalisation. They are not deeply related. People make choices, and all choices have costs. We have all made some choices where we later felt the costs were too high, but we press on, we adjust. When one considers the difference between shame cultures (appearance) and guilt cultures (virtue) it is completely unsurprising that artists feel the former. As a former applause addict, I think I can make that observation fairly.

tcrosse said...

Lack of shame is blasphemy

Shame was one of those going-away presents God gave Adam and Eve when he evicted them from Eden.

Oso Negro said...

She needs to drink more cheap red wine and listen to Edit Piaf. It won’t do a thing for her, but her cat will appreciate the yowling.

Jupiter said...

So what Polly's answer boils down to is, "I just published a BOOK, you sorry loser! You should be ashamed of yourself!"

Jupiter said...

Wow. The Cut, huh? Do they mean, The Gash?

chillblaine said...

This is brilliant.

Jonathan Graehl said...

It's easy to hate people who do nothing but mope and imagine themselves to be artists and talk about that.
Let's just accept that they exist.
It's fine for non-superstars to produce art, really. As a comment-box writer, you should agree.

Bill Peschel said...

Here's a third opinion from "Had Enough Therapy?"

As you may expect, well, here's his take:

"Polly does not understand any of this. Polly does not even consider why this woman feels like a failure. Polly thinks that it’s all about shame… presumably because Polly read a book about shame. Since said book, I assume, was as vapid and worthless as the average Polly column, she found it illuminating. To the point where she feels qualified to pontificate on the subject… the better to make Haunted’s life worse.

"As for Polly’s inability to understand shame, she wants to make friends with it. She wants to show this woman how to diddle with her shame in the dark. And Polly has no idea how to overcome shame.


" All sensible thinkers know that the way to get rid of shame is to apologize and to get back on the road to propriety. Has this woman been acting indecorously? Has she been engaging in too many hookups? I suspect that she has. Women feel ashamed of themselves when they give it away too cheaply. Haunted does not mention it. Polly does not mention it either. So, I assume that Haunted is ashamed of her behavior.

"What do you do when you are ashamed of your behavior? You do not diddle with the shame. You change the way you behave. You begin by learning to play by the rules. You might even buy a copy of a much and unjustly derided volume called The Rules. She should try dating and courtship."

Jessica said...

This woman's story is something I fear for my own children. I've avoided its pitfalls myself through some choices and some luck. (I met my husband in my twenties, we decided to have children, we followed him to a job, we set down roots in our new neighborhood and our church, and my entire immediate family of origin moved to follow us and live within 20 minutes.) Our culture teaches that education and travel and experiences are paramount. That it's sad and pathetic to stay close to our roots and our families. I try to teach my children the opposite, but I fear they'll be seduced anyway. The wreckage of the sexual revolution, hookup culture, the decline of organized religion. It's all here. I empathize with her. And her honesty is so admirable. I hope she finds her way.

Tina Trent said...

An Inspector Lewis episode called The Point of Vanishing uses the painting The Hunt in the Forest to prove, among other things, that shame is not the opposite of art, or love. Another episode featuring an autistic savant painter, And The Moonbeams Kiss the Sea, does the same. Why be ashamed of shame? The real problem seems to be the lack of it in the heavy morning afters of listless commitment to the myth of the fecundity and significance of the "artistic" lifestyle.

Rightguy is right. Join a church and attend singles events there. Commit to a stable community and learn their ways. The Beatniks were idiot, liar drunks. Their poetry sucked. Their rebellion was infantile. Art and literature professors have ruined countless lives spinning fairy tales about the appeal of the garret and the subculture. Few women are satisfied with peripatetic lifestyles. Few men too. Flaneurs make crappy life companions.

Roger Sweeny said...

I went to the link given above where Rod Dreher complains about Havrilevsky’s answer: “You [the writer of the original letter] feel like a ghost because you have lived a life alienated from commitment to something greater than yourself.” Dreher is thinking of God. Havrilevsky, on the other hand, says that the writer should make art out of her life.

It seems to me there is a lot of commonality in their answers. We use the words art and God as if they have an obvious meaning. And that what the words signify is good. And that it “creates meaning”. And that it is something “greater than yourself”. Yet no one can give a nice definition of either (seriously, what does “onmipotent mean?). Or prove that either exists.

Which, of course, can make both concepts wonderful as advice.

Tina Trent said...

Updike's "The Lovely Troubled Daughters of our Old Crowd" is almost too painfully about this too. I was surprised to see he published it in 1981. It seems set in the early Seventies.

ALP said...

