I mean, sure, it happens to all of us. For me, though, I feel like it happens in flurries. Long stretches of nothing really worrying and then a series of days where things just sort of keep going wrong. Am I having a whinge? Yeah, sure. But humor me.
When I was a kid, sick days were about not doing anything, mainly because I didn’t want to do something. Or anything. When I became a grown-up, that sort of still held true for jobs that made me utterly miserable (and we have all had them at one time or another). On those days that I really was unwell, I was kind of happy to take on feverish, barfy hours of unpleasantness to have the privilege of not being in the office.
Except now I work in a place where I like what I do and I like the people who share the work with me. So now being sick is genuinely inconvenient, and really kind of irritating.
These past few days have been a one-two punch of BLEARGH and I’m really over it now. Honestly and truly.
You know how bad I’m feeling? I skipped out on swording. Gah.
Anyway, that’s why there’s not any nifty new stuff from the world of Oplosophia. Maybe I’ll feel up to tackling a few more paragraphs tomorrow.
In the meantime, take care of yourselves, and may none of you end up with your feelings elegantly represented by a bit of doorjamb graffiti.
So in my vast stretches of spare time (ha), one of the things I do when I’m not actually trying to stab willing practice partners with rapiers is read primary sources. Under various advisements, I’ve chosen to take a look at Oplosophia e verdadeira destreza das armas by Diogo Gomes de Figueireido. You may have noticed that it’s in Portuguese, and that I have not mentioned speaking or reading Portuguese (I am, however, fluent in Spanish and have worked as an editor in that language). Yeah. Apparently I like a challenge. Anyway, one of the first things I wanted to sort out was what the heck oplosophia meant. So I went poking around the interwebs, and all that came up for me was either references to the book itself, or mentions of the term being a hapax legomenon — a word that only appears once in any given context within a language. So I went hunting for classical language roots. Sophia was clear from other words, like philosophy, but for the life of me I couldn’t find any rendition of oplo* anywhere. And then, after a rapier class where we were all poking around in the book to look at cool stuff, I just happened to flip to the page where Figueireido explains the word and why he invented it. For those of you who want the tl;dr version, the idea is this: sophia is what we’re familiar with — knowledge, wisdom. Oplon appears in words like hoplite and panoply. It means arms. Literally, oplosophia is the wisdom and knowledge of arms. It’s a bit of a shame the word never caught on, ’cause I think it’s actually really cool.
Look at that. Hoplite and panoply. From etymonline.com
Sure enough, there it is. Oplon, opla. This assumes you can read Greek letters. I can, but only barely. From the Woodhouse Classical Greek reference (click on image for link).
Now, because my main non-English language is Spanish, I took the Middle Portuguese of the original text and shifted it into relatively modern Spanish. After that, I shifted it into relatively modern English. It’s important to note that this is a rough translation; if I were to consider publishing this as part of an actual book, there would be at least two more passes on the text, one of them only after I’d finished reading the entire work. But I figured folks might have fun seeing what I’d teased out of it so far. If you want to read the original, I direct you to the link to the title at the top of the post. It’s available from AGEA Editora, you can buy directly from them, and it is a very thoroughly and excellently edited edition. Well worth the purchase.
Modern Spanish translation:
Capítulo Cuatro [Libro Primero]
De la origen del nombre Oplosofía, y del fruto que se ofrece para aprender la Verdadera Destreza.Porque siempre el instrumento principal de las cosas que se enseñe y se trata es el nombre que le ponen y anima mucho a quienes han de aprender alguna ciencia saber las utilidades que de su doctrina se consiguen y consideran, que sería inadvertencia grande no decir (antes de definir esta ciencia) asi la razón porque la intitulo Oplosofía, como callar los ingresos curiosos de ejercer; por la que considerando la impropiedad de nombres que se les pone, y lo mucho que merece ser conocida por alguno que no reniegue su grandeza, me pareció llamarle Oplosofía, valiéndome para mejor autorizar la composición de esta palabra, la unión y fuerza de estas dos nombres Griegos: Oplon, que quiere decir armas, y Sophos, que significa sabio, o sapiente, que juntos forman el Oplosofía y valen lo mismo que la sapiencia o sabiduría de las armas, imitando de esta tipo o modo de los nombres que los Filósofos antiguos acomodaron con tan propia energía a los mejores y más selectas ciencias: Y porque también no se ignoran los provechos que con esta se granjeó, en primer lugar se sabrá que sirven sus ejemplos, reglas, y preceptos de dar perfección a la naturaleza de excluir los movimientos que no son de ningún fruto; y de liquidar con arte los más necesarios para conseguir su verdad; porque con la Verdadera Destreza (en cuya ciencia concordaran a los más nobles y excelentes) se perfecciona las disposiciones, se afinan los perfiles del cuerpo, y se alcanza como se ha de hacer todas las ofensas sin recibirlas, porque hay una luz que muestra los más seguros caminos para dar consecuencia a los efectos[.]
Modern English translation:
Chapter Four [First Book]
On the origin of the name Oplosophy, and what it offers in the learning of the True Skill.Because the principal instrument of those things that teach and treat a given subject is always the name given them, and greatly encourages those who would learn a particular science to know the uses that its doctrine considers and obtains, that it would be greatly inadvisable to not explain (before defining this science) the reason for selecting the name Oplosophy, and obviate those questions that may arise; considering the impropriety of the names applied to this science, and how very much it deserves to be known by a name that does not deny its greatness, it seemed proper to me to call it Oplosophy, availing myself of the union and strength of two Greek words to better compose this name: Oplon, which means arms, and Sophos, which means sage, or wisdom, which together form Oplosophy and mean the same as the wisdom or knowledge or understanding of arms, imitating this style or method of naming that the ancient Philosophers accommodated with proper vigor the best and most select sciences; And because the advantages gained by this name shall not be ignored, firstly it will demonstrate how its examples, rules, and precepts perfect the nature of excluding those movements that bear no fruit; and avail artfully those that are the most necessary to arrive at its truth; because in the True Skill (which science the most noble and excellent seek to attain) the arrangements are perfected, the profiles of the body refined, and the methods for achieving all the offenses without receiving them in kind are reached, because there is a light that shows the safest paths to grant consequence to these effects[.]
Below is an episode of Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project, where Adam talks about overcoming self doubt — he describes a week in which he questioned whether he should be doing builds at all, after a particularly rough build, and talks about how he got himself out of that funk. The relevant bit starts at 4:30 and goes on for about 15 minutes.
It’s important to know that someone with as much experience as Adam Savage gets impostor syndrome about the thing that he does best. It’s a thing. We all get it. And it hammered him for a whole week.
It happens in different phases of creation, too. His initial trigger was feeling like he just couldn’t get a series of precise machinings right, that he kept screwing up in the workshop. That’s impostor syndrome that strikes during the creative process. You hit a hard part, you come up on something that you believe you should be perfectly capable of doing, that’s part and parcel of the practice that you engage in, and you cannot but fuck it up every time (or at least feel that way).
Then they talk about the impostor syndrome that strikes at the end of a project, that feeling, once your work’s out there and people appreciate it, that you will never make something that good again. Ever.
For the mid-process syndrome, Adam talks about how, near the end of the project that Would Not Go Right, he remembered another project that had been sitting around for a while that was completely different from what he’d been doing previously, using materials he wasn’t very familiar with, and a process that lent itself to trial and error. The three hosts talk about how doing something different from the fraught part of the work made a difference, but they didn’t go where I found my mind going: by choosing a project that functioned differently, he reframed the context of his practice.