This woman suffers from a BAD case of idealism. BAD. She needs to realize there is a reason it is called 'work' and not 'sunshine rainbow fun time'. She was fed a lie that deep happiness only comes from your job. The 'enlightenment through employment' idea is one of the culprits here, a kind of desperation to appear 'elite' - no pragmatic, down to earth vocations here. Oh no, work is a type of religion. One minute thinking this through is all it takes: how does one experience deep satisfaction from cleaning toilets? Gutting fish? The elitism of the concept must be examined.

Work is just work. It helps the world go round. The Great Material Continuum. You might have moments of 'peak experience' once in a while, but work is - work.

My advice to her would be to go into her past (if she has the details). I do this all the time when I need to get over myself. My grandmother (Italian-American/Roman Catholic) got married at 14 to my grandfather who was 21! My German side consisted of huge families working sugar beet farms. My German great grandfather was sent to work on the construction of the fucking Siberian Express railway.

I have relatives that were sent to Siberia!
I have relatives that were child brides!

Even at my lowest - I've got a fucking amazing life.

Oh, and smoke some weed.

FIDO said...

I remember that scene in 'One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich'.

He was a PRISONER in a GULAG, and yet he found some sense of satisfaction and self worth in his work.

Aspirations are great. They can drive you to be top of your game.

But Haunted seems to refuse to take any satisfaction in her prior actions.

It reminds me of Pagan Epics: you are either The First Chair or you are Dog Shit whom the First Chair scrapes off her shoe.

Hillary and other Lofty People see the world that way. I'm not important but I do good work and important work well.

Is that so very little? Maybe to a Feminist, but they are never happy.

Tina Trent said...

She also says she drinks too much. Who is this Heather Haverleski? An advice columnist who doesn't notice that someone is saying she drinks too much, then brags to her about her own book tour and cocktail parties? Not much of an advertisement for insight.

Jack Wayne said...

What she calls shame I call fear. The CW is that women prefer security instead of risk (men). So maybe what women feel is shame when they reject risk and go for their brand of security? In any event I don’t see the advice from Heather or Rod doing any good.

Rabel said...

"You haven’t found a partner. Your face is aging. Your body will only grow weaker. Your mind is less elastic. Your time is running out."

Well, that's encouraging. And Polly's answer is - don't worry, be happy, draw some pictures or write a book? Yeah, that'll work.

And I don't see how "shame" is the lady's biggest problem. Her biggest current problem is that she's broke and heavily in debt. She would have been better off writing to a financial advice columnist.

As far as "shame is the opposite of art," that's just pretty words with no true meaning that don't help at all.

My advice? Get your money straight first - bankruptcy, a second job, a roommate - it's doable (even on the West Coast) and the sun will eventually start to shine if you're capable of seeing it.

If not, then I'd go with drugs and alcohol (you're halfway there) until you bottom out on the street rolling around in your own vomit. That's always an option.

R.J. Chatt said...

What I see here is extreme negative self talk, and self judgement. There's probably a continuum between regret and shame. Regret is something where you still feel OK enough about yourself to do something about it. Shame is self judgement to the point of being incapacitated by a sense of worthlessness -- where you cut yourself from your own creativity and the support of the universe, or God's grace and love. This is an area where Christianity has something special to offer -- none of us are perfect or have perfect lives, so ask for forgiveness and forgive yourself for your transgressions as you forgive others, and move on knowing you are loved anyway.

How is the woman so certain she would be happier now if she had taken a more conventional path? There are plenty of very successful people who have it all and are still severely depressed. (Kate Spade, for example)

She can't change what she did in the past but she can make different choices now.

Earnest Prole said...

Ever seen a blind man cross the road
Trying to make the other side
Ever seen a young girl growing old
Trying to make herself a bride

bonkti said...

As I read the exchange at the link I kept getting ads for Jack Daniels.

I would love to know how the algorithm works, whether the ad placement is a function of the advice column's despairing content or my own shameful proclivities.

Kirk Parker said...

DBQ @ 8:38am,

That's awesome! You saved me from trying to put my thoughts into words.

I wonder, though, how many will notice that you're just saying a kinder, gentler version of what Shouting Thomas says?


"She might meet someone half decent...,"

Great Ghu, who is he? Somebody needs to warn the poor fellow off...


I don't know about that.. I remember Heather from when she was worth actually reading.

And no, shame does not being being a bad person, at least not in the shame cultures I know and have experience in. Rather, it means, "somebody noticed you doing something bad."

stevo said...

Bob Seger has been reminiscing about the good old days since he was 15