Precise machining has no room for error, or at least it doesn’t on its face. Precision requires a “measure twice, cut once” mentality. But it doesn’t have to, or if it does, the approach leading to the practice itself can be reframed. If precision is demanded, well, reframe your approach. Tell yourself its okay to take time measuring twice, that you’re not an amateur if you do.
I go through something similar with writing. I’ll get all knotted up in the identity of being a writer and making a claim to it, and then it somehow becomes performative. Not that I have to act like a writer, but that my words must conform to what the general idea of writerliness is. And what dictates that general idea of writerliness? Depends on when you ask. It might be an imagined social construct that’s taken up residence in my head. It might be comparing myself (oh, no) to another writer that I’ve just read and admired and been inspired by.
But when you do something that’s performative whose primary purpose is not performative, that’s meant to meet some external checklist of approvals, you stand to lose the intrinsic drive to do that thing. I need to want to write my script, I need to wonder what happens next so I sit down and write the next scene, and not feel the heavy breath of a deadline or upcoming event pressing down on me. This isn’t to say I deny those things. Ha! We live by the gravitational torsion of deadlines. But what I can do is reframe so the external drives become secondary to the internal. Or, even better, so the external process is naturally served by following the drive of the internal.
I am not very good at this, but I’m trying to get better.
As for the end-of-process impostor syndrome, reframing doesn’t work as well. That oppressive feeling of never being able to top yourself does come from badly refracted external drives, but trying to reframe the internal ones to take over still leaves a gulf or void. Adam’s response? He acknowledged that feeling and understood that it was a part of the process, and would diminish in time, and the best thing to do was rest up a bit or march on over to the next project.
Combining these two methods, to me, seems like a reasonable approach to dealing with either end of impostor syndrome. In my mind, reframing and acceptance are interrelated parts of the same process. Reframing requires accepting the existence of something, but granting it a different priority. Let’s go back to my script example. I am tied up in knots about it because the project collaborators are all people I know and admire, and who are important to me. I want to do right by them. So I put a lot of pressure on myself to create something that will measure up to that expectation.
If I start writing what I think other people want, it creates an expectation that, by its nature, is a moving goalpost. The only head I inhabit is my own; I have no real way of knowing exactly what will please anyone. And yes, I can get caught up in the idea that what will please me is pleasing others, but if I examine the thought, reframe it by noting how what I’ve done for myself in the past has already impressed others before I knew them personally (and so couldn’t try to predict what would impress them), then it follows that people can be impressed by things that I do for my own satisfaction. It’s a long road, but the logic follows (at least it does for me), and it brings me back to a place of intrinsic motivations, which draws the extrinsic pressures back far enough for me to continue my practice.
The process of acceptance and reframing is not easy, and it’s a bit harder for my non-linear and staticky mind to hold onto. It means, sometimes, that even though I bring my mindset back on track, I’ve burned up the energy I might have used for creative practice, and have to wait for a new day and renewed energy. But by working those thought pathways, they become a little easier each time, and they foment a kind of forgiveness toward myself that I think is beneficial in the long run.
Anyway, this brief revisit turned into a much longer rumination. I hope it helps those of you wrestling with that universal Sock Puppet.
I’ve talked a bunch about time management, but these days I know it’s as much a neurological issue as it is a quirk. It’s not that I don’t have things to say, which is a really nice change of pace, but that the things I want to say are important enough to me to want to spend a reasonable amount of time to get them written with full attention and now you can see this temporal ouroboros starting to turn, can’t you?
I found the parenting article that I wanted to edge into self-care; I hit my 40th birthday and received so much love an esteem from friends and family all over the world I trip over myself to say thank you in a way that I feel is commensurate to the wonder that came my way; I ran out of my prescription and went a few days without it and oh my god what a bad idea that was. Also, not sleeping enough. That’s been happening more than I’d like.
So maybe a good-night missive? A wrap-up of the day that’s gone by? Surely that’s as useful as a pre-day rumination, since it seems I’m reasonably clear of the Sock Puppet of Doubt.
Oh, and on a quick side-note, among all the stuff I do, there’s HEMA, and since I’m reasonably fluent in Spanish and cannot resist history, I’ve been trying my hand at some primary document translations. Those will start to turn up soon, so if that’s your thing, I’ll be sure to mark those entries with clear categories and tags so you don’t miss what I’m up to.
I was thinking, yesterday, of preparation. It’s not something I have a really good grasp of outside of very formal or important situations, mainly because I seem to think that people, on the whole, don’t have to do much preparation to get smaller things done in their lives.
Like get dressed in the morning.
I know I stress less if I don’t have to make choices when my mind’s not up to speed, which is the majority of a morning. I can if the scope is limited (find error in text, fix error in text) but not if the scope is open (I literally have twelve different top combinations I can put on for work this morning OH GOD NO).
I’ve done that sort of thing before — prepping wardrobe at an hour where my brain’s warmed up and okay with picking things out — though I often fall out of the practice for any number of reasons. But yesterday I was thinking about preparation for tasks that are more complex than picking out clothes but far, far less complex than preparing for, say, a sword grading.
Like, for just about anything else that I do. I used to game my brain by approaching things i needed to do in a shallow spiral, so as not to kick up oppositional refusal. I might know I need to wash the dishes, but if I attempt a frontal approach, I get angry and overwhelmed (I know! Overwhelmed at dishes, what kind of bullshit is that) and won’t actually do it. But if I just go into the kitchen, and then, you know, wash a glass ’cause I need it, then, well, I’m aready there and I don’t have to do everything that’s in the sink and that’s when the dishes get done by me.
But for things that don’t trigger a resentment response, but instead an anxiety response — a feeling of inadequacy or errors yet to be committed — this prep angle sounds like it might just work.
For example, the primary source translating I do. I usually “sneak up” on it by opening up the appropriate PDF while working on a bunch of other things, and then let myself get drawn into the text. But that’s not ideal because I don’t have as much control over what part of the text snags me, and I usually end up working until I’m overtired and that has its own negative consequences.
Instead, I was thinking I could spend a little time specifically searching out a reasonable chunk of text — two, maybe three pages — of a passage that’s immediately relevant, and clip those pages into a separate file. My job is to translate those bits. If I want to do more, that’s fine, but I’m only responsible for this small number, which helps prevent the anxiety-overwhelm reaction that makes my brain static roar up and turns me useless for a while. I am pre-limiting the scope of things I want to do so I’m making fewer decisions and taxing the executive bits of my mind less.
I’m sure that for most of you this is blindingly obvious — there may be many of you thinking that someone who appears reasonably intelligent can’t possibly believe this is a new or novel concept that requires trying out. Well, let me welcome you to the land of impaired executive function. If it looks to you like it sucks, I assure you it sucks more than it looks.
At any rate, I’ll try this over the next few days and see if the benefits outweigh the effort required, thereby insuring I continue to do this sort of thing with low resentment. Resentment makes me quit doing a lot of things.
Things on my mind: I have some kind of back of the hand tendonitis. Haven’t done much research on it to see what I can do about it aside from ice and anti-inflammatories, but I know what causes it and no, I’m not going to back off the fencing. Not yet, anyway.
Also — need better forearm protection than the junior shinguards that I picked up. Maybe adult-sized shinguards? Eh.
I want to get back into translating primary documents. I was working on bits and pieces of Destreza texts, but I’ve lost the plot for a while now. I used to do it, in fact, in the mornings when I would wake up at 5:30 but didn’t need to be at work until 8:30, which meant I had more time at home to putter. I like having the extra time, but I am absolutely NOT waking up at 4:30. I can handle a lot of things, but not that.
I’ve managed to track down the article I mentioned in the previous post. Now I just need to either set aside enough time to write what I wanted to about it, or get functional enough of a morning to pull it off before going to work.
As a way to bleed nervous energy and the spinning-wheels sensations from off my brain, I’ve tried yet again to get into meditation. I usually use guided meditations, mainly because the prompts remind me to do things that I generally forget to do when I try to sit quietly and let my head become a large breezeway instead of an echo chamber, and for this I use apps. I’ve tried several, but the one that’s working currently is Calm. I came across it via the advice of Guy Windsor, and although its initial presentation put me off (I’m not sure why, though maybe it pinged my mistrust of pop-looking, superficial things), it’s actually very simple and robust and has a lot of good material, even at the free level (I’ve gone ahead and sprung for a year-long membership).
In particular it’s got nice meditations for getting to sleep, something that wasn’t always a problem but is increasingly so, these days.
Due to temporary shifts in my schedule over the next couple of days, I had to move my personal training session to today at 5:30 AM so as not to miss it completely this week.
Today. At 5:30.
I have conclusively proven despite the itty bitty dataset that I absolutely cannot function completely without a full hour to let the brain spool up.
I am now writing this at noon-ish after having come back, eaten a bit of breakfast, and taken a 3 hour nap (though I do want to say I was in bed before 10 so I stood a reasonable chance of getting enough sleep for a 5 AM wake-up). This means that I am now more or less properly awake, have been working on modifying a gambeson so it properly fits me (this is a rant for another time), and the Sock Puppet is well awake and functioning but much more focused on making me miserable about tomorrow’s grading.
Which I guess is something? I dunno.
On the plus side, I was able to get a breakfast burrito from Guzman y Gomez just as they opened this morning and then trundle it home and eat it like a half-stunned cro-magnon, and that’s also something. It’s the closest thing to a proper breakfast burrito that I can find on this hemisphere and this general time zone. I could make my own but let’s be honest, if I can’t push pieces of metal around without forgetting what I was doing or what count I was on, do you really want me working a gas stove in any capacity?
In additional positive news, the weather is much cooler these days. I don’t like warm weather. Well, no. I don’t like hot weather. Yes I know I’m in the wrong town for that. But today is rainy and gray and I absolutely love those kinds of days, especially when I don’t have to be out in them and can stare out the window and watch the mist gather on the glass.
There’s a really interesting parenting article about alternatives to spanking that I managed to find, which I thought was just as applicable to adults — particularly on how to deal with yourself. I wanted to write a bit about it, but the only problem is I lost the link so I have no clue what the page was or where. If I find the article again I’ll share.
That said, be kind to yourself, and if you can’t function at 5:30 in the morning know that you are not alone.
I don’t ramp up fast unless there’s fear for my life involved. By this I mean that if I need to be properly awake by a certain hour so I’m not the equivalent of drunk behind the wheel due to sleepiness, I need to be awake for about an hour. Unless the house is like on fire or something.
Or so I thought. This experiment is showing me that I need at least a half hour to spool up into a consciousness functional enough to sit a computer and type things, which means if I’m giving myself an hour between waking and putting my butt in a car seat, I get maybe half an hour to get other things done. That’s just not enough.
I do harp on about time.
I suspect this time-buffer between waking and being truly awake can shorten significantly if I get more than 5 hours of sleep, but I can’t seem to tackle more than one big issue at a given time and I’m already getting up at 0530 which I’m writing sarcastically in military time but honestly the hour just offends my sensibilities.
Also, I have not at all accounted for the inexplicable sudden desire my cat Odin has for cuddles right this very second. I mean right this second. It took me a full three minutes to one-handedly type this and the previous sentence due to the need for cat cuddles.
Also also, a friend who read my previous post has asked about the Sock Puppet of Self Doubt, which I think I’ll write up as a separate entry, but which I’ll briefly describe here as a personification of the voice that may not always be audible, but is definitely constantly present, that tears down everything that I think is correct, reasonable, or functional about myself. I personify it as a sock puppet because it usually doesn’t say anything really original, and certainly not insightful, and sock puppets are generally harmless things that can inspire contempt in the right contexts.
…It’s really clear I need to get more sleep.
Now, if I didn’t have to wake up at 0500 tomorrow morning…
I have never had a good grasp of the passage of time. I used to think that it was just a thing, you know, no one ever really does have a good grasp of the passage of time, but revelations about my neurology show that it’s actually more acute for me than I thought. Or imagined.
The Sock Puppet is awake this morning. Didn’t take long to spool up.
I am not a morning person. I appreciate mornings in a mechanical sense; I can, with effort, shake my mind to some relative plateau of awareness, and I like the quiet and the dim gray light. But morning s are not a natural state for me. Part of it, I suppose, is the wheeling and churning of my head which I thought everyone dealt with — I thought it was just a natural part of being human.
Again, this particular wheel-spinning appears to be more severe and constant that the majority of the human crowd.
Why am I focusing on differences so much? Because I have always felt wrong, never quite right, always hiding some secret fatal flaw. Other people can start their assignments on time. Early, even. Not me. Never me. I managed it only once. It was nice. Never been able to do it again.
So how am I here this morning? Or yesterday morning? Or the day before? It’s not a big leap to stand up a little bit after my alarm goes off and turn on the computer. The rest sort of carries itself. But I do have to fight inertia. A lot of inertia, in fact. There’s a lot of brinkmanship with my own mind, a small distraction, a gentle shove or tap as momentum takes hold so I can get at least a little bit of desired behavior.
If I’m aware of the manipulation I’ll oppose it entirely.
I’ve talked a lot about intrinsic and extrinsic motivations with people, and possibly on this blog. I honestly can’t remember. Extrinsic motivation is a poor motivator for anyone — you take a kid who loves playing with her Nintendo DS, start giving her rewards for playing, and she’ll stop. She’ll lose interest. Human trait.
Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand — hooks that keep her interested because she’s interested, for whatever reason, with no outside pressures to maintain that interest — that can last for a lifetime, and it can be consistent. For me, though, even that waxes and wanes. Does it do that for other people? I’m asking because since my diagnosis, I question most of my set-points in relation to neurotypical set-points. I used to not do that, and it made me miserable.
That impostor syndrome? I have that with life in general.
So, then, why am I here? Maybe it’s a bit of morning pages. Maybe it’s because I really do want to make better use of this blog and this seems to be working, for the moment (the Sock Puppet is awake, but distractible). Maybe it’s because I like the sensation of having accomplished something before I’ve even headed off to work. Actually, that might be a good part of it.
But I think it’s a way of proving a lot of the negative internal mechanisms wrong. “No one cares what you think” then no one will read this and no harm no foul. “Why bother writing” because writing helps organize thought and God knows I need help with organization any chance I get. “You’re writing into the ether” so see no harm no foul and also, someone might read this and get a notion that they’re not alone.
I don’t often talk about the internal things because I’ve been humiliated by people for expressing them; mocked for being juvenile or lesser or weaker or trivial or whatever. And it’s happened consistently enough, on and off, that I just don’t go poking around the soft thinky bits in public.
Hence the morning time slot, to get around these defense mechanisms.
So maybe this is also a stab at self-improvement. A way to get inured to the things that mortified me in my earlier years. Own the things that are mine despite the mockery and derision of others. My friends don’t do this, and on the rare occasion that they do and I tell them I’ve been hurt, they take me seriously, and that’s what matters, so the shit-stain tactics of strangers shouldn’t get me down.
That’s a road to ruin, but maybe it’s worth taking.
At any rate, a half hour isn’t a very long time and it goes by quickly. But the fifteen minutes it took for me to write all of this hasn’t, in fact, gone by quickly at all. Not that it went by at an agonizing pace. It just went by. There’s probably a lesson in mindfulness here, but it’s too early in the morning for me to internalize.